One often hears in 12 Step recovery circles that "this is a 'We' " program, that "we can do together what I can't do alone." It is undeniably true that 12 Step recovery is based on the unique ability of one alcoholic or addict to help another. Also heard in 12 Step meetings, often from individuals in early recovery, is the declaration that helping other alcoholics or addicts is the cornerstone of their recovery. I have been reflecting on this emphasis on helping others, and have a few observations (solely my own opinion, of course). My concern is that the focus on helping others might distract the individual helping and the one helped from the primary result sought through 12 Step recovery, namely, a relationship with God, a Higher Power, or other source of spiritual strength.
Step 12, which is the principle underlying the action of helping other alcoholics or addicts, states unequivocally that "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics…" The clear emphasis is on developing a spiritual awakening based on application over time of the other 11 steps to one's recovery. So, my first point is that 12 Step work has a spiritual basis and focus. It, of course, feels good to help others and the supportive Fellowship of the 12 Step programs is vital in instilling hope and a feeling of belonging in the newcomer. Helping others develops a relationship between the person helping and the person helped. That relationship, though helpful to the helper and person helped, is not the ultimate relationship that is the goal of 12 Step recovery. The relationship that long term recovery depends upon is the relationship the individual develops with God, a Higher Power, or other source of spiritual strength.
In other words, both those who help the newcomer to recover and the newcomers who receive the help, need, in my view, to bear in mind that all of the energy expended by helper and the person helped is for the purpose of developing a relationship with God or other source of spiritual strength. The AA basic text, or, Big Book, states clearly that the alcoholic's recovery "… is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God ((Alcoholics Anonymous, Working with Others,pp. 99-100)."
As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams, www.alcoholdrugsos.com, 04/24/2014.