12th Step – Carrying the Message of Chaos

Submitted by on Monday, November 25, 2013No Comments

I will save all people“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” ~ 12th Step

Chaos. Confusion. Whirling derbishes. Fixing. Managing. Controlling. Ego. Pride. Intellectual or moral certitude. Lectures. This is what it might look like when someone who is not recovered attempts to do 12th Step work.

But when recovery happens and sanity is present we do 12th Step work even if we don’t necessarily call it that. What we don’t do is go about forcing our solutions or the Steps on people, and especially under the auspices of any 12 Step organization, lest we violate the Traditions or worse. It’s the ‘or worse’ part that has my writing this piece.

“If someone wants to continue their path of self destruction who are you to deprive them?” ~ Anonymous Member of Codependent Recovery

In 12 Step language, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps (…) ” means ‘having worked’ the first 11 first. ESPECIALLY in Codependent Recovery is this an important concept to understand, irrespective of whether one gains their sanity via 12 steps or not. Not yet recovered Codies LOVE to fix, manage, and control other people, and if ever there was a step that could be misconstrued as explicit permission to go ‘fix, manage, and control some people,’ this one is it.

The 12th Step of Carrying the Message

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” ~ 12th Step

If you are in a 12 Step Recovery Program and have sanity, sobriety, or abstinence (from your former malady) we end up LIVING our 12th step work. We share the message when we can and are able. For example, I ‘try to carry the message’ through my writings here. I try to carry the message of recovery to other sick and suffering alcoholics when I walk into an A.A. meeting and share my experience, strength and hope. I try to practice the A.A. and Codependent recovery principles in all my affairs.  By practicing these principles in all my affairs, it means first understanding the Principles I am operating from in order that I CAN practice them in all my affairs. And I understand my principles by the time I have abstained and worked/practiced the Steps #1 through Step 11.

If you are in a 12 Step Recovery Program – and I am saying this to mean going to meetings and working the steps of 12 Step Recovery like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous or other ‘Anonymous’ Meetings – unless you have sanity (or sobriety or abstinence), you cannot transmit sanity (or sobriety or abstinence). If you ARE in a recovery program and have the meeting language down, you may be able to mimic the language of the literature, the mottoes and slogans you hear, or even what others say, but this does not mean you are 12 Stepping; You are repeating words.

Helpful ways people might try to carry the message:

  1. Sharing our experience, strength and hope in a meeting.
  2. Sharing our story; What it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.
  3. Sponsorship.

Before the 12th Step Carrying of the Message…

If your life is chaotic (or  if you are using alcohol, drugs, or other addictively numbing chemicals as your ‘pain’ solution), there IS another solution and I am one example of how it manifested. I used the 12 Steps and ‘Anonymous Meetings’ as my solution. (Previously, I used alcohol, self-mutilation, sugar, and food deprivation.) .  There are other successful stories of those who used the 12 Steps and meetings but this does not mean the 12 Steps and fellowship will necessarily be the only way. So certainly, if you have overcome whatever prior demons kept you chained and bonded, even if you did not use the 12 Steps, you have a valuable message as well.

But in keeping with this topic of Carrying the Message, I notice that there are newcomers to 12 Step meetings, or people living in chaos or who are in active addiction attempting to Carry the Message of Recovery. And like my Sponsor would say, “They are the good bad examples.” If I see their walking and talking whirling derbishes, I am most emphatically not going to seek out their ‘Message.’ Yes, they have one, but it’s not one I am interested in.

When I was a couple of years sober I became very chaotic, emotionally. I had been in Codie recovery and Eating Disorder recovery and I was doing well. I was happy in my life and things were on the upswing. But then I was prescribed a narcotic pain reliever on the heels of an accident. Not being a regular member of the ‘narcotic pain reliever’ club, I attribute IT to enabling my emotional breakdown.

A couple of huge ‘Not Wants’ happened in addition to my taking this prescribed Vicodin and I went nuts. I don’t mean I went nuts on people; I mean to say I ended up RIGHT back to emotional chaos. I went RIGHT back to trying to make everyone around me happy, thinking if I could manage THEM well, I would be well.

