Spiritual Lifestyle – 12 Step Recovery –

One addict’s experience with the principles and practice of the Narcotics Anonymous 12 Steps

As a result of practicing these principles, I have had a spiritual awakening. The last time (2007-2008)* I worked through all the steps formally with a new sponsor and with the NA Step Working Guide was the best so far. I celebrated 30 years of recovery while going through the steps this time. I had sought outside help for some outside issues this time. I had some trauma healing that allowed me to experience a greater depth of understanding and surrender with the steps this time. After having read through my 12th step with my sponsor, I decided to write some of that experience for other addicts to read and benefit from. After speaking with a couple of other recovering addicts, I compiled what you now are reading.

 Most important, however, is that each of you reading this do your work in the steps with a sponsor. It is truly the way to your core, the best of you, the real you, the conscious you. Whatever is written here or anywhere else – whatever anyone else’s experience or opinion may be, it will not – it cannot be the exact same as yours. Do what it takes to get yours and you will find a peace, contentment, happiness, compassion and love that you may have been searching for or maybe never even imagined possible.

Step One: Willingness, Courage, Surrender –

Giving up allowed the door to open a crack and let me take a peek at the rest of the human race, with just a hint that maybe they would accept me or at least not hurt me.

Step two: Hope, Open-mindedness, Willingness –

Staying gave me hope that not only would they be decent to me – maybe I could actually be like them and stay clean; do this thing; live like other people.

STEP THREE: Commitment, Willingness, Discipline –

I don’t really know when I made the commitment but I know today that accepting the 3rd step is the commitment to stay and carry on with the rest of the steps – doing whatever it takes to learn how to do the right thing and keep on doing it.

STEP FOUR: Trust, Courage, Perseverance –

Even when the work was really hard and scary, trusting that the process was worthwhile.

STEP FIVE: Courage, Faith, Hope Willingness, Open-mindedness –

Hope that my sponsor would listen and share helpfully. Finding out that it might not always be what I thought – that my perception was skewed.

STEP SIX:     Faith, Joy, Acceptance, Willingness –

I really believed that things could change; felt some happiness and relief that has increased as I continue the process.

STEP SEVEN: Surrender, Humility, Acceptance, Freedom

Not the first time through the steps but thereafter, I really got it – how to humbly ask, surrender, get out of my head, take the opposite action and be free of defects/traits/behaviors/thoughts that were hurtful to me or others.

STEP EIGHT: Willingness, Perseverance, Acceptance, Courage –

I learned to take those changes from the previous step work and use them to create the list and become fully willing to make amends, anywhere, everywhere that are mine to make.

STEP NINE: Courage, Love, Compassion, Acceptance, Action –

Came to understand the power of my actions in actually changing the thinking and behavior that caused problems and hurt. Continuing this amends work has brought deep levels of compassion and tolerance for myself and others.

STEP TEN: Commitment, Perseverance, Action, Willingness –

Continuous willingness and action brings deeper and deeper lasting results

STEP ELEVEN: Humility, Surrender, Faith, Discipline, Practice –

Knowing that all has to come from God – from the spiritual connection – in order to be the best. Discipline and consistency are essential to get the most benefit.

STEP TWELVE: Commitment, Faith, Integrity, Joy, Fulfillment, Humility

When spirit connects to the one spirit, the knowing of what’s right – always and forever in every area of my life.

The principles listed at each step are often interchangeable and can sometimes apply to all the steps (for instance, action, willingness and perseverance or courage). These are simply what came to my mind as I was doing this writing. The understanding of spirit and spiritual principles evolves as we do. What comes first to my mind today may be different than tomorrow. BUT they are all operating all the time.

 Not everyone comes to the program for the same reason. Not everyone you meet will have the same desire or ability to find spiritual contentment. If you are one of those who seek that contentment and connection, you will find it.

 In recovery,

Danette B. 

