Saturday, June 25, 2005 - Basic principles - Basic principles

Jun. 25, 2005. 01:00 AM

Basic principles

People in 12-step programs share a language. The words may sound ordinary but they are applied in a particular way. Here is one person's interpretation of some of those common phrases:

Powerlessness doesn't mean being passive; it means being realistic. Those living with alcoholism may become consumed with trying to control and change the alcoholic's destructive behaviour. But trying to control the uncontrollable leads only to despair. The first step to finding a different way to live is accepting that they didn't cause the problem drinking, can't control it and can't cure it.

A Higher Power is what the steps refer to as "a power greater than ourselves" and can take whatever form that feels right to the individual. Some people are comfortable with a traditional notion of God and others see their Higher Power as the wisdom and support of their 12-step group or a sponsor.

The principle of anonymity allows all members to be equal and makes it safe to discuss personal matters freely. Those who attend AA or Al-Anon identify themselves by first name only. Professions, politics, religion, social status and criminal records are left at the door. What unites people is their common problem — of being affected by alcoholism. Anonymity means what's discussed in the meetings stays in the meetings.

"One day at a time" means living in an emotionally healthy way, rather than being tied up in the regrets of yesterday or the dread of tomorrow. For most people, the thought of battling an addiction or a behaviour for the rest of their lives is so overwhelming they may as well give up. So they focus on doing it "just for today."

Making amends involves taking responsibility for choices, mistakes and harm done to others. It can take the form of a direct apology, but it also means changing the harmful behaviour. It is a way of moving forward and cleaning up the past.

"A spiritual awakening" — a new way to react to the world and other people — is promised to those who work through the 12 Steps.


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