The 12 Steps are utilized by SA, AA, and other groups as guiding principles outlining how to recover from compulsive and addictive behaviors and restore manageability to one’s life.
By Joseph Houck
“Uncover. Discard. Discover. Heal”. This is a pattern we learn in 12 step work. It sounds simple, right? After all, shouldn’t the 12 Steps help me do this? And shouldn’t it be as simple as described in this formula? But what is soon found when working the steps (and being involved in other healing activities), is that more problems and pain seem to arise. Most people seem perplexed that sobriety can suffer or even get worse when they first start the work of healing and recovery.
What most people forget is that the process of healing and recovery is a MAJOR undertaking because this is an addiction. Recovery requires a great deal of consistency over time.
Addiction is caused when a person stuffs their pain and trauma deep within themselves. Deep hurts that are stuffed and not dealt with directly, (usually because of age or inexperience), callous over and walls are built around the pain and hurt so that the person doesn’t have to regularly deal with the pain.
Trauma wants release and healing, but many soothe stuffed trauma with addictive behavior. Not dealing with the pain deepens the addiction. Dealing with the pain leads to healing.
It is while working the 12 Steps that people start to see what’s truly going on deep within. We start to uncover the wounds and start to see them for what they are. But when these pains are uncovered they are overwhelming! And triggering! And traumatizing! It’s almost as if the pain is even more powerful when it is dug up then when it was put there.
This can lead to relapse after relapse for months or years because someone who is addicted hasn’t yet learned how to deal with these strong emotions or pain. After all, we’ve thought we can do it on our own for so long! The 12 Steps allow a person to deal with these strong emotions in healthy ways. With the help of others and especially our Higher Power, we learn that we can trust – that we can successfully work through difficult emotions in the safety of being loved and valued.
This initial phase of healing is painful and it does hurt—but it does end. I have dealt with many people, including myself, who have done the difficult work of trauma healing. What I’ve found is that when the pain comes up it arises like a volcanic eruption – as anger, rage, resentment and frustration. If these feelings are dealt with healthily over a large period of time by consistently using healing tools (especially the 12 Steps) these feelings give way to serenity, peace, and joy.
Yes, the road to recovery and healing does hurt initially but the hurt and pain subsides and what replaces it is serenity, peace, and JOY.
Now that’s something that is well worth any effort.