  • At the time of this posting, August 2015, with 37 yrs clean of recovery, I continue my service in NA and my spiritual path in wisdom teaching and healing.  It is a lifetime journey and I look forward to more of it.
At some point in most recovering people’s journey of the 12 Steps, we ask ourselves “Is this all there is?”  Or some variation of that.

In my spiritual 12 step recovery journey I have observed that many of those people stop coming back. That is a huge loss to the program so I’ve spent considerable time questioning that – talking to those you have either gone through it and stayed or left – also asking for guidance and clarity in prayer and meditation.

Here are some things I find we almost all have in common:

We have had some type of trauma or great loss (and grief) in our lives – this comes in every form from chronic abuse or neglect or a single event that traumatized us  AND we tend to minimize or exaggerate it as part of our coping skillset.
We experience chemical use/abuse as a way of coping also with our feelings or reactions to life.
At some point, for some reason, we find we can no longer continue using the chemicals
We somehow get to a 12 Step program and find some relief or identification with others who seem to have shared similar experiences.
This  identification with others somehow helps us accept ourselves or at least believe that these other recovering people accept and understand us.
Most of us follow most of the suggestions – get a sponsor, go to meetings, work the steps, do service, etc.
Most of us recover to various degrees following the suggestions.
We realize that working the steps provides basic building blocks in a foundation that allows us to rebuild our broken lives, minds, hearts, bodies and souls.
We come to understand that the foundation of our recovery is the practice of spiritual principles – that the over arching meaning and purpose of recovery is spiritual in nature.
We are amazed at how good life has gotten and most of us find great fulfillment in our lives both in program and in other areas of our lives
We experience many people drop by the wayside through the recovery journey for many reasons that we won’t go into on this page.
At some point, then, we wonder if this is all there is –  a very subtle doubt or discontent or anxiety may begin to cross our awareness – questioning us about our commitment to the program or our families or careers , etc etc etc etc
We may wonder why we aren’t getting the same level of relief and peace, comfort, contentment thata we’ve experienced previously in our recovery.

This is the spiritual void that we notice as we become more and more healed and whole.  This is not when we’re supposed to leave the program. This is when we practice at a deeper level all the things that helped us in the beginning. (SEE ARTICLE BELOW) We talk to others who exhibit the spiritual calm and contentment that we crave.  We practice the love and compassion more vigilantly. We revisit the 11th and 12th steps, investigating what we can do to improve our spiritual relationship(s), we seek out spiritual guides, asking in prayer and meditation for guidance and clarity, challenge ourselves to practice the principles in all our affairs and we find meetings that have people we can learn from and give to.

This turns out to be another incredible discovery of a spiritual dimension we only touched the edges of previously. We realize anew that this 12 step program is a gift that only grows and expands to whatever depth we allow it. We are truly blessed. Find a new dimension for your spirituality – there is so much available.  Connect in a deep way through whatever prayer and meditation practice you have. If you want help, just ask.

 

DEEPER HEALING 6th & 7th Steps of Recovery

 The longer I stay clean the more powerful I realize these 2 steps are.  They are the ones that allow us to go deeper and deeper, each time we peel away another layer of our previous lives – especially when we have old unresolved losses, traumas.

 I can always tell if another trip thru the steps with emphasis on 6 &7 is in order.  Anytime I have a reaction that is obviously out of proportion to what is currently going on, I know that it has something to do with an old issue. 

 Perhaps it’s an issue that I’ve already identified and perhaps it’s something that seems to come out of nowhere.  Perhaps we already know WHY and WHEN and WHERE and WHO.  Regardless, if I want to keep getting better, I MUST go deeper with the steps so that there is deeper healing, so that I am free from those behaviors/actions/beliefs etc that are causing me distress and chaos.

The 12 Step program of Narcotics Anonymous, strongly suggests that working the steps repeatedly is gets to the core of problems and deeper spiritual healing recovery. I am forever grateful for that understanding.

 I use Steps 1-3 to remember.  I use Step 4 when something completely new or different comes up.

