What is 12-Step Recovery?



As a seminary graduate and pastor, I was skeptical about much of psychology and recovery programs. I did learn a little more when I watched My Name is Bill W.–the story of the man who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous–but not much. I suspected that group meetings were touchy-feely, superficial gripe sessions that allowed addicts to blame everyone else in their lives for their problems. My greatest reservation stemmed from the commitment to speak of the generic ‘higher power’ instead of acknowledging Jesus Christ as the true life-changing power.

My views changed immediately and dramatically when a new job required a visit to a substance abuse rehab center. I found myself sitting in a group therapy session with men and women from their late teens to 60’s. They came from upper class homes, middle class working families, and the streets. I was amazed that they treated each other as true peers. Their pointed questions and frank confessions scared me, but I recognized that this is what real conversion looks like’people struggling with real guilt having no other hope than experiencing genuine rescue through faith in Jesus Christ. In short, they were living in true Christian community.

12-step recovery is biblical:

In my personal Bible study, I have found the principles that supported the steps. I finally became convinced that the steps were biblical when I recognized that Paul made his confession in 1 Timothy 1:15 as the result of completing the work of the 4th step: ‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.’ In verses 8-11, Paul outlines the basis for a searching moral inventory: the 10 Commandments. He then confesses, ‘I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man’.’ In verse 15, Paul then explains why he can complete his moral inventory without fear: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’of whom I am the worst.’ Later, I recognized the prodigal son experienced the admission expressed in the first step when he came to his senses. The 5th step is completely in keeping with James’ instruction in his letter: ‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.’ The 12 Steps help addicts face their sin and apply the remedy of the Gospel.

12-step recovery is progressive:

Working the steps requires following a process that moves the addict from a life of isolation to healthy relationships with others. In working the first 3 steps, you recognize the futility of your efforts to overcome your addiction by your own efforts and acknowledge your total dependence upon the Lord for help. In steps 4 through 6, you face the reality of your own brokenness due to sin and declare your readiness to have God transform you through the Gospel. In steps 7, 8, and 9, you work to repair the relationships that have been broken as a result of your addiction. In the final 3 steps, you work to advance the work already by growing in your knowledge of God and sharing what you’ve experienced with other addicts

12-step recovery is not self-help:

Anyone who hopes to end addiction must work the steps personally, but cannot work the steps without help from others. Groups urge members to find a sponsor/mentor who has already worked the steps or a partner who can work them at the same time in order to provide accountability for working the steps. Demonstrating a willingness to be in relationship through the steps is one of the most important foundations for completing the work. You are choosing to end the hiding and isolation. You must begin by deepening your relationship with God first. If I don’t really trust Jesus, then I won’t be able to trust His people. In the group meeting, you invite the other members to walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death. Knowing the God Who has walked that valley first is essential.

12-step recovery is an adventure:

The function of a 12-step group is not a precise science, as group veterans will attest. There are healthy and unhealthy groups. A healthy group fosters wholeness as the members progress through the steps. An unhealthy group permits members to repeat the same confessions they have made previously. Healthy groups can have unproductive meetings and unhealthy groups can have productive meetings.

The single greatest factor influencing a group’s health and effectiveness is the commitment of each member to work the steps. Members must help each other face the external and internal triggers that make up their patterns of addiction. Each person experiences moments of strength and of weakness’moments when it seems much easier to return to the life of denial and blame-shifting than to keep growing by answering that difficult question that has just been posed.

Following the well-trod path outlined by the 12 Steps will help you to escape the pattern of self-defeating behavior that has dominated your life and prevented you from experiencing wholeness through faith in Christ.

If you struggle with alcohol or drugs, we can help — call 800-NEWLIFE (800-639-5433).

If you struggle is with sexual integrity, please see Every Man’s Battle.

Mary Lou Caskey

On today’s radio show, Mary Lou Caskey shared a little about her weight loss journey. She mentioned that her journey started by attending our Lose it for Life Workshop. She also talked about her new book, Show Your Food Who’s Boss.


Overcoming Addiction Builds Character

Steve Arterburn

Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8 HCSB

If you’d like a perfect formula for character destruction, here it is: Become addicted to something that destroys your health or your sanity. If (God forbid) you allow yourself to become addicted, you’re steering straight for a tidal wave of negative consequences, and fast.

