Futures Recovery

Working the 12 Steps on COVID-19 (and other tough times)

 

CARE EXTENDED BEYOND OUR WALL

Experience lasting change and receive the support you need now and over the years to come.


call now CALL NOW

Will I get sick? Will someone in my family get sick? How will we afford the house payment this month — utilities, groceries? How can I work from home and homeschool my children? Sound familiar? These are simply some of the concerns currently shared by people all over the nation and world. As COVID-19 continues to cause unrest physically, emotionally, economically, and socially, many people are struggling — period. 

No matter what aspects of the pandemic have impacted you, you have likely at one point or another felt as if you are powerless and that your life has become unmanageable. And, if so, you have arrived at the first of 12 steps practiced in 12-step recovery. 

The 12 Steps first appeared in the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” in 1939 and were written by one of the recovery program’s founding members, Bill Wilson. Now, decades later, the 12 Steps have helped millions of people recover from various types of addiction. 

Wilson likely could not have predicted that his 12 Steps for recovery would expand to 125,557 alcoholics anonymous groups and more than 2 million individual AA members worldwide. Nor could he have anticipated that they’d become the cornerstone for many other recovery organizations. But, they have, and the 12 Steps have also turned out to be beneficial as a form of help and support for people during many challenging life situations, including COVID-19

At Futures Recovery Healthcare, we understand the unique issues and impact associated with the pandemic and other unexpected traumatic events and situations. We have also seen first-hand how applying the 12 Steps can help control mental health and substance abuse issues created or exacerbated by these types of scenarios. 

If you are struggling with alcohol, drugs, mental illness, or simply feeling isolated and powerless, you are not alone.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40% of adults in the U.S. have reported struggling with mental health and substance abuse during the pandemic. 

Now is the perfect time to reach out for support, and resources such as the 12 Steps can be of great help, now, and any time. 

What are the 12 Steps of Recovery?

The book “Alcoholics Anonymous” describes the 12 Steps as “a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”

As mentioned earlier, many other types of groups have adopted and adapted the 12 Steps to help promote recovery. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Al-Anon
  • Alateen
  • Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Overeaters Anonymous (OA)
  • Gamblers Anonymous (GA)
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)

The 12 Steps are a design for living involving abstinence from whatever the source of addiction is, combined with sharing similar experiences, problems, and solutions with others dealing with the same affliction. 

The 12 Steps, as originally written, are as such:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. 
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Of course each recovery group, depending on the focus of treatment, adjusts its 12-step wording accordingly. In the steps that specify alcohol, almost anything can be substituted in its place. For example, step one could be …

  1. We admitted we were powerless over (drugs, relationships, depression, anxiety, gambling, streaming services)—that our lives had become unmanageable. 

With this in mind, let’s take a look at why the 12 Steps can be so helpful during times of high stress and anxiety. 

How to Apply the 12 Steps For…

The 12 Steps aren’t simply 12 novelty sayings or concepts. They are actually designed to be “worked.” Depending on the program, the way they are “worked” is spelled out in a book (like the Alcoholics Anonymous book, or  “Big Book”) or manual. 

Here’s how to apply the 12 Steps to COVID-19.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over COVID-19—that our lives had become unmanageable. 

There are two things to admit in step one. First, we identify the ways we feel we are powerless over COVID-19. This may mean accepting that we can only protect ourselves from the impacts of the pandemic (wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands, and other safety measures—but also keeping our job, managing our children’s schooling, etc.). 

Then, we explore how it has made our lives unmanageable. Perhaps substance use has increased or depression has developed. And, as a result, unmanageability has surfaced as not following through with our responsibilities, withdrawing from family and friends, and simply feeling hopeless.  

  1. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 

Here, we are directed to select a “Power greater than ourselves.” Essentially, this is to help us understand that being our own “Higher Power,” or running our own life has not worked. This does not mean you must pick a God or deity from a specific religion, although this is certainly a choice. People have picked all kinds of entities as their higher power—religious figures, fictional characters, and some people choose their recovery group as their Higher Power.

  1. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. 

In this step, we make the decision to let our Higher Power take all our worries, fears, concerns about COVID-19, and ultimately accept that something other than ourselves has control of our life. 

  1. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step four helps us “clean house” by listing our fears and resentments, identifying our character defects, and owning our part in them. To do this, we take an inventory. In the AA Big Book, step four directs us to make four columns. Column one lists whoever or whatever we are fearful or resentful about. In column two, we describe why we are fearful or resentful. We use column three to recognize potential character defects that these fears and resentments trigger (self-esteem, personal relations, sex relations, security, self-seeking, etc.). The fourth column is where we take ownership of where we are responsible for our actions. 

A fourth step on COVID-19 might look like this:

I am resentful toward: COVID-19

The cause: I have become depressed and have been drinking more and now my spouse is pulling away.

This affects my: Personal relations, Self-esteem, Sex relations, Security

I am responsible: I have not been taking care of myself or seeking help. I have chosen to isolate, even when people have offered to help me.

  1. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 

In step five, we choose a trusted friend — in recovery programs, this person is often a “sponsor” — but, it can also be a priest, spiritual guide, health coach. You just want to make sure you choose someone who will honor your anonymity and listen to your fourth step without judgment. 

  1. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 

While COVID-19 is out of our control, this step simply asks us to be willing to relinquish the character defects that ARE under our control to our higher power. 

  1. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 

Both steps six and seven invite peaceful contemplation. Many sponsors will suggest that their “sponsee” take some quiet time after doing the fifth step to first ask their higher power for willingness to let go of their character defects, and then when ready practice step seven. 

  1. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 

In our fourth step example, we noted that our spouse was pulling away from us as a result of our increased depression and substance use during the pandemic. Perhaps during the fifth step, our trusted confidant pointed out that our spouse may have been hurt by our actions or we came to this conclusion on our own, or our negative behavior also impacted our children, friends, coworkers.

  1. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 

Before making amends to our spouse or anyone else on our list, it is often helpful to go back to our trusted confidant to ensure our motives are appropriate. This is a step that invites us to only claim the behaviors we are responsible for. We don’t want to call the other person out on theirs. 

  1. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 

Many people in recovery refer to this as a “housekeeping step.” It can also be viewed as a daily mini-fourth step — taking stock of our behavior each day as we all struggle through the pandemic.  

  1. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 

Similar to steps six and seven, step 11 invites contemplation and help from a source outside of ourselves to help us with the frustrations, fears, and other feelings triggered by the pandemic. 

  1. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others who are suffering and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Step 12 offers us an opportunity to share what we have learned by working the 12 Steps and becoming free from the burdens of our character defects. 

Perhaps, given a crash course in the 12 Steps, you can see why they are beneficial to navigating the most stressful, painful situations. 

More Recovery Tools

At Futures Recovery Healthcare, the 12 Steps are one of many tools we use to help people with substance abuse and mental health disorders. 

Substance abuse and mental illness are both debilitating issues with which to live if you don’t seek help. It’s important to know that you are not alone and thousands of people get help every day and go on to live happy, vibrant lives. If you or someone you love needs help with substance abuse or a mental health disorder, Futures is here for you. Contact us confidentially online or by phone at 866-804-2098.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS

Our specialized staff stands ready to help you through this challenging time.


call now CALL NOW