Is Working The 12 Steps When You Have Bipolar Helpful?
Lately, I feel as if I've hit a roadblock in my recovery. I take my medications regularly, I go to therapy, I exercise, but I've hit a wall that I can't seem to move past (Bipolar Treatment: If I'm Doing Everything Right Why Am I Still Sick?). The other day, I received a book from a good friend of mine: Sane: Mental Illness, Addiction, and the Twelve Steps by Marya Hornbacher, and I started thinking about new things that I could incorporate in my life.
I've always known of the 12 Step concept, but I paired it with substance addiction alone. Until recently, I wasn’t aware that there were 12 Step programs for other disorders outside of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. I had stumbled across a few links online for other things such as Eating Disorders Anonymous and anonymous groups for family members of those struggling with various disorders and addictions, and there was also Emotions Anonymous, All Addicts Anonymous, Bipolar Anonymous, and even programs for those of us in debt.
Since I receive treatment outside in the community instead of at my university's counseling center, I am unable to participate in their group therapies, and so I figured that these no-cost anonymous groups may be an interesting thing to explore, to see what they’re all about, especially for people trying to cope with self-injury and other self-destructive behaviors.
Common Misconceptions About 12 Step Groups
Going in, I didn’t know much about 12 Step programs other than vague ideas, such as “admitting you’re powerless over your addiction,” or as Emotions Anonymous may say, for example, “powerless over your emotions.” I wasn’t sure that I was willing to believe that entirely, and I’m still not sure I really buy into it. In my mind, I feel as if I am somewhat in control – I am able to take a step back and examine my feelings, to tell myself that what I’m feeling is okay. However, at the same time, I do feel as if I am powerless over the emotions and thoughts sneaking into my mind. I don’t necessarily want them, but I do try my best to get up and get going when I’m depressed and feel as if I’m stuck in bed, so how can I be completely powerless over my emotions?
At some point, I felt as if I needed a little extra in between my therapy sessions, and so I decided that I would accept this first step and tweak it as I believed it to mean.
Another problem I had as I studied more and more, was this talk of a Higher Power. Many people don’t buy into this notion, but it certainly helps many people and is a huge part of 12 Step groups. I later learned that this Higher Power can be perceived as whatever you wish – any god, power, or force, and not necessarily the Christian concept of God. This is what appealed to me most -- the openness of the 12 Steps, and the ability to connect with other people going through the same things, trying to cope day to day.
12 Step Groups In A Nutshell
There are 12 Step groups for virtually every disorder and condition you can imagine, and I have found that working the 12 Steps can be highly beneficial as long as you go into it with an open mind. Read information provided online, take some literature and work your way into speaking up at a meeting. The support you can find at any given time and place is amazing.
Poe, A. (2013, July 30). Is Working The 12 Steps When You Have Bipolar Helpful?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/bipolarvida/2013/07/bipolar-disorder-and-working-the-12-steps-helpful
Author: Alexa Poe
The idea that everything in A.A. must be followed or else a person faces ruin was a past attitude of A.A. as a whole (if you've ever read the Big Book, it seems to make the point that you are doomed if you don't work the program).
I believe that most A.A. groups have become more modernized and realize that there are many paths to sobriety. However, there are going to be some members that prefer the "old way" of doing things.
There are secular recovery groups, in particular S.O.S (Secular Organizations for Sobriety) which doesn't use the concept of religion in their program.
As well, the concept of a Higher Power can be anything. It can be God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, even science. Of course there will always be a fundamentally Christian basis, but it's up to those who don't ascribe to Christianity whether or not this prevents them from taking ideas from the meetings to heart.
Please don't get me wrong; I do feel that there are many valid points in A.A. In particular, I really like the idea of making a fearless moral inventory and then making amends, except when doing so would hurt others.
I do wonder what is available for people who do not believe in God, or those of other faiths such as Judaism, since the Lord's Prayer is recited after every meeting. Do they feel uncomfortable, or do they just accept it as part of A.A.? I mean, I'm okay with it, but then, I am a Christian.
I've been thinking the same thing about the Lord's Prayer and the Serenity Prayer. I just substitute my own personal Higher Power into the prayers and go from there, but it makes me uncomfortable some times. I'll try to get some opinions from other members soon!
Thank you so much for sharing, and I hope you're well!
It really all depends on what the individual needs, and what they feel will help them. Twelve Step groups have helped many people, but they're not right for everyone.
One philosophy within A.A. and other Twelve Step programs is "take what you want, leave the rest" This, of course, is less publicized than other philosophies. I find that in both my professional and personal life, I take what I need from different theories and methods, and leave what doesn't work for me.
It's all about making whatever it is you do work for you.
I hope you're well!
That word sums up why, after years of struggling with anorexia, anxiety, and alcoholism, I do not take part in A.A. or other 12-step programs. I started attending A.A. meetings in November 2011, but I never felt a real connection with the program. Don't get me wrong — I met wonderful people in A.A. I just never felt myself moving forward, and things rang false for me. I kept trying to fit into A.A., finally realizing that A.A. doesn't fit me.
Another problem I had with A.A. is the program's insistence anyone who doesn't follow the 12-Steps is doomed. There are alternatives to A.A. and 12-Step programs, and frankly, A.A.'s rate of success is not that good. I am currently focusing on meditation, walking, and taking part in a program called Women for Sobriety. WFS uses positive affirmations and seeks to re-build the addict's self-esteem, while fostering personal responsibility.
After I decide to leave A.A., I felt this weight lifted off of me. I finally realized it was not me, it was the program.
Yes, the powerlessness was my first problem. I certainly understand why so many things within the 12 Steps are difficult for a lot of people to accept, and I understand why it's not right for everyone. I'm having second thoughts about it, too, but I feel like it can also be a great tool for someone who needs that structure and outline, such as myself. I've learned that meditation does help as well. Are there are any particular methods you recommend?
Thank you, too, for telling us about WFS! I really appreciate it. I'm glad you've found a program that does work for you, and I hope you're well!