When many people think of opiate recovery they imagine 12 Step meetings as they are depicted in popular TV shows and movies. They imagine that the addict, day in and day out struggles to stay sober, in a world where addiction runs rampant and they imagine sad individuals sitting in chairs in a church basement complaining about how they can no longer use drugs.
As great as this imagery is for selling movies tickets and telling a narrative, it is not even close to an accurate portrayal of what opiate recovery is actually like. In fact if you really think about it, if opiate recovery was a constant struggle every day, how many people would truly engage in it?
The answer is probably not many, and so even though you may currently be struggling with addiction, and you may have no real basis for what life without opiates is like, it is important to understand that you can live a life where addiction does not rule your every waking moment. It is important to understand that you can live a life where you do not need to resist temptation because the temptation has been removed, and you can live a life that is full of understanding and loving friends. Opiate recovery can look like anything you desire and hopefully the below information will help shed some of the misconceptions you may have about recovery and give you hope that a new day is just around the corner.
Opiate Recovery Through 12 Step Meeting Attendance
One of the most important aspects of opiate recovery is creating a sense of community. This need for community is ingrained in every single human being, as it is was necessary for our survival in the early days of our species.
The same can be said today, as each individual needs a community in which they can feel apart of in order to thrive in society and in their life. To a certain extent this is what we do when we get married and have children, we are creating a mini-community in which we can relate and love.
For addicts, creating community can be tremendously difficult, as addiction is an isolating illness that seeks to cut off those afflicted from everyone around them. This is done in part by the actions of the individual, but also is done as a survival mechanism so that the addiction can continue to grow unimpeded. However, once in recovery the need for community becomes apparent, and often times this community is created at 12 Step meetings.
If you have not experienced it first hand, then it may be difficult to understand that 12 Step meetings are not somber places where individuals go to lament their daily torments, but rather they are places of conviviality, joy, and humor. They are places where you can begin your journey of recovery, and places where you can make lifelong friends who intimately understand what it is that you have been through.
Often times addicts will feel isolated from friends and family because they feel misunderstood by these caring individuals. At 12 Step meetings you will find hundreds, if not thousands, of people who know exactly what it is you are talking about, and know exactly how best to help you in your struggles.
Opiate Recovery Through the 12 Steps
One of the most interesting facets of opiate recovery is the 12 Steps that many individuals use as a means to attain sustained recovery. Often times these Steps are miscategorized or misrepresented in the media as hokum or self-help propaganda, but they are anything but. The 12 Steps are a means by which an opiate addict can expel their obsession to use opiates and learn how to live a life that is free from substance abuse.
What this means is that individuals who work the Steps do not, as the media likes to portray, spend every waking minute of the day fighting the urge to use, but rather they are placed in a position of neutrality when it comes to substance use. They will find that, whereas in the past they were unable to not use opiates, they now have no desire whatsoever to engage in those types of behaviors.
Much has been written about opiate recovery through the Steps and although we still don’t necessarily understand why 12 Step recovery works, we do understand how it is attained.
It is important to understand as well that the 12 Steps are simply principles and actions that need to be taken in order to achieve the end goal, which is to “have a spiritual awakening” that removes the obsession and compulsion to use. If these things are practiced in the life of the addict, they never need to return back to using. So in order to remove any misinformation or misunderstanding you may have about the Steps, let’s take a look at them a little more in-depth.
- We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction— that our lives had become unmanageable.
This is probably the most important Step because without this understanding of powerlessness in regards to your addiction there is not much an individual can do in order to achieve recovery from opiates. However, once this understanding is ingrained in the addict, they will be able to take to the rest of the Steps a lot easier.
- We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
This is a Step that many people get hung up on because they understand that the capitalized P in power is referring to a god of some sort. Many individuals who come into recovery are staunchly opposed to any sort of belief system and so this Step proves problematic. However, and this is incredibly important to note, you do not need to figure out your belief system immediately, nor do you have to believe in God when taking this Step. You simply have to believe that something can restore you to sanity, meaning something other than yourself can remove your obsession to use opiates.
- We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
This is another difficult pill to swallow for most newly sober individuals because they believe that if they hand their will over to something, they will be left with nothing. The thing to remember is that the Steps are designed to help you come to define your own belief system, one that makes sense to you, and as a result you will slowly, throughout the process, come to believe and turn your will over. In this particular case the turning over is simply an agreement to continue with the Steps and does not require any religious or deep spiritual shifts.
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 4 is something that many addicts fear because they know that in Step 5 they are going to have to expose what they wrote to another person. However, the actual truth for why many newly sober people have a problem with this Step is because of laziness. This is one of the only Steps that really requires a great deal of writing and work, and so therefore it is easier to balk out of fear then admit laziness. The reality is that most of the things that go on a Fourth Step have already been exposed time and time again, so that you could manipulate people during your active addiction to do what you want. So fear not in sharing these things, or the one or two secrets you may carry, as most people in recovery have been there and done that before.
- We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
As frightening as this Step can be, it is easily one of the most rewarding things you will do in your life. The act of confession, which is what this Step truly is, is integrated into just about every belief system since the beginning of time. The reason for this is because in order to truly commune with others and something greater than ourselves, we must be free from the clutter that spins through our minds. Exposing yourself totally to another human being is one of the best ways to accomplish this, and many people state that they have had deep spiritual experiences during or directly after this Step.
- We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Contrary to popular belief there is not much that an individual can do in order to be ready to have God remove their defects of character. While you can attempt to manage and control your defects, you cannot remove them yourself through discipline or action. In fact from a psychological standpoint attempting to do so constitutes repression, which almost always leads to an acting out at some point in the future. This Step is just a simple way of saying, “We know you do things that you do not want to do. Try your best to ready yourself to be rid of them.”
- We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
This Step is simply a prayer, which at this point in your Steps you will probably find that you do not have an issue with. Through prayer you will ask for guidance and for help in the things that you suffer from.
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 8 requires some more writing, but it is simply a reiteration of the 4th Step in that you are making a list of people you have harmed and getting yourself ready to go to them and make amends.
- We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
You may hear that this Step will make you feel better because you are going to people that you have harmed and are making things right, but the proper way to look at it, is that you are attempting to make right some of the wrong that was done during your active addiction. It does no good to feel guilty over these things, or to beret yourself for them, and through the action of the 9th Step you can begin to set these things right.
- We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
The 10th Step at its core is just saying, I will continue to perform Steps 1-9 in my daily life to the best of my ability. However the most important aspect of this step is the word continued, and what it will mean at different times of your recovery will change, depending on what it is you need to continue to do.
- We 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.
Like with the 7th Step, although you may dislike this Step when you first come in, by the time you get to it, you will no longer feel the disdain for prayer and mediation that you once felt.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
While many think of this Step as the one that refers to sponsoring other individuals, the most important part of it is “practice these principles in all our affairs.” By the time you get to this point the Steps will be a working part of your life and you will not actively think of working a 1st Step or 3rd Step. Rather you will put these things into practice holistically, or as a whole, and the Steps will become a way of life that has expelled your obsession and compulsion to use, and changed the way you look at the world.