Choices in recovery- One size does not fit all.

With out going into specifics of my issues, I do have a pretty strong opinion of 12 step programs. I’m NOT “this is everyone’s experience”, I’m just telling mine. For some people 12 steps work for them but after attending them for a year, I dreaded going and decided to get informed.

These programs cover not only alcohol and drugs but also overeating, gambling, sex addiction, kleptomania and even some mental disorders such as depression and bi-polar and the success rates vary from 5%-about 30%, depending on the source. Though the average is thought to be around the 10% mark. And these are considered successful stats????

The minute I went into my first meeting, I was hopeful. I was among kindred spirits. They knew what I was feeling, they’d had the same bullshit going on in their life right? Not really. We may have shared common feelings of anger, depression, abandonment or what ever other adjective you might want to attach to yourself but our experiences and how they affected “us individually couldn’t have been more different.” But hey I love meeting new people and I’d had a very rough few months and a hospital stay and the next thing to do was go find a meeting. The first month was good. I met people who had been where I was. Who claimed they were clean and sober. Who led these groups and told me as long as I worked the program I was going to be fine. You’re filled with a sense of hope and are ready and willing to put it all on the table.

But after a month or so I was questioning all the steps. While they say they are not affiliated with any religion, the two men who made up these steps in the 30’s were religious. They infused their belief into the program and in my opinion took a lot of the responsibility for one’s addiction out of their hands and put it in Gods.

Hey, I believe in God, don’t get me wrong but I find it highly suspect when anyone tells me to give it up to a high power. Really? Because as far I know we were given free will to make our lives what we want them to be.

Telling ourselves that we have no control over food, alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex sounds great. Hey, we’re allergic, at least that’s what we’re told to tell other people.

I’m responsible to wake up everyday, take a shower, work out, eat my breakfast. Not God, but me. Anything I do, anything I put in my body is a decision that I’ve made. Now I’m being told that I’m not capable of taking charge of me, I have to leave it up to my higher power. Yeah, they don’t say God too much but then turn around and refer to your higher power as he..hmmmm….

There is a big cult component to these groups and I have experience with how a cult gets to you. When I was very young we attended a church. It was very strict. Girls didn’t wear pants, cut their hair or wear make-up. We were at the church several days a week and even ate breakfast together on the weekends and dinners as well. We were discouraged from socializing with anyone who did not go to the church. Our pastor told us over and over again that outsiders didn’t understand us. They didn’t believe what we believed and therefore we had to break away from them. Family or friends, it didn’t matter. If they didn’t attend our church they would poison our souls if we let them.


The 12 step meetings I went to had the same thought process. If people weren’t an addict like you then you needed to stay away from them or they would drag you back into your destructive behavior. Only other addicts could ever help heal you and keep you straight. Just like my church, only those who attended my church would go to heaven, all others were lost souls and if I had them in my life, they would take me away from God and I’d end up burning in Hell for all eternity.

I spent more time at meetings than I did doing things with my kids. I would shout it to the world and try and share in my recovery and often came off sounding like a complete asshole or delusional. I trashed some relationships with family and friends. I became angrier and bitter. Especially when certain aspects of my world came crashing down around me. I wasn’t physically doing the bad things anymore but who I was, what made me who I am was slowly being crushed under this tremendous weight of being told that I would never be able to live without the steps.

Sitting in meeting after meeting you hear the same stories over and over again from the same people. You tell your story over and over again. It’s like this giant pit party that never ends. You learn how not to do a behavior but you sure as hell never understand WHY you did what you did in the first place. Why you needed your addiction. The real issues never get addressed and thus never get resolved.

I never bought into the premise that I had to give it up to someone or something else. I didn’t like the feeling when I was told to stop being with the people I loved the most. To slam the door on the entire life I’d led up until now and start over. I understand that you have to be careful in the early stages but to abruptly turn your world upside down because of some words two fella’s from the 1930’s wrote down, is insane. You don’t move away from the people who love you. Who are there for you no matter what. Who’ve been your life long friends. There were people who didn’t speak to their children because they felt the kids were too needy. I’m not going to go through all the 12 steps because for at least 10 % of the population this works.

For me it felt just like it did when I was going to that church in my youth. I started looking at anyone outside of my groups as the enemy, wanting to take me back to that dark place, who wanted nothing more than to fuck with me, or tear me down or make me crazy. I didn’t learn how to let go of the bad. How can you when you have to relive the most painful parts of your life over and over again depending on how many meetings you attended in a week. It’s like a never-ending nightmare where your weaknesses and mistakes are public consumption for those sitting around you.

