My husband is a facilitator at a 12-step group.
He used to be an addict. Don’t assume it was an alcohol or drug addiction. It could have been any thing. I’m not telling. But I will say that there ain’t no pretty addiction. And there isn’t a single story of recovery that isn’t beautiful.
Twelve-step groups exist for many things, including but not limited to:
- television/video games/internet
- or something else
His addiction wreaked havoc on his life. It interfered with all the most important aspects of his existence.
When you are addicted to something, it lowers your quality of life significantly. People in addictions usually take many years to really hit rock bottom and to realize that they need help. Some people live in denial until the day they die, and they never get help.
My dear husband, who I didn’t even know back then, was in a hopeless abyss of despair. I wish I’d known my husband in his non-sober years, but he says he was very different and he says I wouldn’t have liked him. (He tells his story better than I can.)
But –long story short– when he realized he could no longer go on without getting help, he was afraid to get the help. Many people are that way. The help scares them more than the addiction does.
My husband thought that if he walked into a 12 step meeting, he would be surrounded and and imposed upon by “helpful” meeting goers. He thought he would have to stand up and say, “I am a(n) ____________.” (alcoholic, gambling addict, pornography addict, shopping addict, etc.) He thought he would have to tell all of his secrets surrounding his addiction. He thought he would have to participate in group hugs. He thought he would have to pray with strangers. He thought it might be some kind of group for weirdos, and nobody normal would be at the meeting. Or worse, he worried that he would see people he recognized. That, he believes, is the #1 reason people don’t show up in the first place. He always says, “Just Show Up.”
So he went. Alone. It was so hard to get from the car in to the building, and to follow the paper signs to the right room.
But going to the 12 step meetings changed his life so much. He kept going to meetings because he realized that his own recovery and understanding was helping other people heal, too. He’s been a facilitator at the meetings for many years, now, and his attitude has changed dramatically. Now he laughs at all the reasons people fear going to meetings. (Aside: for a good laugh about addicts’ excuses, see http://janaburson.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/excuses-for-not-going-to-12-step-meetings/ )
Where he once used to fear being seen going in to the meeting, now he loves it. If he sees someone he knows outside, he talks to them, and he tells them what he’s doing and why. He invites them to come to a meeting, even if they aren’t addicted. “Someone you know,” he’ll say, “is probably addicted.”
We all have people in our lives whom we know need 12-step help and healing, and it might very well be ourselves. Most meetings are open to not only addicts, but to those who love and care for them, or who are co-dependent with them.
Although you can read the 12 steps online, and buy the books and workbooks and try to work the program alone, those who are successful recovering addicts attest that you can’t do it alone. For some reason, isolation breeds addiction, and secrecy is its worst enemy. Getting out among other recovering addicts is the key to actually beating the addiction.
So try it. What do you have to lose? And what do you have to gain?