by Ellen A Mogensen, Past & Now Forward Holistic Counseling
Healing/recovery from any mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual illness follow a familiar pattern which you may already know.
These “Rules of Recovery” are from the most famous recovery source of all: Alcoholics Anonymous – The 12 Step Program.
Recovery becomes the search for serenity. You may remember the famous Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
1> RECOGNIZE THAT YOU HAVE A “REAL” PROBLEM
You can never heal any problem unless you first admit that you have one (see the “Rules #4: Healing”). In fact, from the moment you recognize you have a problem, your healing process begins. In the language of 12 Steps, “we admitted we were powerless over our problems (fill in the blank with your problems): that our lives had become unmanageable”. We promise ourselves “we are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness”. We choose to know “hope instead of desperation”.
2> YOU NEED HELP FROM OTHERS TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEM
If you could solve the problem on your own, you would have. When you cannot, you need to get help. In the language of 12 Steps, “we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to a joyous and peaceful way of thinking and living “. We promise ourselves “we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it”. We choose to know “faith instead of despair”.
3> BECOME OPEN TO RECEIVING THIS HELP FROM OTHERS
Knowing that you need help is no good unless you are open to receiving it. Openness to receiving help always involves courage to make an extraordinary leap of faith. For to heal, we must put ourselves in the hands of others. In the language of 12 Steps, “we made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this power of our own understanding”. So we promise ourselves “we will fully comprehend the word serenity”. We choose to know “courage instead of fear”.
4> AGREE TO DISCOVER THE INNER CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM
Your illness and your problems are intensely personal and meant to propel you on a journey of learning (see the “Rules #7: Illness”). You cannot heal the problem unless you are willing to discover it’s inner cause. You cannot discover the inner cause unless you are willing to look within. In the language of 12 Steps, “we made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. We promise ourselves “we will know peace”. We choose to know “peace of mind instead of confusion”.
5> ADMIT TO OTHERS THE EXACT NATURE OF YOUR PROBLEM
Admitting your problems to others is what allows the darkness to be brought to light and is what allows the healing to transform your state of being. Admitting your problems to others allows them to benefit by avoiding the mistakes you have made. In the language of 12 Steps, “we admitted to this power of our own understanding, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”. We promise ourselves “no matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others “. We choose to know “self-respect instead of self-contempt” because we believe we are worthy.
6> MAKE THE COMMITMENT TO CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
Changing for the better is simple but often hard to do. It is simply this: “Choose to love at every moment: forgive everyone, everything”. For negative emotions – like fear, hate, anger – lie at the bottom of illnesses and love is the cure. In the language of 12 Steps, “we were entirely ready to have all these defects or character removed”. We promise ourselves “the feelings of uselessness and self-pity will disappear “. We choose to know “self-confidence instead of helplessness “.
7> ASK OTHERS TO HELP YOU CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
Change can happen in an instant. To make sure that the change lasts, we need the help of God and all other people in our lives to keep our feet planted on the path of change. For know that if we do not stick to the necessary changes we have agreed to make in our lives, our problems will return to us. They return until we have learned our lessons or our bodies-minds have no choice but to die. If we die, it so that we can get another chance to learn to love. In the language of 12 Steps, “we humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings”. We promise ourselves “we will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in others”. We choose to know “the respect of others instead of their pity and contempt”.
8> PUT THE PAST BEHIND YOU AND MAKE A NEW START
You life can only begin anew once you have agreed to put the past behind you. You cannot change the past, you can only become willing to make amends for it. Others may or may not forgive you. Whether they do or not, realize that you are making amends primarily for your peace of mind and to ingrain in you the habit of always projecting love. In the language of 12 Steps, “we made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”. We promise ourselves “self-seeking will slip away”. We choose to know “a clean conscience instead of a sense of guilt” because today is the first day of the rest of our life.
9> TAKE STEPS TO “SHOW” YOU HAVE MADE A NEW START
Our bodies and minds were not meant to hold negative emotions – they were meant to receive and give love unconditionally. We cannot heal our bodies-minds as long as we continue to drink in the poison that sustained negative emotions and bad treatment of ourselves and others produce in us. In the language of 12 Steps, “we made direct amends to such people (including ourselves) wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”. We promise ourselves “our whole attitude and outlook on life will change”. We choose to know “friendships instead of loneliness” because we know that we are loving and loveable.
10> IMPLEMENT THE CHANGE EVERY DAY, ONE DAY AT A TIME
To be effective and long lasting, change must be a continuous daily process. Many fail to make changes because doing so forever seems overwhelming. The process becomes manageable when we take it one day at a time and allow ourselves to have setbacks without ever giving up on ourselves. In the language of 12 Steps, “we continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it”. We promise ourselves “fear of people and insecurity will leave us”. We choose to know “a clean pattern of life instead of a purposeless existence “.
11> GOD WILL ALWAYS HELP YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
Opening ourselves to God’s help is the only way that we ultimately succeed. In the language of 12 Steps, “we sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out”. We promise ourselves “we will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us”. We choose to see “the love and understanding of our families instead of their doubts and fears”.
12> AS WE HELP OTHERS TO HEAL, WE HEAL OURSELVES
In the language of 12 Steps, “having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these twelve steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs “. We promise ourselves “we will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves “. We choose to know “the freedom of a happy life instead of the bondage of our problems”.
If you are not covinced that these rules are for real, see how they relate to the Top 10 Causes of Death… take a few minutes to save your life.
Credits: adapted from “Alcoholics Anonymous: 12 Step Program” www.12steps.org and channeled information