When I began writing The 12 Steps of Christmas series, the intention was that all family and/or friends walk the Steps with the person overcoming their addiction. When someone voluntarily enters a 12 Step program, it means they really want to overcome their addiction. Here’s my advice to you: treat them like a human being. They will eventually ask for forgiveness via the Steps, but patience is needed. And, if you are willing to walk these Steps too in solidarity and support, you will need humility.
I am going to warn you that, when it’s all out on the table, you’re not going to be happy with the midst of it. If you want to truly help your friend or family member by doing this, you have to be honest about yourself, with yourself. Your feelings, your insecurities, your fears, your everything, on the table. It’s not going to be easy, but once you start with them, you don’t quit when it gets too hard. What kind of message does that send? It says, “You’re not worth it”. Do you want to say that? I surely hope not.
Don’t preach about a Higher Power having to be God if that is not who they identify with. Do not judge (and, yes, people can read body language so watch it because you could easily be judged by some things that you have done). Don’t believe that the rest of your family is without flaws. You all are. WE all are. Don’t push them to share; maybe they need you to share first. Don’t believe that your family is happy and functioning well. If someone in your family has been using, there is a level of dysfunction somewhere. Don’t refuse family therapy. As a therapist, I can tell you that with willing family members, someone in recovery can do quite well.
Here’s my background: From fucked up childhood to therapist. Ok, that was just a summation. I grew up in an unstable home with a Bipolar father, a depressed and neglectful mother, and escorted from my home beginning at age 11 to live in other people’s homes. Friends, generally. I worked a waitressing job in high school while my mom cleaned hotel rooms (rooms are to be cleaned in 30 minutes or less and it’s hard work). I decided to do the drinking and smoking pot thing in junior high school and high school, but neither stuck. Well, the cigarettes did. Since then, I’ve lost a great deal of those old party friends to drugs that killed them and partially killed their families. This is why I want families to work together.
Anyhow, I went on to earn my Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) being the first to graduate college on both sides of my family (pretty big family, so I was pretty proud), but not everyone in my family cared too much for me trying to climb an economic ladder. I worked as a substance abuse counselor in a methadone clinic. I’ve also worked in home healthcare and hospice before returning to school for my Master of Social Work (MSW) where I graduated with honors. Then I went to work as a therapist (licensed, LSW) where I worked with those with both substance abuse and mental health problems. As soon as I started, I replaced the main substance abuse counselor and took over all of the groups.
Let’s have a little chat about those groups. She was using a 12 Step model with court-mandated clients. Let’s have a chat about how that was working. Not good. No participation. No attendance. No nothing. Here’s what I did: I threw out the entire program. Mandated clients are coming from work, prison, jail, probation, and Department of Child Services (DCS), DCFS in some states. They have no interest in the 12 Steps. They have interest in continued use. Mostly. They’re in, what I call, the “Until I” stage of recovery. Someone decided that there are 5 Stages of Recovery…but I decided not with mandated clients. It’s at least 8 Stages.
Anyhow, I reworked the program to educate and promote participation and let people know that their probation/parole/DCS agent know that they were not attending group therapy. And then, look at that, I had up to 30 clients show to group at one point! Do you want to know why 12 Steps didn’t work in a mandated program? Because they didn’t want someone shoving someone shoving “Higher Power” stuff down their throats and, even if their pee was clean, they still had no general plan to quit. I didn’t coddle my client’s, but I could also tell who was desperately trying to hold on for dear life.
I guess my point is this: If your loved one has made the conscious decision and effort to move forward in a 12 Step Program on their own, they’re serious about it. I also recommend anyone do the 12 Steps simply because they will only improve from where they are and, don’t worry, it will get worse before it gets better. I’ve included the links to the actual 12 Steps and 12 Traditions and a little help (worksheets) with Step 4 so you can get what you need there. And then I included some of my blog posts that I thought might be helpful if you feel like your loved one might feel a bit like backsliding. Education about addiction is key for 12 Step prep.
Before I shut my big mouth, I also write about mental health issues, relationships, and some just for fun so please take a look if something else comes up. There’s over 50 posts so make use of the others if need be. Thank you for reading and please let me know how your journey goes.
**All pics are from FreePik and title pic designed with Canva
Resources I have used thus far: https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/twelve-steps-and-twelve-traditions
Further Resources from me to you: https://www.notamomma.com/12-steps-of-christmas-step-1/