A better life is just 12 steps away

Tuesday , April 10, 2018 - 4:00 AM

ROBERT HUNTER, special to the Standard-Examiner

Breaking bad habits, recovering from addiction, reassessing our daily activities — all can be rewarding exercises. Though the prospect of making changes in the way we live can seem overwhelming, there are proven tools that can help us along the way.

The Twelve Steps most people ascribe to Alcoholics Anonymous may be aptly applied to any self-improvement goal in life.

Everyone longs for a better life. In that spirit, we all desire to address some aspect of ourselves with an eye toward overcoming things such as fear, resentment, anger, hate, procrastination, perfectionism, envy, laziness, poor eating, study and exercise habits or any of a variety of other obstacles.

While the issues may not be described as addictions, they may be habits or defects, which, if left unattended, may contribute to addictive behavior.

Experts have identified many kinds of addictions. Some broad categories include alcoholism, opioid and narcotics abuse, sexual issues, eating disorders, gambling, spending compulsion, workaholism, excessive caretaking, codependency, etc.

Help is available for all of them. One reliable resource is the Twelve Steps, written more than 80 years ago by two revered men.

Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith (1879-1950) and William Griffith Wilson (1895-1971) are affectionately known by millions in addiction recovery circles as Dr. Bob and Bill W. Coincidentally, both were born in Vermont but first met in 1935 in Akron, Ohio.

Dr. Bob had set up a medical practice in Akron. Bill W. had earned a law degree, became involved in insurance and investment enterprises and met Dr. Bob while in Akron on a business trip. Both had been struggling with alcoholism – Dr. Bob since college, and Bill W. since military service. Ruination of their careers was imminent.

They both felt their meeting was providential and life-saving. Their discussions were crystallized in the Twelve Steps — a list of actions, which, if followed, could lead to recovery and a happy, sober life.

Here are the Twelve Steps, almost identical to the the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous prescribed by AA World Services:

1) We admitted we were powerless over our addiction — 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 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, and 12) having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Anyone trying to overcome an addiction or gripping habit should not try to solve all problems at once but should set reasonable goals with reasonable schedules for achieving the milestones. Local addiction recovery meetings for addicts and loved ones can be found by searching the internet.

The Twelve Steps, properly applied, coupled with help from an empathetic group of people who are successfully dealing with similar experiences, can help us achieve that better life to which we all aspire.

In a world where addictions impact our families and communities in such a negative and pervasive way, individual positive action to address these behaviors means a better life for each of us and a better life for all of us.

Robert Hunter is director of the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service at Weber State University. For more information about the Twelve Steps, you can reach him at rhunter@weber.edu.

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