What's people's take on 12 step programs

Matt Jon Rousseau, modified 6 Months ago at 6/7/22 8:56 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/7/22 8:56 PM

What's people's take on 12 step programs

Posts: 111 Join Date: 5/1/22 Recent Posts
I am an alcoholic.  I have been sober for 4 years now and attend AA.  AA membership  is getting a lot smaller in recent years.  I think it's because of the cult like attitude  of many members. It can be abusive.  However many of the speakers  have similar experiences  they share. Such as attaing God consciousness.  . Spiritual  enlightenment  .freedom from self or a transcendence of self. I don't k ow if I believe them.  Basically the 12 steps where  written with the help of Carl Jung.  Who was fascinated with transpersonal psychology.  Does anybody think working the steps corresponds  with any buddhist  attainments.  . They talk as if it is . But the work is different . Its basically surrendering  your will to a faith based diety. Then groveling around apologizing to people .    Any takes on this?
R G, modified 6 Months ago at 6/8/22 12:28 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/8/22 12:28 AM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

Post: 1 Join Date: 4/20/22 Recent Posts
It's sounds like you have a bias against AA and are looking for confirmation here. How will that help your sobriety? What effect would a discussion here have on someone who may be struggling with addiction on this forum and they happen to read this and were considering going to AA?

I have been sober for 12 years. After 20 years of struggling with addiction I gave myself to that program. I went to meetings, got a sponsor, and did the first 9 steps thoroughly and completely (I do my best to live in steps 10,11, and 12). It took 4 sponsors and 3.5 years to get through them. I never "surrendered my will to a faith based diety." Ever. I was always encouraged to find whatever power was greater than myself and turn over to whatever that was all the stuff I couldn't control (It was a great way to see all the stuff I thought I could control but actually couldn't). Not once, not ever, have I groveled around apologizing to anyone. In fact, I did plenty of groveling and apologizing as an addict but never in sobriety. I'm guessing you're referring to the 9th step which is actually quite empowering. It was the first time in my life I ever felt like my soul was being cleansed. I took full responsibility for the pain and suffering I caused others; I said how I would feel if someone did to me what I did to them; I never brought up their actions or said what I did was because of something they did; I apologized; and I asked if there was anything I could do now that would help them to resolve any pain they still felt. In some instances when the person wasn't available I donated to a charity. The forgiveness I received and the self-esteem that was built cannot be quantified. I was very scared of the 9th step (as I was the 4th), it turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences in my life. You can be very creative. 

I would suggest finding a sponsor who has what you want. I would suggest doing the steps fully and completely. You could become that which you are seeking in those rooms and offer it others who may one day need it. You can take what you like and leave the rest emoticon
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Chris M, modified 6 Months ago at 6/8/22 8:24 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/8/22 8:23 AM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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I know several people who are actively engaged in AA. According to them, it definitely helps them and they've maintained relationships with their sponsors and others in the program for years. I don't think it matters whether or not AA is sorta/kinda like Buddhism.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 6 Months ago at 6/8/22 9:19 AM
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RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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First of all, thankyou for being upfront about your alcoholism and sharing your success in being sober! Hopefully it can inspire others. May you continue to heal, in accordance with your highest good! 

I have dharma friends who have been helped by AA. They don't seem to find it contradictory to their dharma practice, but I don't know if they find it overlapping. We haven't talked much about it, for integrity reasons. From what I have heard from research, the meaning perspective in-between different local AA organizations (or what do they call them? Chapters?) differs quite a lot, so if one of them feels wrong for you, maybe another one would suit you better? I don't have any first-hand experience with it, though, so of course you know better than I do what it's like. Abuse is of course not acceptable in any context. Is there some way to adress that within the organization? It sounds like something that would need to be dealt with. 

What other options for support du you have access to?

