What Can the 12-Steps Really Do for Me?


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This is a really big question, and it’s got a pretty big answer. We’ll get to that shortly. This big question is probably the most common, and the truth behind the answer has to be experienced firsthand to really understand. But if you’re dying to know what the 12-Steps and the program of recovery can really do for you, look around in a meeting. You will see alcoholics and addicts who have been restored to life, who have had their attitudes and outlooks transformed, and who now enjoy freedom and recovery in a way of life that is ever-increasing in amounts of joy, purpose, and love.

For many of us who come to the rooms of recovery with little to no awareness of what goes on in them, the 12-Steps can seem unrelated to our problems. We’re dying of alcoholism and addiction, our lives are in shambles, our relationships are wrecked, and our mental, emotional, and physical states are way off-center. Of course we have a problem, that’s why we’re here. But now you want us to admit it? You want us to find God? You want us to write lengthy inventories about our anger, fear, and sex lives? How does any of this really help me?

Most of us, at first glance, misinterpret or misunderstand a lot of the language in the 12-Steps. More than that, we don’t usually have any experience with anything even remotely like the 12-Step program. It’s no wonder that we’re so taken aback and frankly, so confused by them. It’s almost impossible to understand what the 12-Steps can do for us just by looking at them. We can hear about broccoli-flavored ice cream and know that it’s not for us right away, without ever trying it. But if we take the same attitude with the 12-Steps, we could very well be putting our lives at risk, and we may make it unnecessarily hard in the future to recover from our deadly disease.

Experience Is Essential

The reality is that we won’t begin to understand the 12-Steps until we have hands-on experience with them. Most people who maintain long-term recovery find that the longer they work the 12-Steps, the more there is to be understood. There is no such thing as “graduating” or being done with 12-Step work, as long as we wish to keep our recovery. The longer we stick around, the more we find there is to understand and to learn. In fact, we eventually realize there is no limit to how much we can grow, learn, and improve in recovery.

With such a rich and rewarding program as the 12-Steps, we cannot expect to see the entire picture, nor can we reasonably demand to understand them right away. Much like how we learned new things as children, we must practice and have the help of those who are more experienced. If we could see the big picture right away, we would be clairvoyant — but then how did we not see alcoholism and addiction coming? The fact is, if we have found ourselves in the rooms of recovery, we are most likely an addict or an alcoholic. This means that we are ruled by a mental obsession, have a physical allergy, and suffer from a spiritual malady. This combination makes it almost impossible to live a life of freedom on our own power. To live free, we will need access to a power greater than ourselves. The most effective way to do this, ever before or currently, is to work the 12-Step program. This ongoing course of spiritual action is designed to produce within us the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that can help us begin our recovery. Yet this is only the beginning of what the 12-Steps can do for us.

So, What Can the 12-Steps Do? Everything!

The book Alcoholics Anonymous says the 12-Step program is “a design for living that really works.” It introduces us to a way of life that is “infinitely more rewarding as time passes.” More importantly, the 12-Steps are meant to introduce us to a power greater than ourselves that “can solve all our problems”. That’s right — all. The 12-Steps are not only the recipe for finding freedom and recovery, but for most alcoholics and addicts, the 12-Steps are the foundation of a completely new life and the gateway to becoming the version of ourselves that we’ve always wanted to be.

The 12-Steps provide us with building blocks to learn, improve, and grow across every area and metric of our existence. Our relationships, our careers, our ideas, our outlook, and everything else can be seen in a new light and changed when we filter it through 12-Step work. We are also given a new community to be part of, one that we can share all our struggles with and benefit from their experience and help. Even more than this, we are shown the value and life-changing power of being of service. With just this one element of recovery, our lives can become more meaningful and beautiful than we were even capable of comprehending.

That’s the scope behind this question and answer. Because we’ve never known anything but our past life before, and our life in the disease, we can’t even conceive of the beauty and wonder that awaits us in life in recovery. We don’t have a frame of reference, and though we can see proof that it works all around us, the proof we really want is the kind we get by having a personal experience with the 12-Steps. Thankfully, this experience is available to all who are willing to do the work.

Alcoholism and addiction are a misunderstood disease, and the sufferer is often misunderstood as well. The book Alcoholics Anonymous describes alcoholism and addiction as a disease of a three-fold nature — the mental obsession that causes an overwhelming compulsion to drink or use, the physical allergy that makes it nearly impossible to control our drinking or using, and the spiritual malady that gives us the lack of power to break this vicious pattern. This unique formula makes for one intense opponent, but luckily, there is a solution. The 12-Step program is a course of spiritual action that is designed to produce the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that bring about freedom and recovery for alcoholics and addicts. If you are an alcoholic or addict, no matter what your story is, you can begin your recovery now if you are willing to take action. We are here to help. Call Jaywalker Lodge now at (866) 529-9255.


author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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