Ours is a society that glamorizes the use of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, and other addictive substances. Why? The answer can be summed up in one word: money. Simply put, addictive substances are big money makers, so suppliers (of both legal and illegal substances) work overtime to make certain that people like you sample their products. The suppliers need a steady stream of new customers, so they engage in a no-holds-barred struggle to find new users’or more accurately, new abusers.

The dictionary defines addiction as ‘the compulsive need for a habit-forming substance; the condition of being habitually and compulsively occupied with something.’ That definition is accurate, but incomplete. For Christians, addiction has an additional meaning: it means compulsively worshipping something other than God.

Unless you’re living on a deserted island, you know people who are full-blown addicts’probably lots of people. If you, or someone you love, is suffering from the blight of addiction, remember this: Help is available. Plenty of people have experienced addiction and lived to tell about it . . . so don’t give up hope.

And if you’re one of those fortunate people who hasn’t started experimenting with addictive substances, congratulations! You have just spared yourself a lifetime of headaches and heartaches. We are meant to be addicted to God, but we develop secondary addictions that temporarily appear to fix our problem. Edward M. Berckman

Addiction is the most powerful psychic enemy of humanity’s desire for God. Gerald May

Character builder
Remember that ultimately you and you alone are responsible for controlling your appetites. Others may warn you, help you, or encourage you, but in the end, the habits that rule your life are the very same habits that you yourself have formed. Thankfully, since you formed these habits, you can also break them’ if you decide to do so.

Dieting Means Missing Something!

Stephen Arterburn and Linda Mintle

Diets promote us to miss something based on the premise that we may never be able to eat it again. Sound familiar? Let’s say it’s Christmas and you pass the buffet table at the office Christmas party. It’s loaded with your favorite chocolate eclairs. Usually the thinking goes like this: It’s Christmas. I only get these once a year. I’ll need to eat one, no two or three! After all, it’ll be an entire year before I see these again. I can’t let this chance pass.

Two weeks later you are at a baby shower. The cake has your favorite frosting, rich cream cheese. Oh, can you believe this? I’m on a diet and I can’t eat that cake. It’s right in front of me and I can’t have it. Everyone will enjoy the taste but me. I will miss out—I better grab it while I can.

One month later, you are in Chicago for business. You pass Giordano’s pizza, home of the best stuffed pizza you’ve ever tasted. I can’t be in Chicago and not eat Giordano’s pizza. That would be a crime! But I’m dieting. Even though I could order a small single pizza, I would miss eating all I wanted this one time. I’ll get the big stuffed pizza and take the rest back to my hotel for later. Of course, none of the pizza makes it back to the hotel!

Lose this mentality and lose it for life! When you diet, you keep restricting yourself in ways that set you up to fail. Dieting means you’ll be missing the good stuff, when in fact you could have just a taste, or just one piece, or just one slice of the good stuff. You wouldn’t gain ten pounds. But thinking you are going to miss out on something sets you up to overeat. What you can’t have, you want. This idea goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were given the freedom to eat from any tree in Paradise, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That was the one tree Adam was told to avoid. When the serpent came to tempt Eve, he began by questioning what God had instructed. He sowed doubt in Eve’s mind. The very tree Adam and Eve were to avoid, they ultimately ate from! Think about it. They could have eaten from any tree but one! Eve was deceived and thought she was missing out on something, and Adam disobeyed with her. From the beginning, dealing with restriction has been a problem.

There is always a choice; to eat food, eat less of it, or skip eating it entirely. A little of something may satisfy our want. The problem is we eat without thinking and focus on what we might be missing. Again like sin, a little of something forbidden usually ends up being highly desirable. Rather than being self governed, we give in to the temptation.

Please remember there are no ‘bad foods’ (well, perhaps there are no bad foods other than the deep fried Twinkies at your local fair), but there are wise choices. Actually this is a grown-up idea. Most people over twenty-one can have anything they want, but this doesn’t mean they should indulge in everything just because they can. There are activities we should choose to do in moderate amounts, like watching TV or sports, and others we should do more often, like playing with our children. Finally, there are other things we shouldn’t do at all, like viewing pornography. In every case, we have a choice. Though we don’t have to miss a thing if we don’t want to, it is very important to note that though everything may be available to us, it is definitely not all good for us. This is especially true of food.

Join us for a weekend of encouragement and healing: Lose it For Life.

Think Responsibly!