On the final day of this culminating and chaotic hell, an A.A. friend tried to caretake me but [with her active drug addiction (in retrospect) and her own chaos] her presence was an aggravating factor. And with my H.S.P. on high alert and acutely feeling my own emotional pain and her chaotic state, I knew she was out of her mind when she suggested I go on a 12th Step call with her to go help a newcomer because, “You need to get out of yourself.”

This was when I lost it and finally called my sponsor. Intuitively I knew I needed to contend with myself and had zero business in trying to 12th Step anyone. I was the one who got the 12th Step assistance from my Sane Sponsor after a disastrous attempt by an addicted friend whose best message was further escape.

About “Two Stepping”

No, not the Texas two step; The 12 Step version. When you hear the term “Two Stepping” it’s a phrase someone might say to reference (usually, but not always) a newcomer who’s on Step 1 and is now (magically) on Step 12 or behaving as if they are or really thinking they have this thing down.

This is a great way to remove the focus and deal off of themselves by using fixing or helping others as their escape:

  • Prideful Usage: A quick way to feel important.
  • Low Self-Esteem Usage: A quick way to feel as if they have ‘something’ of worth to offer.

For purposes of this article, it does not matter the why. For purposes of this article, the point to understand is that in both cases, the focus is removed from their own personal process of recovery and projected onto someone else. This can happen in any fellowship that uses the 12 Step modality.

1.) “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.” ~ 1st Step of Alcoholics Anonymous

(Steps 2 – 11 are here.)

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.” – 12th step of Alcoholics Anonymous

A girl I was sponsoring in A.A. had her issue primarily as drugs but I did not know this at the time or else I would not have agreed to be her sponsor. Regardless of that information, after about a week of bringing her to meetings, she decided to share after a newcomer’s sharing of pain: “I’ve been clean and sober for 10 days and I still consider myself a newcomer. ” I laughed out loud because I thought she was trying to be funny until I turned and saw her sincerity. She continued speaking for a few seconds and then ended with, “This program works and I am proof.” Less than a week later she’d threaten suicide and end up medicated at a hospital. I have not seen her since.

12th Step Codependency Chaos & Crazymaking

One indication that I may not want to abide someone’s version of sanity, or a sobriety or codependent recovery message is that the person is either not sober, chaos seems to follow them wherever they go, or they do not behave in a way that is indicative of sobriety or sanity.

You are going to die. I will save you.

Get this cartoon on a customizable card.

If I see someone sitting at a bar, drunk, and they try to tell me how A.A. works, I am not going to take their message seriously. If I see someone whose life is consistently reflecting chaos and turmoil, I am not going to take seriously their message of recovery. If I understand someone to be consistently repeating damaging choices, I am not going to hear any message of professed clarity.

Crazymakers, chaos junkies, or controlling personalities telling others what they need to do to get sober or sane reminds me of, “Take my advice because I’m not using it,” or “I have no idea if this works but it sounds good,” or “I read it in a book, never tried it, but it sounds good.”

I can tell you only two things as a sober, codependently recovered, and sane human being that have held as absolute truths since my embarking on escaping my horrifyingly painful samskaras:

  1. What worked for me & what didn’t.
  2. What works for me & what doesn’t.

What works for me now, would have kept me held in insanity or thrown me into relapse in early recovery. And were I to do today what I did those years ago, I wouldn’t be happy, useful, or whole today.

One of the most terrifying things I heard in an A.A. meeting was an older man some years sober say, “If my butt isn’t in this chair every day, I’m going to get drunk.” Thankfully, I’d already been in a cult (a childhood institution calling itself rehab) and I wasn’t going through that again; listening to brainwashed lemmings. I went home, called my sponsor, and said I had to quit A.A. before it got me drunk.

AA Meetings are Not the AA ProgramI was happy when she told me taking some time off would be good for me and she was surprised I’d not done it sooner. She then straightened me out insofar as my thoughts that A.A. was a ‘should’ to be worshiped.

None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor do we think its effectiveness would be increased if we did. We feel that elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs.” ( A.A. Big Book, Pg 19 )

THEN she said that just because some people may hide out there that it would be healthier for me to stop hiding there, and get to practicing with living in life. So I did.