 In Step 5, my sponsor and I do our best at identifying the patterns and defects that cause(d) the problems in my life.

 Step 6 gets us entirely ready and very clear about those defects we have identified.

 Step 7 takes it into a level of radical acceptance.  We know what we have identified and become entirely ready to have them removed.  However, here we acknowledge with great Humility that we have done the best we can and that we know only a little.  We Humbly ask that whatever shortcomings exist that stand in the way of my highest good, of my ability to be of service to myself and others, be removed. We are admitting and accepting that perhaps what we think (even with sponsor guidance) may not be the things that need most resolution or healing. 

I often have an image of standing somewhere with my arms thrown wide open, completely vulnerable and humble, asking that whatever it is, regardless of when, why, how or what, I want it resolved/removed/healed so I can truly practice a life of service and purpose.

 This radical approach is one of the huge surrenders we make as we work the steps and practice deep spiritual healing and recovery.

 The deeper the 7th Step is worked, the better able we are to make the changes/amends that are called for in the 8th & 9th Step.  The 8th  and 9th step gets deeper also, each time we go thru this process.  We come to understand that forgiveness is required in ways we never felt before, for ourselves and others.

Forgiveness for things that may still seem to be unforgivable, either done to us or by us.

FORGIVENESS IS A CRITICAL PART OF THE PATH TO PEACE

 The direction of our thoughts transforms and changes our attitude, our lives and the world

As a result of practicing these principles, I have had a spiritual awakening. The last time (2007-2008-See postscript)* I worked through all the steps formally with a new sponsor and with the NA Step Working Guide was the best so far. I celebrated 30 years of recovery  while going through the steps this time. I had recently sought outside help for some outside issues this time. I experienced some very deep trauma healing that allowed me to experience a greater depth of understanding and surrender with the steps this time.

After having read through my 12th step with my sponsor, I was encouraged to and decided to write some of that experience for others to read. After speaking with a couple of other recovering people, I compiled what you now are reading.

Most important, however, is that each of you reading this do your work in the steps with a sponsor. It is truly the way to your core, the best of you, the real you, the conscious you. Whatever is written here or anywhere else – whatever anyone else’s experience or opinion may be, it will not – it cannot be the exact same as yours. Do what it takes to get yours and you will find a peace, contentment, happiness, compassion and love that you may have been searching for or maybe never even imagined possible.

Step One: Willingness, Courage, Surrender –

Giving up allowed the door to open a crack and let me take a peek at the rest of the human race, with just a hint that maybe they would accept me or at least not hurt me.

Step two: Hope, Openmindedness, Willingness –

Staying gave me hope that not only would they be decent to me – maybe I could actually be like them and stay clean; do this thing; live like other people.

STEP THREE: Commitment, Willingness, Discipline –

I don’t really know when I made the commitment but I know today that accepting the 3rd step is the commitment to stay and carry on with the rest of the steps – doing whatever it takes to learn how to do the right thing and keep on doing it.

STEP FOUR: Trust, Courage, Perseverance –

Even when the work was really hard and scary, trusting that the process was worthwhile.

STEP FIVE: Courage, Faith, Hope Willingness, Openmindedness –

Hope that my sponsor would listen and share helpfully. Finding out that it might not always be what I thought – that my perception was skewed.

STEP SIX:     Faith, Joy, Acceptance, Willingness –

I really believed that things could change; felt some happiness and relief that has increased as I continue the process.

STEP SEVEN: Surrender, Humility, Acceptance, Freedom

Not the first time through the steps but thereafter, I really got it – how to humbly ask, surrender, get out of my head, take the opposite action and be free of defects/traits/behaviors/thoughts that were hurtful to me or others.

STEP EIGHT: Willingness, Perseverance, Acceptance, Courage –

I learned to take those changes from the previous step work and use them to create the list and become fully willing to make amends, anywhere, everywhere that are mine to make.

