We are in the middle of a national health epidemic, one that takes another life every 19 minutes. Young men and women are dying at alarming, never before seen rates from drug overdoses. In fact, the death rate from overdoses has now surpassed homicides. Many of these deaths are caused by fentanyl, a derivative of morphine that is 100 times more powerful, which is being combined with opioids and other illicit drugs. Fentanyl is so powerful that it is measured in micrograms not the milligrams used to measure most prescription drugs.
If you are reading this article, it’s likely that you have a family member or client who is taking their next step in recovery. You might be helping them decide which step to take: entering detox, participating in an intensive outpatient program, finding a sponsor, moving into a sober living community, going back to school, or finding a job (or all of the above). There are lots of next steps because we are all in different places on our recovery journey.
So, what’s your next step?
If that question caught you off guard, you may want to consider taking the first step. And by first step, I mean the first of Twelve Steps.
But the Twelve Steps Are Just for People with Addictions… Right?
Not really. The Twelve Steps are helpful for anyone. I’ve often heard it said that we are all in recovery from something: an injury, an illness, losing a job, a failed relationship, the death of someone close, the trauma of loving someone with an active addiction, or losing function as we age. I think you see where I’m going here.
Recovery isn’t something other people do. Recovery is something we all do many times throughout our lives. Recovery is part of being human. It can be hard. It usually takes time. Some days we make progress. Some days we slide back. But recovery always starts with taking the first step.
Many of our residents at Next Step Recovery attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings. They take their first step when they are able to admit they were powerless over addiction and that their lives had become unmanageable.
Taking the First Step
Your first step may be admitting that you were powerless over someone else’s addiction, and that your life had become unmanageable. Or you might admit that you were powerless over others, and your life had become unmanageable. You might even admit that you were powerless over yourself, and your life had become unmanageable.
However you choose to take it, this first step is an action step. It challenges you to identify the many ways you have experienced powerlessness over addiction, others, and yourself. The first step helps us come to grips with the fact that there are some things in life that we are powerless to change, especially if what we are trying to change is someone else.
I recommend you write down your insights when working this step. Be sure to include the great advice you’ve given that was completely disregarded. Recall instances when you let someone else dictate your self-esteem. Don’t forget the times you failed to set or hold a boundary and the times when bad things happened despite your very best efforts.
Clearing Your Path
This is the perfect opportunity to get clear on all the ways your life became unmanageable when you focused on someone else’s business while neglecting your own.
Active addiction can be chaotic, unpredictable, and frightening. There are plenty of distractions and things to obsess about. You can be forgiven for forgetting to eat, exercise, get enough sleep, fulfill work or social obligations, or recognize other family members’ needs (much less your own). You can be forgiven but, ultimately, you are the only one who can meet your needs. When you don’t, your life becomes unmanageable.
The first step is about getting real so we can see what we need to change to live a more peaceful and empowered life—a life in which we use our power to support our own growth. Ironically, when we live this way, focused on our own recovery, we encourage recovery for everyone else around us by modeling it authentically.
How Long Will It Take?
As long as it takes. That may not be the answer you were looking for, but it’s an honest one. The Twelve Steps are powerful tools for transforming our lives, and using them takes courage, honesty, and patience. Some of us move through this step in a weekend, others work on it for a whole year before moving on. Many of us work through all twelve steps and then work through them again (and again). There is always something new to learn about ourselves and the way we relate to others and our circumstances.
If you’d like to learn more about the Twelve Steps, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or Co-Dependents Anonymous are good places to start. I also encourage you to contact us. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned in our own recovery and from the hundreds of men, families, and treatment providers we’ve worked with over the years.
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