While there’s no singular way of recovering from addiction to alcohol or drugs that work best for everyone, Alcoholics Anonymous—as well as its numerous derivative groups—remains an essential tool for many who have struggled with alcoholism and sought a way to achieve physical and spiritual recovery. When Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, it was intended to be a recovery fellowship that offered support and encouragement rather to those in need rather than chastising them for their failings. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous became the fellowship’s roadmap, a literal step-by-step blueprint for progressing from a state of suffering to a place of physical sobriety and spiritual wellness.
Since the conception and implementation of the Twelve Steps as a central component of twelve-step recovery, millions of individuals have found relief from the disease of addiction by working through each of the program’s renowned Twelve Steps. Many of the individuals who achieved sobriety while working their way through the program had tried—and failed—to overcome this deadly disease using other, even more conventional methods, yet the Twelve Steps offered them something they weren’t receiving from other forms of treatment. In honor of the success in recovery that many have had as a result of Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step groups, here are ten gifts that individuals get as a result of working the Twelve Steps.
The Gift of Overcoming Denial
At the very core of the disease of addiction and chemical dependency, denial is arguably what contributes to the longevity of many individuals’ suffering. As individual transitions from substance abuser to an ddict, he or she remains in denial of the addictive potential of chemical substances. Even in the face of growing evidence that dependency has developed, an addict will continually lie to him or herself as well as others, either clinging to the belief that one’s addiction doesn’t exist or isn’t very severe. As an essential and early part of working the Twelve Steps, individuals overcome their denial by accepting reality, which means acknowledging that their suffering has been the result of a very real disease from which they want and need to recover.
The Gift of Accountability & Responsibility
Over the course of active addiction, individuals avoid responsibility and being accountable for their actions at all costs. Oftentimes this causes addicts to become finger-pointers, quick to blame others for the problems that their own behaviors or addictions have caused. As individuals work the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, they begin to view their past actions and motivations in a new light. With a more critical eye, this allows them to take responsibility for the part that they’ve played in their own circumstances and to be accountable for how their actions have affected others. Though seemingly small in and of itself, being more responsible and accountable is an essential precursor to other gifts one gets by working the Twelve Steps.
The Gift of Making Amends for Previous Wrongs
It’s a common trait of individuals who suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction to stoop to increasingly low levels to sustain their substance abuse habits. Whether it’s lying to others or even stealing from their own loved ones, addicts commonly carry around a lot of guilt for the things they’ve done in the name of addiction. However, an important step in twelve-step recovery is to make amends for the wrongs committed against others, which is a very important gift as it helps individuals to right some of their previous wrongs while starting anew in recovery.
The Gift of Encouragement & Support
Alcoholics Anonymous is, at its core, a fellowship of individuals who share a common goal, which is to recover from a progressive, deadly disease. Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous or another twelve-step group will have had countless experiences that allow him or her to relate to others, establishing strong connections with fellow members. Twelve-step fellowships become and remain an essential support network for those in recovery, who benefit from the ongoing encouragement and compassion of individuals with similar goals and/or perspectives.
The Gift of Acceptance
Anyone who has suffered from addiction will know what it’s like to be judged or to feel unaccepted by others. Addicts as well as those individuals who have overcome alcoholism or drug addiction are highly stigmatized by society at large, who are hesitant or reluctant to trust these individuals. Unfortunately, feelings of isolation and alienation serve only to push these individuals back into the lifestyle of addiction where they will be accepted by other addicts. However, recovery fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous offer individuals a pervasive sense of acceptance, which is both a gift and an asset for individuals who have known only judgment and rejection for many years. Moreover, acceptance was intended by the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous to be one of the fellowship’s most central and essential tenets.
The Gift of a Stronger Relationship with One’s Higher Power
Although not an overtly religious fellowship, Alcoholics Anonymous has a number of spiritual components, which are reflected in its literature and especially in the Twelve Steps. It was the belief of fellowship founder Bill Wilson that many turn to alcohol or other substances due to feeling spiritually unfulfilled, which is why individuals find themselves developing an enhanced relationship with the higher powers of their understandings over the course of working the Twelve Steps. This relationship becomes an important source of strength as individuals progress through the Twelve Steps and into a life of lasting sobriety.
The Gift of Understanding Addiction
There’s a common misconception regarding alcoholism and addiction. Despite our scientific advancements that have allowed us to make more enlightened observations, many still believe that addiction is an individual’s willful selfishness and a disregard for their own well-being as well as the well-being of others. However, we now know that addiction is a disease, but a disease that causes physical as well as psychological, social, and even spiritual deterioration. By gaining a more comprehensive understanding of addiction, individuals can be more accepting of themselves with an understanding that their suffering has been caused by a disease that can be managed and overcome.
The Gift of Improved Self-Worth & Self-Esteem
Suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction will quickly make individuals feel bad about themselves, either due to feeling weak in character or because of the guilt caused by the wrongs they commit against others. However, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous were designed to be a cumulative process with each step building upon the success of the last. Moreover, working the Twelve Steps—though not an easy task—makes individuals feel better about themselves as each step brings incremental improvements to one’s physical and spiritual health.
The Gift of Confidence & Security
Living in the throes of addiction comes with a certain level of uncertainty. After waking in the morning, an alcoholic or drug addict must determine to what lengths they will be forced to go in order to obtain the alcohol or drugs they need to keep withdrawal at bay for a little while longer. As such, there’s a lot of insecurity involved with being chemically dependent, unsure of what the future will bring or what consequences will befall today’s actions. Individuals who work the Twelve Steps ebb closer and closer to achieving sustainable sobriety, which allows individuals to begin to focus on their other needs and desires. After becoming sober, an individual can make goals, plans, and preparations for the future they want rather than trying to prevent the future they don’t want, which provides feelings of confidence and security in oneself and the future.
The Gift of Sobriety
Last yet certainly not least, the Twelve Steps are intended to deliver individuals to a place of sobriety. In many cases, this is achieved after having tried—and failed—to get sober using other tools or treatments. However, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous accounts for many of an individual’s recovery needs in addition to those that are physical, which allows for a more comprehensive, mind-body-spirit recovery that serves as the ultimate gift of Alcoholics Anonymous.
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