Give Yourself Permission to Move On When a Lifeline is not Working

Lifelines are the individual tools we use to learn about ourselves and others. These include hobbies revisited or new; books that help guide us to new understandings; social media channels; etc. Everyone who is interested in recovery has unlimited resources available. Groups, organizations, support, articles, posts, links, email, etc. We will be listing many sources. Our joyful, playful child lives in our creativity. Awakening our creativity gives life fun and purpose.

Since 1976, when I began my addiction recovery, I have had to painfully start over many times. Although the 12 steps worked for me and are the foundation for my life, I had to give up 12 step groups because I have several addictions as well as depression. I am a multi-addicted person who used addictions to heal my mental illness. I can’t talk about my depression at 12 step meetings but it is the single most important item in my life. Letting go of groups that require me to be a square peg freed me up to be me and find what works for my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual life.

This same experience has happened to many of us. Of the 24,000,000 of us in recovery in the US, it is estimated about 10% go to 12 step meetings. This is based on a survey done by AA.

Eric Nada had to leave after 20 years and has written about it:

12-step conditioning: the cure and the cost

I left 12-step involvement after 20 years of committed membership. It was surprisingly difficult. Of course, it was difficult to stop shooting heroin too — so difficult that I eventually stopped trying to stop. By then, the course of my life was almost totally dictated by my rigid attachment to the heroin itself and by my overwhelming fear of withdrawal. By the time I finally quit, 24 years ago, I was homeless, panhandling for hours a day, supplementing my begging with daily theft, and facing a mandatory prison sentence on felony distribution charges. I had attended over a dozen rehabilitation and detoxification centers but made no progress with recovery — until I begrudgingly committed myself to the 12-step program. And while this worked, at least insofar as helping me break my bond to drugs, it did so at a cost: I had to join a powerful subculture that required me to ignore key elements of my personality and my beliefs.

I estimate that I spent at least 5800 hours in meetings, not to mention the hours I spent both in sponsorship and casual conversation with other members. Meetings were spent in repeated discussions extolling the validity and certainty of 12-step truth — an almost daily feedback loop of self-reinforcement. This was carried out with others who, by the very nature of selection bias, were guaranteed to agree with me. Within a year, I was thoroughly conditioned. I came to believe that I was plagued by a fixed condition that required a very particular solution — a solution that didn’t evolve and was unaffected by any personal changes I might make along the way. It’s not an exaggeration to describe the basic 12-step formula as follows: You have an unchangeable condition, X, the cure for which is Y and only Y. If you stop doing Y, you will eventually die of X.

97 comments are included with the post.

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4 comments

  1. Interesting perspective. I recently left my ACA group after feeling that most of the people in attendance are just stuck and was keeping me stuck. I am still working the steps though. For me, the program is just as much about spiritual growth as it is recovery. They go hand in hand.

    1. I know that for me the program is the 12 steps. Much as I love the ACA Red Book, I was unable to get much from the ACA meetings I attended. Everyone hated sharing their book and the whole meeting was reading aloud from the book. The last straw was the leader was coming back from a suicide attempt and the group voted her in as the leader. What?

  2. I myself have slowly driven off out of ACA meetings. I am progressing and the people in the meetings stuck. The reinforcing subgroup culture doesn’t work for me anymore, but it did when I got sober almost 8 years ago. Being introverted and gifted, I don’t get anything new from attending meetings. I am grateful to have a small tight support group of like-minded people. I do read the big red ACA book as it helps me identify issues from the past.

    1. Exactly what naturally occurs as we progress. In learning to listen to our inner intuition we are moved out of fixed recovery groups. Recovery is an individual experience. So happy you found like-minded souls. The 13th step to many is recovery from recovery groups.

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