The biggest hurtle for me was the turning my life upside down- it was like telling me to run away to another country where no one knows me and start over. The problem – The reason for my issue in the first place would never be resolved if I continued on the path they were preaching to me.

There is supposed to be NO judgement- that’s a load of shit. I went out to eat, stood outside the meetings during smoke breaks and listened to those around tear each other down. It was like being back in high school. Who were the sluts of the groups, who were the players, who was looking for a new husband, who slipped and was lying about it. Who was coming to the meeting stoned, drunk…etc….You get the idea. Misery does love company and within these groups there is more than enough misery to go around.

For me , it wasn’t about the people. I had pretty good experiences though some tried to pull me into their drama. I was warned by a friend NOT TO HOOK up with any men in recovery. That they were only looking for something new, only to find out he had done just that. SO I found the hypocrisy within to be a slap in the face. I heeded his advice and distanced myself from any man who tried to be a little too friendly. I was there to get help, not to get laid.

For me the whole thing didn’t make sense. I may have a handle on my problem but I didn’t have my family and friends- the people who really knew me, both the good and the bad. I ended up being angrier than I had ever been in my life, and still carry some of it, even after a year of my departure.

I’ve been lucky that I haven’t traveled back down the road of addiction. At this point in my life I don’t feel the need to shut out the world or numb myself with an addiction. I’ve come to terms that most of 2012 I can’t remember and have finally let go of the guilt, hate, and anger, even when someone tells me something new I did or said during that time.

It’s taken me two years to recover from recovery. I had to find my own way. Do my own research and reach a place where I don’t hold onto the past. I blame no one but myself and can also acknowledge that for a few years I wasn’t even close to the person I used to be. OH, if I wanted to blame it on my circumstances or the people in my life I could. It always sounds better to blame someone else for your situation in life. And I could give it all over to a high power but what did it teach me?

Yes, I made my lists and said my apologies but what I discovered was I wasn’t apologizing because that is how I felt. I was apologizing because that was the next step!!! The words were hollow because when you’re in recovery you don’t really give a fuck who you hurt. You’re not rational and you don’t think about the consequences of what you’ve done to others. You lash out at those who’ve hurt you and you want them to feel every single ounce of pain you feel.

It’s like being a hamster on the wheel. Never quite catching up, never quite getting the reward. Never quite measuring up. You end up bringing out the worst in people. People you loved or who love you. For me, going to the meetings and constantly hearing how no one outside your addiction will never truly understand you took its toll on me and I got off the wheel.

Like my mother who was smart enough to pull me out of that CULT bat shit church, I pulled myself out of what I felt was just another cult.

Some definitions of a CULT from

an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers:


a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
 a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.

a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents
a group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centred on sacred symbols, esp one characterized by lack of organizational structure

Note : The term cult often suggests extreme beliefs and bizarre behavior.

I’m not against any ONE thing that can help with addictions. I am against groups, books, people who claim there is ONLY one way to get healthy, happy and get your shit together.

In my experience with the 12 steps, I was told daily that The Program was the only thing that worked. I think it’s a dangerous and reckless claim to make.
 I felt like I was permanently broken because I wasn’t buying into the doctrine or their book, so I faked it. Telling myself that if I regurgitated the stuff they were telling me and I was reading it, that it would eventually stick and I’d become a believer.
I finally reached a point this fall where I was just done with it all. I was done feeling anger, hate, as though I wasn’t good enough, done with behaving like I THOUGHT was the way adults behaved. Done with the whole bloody mess of keeping up with the Jones’s, faking my way, not feeling anything but the bad.
I’ve found my freedom again. To laugh, love and like who I am and where I am. Life is way too fucking short not to be happy.
I don’t want to spend whats left of it reliving the worst time of my life. Wondering what if or coulda, shoulda, woulda.
Letting go of all that baggage, that heavy load of bricks, I’ve been able to recapture how I felt when I first started writing. I’ve rediscovered my true passions in life and am living everyday with them in mind. I laugh and smile and am grateful for the many gifts I’ve been given. The past is the past. What’s done is done and I’m able to forgive others and myself at the same time. It’s not perfect. There are days that the past skitters across your memory and you find a way to get through them.
There are a lot of programs that don’t involve the 12 steps. If you put in Alternatives to 12 Steps in your search engine a lot will pop up. Make sure you research them. Find out how they work and what others think.
Smart Recovery was more my style and something I go back and read when I feel the need.



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