“You can’t tell me what to do.”
This might as well be the personal mantra of most every Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) member prior to their introduction to the 12 Step program. Alcoholism and hard-headedness tend to go hand in hand. Many of us grew up in households that were either extremely strict or extremely loose, and we wound up revolting in one way or another. If we had strict curfews and weren’t allowed to experiment with drugs or alcohol, we likely retaliated against these unfair impositions, staying out late and engaging in as much recreational substance use as our teenage bodies could handle. If our parents didn’t care where we were or for how long, we might have rebelled in the opposite direction, staying as straight-laced as possible. Whatever the case was, the majority of us adopted the “I make the rules” mindset from an early age. This is part of the reason why taking suggestions proves so difficult. However, once we become engaged in AA or another 12 Step program, it is important that we at least become willing to take suggestions. Those who came before us (who already worked through the Steps and who have maintained sobriety for an extended period of time) know what they are talking about. They have already lived through early recovery, and have maintained their sobriety based on their willingness, acceptance, and surrender to the process. We might think we know better, or we might suffer from a case of “terminal uniqueness,” but it is important that we remain as teachable as possible. At 12 Step Illinois we understand the importance of taking suggestions, especially when it comes to those who have no prior experience in recovery. To learn more about what this means and why it is important, contact us today.
Common AA Suggestions
You will hear a number of suggestions thrown around in AA, and remember — they are suggestions for a reason. They are strongly encouraged, but not required. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. As far as everything else goes, you are able to keep what you like and leave the rest. But it is also important to acknowledge that these suggestions were designed to keep staying sober as simple and straightforward as possible.
Go to Meetings
As the saying goes, “Meeting makers make it.” Going to as many in-person meetings as possible is always encouraged during your first year of sobriety. Going to meetings is about much more than hearing the message — it is about accountability, building a strong network of sober supports, and developing a routine that facilitates continued healing.
Find a Sponsor
Having a sponsor to help guide and support you through the early recovery process is truly a game-changer. How do you find a sponsor? Go to meetings and listen. Find someone who has something (or many things) that you admire by way of character traits. It is a good idea to find someone who inspires you and who works a solid program. We recommend finding a sponsor who has worked through the 12 Steps already and who has a sponsor themselves.
Don’t Drink, No Matter What
This might seem obvious, but it is always a good reminder. No matter what it is you are going through, picking up a drink will only complicate things and make your current circumstances that much more difficult to navigate. Many people in AA will say, “The only thing you have to do perfectly is not drink.”
Get a Big Book
A Big Book is the primary piece of literature used in AA. The 12 Steps are outlined in the Big Book, which was originally written by Bill Wilson in 1935 (the man who founded AA). You can acquire a Big Book at many meetings or at the AA Central Office in your immediate area.
Keeping yourself distracted is not a bad thing, especially not during your first year of sobriety. Of course, it is still important to make time for rest and self-care. Do your best to fill your schedule with healthy and productive activities. Pick up a new hobby, or work a part-time job on the weekends if you find yourself with nothing to do. Volunteer at a local animal shelter, or hit an extra meeting or two when you can.
No Major Life Changes in the First Year
Let’s be honest — getting sober can feel like a full-time job. We are making some serious life changes and learning how to navigate a plethora of emotions without the use of drugs or alcohol. It’s a lot of work! The last thing we need to do is add more to our plate. Major changes might include:
- Getting into a new relationship.
- Buying or selling a home.
- Making a major career change.
- Quitting smoking.
- Adopting a dog (or any other animal).
It is suggested that we avoid major changes in our first year of sobriety in order to avoid feelings of overwhelm. However, some change is inevitable, and might be for the best. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your personal circumstances, we encourage you to speak with a sober mentor, individual therapist, or sponsor.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an alcohol use disorder of any type or severity, 12 Step Illinois is available to help. We understand how difficult it can be to come to terms with an alcohol use disorder, and we know that reaching out for help takes an immense amount of courage. Fortunately, as soon as you make the decision to ask for the help you need, we will be available to help guide you through the remainder of the early recovery process. First of all, it is important to determine which treatment options are going to be the most appropriate for your unique case. If you or your loved one is suffering from a moderate or severe alcohol use disorder and any co-occurring issues, entering into a multi-staged treatment program might be the best option. Because the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous when left untreated, medical detoxification could be a necessary first step. In some cases, medical detox should be immediately followed up by a higher level of care, like inpatient rehab or partial hospitalization (PHP). To learn more about treatment options in Illinois, contact us today. In some instances, engagement in a 12 Step program in Illinois can be effective as a standalone treatment option. We encourage you to reach out today for more information on 12 Step meetings in your immediate area. We look forward to speaking with you soon and helping you out however we can.