I have a background as a researcher in a cross-disciplinary field that intersects with research about self-help and mutual support, and I have mutual support to thank for some key aspects of my personal development, and my current job involves mutual support, so this interests me. I have never focused specifically on AA, though, just read a little about it. AA is not as big in Sweden as in the US, but we do have it here too. The kind of self-help and mutual support that I have been involved with in my research and in my private life and now on my job have been focused on medical diagnoses and neuro-minority experiences. It has been independent of any relegious or dharma practice, and I think that's most common in Sweden, which is a very secular country. In my private networks with autistic mutual support we have done some exploring of our senses and our ways of functioning, though, which I have found to be very much in tune with my Dharma practice. I hear that AA can sometimes be more explicitly spiritually inclined, in different ways, including institutionalized rituals. I had no idea that it had connections to Jung. 

Does AA work for you? Do you find that it fits into your Dharma practice? Or that it is complementary to it, like the morality work part? Or do you find contradictions? 

I believe firmly in mutual support, but it can be done in so many different ways. I think it's important to find the context that resonates with oneself and that doesn't feel toxic. People are different and have different needs. You are allowed to value your own boundaries, you know. I hope you have found supportive contexts that truly empower you and help you to grow to your full potential, without violating your integrity. And if you haven't, I hope you will. That kind of connection and belonging is amazing. 

All the best wishes for your wellbeing! 
Matt Jon Rousseau, modified 6 Months ago at 6/8/22 4:19 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/8/22 4:19 PM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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I am not bashing all of aa. It has helped some. It helped me in some ways  I try to Incorporate  meditation  and  the seeking  of enlightenment Into the 12 steps. I should add. I use Buddhist teaching  in compassion and non self as my "higher power ".   I am met with absolute  conflict  by other members about this.  Mostly people  who claim The Christian  Diety the sole higher power.    I was raised Catholic.  I have much respect  for it. But surrendering my life to Jesus doesn't work.  It's to dogmatic. 
George S, modified 6 Months ago at 6/8/22 10:14 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/8/22 9:52 PM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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At times I've connected with a sort of guiding voice or presence which functions like an "inner healer" - something I can trust to point me in the right direction. Many people experience something like that, across many different traditions. (If I had to guess, I would say there is a memory somewhere of the purer state before things got messed up, and the mind creates "someone who can help us get back there" because the mind finds it easier to work with entities and narrative.) It's "beyond" my egoic personality, but still subject to not-self and impermanence, so kinda like a higher power which is compatible with buddhist teaching ...
Edward, modified 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 12:30 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 12:30 AM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

Posts: 115 Join Date: 6/10/19 Recent Posts
Matt Jon Rousseau
I am not bashing all of aa. It has helped some. It helped me in some ways  I try to Incorporate  meditation  and  the seeking  of enlightenment Into the 12 steps. I should add. I use Buddhist teaching  in compassion and non self as my "higher power ".   I am met with absolute  conflict  by other members about this.  Mostly people  who claim The Christian  Diety the sole higher power.    I was raised Catholic.  I have much respect  for it. But surrendering my life to Jesus doesn't work.  It's to dogmatic. 

I don't know what's really going on here, it's possible you've found yourself in a deeply sectarian group characterised by 'absolute conflict'. If so, you should find another one. You should make sure though that this isn't about your need for your world view to be validated by others, and more importantly, that you haven't made the error of thinking it in any way superior to anyone else's.
Gus Castellanos, modified 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 7:03 AM
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RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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Responding to Matt’s original re: Does anybody think working the steps corresponds with any buddhist attainments.  I am not exactly sure by what Buddhist attainments Matt refers to, and the opinions express below are my own and are not meant to represent those of any program of recovery.

My name is Gus; I am an alcoholic, drug addict, workaholic, mulitaskaholic—I’m all the above!
I’m in long-term recovery from substance use disorder. Coincidentally, I started my journey in recovery 18 years ago tomorrow after an unintentional opioid overdose (June 10, 2004, but because I drank 3 beers on Sept 4, 2004, I use 09/04 as my sobriety day). After a 30-day treatment program, I jumped into AA, doing everything I could as I was desperate: I worked the 12 Steps with 3 different sponsors in my first 4 years. I attended many meetings, sponsored a dozen people, and did service work – all the so-called suggestions to stay sober. And although I saw plenty of “issues” in AA, it worked for me.