There once was a TV commercial for a liqueur where the guy is trying to put ice in a glass. He picks one out of the bucket only to have it fall on the floor, a second, a third and finally he just pours the drink into the ice bucket and sticks a straw in it! The best part is the announcer’s voice saying ‘Drink Responsibly.’ Is it just me that sees the irony in that statement? I mean the whole idea of a commercial is to sell the product, right? It’s kind of like the nutritional guidelines being posted at the local fast food joint. Do I really want to know what’s in my cheeseburger? Well yes, as a matter of fact I do, that is if I want to think responsibly.

What am I putting into my body? (A scarier thought: who has prepared it? Eek!) What am I bringing into my house that will be a temptation for me? (Chocolate, soda, etc.) You get the idea.

Exercise is a big area in which we like to be irresponsible. I mean who hasn’t come up with the excuse ‘I don’t have any time to exercise’? There are so many excuses for not being intentional about exercise. Exercise is taking responsibility for your physical health, as far as it depends on you. We can’t always prevent certain diseases and disorders because we live in ‘jars of clay.’ However, we can do the best with what we have and experience the rewards!

Once a man got his truck stuck in the sand. Not on purpose of course, but it happened and he needed help getting unstuck. The tow truck arrived and the man warned the driver of the sand. The driver said with great pride ‘this truck won’t get stuck, it’s got (fill in the largest engine, wheel base, etc.) and there’s no way it’s gonna get stuck!’ So the driver got into the tow truck, drove about 5 yards and yes you guessed it, he got stuck! Well they took the winch 100 or so yards, hooked it to the man’s truck and pulled him out of the sand. Then the man hooked the tow truck up to his truck and pulled the tow truck out of the sand. The tow truck driver said a sheepish thanks and drove off.

Many times we put ourselves into ‘sand’ and pride ourselves on being able to not get stuck. We may even be warned by those who have been stuck.

Thinking responsibly requires wisdom and discernment. Watching where others have been, what led them into the sand trap, and how to avoid getting stuck in the first place. What have you learned about yourself? What are your sand traps? Who do you need to call if you get stuck?

Back to the commercial, nowadays the alcohol commercials also encourage having a designated driver. Again, thinking responsibly requires some planning. If we haven’t planned for exercise, it probably isn’t going to happen. If we haven’t planned to eat healthy, the junk food just jumps into the grocery cart (not really, but it seems that way!).

Begin to think responsibly about your life today! No matter what time of day it is when you are reading this! What is the next right thing for you to do? Maybe you are at work, plan to walk for your lunch hour. If it is late at night, go to bed and get a good nights rest. There are so many areas where we do not want to take responsibility for our lives! This is your life. Are you who you want to be? Think responsibly. your life depends on it!

What Are You Afraid Of?

Things that go bump in the night, an overbearing boss, or anxiety filled days–all of these and more affect the way we think and act. Sometimes we are frozen in our fears and don’t realize it. Fear is something we live with unknowingly, yet it can be a motivator in our relationships, work, and our life with Christ.

Fear and anxiety can lock us into beliefs that support our fears and anxiety. Codependent relationships, dead end jobs, and destructive habits all participate in the cycle of fear and anxiety. Are you recognizing fear and anxiety that is present in your life? What can you do?

Here are 7 ways to begin addressing the fear and anxiety in your life:

1. Eat well balanced, nutritious meals. Eliminate harmful substances.

2. Learn mind body techniques to help relax and reduce stress response.

3. Get enough sleep, rest, and relaxation.

4. Develop a relationship with God. Practice prayer and Christian meditation.

5. Exercise regularly. At least 30-45 minutes of exercise a day.

6. Counteract negative self talk and mistaken beliefs with positive reality and God’s Word.

7. Connect with other people in meaningful relationships, sharing life, love, laughter and serving one another.

Begin addressing your fear today by asking God to help you! Surrender your fear and anxiety to him, begin one of the steps above, and do not let fear or anxiety take one more day of your life!

Need some help? Join us at our next Healing is a Choice Workshop.

Move It and Lose It!

You’ve heard the saying, ‘Move it or Lose it!’ We’d like to alter it a bit to, ‘Move it and lose it.’ That’s right. The more you move it, the more you’ll lose it- or at least keep from going in the opposite direction! Even though exercise will not turn you into Twiggy (for those of you too young remember, she was a very skinny model from the 1960’s), it is responsible for keeping most of us from gaining weight.

