Alcoholics and other addicts in recovery have many more issues to deal with than simply not using, especially in the first couple of years. For one thing, it can take that long for the body (especially the brain) to repair the effects of the drugs.
Along with guidance through the discomfort of this Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), and needing support during those times when we really, really would rather just toss up our hands and go use, there are other problems we need to solve:
- Legal problems
- Relationships to repair or end
- Money issues, and sometimes a place to live
- Setting aright the things we have done to others
and so on, and so forth.
Although the 12-Step groups can’t help us directly with these matters, they can help us deal with the emotion, despair, anger, confusion and plain old stress that go along with them. We need people to talk to who will understand exactly where we are coming from, who won’t shame us and call us “weak,” and who can share with us the intimate details of how they got through such tough spots themselves.
If we are to repair the wreckage of our pasts and progress in recovery, there is no time for distractions. This is a life and death issue. I almost distracted myself into a major relapse because I thought those folks had nothing to tell me. I was different. I was better-educated. I knew how the world worked. What could that bunch of losers have to teach me? Besides, they were too cheerful. Didn’t they know the world was a serious place?
All they had to give me was a proven way to save my life, and I could have missed out on it because of my self-centered arrogance.
I don’t recommend the 12 Steps because they’re a fad, or a religion, or anything like that. I recommend them, and participate myself, because they are based on cold, hard reasoning and because they work — if we work at them with determination. I recommend them to others because I know from personal experience that they do work and because, in two decades of recovery and years working in the addiction field, I have yet to find anything that works better. People like us need guidelines for emotional, physical and spiritual improvement, and we can get them in the 12-step rooms from people who understand how we think. The Twelve Steps and their program of recovery are specific to me and to my life.
Look at it this way: we spent years doing as we pleased and, as a direct result, we reached the point of having to make major changes in our lives. Why should we (a) assume that we know what we’re doing (after all, as they say in the rooms, “Our best thinking got us here), and (b) how unreasonable is it to devote enough time to unscrewing our lives to get it right — especially if the alternative is jails, hospitals and death?
The choices are clear. We decided to get clean, we made it as far as detox, and hopefully will continue to treatment. After all that, why not do the next right thing?