In Regular Day to Day Living

In regular day to day living we may receive help from all sorts of people and this includes inspiration and assistance from people who are not involved in any capacity with “the 12 steps” or meetings or “the rooms.”

Alcoholics Anonymous BookWe may also secure assistance with other literature or information not affiliated with anything about recovery, per se, but very well may be affiliated with ease of living, inspiration for living, or delving deeper into our psyches or consciousness in order that we may enjoy even more radical transformation.

And all this not to say we were ever so “bad” or “horrific” that we need such radical “changes,” but to discover more fully, perhaps, how to untwist our mind in that we may more fully enjoy living the authenticity of ourselves.

Had I gone into A.A. and heard, “You better not listen to anyone but us or our literature,” I would have had thoughts of a cult and would have left. But yet, from some people in the fellowship, this is how they speak and behave. I would like to share a part from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous in this regard:

“If not mem­bers of religious bodies, we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing. There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one’s priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.” [ Pg 87 from the Big Book – Chapter 6, Into Action.]

So even if one is NOT “in” A.A. or a part of a fellowship desiring to work the steps, there are other ways and assistance available in order to secure a greater means of living other than with addiction or alcoholism or codependency.

Can A Fork Teach You How to Be A Spoon?

Maybe a fork can teach you how to be a fork. And maybe a fork could teach you how to be a spoon if your nature is one of spoon and you learn what NOT to do by watching the fork. But if I’m practicing or desiring to be a spoon, I would choose to follow a spoon.

First Rule of Fight ClubDespite Loving Fight Club, I Fail at Fight Club

I am not going to go into Fight Club and tell Tyler Durden how to fight. I love the Fight Club message but if I went in trying to be Tyler Durden, loving the message or not, I would fail. And because I am breaking even the first rule of Fight Club, in many ways, I FAIL at Fight Club despite my love for it. :)

Aside: If you have never seen Fight Club with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, I have to encourage it as a film lover; Especially if you’ve ever wrestled with dark versus light; light versus shadow, or ego versus id. If you have wrestled with the illusions versus the truth and have a naturally occurring HSP anti-bullshitometer, and can appreciate violence in film, you might love it.

My breaking the “first rule of Fight Club,” being analogous to maybe not even being sane or sober while in A.A., the message of loving but still not succeeding is helpful in the context when we are following those who claim to be on the path we want to be on. If you want to be in Fight Club, you must follow Tyler Durden or those he instructed below him and who are abiding the rules of Fight Club. You would not follow Einstein’s teachings if you wanted to be in Fight Club any more than listening to what I had to say would lead you there.

Being Clever with Fight Club

Make Use of Those Who Are Where You Want to Be

This is the primary purpose of this article, to make use of the people, books, knowledge, understanding of those who are where you want to be. This is not say they will be incapable or prone to behaviors and acts you find disagreeable [anymore than a book may not contain typos].

But if chaos, turmoil, spreading of pain, or other unnameable – yet unfriendly feeling – qualities seem to constantly – from your perspective – grace a person’s outlook while they claim (or pretend) sanity, peace, sobriety as their facade, you may want to reconsider following them or their message. Even if it’s simply your perception that is off-kilter, how could you focus on the message you desire when this is what you are seeing?

If it’s not your perception that is faulty, but you see consistent qualities NOT leading to any sort of sobriety you could maintain, again, why would you follow their instruction? Twelve steps aside, I speak of anyone; a doctor, counselor, psychiatrist, clergy person, guru, teacher, friend, OR someone claiming themselves as a 12 step member.

As for me, I follow what feels right. If it feels wrong, even if I have no words, I go somewhere else. Period.

Before I desired to live in authenticity, I desired for sobriety. And after I’d learned from sober people and books on how to do that, I progressed into finding and rooting out other qualities in my brain that were cobwebby. And so I gained other sources of information from people on the path I was on or sought to be on, that often had nothing to do with sobriety proper, but DID support my ability to maintain my sanity while sober.

Which of course made it easier – and not harder – to stay sober.

Which for me, was just the beginning and not an end unto itself.

Edited: July 31, 2015

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