I didn’t know anything about 12 step programs before 2015. Maybe a few jokes here and there. Maybe how it was depicted on a sitcom.
I was a Seinfeld fan and there was an episode about Step 9. And how George was looking for an apology from someone who was in AA. So my concept of 12 step programs was from a sarcastic place and that all anyone talked about who was in a program was the program.
Now look at me 16 months of working a 12 step program. And yeah I do talk about the program a lot.
The thing is, my life has changed and I am continuing to grow closer to my Higher Power, HP or who I believe is Jesus Christ. I am continuing to understand and let go. I am continuing to be that much closer to my authentic self and who God wants me to be.
So in no particular order, 12 things I have learned from my 12 step program.
1. Working a program is just that, work. You can’t just show up to meetings and do nothing else and things get better. So I….Got a sponsor. I have surround myself with a sober community. I read recovery materials. Celebrate Recovery has a step study which are workbooks that ask some hard questions on each step that you answer and share with a small group, so I joined that group. I read the Bible. Putting all these things into action is working a program. Doing all of those things, you can’t help but change.
2. What you struggle with does not define you. The 12 step program I attend is for anyone with hurts, hang ups or habits that separates us from God and that you want to change. I love that when we introduce ourselves we say ‘I struggle with’ not I am. Mistakes of my past doesn’t mean that is who I am.
3. Forgiveness is not for the other person but for yourself. I will never contact my ex boyfriend again but I have forgiven him. The freedom of owning my part and understanding his and forgiving him is life changing. I no longer carry the guilt and shame of my actions.
4. Forgiving myself has been the hardest thing. My actions hurt other people, I knew it and then I isolated, shut down and hind because of my shame and guilt. Forgiving myself took me the longest to do but then a friend in program reminded me that God had already forgiven me and I should too.
5. Worry does not change ourcome. If fact worry is a form of not trusting God. God is in control and already knows what is going to happen and knows the mistakes I will make in the future. He has a plan in place to help me through these times too. So worry only takes energy from the now and prevents you from being present.
6. Understanding codependency. I learned to cope with life by being codependent. When I thought I was helping, it actually caused damage. I made excuses, lied to cover up for and took care of things that were not my responsibility. And it turned out that I prevented the other person from growing from the experience of managing his own problems.
7. I’ve learned about setting boundaries. Boundaries not only keeps me in a safe space, it also allows me to communicate in a healthy way what I need and what I am willing to do. I don’t always have to tell others my boundaries, me knowing in some cases is enough. This has not only helped me with my relationships but also with work.
8. It’s hard to complain when you are grateful. Gratitude reminds me of the things in your life. Often addictive behaviors starts from lacking something and it’s a way to escape. It’s so hard to bitch about life when you start to become aware of all the little things to be grateful for everyday. I am grateful for all the little things, the good things and the trials too.
9. Feelings are hard and that’s ok. No one likes to feel unappreciated or hurt or singled out or not heard. Addictive behaviors are often to avoid those feelings. Feeling of not being good enough. Feelings of not being enough. Feelings of being disappointed or disappointing someone else. But there are also feelings of love and acceptance and joy that by avoiding those negative feelings you also miss out on the good ones too. So sometimes you have to sit and feel those feelings that you don’t want to and then move on.
10. You are exactly where God wants you to be. In number five, I said that God has a plan in place for my future mistakes but He also has a plan for the good times too. I am in the right place…..right now. Maybe there is a lesson that has yet to be learned. Maybe there is someone else that you will cross paths with for you but what if it was actually for them. Isn’t that a cool thought. Don’t worry about where you are right now, just be there and enjoy every second. And before you know it, you will be in another place with new challenges and new good times and then that is where you are supposed to be.
11. Being in program taught me how to listen. Being in dysfunctional relationships, I often felt that I was not heard. During the share time, each person is given 5 minutes to share whatever they want. No one can interrupt them. No one can ask questions. No one tell you how to fix it. No one can tell you that you are wrong. It’s only 5 minutes but it’s the only 5 minutes that are like that in my week. I’ve learned to listen. And I don’t judge or think less of them because I know they don’t think less of me. It’s how this works. During the week I may check in with them or next time I see them, we’ll talk about how whatever went or ended up.
12. Recovery doesn’t end, it’s a lifestyle. I hate to be the one to tell you, but working a program is not a one and done thing. You have to work and embrace the steps everyday, every single day. And when you do, you change, you become aware. You feel things that you don’t want to but you cope with it in a new way. You learn to recognize and own your part and you set better boundaries for next time. And you share your experience, strength and hope with others. And why do we do that? We share our story for His glory and to show others what God has done in our lives.
I want to add a 13th thing I’ve learned because people joke about the 13th step. The 13th step is that someone in program hits one newer member of the group.
But this is my experience of other people in the group…..
13. Sponsors, accountability partners and friendships born from recovery are amazing. People in the program are full of wisdom and grace. And this combination is incredible. They have worked the program. Your sponsor will push you in a loving way. You accountability partner will ask you questions that will make you think and maybe give you reason to pause. And the fellowship you share with other members of the group is like no other friendships you can ever have. I have learned how to give grace because others have given grace to me.
Stay on this journey with me, the best is yet to be.
My journey to serenity continues…