My Introduction To 12-Step Recovery
“I’m Michael and I’m an alcoholic”…
I can remember clearly the first time I said that and how odd and uncomfortable it felt. Not because I wasn’t an alcoholic – at that time, I hardly understood what that actually meant – but because I had never introduced myself that way before.
Now, some 29 years later, I have to consciously stop myself from adding “…and I’m an alcoholic” (or “…and I’m an addict”) when I introduce myself outside of a meeting. Oh, how times have changed lol…
Before I continue, I should clarify – I haven’t been sober for 29 years. I celebrated 14 years clean & sober this past August. I first got sober in 1989 but relapsed just shy of 5 years. It took me 10 years of fits & starts – a few months here, a year there, but never straying far from the program – to finally regain a solid recovery foundation.
Today, my life is centered around recovery. I start my day reading one of my “day at a time”books and use that as the basis for my morning prayer & meditation, I go to 3-4 meetings a week, and I’m actively involved in service. I talk with other addicts or alcoholics every day, and most of the people I interact with are clean & sober (or trying to be): friends in the program, sponsees, and my sponsor. I even run an online store focused on recovery themes: https://12StepLifestyle.com.
The name, “12 Step Lifestyle” sums up my attitude about recovery: I’m one of those who believes that recovery isn’t an event or milestone, it’s an ongoing process, one that I have to work at and live. Getting sober was a milestone; staying sober was and is the result of living a 12 step lifestyle.
I first came to ‘the program’ by way of a family intervention. I was strung out, my life was in the toilet, and I was out of options. My plan, it seemed, was simply to ‘go on to the bitter ends’ and hope for some miracle to somehow alter my trajectory.
That miracle – and today I believe it was a miracle, God’s grace in action – was a one-way ticket to Anchor Hospital, a detox and rehab in Atlanta, Georgia that my sister (a shrink) was affiliated with at the time.
(I was admitted to Anchor Hospital for a necessary medical detox; after being detoxed and completing their 28-day program, I entered TRC (“Talbott Recovery Center”), a longer-term 12-step based rehab that was at the time partnered with Anchor Hospital. Between the two, Anchor and TRC, they saved my life and introduced me to 12 step recovery. I will forever be grateful to both facilities, and the very caring – and mostly recovering – staff.)
Although I had zero faith and knew nothing about any 12-step programs, God saw fit to open my eyes and deliver a psychic & spiritual transformation. And while my atheism had been such an embedded belief that it still feels strange to hear myself talk about God, I’ll say this: when God shows up, God shows up!
(I should also point out that of the 32 people in that rehab with me, almost everyone went ‘back out’. A few disappeared, a few died, and most started drinking or using again, all within the first year.)
My faith has grown in lock-step with my time in the program, and today it is the bedrock foundation of my program and my life.
I regularly attend both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and I’m involved in ‘H & I’ – “Hospitals and Institutions” – with both AA and NA fellowships. Through H & I, I participate in bringing 12-step meetings into jails, detoxes, and treatment facilities.
Things look a lot different to me today than they did 29 years ago. I’m no longer strung out, my life has meaning and purpose, and I contribute more than I take. Most days anyway…:)