Sunday, February 28, 2016

12 Steps to Recovery: If Addiction is addiction...Recovery is Recovery

Image result for 12 steps logo

The Recovery from Abusive Relationships 12 Steps
(adapted from the AA Twelve Steps)

Step 1 - Admit powerlessness

The fact is that most victims, for whatever reason, have lost the power of choice in an abusive relationship. Our so-called willpower becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even an hour, day or a week ago. We are without defense against the control of the abuser. Our learned fear and lack of self-esteem keeps us trapped. We are unsure we are seeing things as they really are, unsure we can survive on our own, unsure what move to make. We are POWERLESS and our lives are out of control. We must really see that in order to move forward.

Step 2 - Believe that we can recover

When we examine our world, our belief system, we must recognize that there is a power that can help us survive. The abuser is not powerful, that is an illusion. What power do we TRULY believe can help us to survive? It may be God or any number of variations… or it may be love, a group, family, morality, a therapist, the universe, etc. It does not matter what it is. We feel powerless so we MUST find something we feel is more POWERFUL to depend on for support. Most of us have tried to rely upon will power and reason…and we have not been successful.

Step 3 - Turn over will and power

When we are absolutely convinced that we CAN survive… we must be willing to take the steps needed to survive. These steps can be very difficult and painful. If we rely on our own power…we will falter. We must decide the right step to make and become utterly determined to do it…. without second guessing or looking back.

Step 4 - See ourselves for what we are

Once the decision is made, we must be very fearless in discovering how we GOT HERE. What was it, about OUR NATURES, that allowed this to happen to us? This is NOT taking responsibility for the abuser’s actions, but seeking out what OUR PART was so that it will not happen again.

Step 5 - Admit our shortcomings

 If we are faith based, (religious) we hear, over and over, that all that we require for God’s forgiveness is to believe we need it and seek his forgiveness. To admit to him our flaws and what we have done wrong…to claim our faults and try to do better. That may, indeed, be all that is needed to obtain God’s forgiveness (if that is your belief system) BUT, for most people, it takes much more to forgive YOURSELF. If you admit how very IMPERFECT you are to yourself (and perhaps to God) you are STILL hiding away secrets. There is still shame. Deep inside we can still believe that we are not good enough. If others KNEW THE TRUTH, they would abandon us. If we do not overcome this shame, we are always more likely to feel inferior and to attract abusers. KNOWING our issues is not enough. Feeling the shame is not enough because it festers. In order to heal we must tell someone else all the things which cause us shame. It is not necessary to tell EVERYONE and not advisable to choose a member of your family, a clergyman or anyone else who cannot understand what you have been through. Some people consider this a humbling experience. I found it very freeing. 

Step 6 - Become ready to let these go

The fact that someone could know ALL my guilty secrets, understand I am imperfect and still find me worthy of respect and love. Once we admit how very bad it got…it is far less likely we will go back. You must be willing to burn the final bridge to your illusion and commit to moving forward. Time to use the power of the truth to push you in the right direction instead of hiding in the shame that pulls you back. 

Step 7 - Ask for help in taking these away

There must be a decision that you have no desire to live that way again and admitting that to someone else gives you accountability. 

Step 8 - Make a list of all those we have harmed

There are many people we have harmed. Family members, friends and even strangers…while we were caught up in the lies and delusion of the abuser. Our children (if we have children) typically are at the top of that list. By thinking back to each person and becoming aware of just how much harm was done, we can see that we did not suffer alone and that we are NOT doomed to be victims. We can become survivors and advocates and embrace that power.

Step 9 - Make amends

  It is important to do what we can to make amends and admit to these people that we did made unwise decisions, lied, closed our eyes and that WE did things that may have harmed them. We must take responsibility for OUR actions and do our best to repair those damages. This can be important in the healing of the people harmed. After all, most of us wanted this from the abuser…and they will never give it to us. CLOSURE and admission of the harm caused... admission of the wrongs we have done, validation of the harm that WE caused (no matter why we did this or what reasons there were for our actions) and a sincere apology…without excuses or blaming someone else.

Step 10 - Monitor our behavior and admit when we are wrong

We must continue to evaluate our actions and motives daily to make sure that we are not slipping into the patterns of the abuser or becoming “victims” once again…blaming others for our issues. We must always be open to the loving guidance or views of those we trust without becoming angry and defensive.

Step 11 - Remain centered by meditation, prayer and self-reflection

 Spending time examining our own lives, thoughts and actions. Meditation, relaxation or prayer helps to keep us in the realization that we are not unique or entitled…but that there are many people exactly like us…no better and no worse. We must BELIEVE we can heal and that we DESERVE to be loved and accepted, just as we are.

Step 12 - Carry the message to others who suffer

 There is no better way to stay mindful of where you were, and why you do not EVER want to go back, than reaching out to help others who have had a common experience. It keeps us fully aware that we are NOT “embellishing” or “dramatizing” the abuse. It keeps us from putting on rose-colored glasses and engaging in remembering “the good times” that our minds can manufacture. It may also help another victim escape to become a survivor! It takes a terrible period in our lives and gives that suffering some purpose and meaning.


  1. Very good information for the recovery from abusive relationships. I appreciative the perspective and insight.

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