STEP NINE: Courage, Love, Compassion, Acceptance, Action –

Came to understand the power of my actions in actually changing the thinking and behavior that caused problems and hurt. Continuing this amends work has brought deep levels of compassion and tolerance for myself and others.

STEP TEN: Commitment, Perseverance, Action, Willingness –

Continuous willingness and action brings deeper and deeper lasting results

STEP ELEVEN: Humility, Surrender, Faith, Discipline, Practice –

Knowing that all has to come from the spiritual connection – in order to be the best. Discipline and consistency are essential to get the most benefit.

STEP TWELVE: Commitment, Faith, Integrity, Joy, Fulfillment, Humility

When spirit connects to the one spirit, the knowing of what’s right – always and forever in every area of my life.

The principles listed at each step are often interchangeable and can sometimes apply to all the steps (for instance, action, willingness and perseverance or courage). These are simply what came to my mind as I was doing this writing. The understanding of spirit and spiritual principles evolves as we do. What comes first to my mind today may be different than tomorrow. BUT they are all operating all the time.

Not everyone comes to 12 Step recovery for the same reason. Not everyone you meet will have the same desire or ability to find spiritual contentment. If you are one of those who seek that contentment and connection, you will find it.

In recovery,

Danette B.

◾PS.   At the time of this posting, August 2015, I am 37 yrs clean and recovering;  I continue in my reason for being, my service and my spiritual path in wisdom teachings.  It is a lifetime journey and I look forward to more of it.

 12 Step Recovery   –   Trauma, Relapse and Healing

 Those of us who end up in obsessive, compulsive and destructive behavior (addictions of any type) end up there as a result of some deep need to change the way we feel as a response to unresolved trauma (Post Traumatic Stress or PTS).

 Trauma can be anything we experienced (felt, heard, saw) that was both horrific AND that we were helpless/powerless to change

The event may have only been traumatic to the person involved – another person might have same experience without trauma

 Trauma from loss takes many forms and can have devastating effects:

Loss of health/limb/some other physical, mental or emotional ability

Loss of childhood

Loss of hopes and dreams

Loss of relationships or a portion of life due to circumstances/addictions/PTS

Loss of a love one thru death, divorce, bitter estrangement

 If the event(s) include things we’ve done to others, the trauma is compounded by intense guilt and shame.

If there is no one that notices,

No one who has experienced the same thing to talk to

No one to trust,

The trauma remains untreated, unhealed.

You may recognize the following symptoms and categories of PTS:

Mental – re experiencing & re-living the situation; flashbacks, nightmares; memories; hallucinations;

Emotional – amnesia; avoidance/estrangement; daze or fog; numbing/substance abuse

Physical – hyper arousal/hyper vigilance/hyper sensitivity ; insomnia; irritability


Unless and until there is resolution/healing, we often use drugs/alcohol or other compulsive obsessive destructive behaviors in futile attempts to mask or avoid the symptoms. When the using and seeking outside ourselves continues for too long or takes us too deep, we may become unable to make positive choices/decisions for ourselves.

 Having crossed the line, we sink deeper and deeper into depths of obsession, compulsion, and self destruction.

 Many of us die

Some of us are treated

Treatment can take many forms

12 Step Recovery is a spiritual form of treatment which contains the single most powerful item of healing –- others who have experienced exactly what you have .  

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

 (NOTE: 12 recovery is not religious but the original language was developed in a Christian based era in the U.S.

For addicts who have crossed the line from abuse to addiction, medicine religion and psychiatry ALONE are insufficient.  After a time, traditional therapies can be supportive in co-creating the healing atmosphere of recovery IF the counselor/therapist is fluent in it.

 Most 12 Step members don’t delve deeply into the spiritual healing aspect of recovery – they get abstinent and make some adaptive changes in their lifestyles, which is helpful and powerful in itself!   Abstinence from destructive behavior, even without deeper recovery, is a miraculous and startling occurrence and needs to be supported as such.  Simply by not using the “drug” of choice, many things improve for the person and the circle/community s/he inhabits. Depending on the individual, harmful and criminal behavior is greatly reduced or completely stopped.  A greater level of honesty and social acceptability can be realized. 