Members of the National Weight Control Registry report that exercise plays a role in keeping their weight off as well. Most reported exercising about an hour a day.

Okay, so an hour a day sounds like torture to some of you. Not to worry! We are convinced that there is at least one activity you can really enjoy. There isn’t a requirement to exercise for sixty minutes straight either. So take a deep breath and relax! Exercise can work for you!

To begin, let’s look at the RISE formula and apply it to exercise.

Reduce: your negativity and lackadaisical attitude toward exercise.

Increase: your physical activity, water consumption, commitment to exercise, and accountability.

Substitute: the right attitude ‘ a cheerful one ‘ if need be, and also the right workout apparel for the wrong workout clothes.
Eliminate: all excuses for not exercising!

Exercising isn’t optional in weight loss! There are so many benefits when it comes to exercise.

Here are six of the best reasons:

1. Exercise helps reduce hidden belly fat, lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some types of cancer.

2. Exercise prevents muscle form wasting and helps to lose fat.

3. Exercise helps the brain deal with stress more effectively.

4. Moderate cardiovascular exercise such as thirty minutes of brisk walking a few times a week can improve your memory.

5. Exercise helps to manage hunger. Research shows that exercising increases control over hunger and food intake. In fact, the physically fit person is often not hungry until several hours after exercise.

6. Exercise improves your immune system.

We can’t stress this point enough: When it comes to making exercise a habit, attitude is more than half the battle! Whatever reasons you have used for avoiding exercise in the past- it’s unpleasant, too painful, inconvenient, frustrating, or too time consuming ‘ the reality is that exercise is necessary if you are serious about being healthy. Regardless of your past experiences, regular physical activity is essential for weight control and developing a healthy lifestyle.

Substitute a New Behavior for Eating

Excerpted from the book Lose It For Life by Steve Arterburn and Linda Mintle

Pain is not optional, but misery is. You can’t always control pain, but you can do something about misery. If you are looking for a quick fix to emotional pain, you’re reading the wrong book (Lose It For Life)! Healing is often progressive because it requires changes in your character and actions. The way you cope with emotional pain must change if you decide to no longer eat your way through it.

Keeping a record of what you do when you become emotionally upset is a good way to watch your progress, perhaps in a journal. The journey to finding new alternatives to eating might look like this:

Event: Received an upsetting phone call from my ex

Emotion: Very Hurt
Reaction: Went to the refrigerator and opened the door to eat

Now, think of a new way to cope with that feeling. What could you substitute for eating?

New Reaction: Call a friend and let her pray with me

Here’s another example:

Event: Heard someone gossip about me at church

Emotion: Anger
Reaction: Stopped for fries at a fast food restaurant

New Reaction: Gently confront the person who did the gossiping

To help yourself choose alternatives to eating, make a list of twenty behaviors you can substitute for eating the next time an intense emotion triggers that desire. Your list should include things you can do while driving, being at home, work, or on the go. Post the list on your refrigerator and make a copy to take with you. Every time you are tempted to eat because you feel an unpleasant emotion, pull out your list and choose a new thing to do. Feel free to borrow ideas from this list:

  • Take a short walk and cool down
  • Listen to calming music
  • Take three deep breaths
  • Distract yourself with something in the room or car
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Call a friend
  • Count to 20
  • Take a short nap
  • Pray and ask God to help you
  • Turn up the radio and get lost in the music
  • Stand up and do some stretches
  • Go to the bathroom, even if its only to splash water on your face
  • Play with your dog
  • Play with your child
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Go somewhere quiet and practice deep muscle relaxation
  • Clean something
  • Run up and downstairs to release tension
  • Work on a crossword puzzle
  • Play a Video game or read a book

Maybe you’ve been hurt by a cruel divorce, an abusive father, a betraying friend, or an insulting boss. Whatever the cause of your hurt, it’s time to stop using food as an emotional crutch and let the pain surface. When you do, you might experience intense feelings of anger or fear, but there will not be healing until you face those feelings.

Just let the feelings come, and ask God to help you understand exactly why you feel as you do. Don’t try to edit your thoughts. Whatever comes in to your mind, grab that thought. Most likely it is a lie that was implanted at the time of the emotional pain when you first experienced those feelings. Try to identify the lie, and once you find it, ask Jesus to speak His truth to you. Wait and listen for His voice, whether it comes in the form of a whisper of His Spirit or a visual picture He may give you. Wait on Him and expect Him to bring truth. His truth brings release from that lie.

