What is 12-Step Recovery?

 

12-steps-recovery.newlife

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.

Recovery Manifesto

What do you want your recovery to look like in a year? What do you want your marriage to look like in a year?

If you can’t answer that question, then where do you expect either of them to end up? Not sure about your life, but in mine the best things don’t happen by accident. Good outcomes and growth aren’t my default. Quite the opposite! I frequently say that my life is like going up the down escalator; if I’m not actively pursuing who God is calling me to be, then I’m passively slipping back into who I’ve always been. That holds true personally, professionally, spiritually and maritally.

Recently, a client has been working on a recovery/marriage manifesto. His task has been to write a declaration answering the question: What do I want our lives and relationship to look like in 1 year, and how will we get there?

I just want to share an excerpt from that manifesto:

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how we’ll get there…

I don’t know all the things that will happen between now and 365 days from now. But what I do know is how we’ll accomplish the goals set out above. This manifesto will ring true if…

  • humility is the focus of approaching our marriage and our relationship
  • communication is open, honest and humble
  • we trust in God, at the deepest level we’ve ever trusted him, by praying like it all depends on him and working like it all depends on us
  • we connect in true intimacy
We’ll look back at 2013 and say with confidence that it was a hell of a year because of the hopelessness, despair, helplessness, fear, betrayal, deceit, rejection, guilt, and shame felt by us both. But it was worth it because true transformation came out of the deepest, darkest pit we were in. I want us to say that 2013 was the year that everything changed for the better.
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This fires me up! Frankly, I think that fires God up too. I think he sees this, jumps out of his seat, yells “OH YEAH!” and high-fives the closest angel. In effect, this manifesto sets the stage on which God can orchestrate radical redemption and gives the curtain call for Him to get the glory for it. 2013 is the year it all changed. It’s the year God showed up. It’s the year redemption began to be real.

Will 2013 be the year everything changed for you?

There’s still time. The year’s not over.

What Makes Recovery Christian?

Lance David

For many Christians the idea of addiction recovery seems a touchy-feely, self-help, unchristian thing. With terminology that includes, “Higher Power,” “sponsor,” and “12 steps” recovery can be unfamiliar and possibly threatening to some Christians. It is certainly possible to do recovery- submitting to the program and to a higher power and experiencing sobriety- without following Christ. But this does not make recovery anymore unchristian than non-Christian couples remaining married until death does them part would make marriage unchristian.

For something to be unchristian it would have to be contrary to the gospel. Even though the terms may seem foreign to some Christians, the key principles of recovery highlight significant realities of that are contained in the gospel.

The first reality is that all of us are a mess. You may hide it or I may be in denial but that will not change the fact that we are both broken. This is the essential entrance exam both for Christians and those in recovery. The context for recovery is realization of the prodigal who knows that he has been fighting with pigs for sustenance. When a person does not view himself as a mess, he is more like the older brother who has all the riches at his disposal but remains aloof and on the outside. Jesus said, “It is not it the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17 NIV). It is tragic that many in the church today do not deeply understand and appropriate this, instead resembling Pharisees rather than repentant sinners. Those truly engaged in recovery, on the other hand, grasp this reality very well.

A second reality of recovery is that I am responsible for this mess. Neither recovery nor the gospel allows a person to wallow in the blame game of victimhood. No matter how a person has been sinned against, he is responsible for his response. Even though others have sinned against me, recovery only begins when I begin to struggle and repent of the character flaws that have developed as a result of my resentments. Jesus captured the essence of this idea with the admonition, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).

A third reality is that the path to healing in recovery must be done with others. Meetings, fellowship, support and sponsors all demonstrate that in recovery healing does not happen alone. Unfortunately, this is an aspect that most of us in the church in the western world have abandoned. Even with small groups, men’s groups, accountability partners, Promise Keepers and other seminars, most men remain terribly isolated from others- especially when it comes to our problems. We have been taught that it is not masculine but weak to be a broken mess. But to be isolated denies the reality that we all have blind spots that can only be exposed to us by other people. Furthermore, relationships provide the context for change in that just as we all get hurt in by unhealthy relationships, healthy ones heal. Sanctification and recovery do not take place without community.

A final reality of recovery is that it must include a recognition of and submission to a spiritual reality. Of course, as Christians, we recognize that the only “higher power” is the one true God revealed in the bible. However, the generic language of recovery makes the steps palatable to those who are not convinced of this truth. The twelve steps of recovery reveal a very spiritual agenda. It is one that includes submission, confession, repentance, reconciliation, and deep character change. These demonstrate that an addict’s core problem is a commitment to self and not addiction per se. Only by submitting to the One greater than self can the addict and the run of the mill sinner experience true inner healing.

The essential feature of anyone’s recovery that makes it Christian is the person who is in recovery. Christ did not come to give us principles, a system, a cause, rules or many of the things that we have perverted his message into. Christ came to bring us back into relationship with God. Left to our own ingenuity, we have found so many different ways, including addictions, to run from him. The story of the gospel is the story of God’s recovery of the human race to himself.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.