Backing up, in an attempt to get clean and sober, I attended Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in 1998 and again in 2003. MBSR helped some but not enough (with self-awareness, compassion, and getting me to attempt detoxing myself, which led to my OD). MBSR’s influence is why mindfulness meditation and yoga were prominent in my recovery from the get-go.

At around year 10 of recovery, AA was becoming flat, uninspiring, and repetitive. I’m not sure exactly why, but in part, the boom of the opioid crisis mixing many “non-alcoholic” opioid addicts with AA old-timers, the personalities of some of in the AA meetings I attended, and the “god” thing (as Matt alludes to) were getting to me. Still, a large part was on me. I started meditating quite heavily in 2006 and began teaching and researching mindfulness programs in 2009 (my career ever since), which led me to vipassana retreats (mostly Goenka as this is my wife’s path), and this undoubtedly changed my perspective on many things including AA.
So, I had explored the 12 Steps thru Buddhism, including the “12 Step Buddhist,” “One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps,” and “Buddhism and the 12 Steps.” These just seem to give a Buddhist view of the 12 Steps, which didn’t add anything to the original AA Steps.

Regarding my disappointment with AA, the turning my life over to God’s Will was confusing. Actually, it drove me crazy when others spoke of it. I heard things like, I took my will back; this is God’s Will for me, Thy Will Be Done…I wondered, what’s all the fuss -  everyone knows a will is just a dead give-away  Kidding aside, since most were referring to a Christian God, I could not figure out what my will was vs. God’s. And It seemed that, though a few knew what this was for them, there was lots of spiritual bypassing - not willing or capable of looking at their ‘character defects.’ I believe most know the consequences of denying and suppressing one’s defects, shadows, etc.  

Fortunately for me, I found out about Noah Levine’s Refuge Recovery (RR) program and, in 2017, started a local RR meeting. After Noah Levine was credibly accused of sexual misconduct and financial irregularities, I switched to the RR spin-off, Recovery Dharma (RD). RR and RD are Buddhist-inspired, mindfulness-based recovery programs open to addictions of all types, including those addicted to thinking.
Currently, I consider myself a member of both AA and RD. Both programs offer a ‘design for living’ - - AA in Steps 10, 11, & 12; RD the 8-Fold Path. Both stress forgiveness and making amends as critical to recovery. Both suggest ongoing meditation as necessary, but AA is more contemplation while RD is mindfulness. Both stress the importance of mutual, peer-led support: AA -  fellowship, RD - sangha.

Differences include AA’s turning one’s life and Will to the care of God, whereas RD says to take refuge in the Dharma, Buddha, and Sangha. AA, says we are powerless, RD says we each have the power to heal, and every one of us is our own guide in recovery from addiction, with the help and understanding of our wise friends. RR/RD works on the fundamental root of addiction (craving/ 2nd Noble Truth), whereas AA asks one to pray to know God’s Will (Step 11) and to have Him remove one’s character defects (Step 7). Finally, being a new program, RD does not have traditionalism/fundamentalism or dogma and does not ask me to believe in anything other than my own ability to transform and heal. RD is pragmatic and AA is ‘spiritual.’

Still, AA has many excellent, powerful, and effective qualities. I think it is the best program for newcomers, especially those not attending IOP or other professional help or have additional support.

Right now, I consider myself a member of both AA and RD and use many of the principles of AA, but I gravitate more towards RD.

@Matt, I didn’t read you as AA bashing. And sorry for the long post; not sure if this addresses any of your questions. Thanks for letting me share
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Martin, modified 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 1:36 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 1:36 PM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

Posts: 497 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
First, Matt, you have four years of sobriety. Congratulations! That is excellent. The first years are the hardest and you have made it through the first years. Everything else that we can say here pales in comparison with this. RG and Gus are also great examples of what can be done. Congratulations to both of you! The percentage of alcoholics who achieve long-term sobriety is not all that high, so the first thing that strikes me here is that people are doing things that work. 

