Addiction is all throughout our society. Addictions are essentially impulse disorders. That is, you have an uncomfortable feeling and you reach for something to medicate it with: sex, food, gambling, shopping, drugs, alcohol—even TV, video games, computers, and cell phones. The problem with addictions is that while you don’t feel the uncomfortable feeling once medicated, the feeling has not gone away. It gets repressed, goes underground, and comes roaring back soon after your medication of choice wears off. Each time this cycle of medicating feelings gets repeated, your life gets more and more messy.
The definition of an addiction is that it makes your life unmanageable in one or more areas: You have a deep depression that comes back every time its not medicated—now its becoming suicidal thoughts. Your relationships are a mess because of the addiction and your spouse has finally filed for divorce. You may experience violence, stealing, disease, legal issues, jail, obesity, debilitating anxiety, crippling debt, pervasive loneliness, extreme attention deficit, stagnation, etc. It’s often said that the addiction, like a dark personality, has its own agenda—to either make your life miserable and put you in an institution, or kill you. One sign of addiction is if you reach a state of “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.”
The best known cure for addictions is by far the twelve-step recovery program. Founded by Bill Wilson and “Dr. Bob”, the twelve-step program was initially designed as a recovery format for alcoholism, that is, Alcoholics Anonymous, or “A.A.”. The twelve-step program has now been adopted for addictions of all kinds. There is: Sex Addicts Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Clutterers Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, and the list goes on. There is also a companion program, AL-Anon, for the co-addict—a person in relationship to the addicted person.
The twelve-steps lead the participant through a process of getting a “sponsor” to walk them through the steps. In this process the addict learns to take accountability for their actions, turn over their will to a self-defined “higher power”, form a community of support, identify “bottom line behaviors” which they must abstain from, attend meetings, and be of service to others. The process is meant to invoke a “spiritual awakening” in the member that results in sobriety, a more contented and productive life, and a life of service.
Below are the twelve steps of A.A. Other programs replace the word “alcohol” for any substance or activity of choice that becomes addictive:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11.Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The success of twelve-step recovery is unparalleled in the field of addiction. If you think your life has become unmanageable you may want to check out a meeting and get a therapist who has experience in addiction treatment. You can Google your addiction for a list of local meetings—and can even join meetings in phone formats. If you think you have a problem but believe you know enough to do it on your own even after failing repeatedly, you may want to remember a slogan in the twelve-step program: “Your best thinking got you here.”
Below “Austin” talks about joining A.A. and working Step 4, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”