In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and how it has begun to be used at Crossroads Centre for relapse prevention. An essential aspect of ACT is the focus on values and how, in sobriety, we can commit with willingness to our individual values so as to re-engage in purposeful and meaningful life.
I’ve discovered over the years that an ACT-based approach to the 12 Steps sheds new light on the Steps and that this light reveals to us the strong values-based foundation on which they were built.
But before we can look at those deep values, we need to take a closer look at the key ideas behind the Steps. So, with your permission, let’s take a closer look at each Step, strip away some of the language and see if we can discover the progression of ideas that, in turn, are supported by a foundation of rock-solid values.
Step One is, as we know, about admitting powerlessness and unmanageability in our lives as caused by addiction. Whether we admit, acknowledge or accept that our lives in addiction have become unmanageable, the key idea here is that we are recognizing we need HELP.
Step One we have admitted that we need help, we look to Step Two to come to believe that a Higher Power can restore us to sanity. The idea in this Step is right there in the language: it is about BELIEF. Belief that we can be restored to health, belief that there is a power greater than ourselves–whether it is “a group of drunks,” Nature, the Universe or God. Without that belief, we remain in a place of denial, ambivalence, avoidance or hopelessness.
Step Three asks us to make a decision to “turn it over,” and if we are to move into a relationship with our Higher Power (however each of us may define that), then we have to have TRUST. It’s like that old TV commercial: “You’re in good hands with Allstate.” Through admitting we need help, we open ourselves up to the belief that we can place our trust in the process of recovery. And what would be the point of making a “searching and fearless moral inventory” if we worked on it with anything less than total HONESTY? This, then, is the underlying idea behind Step Four.
Once we have been honest with ourselves, we move on, in Step Five, to admitting this to others. We are, in fact, SHARING what we are learning and understanding. This willingness to share our story with others in an honest fashion is essential to moving beyond our own egos or secrets to receive the help we need.
Steps Six through Nine share a common idea that contains complementary shades. Being ready to remove our “shortcomings” and making amends to others in ways that will not harm them speaks to RESPECT. Steps Six through Seven focus on self-respect, and Eight and Nine focus on respect for others. Looking at them this way, we can see their natural progression around a unifying idea.
It is often said that Steps Ten through Twelve are the “maintenance Steps,” but they contain key ideas as well. Steps Ten through Eleven ask us to come into ACCEPTANCE with the process of recovery. Recovery is a day-by-day process that requires work. It is not just sobriety. Acceptance of and participation in the 12-Step process reinforces and sustains self-acceptance and acceptance in our lives.
Finally, there is Step Twelve, which lays out a very clear idea for how to live one’s life after having had a “spiritual awakening:” GIVING BACK. When you set up chairs at a meeting or put them away, when you bring coffee to it or maybe go out for coffee afterward with a newbie, you are paying it forward or giving back.
So there are the essential ideas beneath the language of the 12 Steps. In Part 3, I will dig down below these ideas to reveal the deeper values. In doing so, I hope you will agree with me and accept that those core values are the foundation to your life and recovery.
Until next time,
Bruce Singer, Psy.D.
Chief of Psychology