Working the 12-Steps No Matter What

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The 12-Step program is a set of time-tested guidelines to help us overcome addiction. When you first start the program, many concepts of it can be quite inspiring. But as time goes by, you may find that the appeal of the 12-Step approach is waning. Sometimes you feel like you are just going through the motions during group meetings. But even when that early motivational phase has come and gone, it’s still necessary to continue working the Twelve Steps with your whole heart.

Waning Motivation Is Normal

Let’s recall what initially motivated you to begin the Steps. Many young people enter a 12-Step program because their parents or loved ones urged them to. Some decide to give it a try after failing to make progress on their own. The community rapport that drives the 12-Step program addresses both the physical and mental aspects of addiction, greatly boosting progress for many.

In this group therapy setting, you have likely become more optimistic and hopeful about long-term recovery. But the most difficult phase is yet to come — the point when optimism and hope begin to give way to a kind of emotional flatness, or perhaps even boredom. There might also be a low point when the goal of long-term recovery seems so far away that you feel there is no end in sight.

The first thing you need to realize is that it’s totally normal for your initial motivation or positive energy to fade. The Twelve Steps are a rigorous process that requires substantial adjustment in your physical body and your emotional expectations. It’s not designed to be a smooth ride. There might be parts of the program that you simply hate completing, or you might not see the point of doing what the 12-Steps are asking you to do. Learn to accept these emotions, including any feelings of frustration, pointlessness, or boredom. It’s YOUR journey, and you have ownership of all the emotions that emerge during the journey, good or bad.

How to Persevere When You Lose Steam

While acknowledging the motivational plateau you’re in, this is also an opportunity to replant the idea of perseverance into your mind and will. The Twelve Steps are about self-discovery and regenerating a willingness for the recovery lifestyle. And there is no shortcut to perseverance — you just have to keep working on it, no matter how you feel. Revisit the early commitment you made to yourself when you started the program. Commitment requires putting in hard work, despite any urges to quit.

It’s okay to have doubts about whether the program makes sense or why you are doing it. Give voice to these doubts in a safe space where you can talk with counselors and other trusted members of your group. You might be surprised to find that you’re not alone in this state of mind. Once you realize that you’re in the midst of a shared experience among many who have pulled through, there is hope that you too can emerge from this motivational lethargy.

Practical Tips for Persevering

Start by rekindling your hope for long-term recovery and reflecting on what makes you feel hopeful about this journey. It might help to recall the lowest points in your addiction history and how awful they were. Remember how much your loved ones have emotionally invested in this stubborn hope that someday you will get well. Next, look ahead and imagine a future when you are out of recovery. Practicing self-reflection of the past and hopeful projection of the future can help keep you anchored in the present moment.

Since you are already in a recovery community and likely surrounded by others who have fought the same battles, talk openly to them about how they persevered. Be free with your emotions and tell them about your fears, disappointments, and unmet expectations. Make use of all the resources at your disposal, including outdoor activities and community service. These can help re-anchor you in the present stage and distract you from boredom.

Know that you will need to be patient about this process. Nurturing daily habits and healthy routines in recovery takes time. They need to grow organically from within you, and anything that is organic usually requires slow growth. There’s no quick magic fix. Plant yourself more fully in the present moment. Work with one habit at a time. You can also set daily or weekly goals to manage your time.

Being patient with yourself is also a vital part of self-compassion and self-care. If you feel like a total failure one day, it’s probably time to take it easy on yourself. As long as you keep working on the Twelve Steps, even when failures happen, that day or week can still be a success. Expecting to see positive results every single day won’t last long — that’s a “quick-fix” mentality. On the days when you feel the least motivated, take time to unplug and rest. The relationship between our mood and level of motivation is quite complex. You shouldn’t expect to feel overly motivated every day. The Twelve Steps and recovery are about you living your life. Remember this: The good marathon runner is one who finishes the race.

People who have been through the 12-Step program can attest that it is a challenging journey, one that takes stamina and commitment. There might be days when you don’t feel very motivated. Nevertheless, it’s necessary to keep on working on the 12-Steps to the best of your ability so you can continue building personal responsibility, perseverance, and resilience. Managing the low-momentum phase of recovery requires community support, and you don’t have to go through it alone. At Jaywalker Lodge, we believe wholeheartedly in the power of a recovering community. The miracle of recovery itself is reason enough to celebrate! How could it be anything less? We also organize outdoor expeditions and community service opportunities to enrich your recovery journey. We have a special focus on helping men who have been unable to find lasting recovery in the past, and you will feel heard and supported at Jaywalker Lodge. Let us help you begin your recovery journey. Call us today 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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