How effective are Twelve Step Programs?: Sobriety to spirituality

A discussion of the transformation that occurs when you apply Twelve Step Programs honestly to your life. More on how effective The 12 Steps can be here.

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Spiritual transformation requires work

Living in fear of losing what we have and not getting what we want is where the addict mindset, untreated and overwhelmed, thrives. To be recovered from a “seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” we must go through a vital and spiritual transformation. This transformation is one in which our addict minds, our thought processes and our behaviors, are no longer propelled by self but by something bigger, something of the Highest Power, something Almighty. Our own self-pitched and impulsive thinking does not get us anywhere as our histories are evidence to.

To be “clean and sober” is only the start. Living a life off of drugs and alcohol or whatever our dependency is doesn’t mean we procure the life meant for us in return. Work on the 12 steps must be done. Energy must be exerted; even pain suffered. The life that is FULL and FREE FROM ensuing chaos persuades the doors of joy and freedom open.

This transformation must occur from within, through a divine intervention during which our higher power must simply be let in to relieve us from the bondage we’ve tied ourselves with. Once relieved, the ever aching void of the addict spirit calms as the love and humility offered by the twelve steps of the program fill that cavernous space.

The twelve steps offer structure

The twelve step programs enter to help here giving an order and a proven, successful structure to the transformation process. How effective are they? As effective as we allow them to be. The more thoroughly and completely we step upon the twelve steps (which are strongly recommended suggestions) of guidance, the higher we will be taken on life’s plane. Through the mud we will find solid ground as long as we are honest in the undertaking of these steps.

Dr. Silkworth, the chief medical benefactor of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, suggested that the thought process of the mind must be transformed. He deemed a psychic change necessary for the mind of one addicted. He stated,

“…strange as it may seem to those who do not understand once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol (substance/addiction), the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.”

Simple but not easy

Following these rules is simple, but certainly not easy. It must be simple, though, as addicts tend to make everything extra complicated. The external factors individuals face are as different as the sun is to the moon: family, financial, emotional, criminal issues are just a few. The elementary layout of the twelve step programs is the artful framework to the solution of being recovered no matter how complicated or endless our troubles are (or seem to be).

Fellowship is the cement

If the steps are the groundwork, then the fellowship is the cement that holds it firm the fellowship being the collective group of recovered individuals who have followed the program and believe the solution to be a vital, spiritual transformation. Following in the footsteps of one already living this program makes the blueprint for the groundwork friendlier and more decipherable. Finding such a person is made easier by attending dependency specific twelve step meetings. Keeping an open mind and addict stubbornness in check is crucial in finding persons who can help us.

We need more than human will

As we witness and know all too well, living off of our instincts as addicts leads to wanting more more of everything we think we need, keeping us in the confined space of endless, self-centered fear of losing what we have. When fear is triggered in us as addicts our character defects are commanded, on self-run will, to satiate our instincts.

Instincts manifest themselves in the thought processes of our minds and trigger one fear after another. To take down the will of our human nature takes a power higher and more intelligible than our own human mind. Letting go of our own will and handing it to a power of utmost divinity is the key to safeguarding our recovery. Our thoughts and lives can then be led by that power instead of our own, insufficient will.

First we must believe this can work, then we must trust the work itself because what happens in the will of our higher power is what is meant to happen; quite the opposite of living and controlling life by our own fragile selves.

The steps help us know what life really is

The twelve steps are proven to be steps toward success: the kind of success we want to impose on our life and the lives of those we love. Those of us who have recovered from this seemingly hopeless state of mind and body know what true life is, but only because we took the chance on a program with the hope that chance would pay off. More than a pay off, the program provides the solution to this tragic nightmare of a disease, a solution found by starting from within a place deserted by too many for too long.

About the author
Armand, author of A Ladder to Above, blogger, sponsor and recovered alcoholic is a recognized and devotional leader within his recovery community. His approach to helping people is a kind and selfless one, without prejudice or judgment - drawing countless sufferers of the disease of addiction to his doorstep. Having over 25 years of sobriety, Armand writes with both wisdom and humility from his experiences. His essays can be read on and his e-book and paperback can be bought on
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