HOWEVER, when a person remains abstinent without a healing of underlying traumas, relapse is unavoidable.  There may be periods of substitution with replacement behaviors; eating disorders, gambling, overspending/debt, secret sexual behaviors, etc.   Although relapse is certainly not desired or suggested, it often (if the person survives) acts as a catapult into the next dimension of spiritual healing that must occur.

DEEPER HEALING

 Without spiritual intervention and healing, the fear of moving towards the unknown is almost always greater than the fear of the known, regardless of how horrible the known might be.

There is always unresolved trauma, grief, loss at the root of an inability to move forward in recovery.

  The inability to move forward must be addressed.  It is best resolved through spiritual counseling.

 It resolves when the person is able to allow the mind and heart to come together – to feel it, feel all the way through it.

 Integration, transformation occurs – fears are placed in proper context; resolved into a healed whole.

 Spiritual practice is an integral part of healing process – the integration and transformation of chaos to peace

  If the person practices spiritual principles of love and service during that time, even greater healing occurs

One of the miraculous and almost immediate outcomes of 12 Step Recovery is that we get “tricked” into practicing spiritual principles before we are even aware.

  Some examples of Spiritual Principles during our first meetings:

 Tolerance & Patience – we don’t interrupt another’s sharing

 Service  – we help set up and/or clean up at meeting

 Loving Kindness & Compassion  – we want to help others get better with no expectation of return

Commitment     – we are on time to help or  tend to some type of service within the group

 Discipline & Respect       – we don’t talk or play with our phones or disrupt during meetings


SPIRITUAL HEALING AND CHANGING BELIEFS

 Because the practice of spiritual principles can be shown to be effective in “kickstarting” a person into the recovery process ,  it can then be a powerful creative force for the belief that other things (trauma, grief) etc.,  can be healed thru the process of practicing spiritual principles embodied in the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.

  If we haven’t healed from old wounds, we are not whole;  we find ourselves plagued by depression, deep feelings of being alone, isolated, knowing that our actions, feelings, thoughts are still out to get us.

 It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been recovering – how many times we’ve worked the steps – how deeply we’ve practiced forgiveness – how much service we’re doing – how much better life is and how grateful we are for that.  


 A wise woman explained it to me like this:

Pretend you were hit by a car, unintentionally or not, every bone in your body was broken. After a long time you forgave the driver of the car and perhaps you forgave yourself for not looking.  You felt better.  None of that changes the fact that every bone was broken.  It took a long, long time for you to be able to move again and then walk and talk and act like you had before.

 We must heal every broken part of us.

We can do the work now or 10 years from now but, sooner or later, we have to do the work.

  It is the only way for us to experience the transformative power of spiritual living –  the full joy and trust and love that is our destiny – our authentic self – our connection to the deepest part of who we are at the core – the connection to our highest good – to be of highest and best service to ourselves and others.

 Healing does not mean there are not scars or sore vulnerable spots.  Healing means we do everything we can to become strong and whole again and recognize the places that will always require a bit of extra special attention, a gentleness and awareness that if anyone or anything comes around that does not understand  and  is not willing to support us, we are able to move quickly, easily and firmly away from them and towards the places and people we’ve discovered who are understanding and supportive and  help us keep ourselves healthy, healed and able to help others.

Recovery offers all of that –as you stay on your spiritual recovery path you will be become more and more aware of the wonders that surround you – the people and gifts – the intuitive knowing of where to find your support.

 A spiritual way of life – whether 12 Step Recovery or anything else – requires commitment, discipline and practice.  A deeply spiritual life that is lived in full consciousness within the constraints of our daily humanness is not for everyone; each of us has our own path to follow.  Be sure nothing stands in the way of yours.

By Danette Banyai,  October 2014