What Matt says doesn't strike me as unreasonable. I have been clean and sober for 21 years and, while AA was helpful, I was not well suited to the spiritual/psychological framework that underpins the program. So, for many years, I hung out with LifeRing Secular Recovery (LSR), which is a self-help group for people who like fellowship and mutual support for their sobriety but aren't interested in discussing spiritual matters at the same time. These days, I'm happy to drop into any kind of meeting with friends, from time to time. AA, RR, RD, LSR, SMART Recovery (excellent tool set), and similar groups are all doing fantastic stuff. All the people in these meetings are the volunteer firefighters of addictions!

There are a lot of options now, especially if you are willing to include online meetings and message boards in the mix. One place where this intersects with some Buddhist thought is that we can opt to see the theoretical arguments offered by these traditions as all being empty of inherent independent existence, and therefore not something to which we need to cling. Rob Burbea wrote an incredible book called Seeing That Frees about emptiness, including emptiness of this sort. For me, it is also helpful to consider each of these traditions to be a kind of dharma, and apply the parable of the snake and the parable of the raft (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hDmFFXT_sg). 

If anyone feels like talking more about sobriety off-list, including talking about how Buddhist thought fits in with addiction and sobriety, I'm super into that kind of stuff, so send me a direct message. 
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Chris M, modified 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 1:43 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 1:43 PM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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Why not have the discussion here?
Martin, modified 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 2:27 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 1:54 PM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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Because, in my experience, people have strong views on this subject. It is easy to offend. It is easy to make people feel that their sobriety is threatened and, indeed, to put people at risk. It is easy to make members of the general public feel defensive about their own use. I think there are good reasons why these things are discussed with considerable scaffolding, ground rules, and commitments to anonymity. 

That said, it's great to see it discussed, even if I don't want to get into the thick of it on-list. 
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Chris M, modified 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 2:52 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/9/22 2:51 PM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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That's what DhO is for, IMHO. This is not your standard audience. We can handle it if you folks can. I'm an Al-Anon veteran myself.

It's up to you, of course, but it's certainly not off-topic for DhO.

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Gus Castellanos, modified 6 Months ago at 6/10/22 4:29 AM
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RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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Addressing the possible attainments, Bill Wilson's (co-founder of AA) experience after which he never drank again. Possible A & P?:
"My depression deepened unbearably and finally it seemed to me as though I were at the bottom of the pit. I still gagged badly on the notion of a Power greater than myself, but finally, just for the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once I found myself crying out, “If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!”
Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in the mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, “So this is the God of the preachers!” A great peace stole over me and I thought, “No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right. Things are all right with God and His world.”(Source: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. 1957. Alcoholics Anonymous comes of age: a brief history. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services)
Matt Jon Rousseau, modified 6 Months ago at 6/10/22 4:46 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/10/22 4:46 AM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

Posts: 111 Join Date: 5/1/22 Recent Posts
Gus Castellanos
Addressing the possible attainments, Bill Wilson's (co-founder of AA) experience after which he never drank again. Possible A & P?:
"My depression deepened unbearably and finally it seemed to me as though I were at the bottom of the pit. I still gagged badly on the notion of a Power greater than myself, but finally, just for the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once I found myself crying out, “If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!”
Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in the mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, “So this is the God of the preachers!” A great peace stole over me and I thought, “No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right. Things are all right with God and His world.”(Source: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. 1957. Alcoholics Anonymous comes of age: a brief history. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services)


