The Magic of the 12 Steps

Last week I talked a lot about the 12 steps and why folks in those programs might not want to be public about recovery. I think it’s pretty clear that the traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, which was the first 12 step program, does not prohibit people in AA or any other 12 step program from speaking about their recovery but only prevents them from talking about their membership in AA. It’s also clear that because of the way society views addiction – as a hopeless moral and willpower failure that stigmatizes addicts and alcoholics – it’s risky to admit you’re in recovery from this illness. There can be all kinds of consequences. The thing we didn’t address, is the issue of what being public about one’s recovery might mean to a person’s ability to work their 12 step program and maintain the spiritual connection that many of those in 12 steps programs feel is the life blood of their recovery. I interviewed a singer/song writer for Moments of Clarity who told me his amazing story of transformation, and after I wrote it up and sent it to him for his approval he told me he couldn’t allow me to publish it. I was surprised and asked him why. He had been so public about his recovery in the past, even traveling to Washington with me to advocate for parity legislation, and he said it’s because the story that he told of how he came to find recovery after many, many years of active addiction was a story he wanted to tell only to the men that he worked with in his recovery. The men who were still struggling, trying to find a way out of the darkness. He believed that if he let his story be published and disseminated in a broader way it might lose some of its’ power to heal. Anyone who has ever held their hand out to another person with the disease of addiction, unconditionally with only love and service in their heart knows the power of what might happen in that interaction and none of us want to fuck with that.

I can’t say if he had allowed that story to be public it would have somehow diminished his ability to use that story to help change peoples lives, but I can tell you from my own experience that I have been able to use my experience in a broader way while at the same time maintaining the ability to work intimately with one addict at a time. It’s challenging and sometimes I think maybe I am not as focused or maybe as interested in the intimate work as I used to be. There has been a cost to my public advocacy but I can still do my work in recovery I just have to work a little harder at it. But what I have seen from putting myself into the world and looking at this issue from a broader perspective is the desperate need for a bigger public demonstration around addiction and recovery by those who know these issues intimately. In my estimation it is the only way that we are going to be able to change societal attitudes and public policy enough to begin to make a difference.


~ by Christopher Kennedy Lawford on June 29, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Magic of the 12 Steps”

  1. Mr. Lawford, I couldn’t agree with you more. And, you must continue your work. You are one of a few credible voices out there, not only to open the door, but to keep it open.

    This is a mini epidemic, effecting all walks of life.

    As selfish as it may be, we need you & your voice, the cause needs you.

    I’m certain, I’m speaking for many out there, thank you very much for all your hard work and please don’t stop.

  2. It doesn’t always pay to be honest about being in a 12 Step programme. I recently had to have a meeting with my boss to discuss the results of a CRB check which had shown up a 30 year old drug conviction dating back to when I was a teenager. In order to try and reassure him that I wasn’t an unfit person I told him that I had been clean for 26 years and was following a 12 Step programme. He fired me the next day saying that he wouldn’t have minded a one-off teenage experimentation with drugs, but that the fact that I was following a ‘programme’ meant that I had much deeper issues which made it a risk for him to employ me! His advice to me when applying for jobs in the future was to be much less honest and not to give too many details.

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