People like shiny new things. I know that I do! I get tired of sofas, slacks and even cars. I enjoy throwing out the old in anticipation of something new. I wonder if folks are tempted to feel this way about the 12 steps. 12 step meetings show up in Disney movies for goodness sake! Doesn’t that say something about our cultural awareness of AA and the other mutual aid groups?
Sometimes I worry that we have gotten so accustomed to the concept of the 12 steps that we perhaps have not fully evaluated - or taken advantage of - or appreciated - the gift of actually working them. And they are in every sense of the word meant to be worked!
I had a friend tell me one time that he just got tired of being associated with “the program.” He lamented, “How many times do I need to go over these damn steps?” I totally understand his perspective. And to be fair, I know folks who got sober at AA, eventually stopped attending AA and as far as I know are still sober. (However research indicates that going to AA for 14 years, averaging 3 meetings a week is a best practice.)
The other factor is access and availability. These mutual aid societies are so accessible, have free access and offer tons of meetings per week. Is it easy to take them for granted? I dunno. Maybe.
New research related to the association of trauma and the addictive process is challenging all of us to take a good hard look at how we can offer resilience training to those who suffer from substance use disorder. And I’ve heard people say - “If it’s all about the trauma, what good is AA?” To that I would suggest we actually investigate that excellent question rather than assume that the answer is “Nothing!” Let me issue my own personal spoiler alert and say this - I think that to the extent that mutual aid societies have been a helpful tool in recovery, in part it is because, hidden within the archaic language and repetitive structure, we discover some of the key elements that support and build resilience (antidote to trauma) in those who work the steps!
My thought is that these “new things” (alternative approaches to recovery) are super important AND we should take care and avoid taking a dismissive tone as it relates to AA and other groups. I am convinced that AA, NA and the rest have some old and hard earned wisdom about recovery that fits nicely with our new-fangled ideas about trauma and resilience. If you are willing, I’d like to explore these concepts for a few days AND challenge us to consider how we might take these findings and use them to guide us in our own recovery journey. With or without the 12 steps, building resilience is a recovery essential!
How are you doing in the area of trauma, healing and resiliency?