If you continue to take every hurt and pain to Christ, lay them at His feet, and refuse to believe the lies, the food handcuffs will drop off you like they have for others. Come out of the eating closet. Exchange it for the prayer closet ‘ a place filled with peace and rest.

Join us at our next Lose It For Life weekend.

Self Talk: Words of Faith

David Stoop

Words, said either in the privacy of the mind or spoken aloud, are powerful. Written across the pages of history are phrases uttered at crucial moments that turned the course of world events. At the beginning of World War II, Winston Churchill told the British people that even thought all of Europe might fall, ‘We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end—we shall fight on the seas and oceans—we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’ And the free world rallied to the task.

Look back through the pages of the Old Testament. David as a young man, affirms his faith to King Saul and then to the giant Goliath. He tells the king, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine’ (1 Sam. 17:37). Then, as David goes out to meet the giant, Goliath curses him. And David responds with powerful words; ‘I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand’ (vv.45-46). And history records the results.

Now that is not to say that the words in and of themselves are miracle workers. They are the reflections of what is in the heart and mind of David. And they release within David’s life the power of God. They are an extension of his Self-Talk during the years prior to that event. They are an expression of his faith.

Words Release Faith

Most of us think of faith as being trust in some positive benevolent deity. But faith is a process of life. No one is faithless. It is not a question of whether we possess faith or not. It is rather a question of where we place our faith. And our Faith is a process that works in releasing life-changing power in either a positive or negative direction.

For example, have you ever noticed how much more tired you feel after yawning and saying, ‘I’m so tired?’ You feel more tired because your Self-Talk has just released power in the direction of tiredness.

In the same way, recent studies have shown that people who begin to talk about the possibility of divorce often find themselves proceeding inevitably in the direction of divorce. Later they comment on how they felt trapped by their words. Things were not that bad, but talking about divorce gave power to that possibility.

All these examples illustrate the importance of our Self-Talk. We all talk to ourselves, sometimes out loud, but most of the time in the privacy of our minds. The result is always the same–the things we say determine the way we live our lives.

What are you in the habit of saying? What kinds of expressions would your family or friends recognize as being typical of you? You may have simply passed off some of these remarks as not being serious or even as jokes. But what you say and think is a very important indicator of where you are placing your faith.

Take some time now to make a list of the kinds of Self-Talk you usually make. What kinds of things do you say out loud? What kinds of statements do you make about yourself in your thoughts? For example, do you say or think things like:

“I can’t do this job; its too hard.”
“I’m always late. Guess I’ll be late for my wedding, even.”
“I’m so shy, I couldn’t talk to him.”
“I can’t lose weight. Nothing I do will help”

Write down some of the statements you make.

Now make another list, writing sown some of the statements you want to begin to make about yourself. For example you could change the above statements to read;

“I don’t like this job, but step by step I can do it.”
“I’ve had a habit of being late, but I can change my schedule and be on time.”
“I can lose weight, and I will find how I need to do it for me.”

For more help and encouragement, join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Revisit your Motivation

Steve Arterburn and Dr. Linda Mintle

We’ll say it again: Your motivation for losing weight should not be to please someone else. If you are doing this because your physician or spouse is upset with you, this is a set-up for potential failure. Decide if you are ready to lose weight for your own personal reasons. How important is it to you to live a life undefined by your weight and driven by food and eating? How important is it to you that you lead a healthy life?

If you are motivated to work on all parts of you life, spiritual, physical, emotional, and interpersonal, you will do well. You must take ownership of your goal to lose weight and keep it off. No one else can do it for you, but with God’s help, you can be successful.

It is also helpful to ask the question, ‘Why do I want to lose weight now?’ Since you have probably dieted in the past and been overweight for months or even years, why are you ready now? Hopefully you are ready to surrender this problem to God and accept the reality of your situation, including taking responsibility for your part of the problem.

Finally, are you experiencing significant stress in right now? If so, this may not be the time to try and lose weight. Instead, you may want to concentrate on making lifestyle changes rather than focusing on weight loss. Significant life stress greatly disrupts a person’s ability to lose weight for life. If this resonates with you, discover and make any lifestyle changes possible without overtaxing yourself. When you circumstances have stabilized, consider adding a goal of weight loss.

Loseitforlife.com has many resources to help you with your process to ‘weightlessness!’