Tha ks for that Insight on attainments. I thought the similar
Matt Jon Rousseau, modified 6 Months ago at 6/10/22 4:48 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/10/22 4:48 AM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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I have a strange theory that people might  reach the AP after doing a 5th step . 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 6 Months ago at 6/10/22 4:57 AM
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RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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Hm, interesting. That does sound like a Christian interpretation of what might as well be a Buddhist attainment. I don't doubt that such experiences can be incredibly helpful for letting go of and seeing throuh an addiction. A sceptical thought that pops up for me is that such attainments may not come so easily for all members, so there need to be a variety of less spiritually dependent coping mechanisms in place as well. So if a local organization focuses onesidedly on the spiritual experience side of it, that could be less helpful to those who do not access such experiences, at least some of them. I know someone very well who has gained and maintained sobriety without involvement of anything that he would classify as spirituality. He "just" developed better coping mechanisms, which I find very impressive. I have seen how hard it can be. My dad was an alcoholic (somewhat hidden) and he never went sober, never even tried as far as I know. I don't think he really wanted to. He wanted the escape. So all you people who are recovering, you are amazing! I can't even begin to express how inspiring you are. I have tears in my eyes writing this. 
George S, modified 6 Months ago at 6/10/22 9:22 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/10/22 9:18 AM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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It's interesting to note that Bill Wilson's spiritual experience occurred after taking a powerful hallucinogen (belladonna, used in the treatment of alcholics at the time). Later he experimented with LSD, which occasioned more spiritual experiences and alleviated his persistent depression. He argued that LSD could help other alcoholics have spiritual experiences and overcome their addiction, but met strong resistance from AA members who were opposed to the use of any mind-altering substances! There was a lot of research done in the 50s and 60s on using psychedelics combined with therapy to treat addictions, with strong results, until the government shut it down, but it is now becoming officially sanctioned again.

https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/alcoholics-anonymous-lsd-bill-wilson
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Dustin, modified 5 Months ago at 6/11/22 5:01 PM
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RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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Been sober 12 years in AA and Cocaine Anonymous. Most of what you stated has nothing to do with anything I have ever seen in the rooms. No groveling, no diety unless thats what you want to believe in. AA membership is not smaller where I am at and I havent heard of it getting smaller anywhere else. Not sure about the Carl Jung thing, thought the steps came from the Oxford Group and some stuff Bill W came up with. You may be going to the wrong meetings or talking to the wrong people. AA corresponds with having a spiritual experience strong enough to overcome the desire to drink while maintaining steps 10,11, and 12. which include meditation. The 12 steps are a practice for living in the world without substances to change the way you feel. I know a lot of people in the rooms who bet there life on this program and are happy and free. Just my two cents.

I had an experience after step 5 that blew my socks off. My whole body seemed to release some long term tension and it was like being in a state of eq for a few days after. No a&p though.

I also think AA is only going to get you so far in wakeing up. Like noting six sense doors is about the background of things, geting to craving and aversion or looking deeply at the 3 characteristics. AA was slow going on bringing a constant feeling of okness. Meditation only took a few months to get some lasting freedom. AA for me now is more about helping others and the fellowship of like minded people.

Just a couple questions Matt
Do you have a sponsor?
What State do you live in?
​​​​​​​Have you thoroughly worked all 12 steps?
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Dream Walker, modified 5 Months ago at 6/14/22 11:33 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 6/14/22 11:33 AM

RE: What's people's take on 12 step programs

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Matt Jon Rousseau
However many of the speakers  have similar experiences  they share. Such as attaing God consciousness.  . Spiritual  enlightenment  .freedom from self or a transcendence of self. I don't k ow if I believe them.
Many people get to the A&P stage and then make a great big deal about it. I"M BORN AGAIN!!! etc
I'm skeptical of most buddhists who actually work thier asses off who claim such; let alone people who go to meetings and work steps.
Does anybody think working the steps corresponds  with any buddhist  attainments.
There are books out now that make some parallels between aa steps and buddhist morality.
They talk as if it is.
I'm addicted to my mind. My mind tries to tell me all sorts of lies and bullshit.  Just because you are sober does not mean you're not still full of shit and believing it.

some links to meditation style recovery meetings-
https://www.buddhistrecovery.org/
https://www.refugerecovery.org/

search amazon for books on the subject...there are several out now that are good.
Good luck
​​​​​​​~D

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