The Twelve Step Programme

The Haynes Clinic bases its treatment around the 12 Step Programme of total abstinence, developed by the founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr Robert Smith and Bill Wilson. Total abstinence in this context means no longer taking any mood altering substance – including alcohol, drugs and certain prescription medications.

Treatment is tailored to individual needs

The clinic’s treatment programme is not solely focused on the 12 Steps. The programme includes personal experience sessions, looking at our feelings and emotions and examining how we come across to others. There are workshops on relevant topics too – for example resentment, anger management, anxiety and fear – and each week, clients are given an individual goal that is personal to them.

However, in terms of not just getting clean and sober, but staying clean and sober, many rehab clinics base their programmes around the Twelve Steps – because this has been proven to work and no one yet has come up with anything proven to work better.

Gaining an understanding of the Twelve Steps

step by step

While in treatment, clients will be set a series of assignments based on the steps. They will learn from completing these assignments, as well as by listening to others, what the steps mean when applied to their lives. The Twelve Steps and an explanation of each are given below. They are discussed mainly in terms of alcohol but can easily be adapted for other substances and even behaviours:

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable

In this step we gain a clearer picture of our drinking and / or drug use so that we can admit the problem. By accepting the problem we can start to look forward to finding a solution and putting in the action to make that solution real. We look at what we have lost as a result of our addiction, how it has affected our day to day lives, our relationships with friends and family, and the impact on our health (mental and physical). We look at how we have tried to control our drinking / using, failed previous attempts to stop and the psychological obsession with drinking / using. We consider how our addiction has led us to keep secrets and tell lies in order to protect our habit. We reflect on how our addiction has affected our moral code.

We also look at the psychological obsession which leads us to pick up and relapse if we have managed to stop for a period. We admit how we have physically craved alcohol and / or drugs and how, once we give into this craving and start, we cannot stop. We have no ‘off’ switch.  It is like having an allergy – we cannot safely drink (or use other mood altering substances) at all. We cannot control our drinking / using once we start, even if the people we love are affected and beg us to stop. We feel stressed and anxious, irritable and discontented – until we have that drink or drug to ‘fix’ us. Alcohol / drugs become a necessity, not a luxury – a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’.

Step one also includes an examination of the ‘spiritual malady’ – how we are affected emotionally – having trouble loving ourselves and in our relationships with others, feeling depressed, fearful and unhappy.

Once we have worked through Step One, we should have no doubt that we have a BIG problem.

Step Two: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

If we accept that we are powerless over alcohol and drugs (step one), then we need to get power. However, if we had sufficient power within ourselves to control our drinking or using, then we would have used it. So the inevitable conclusion is that we need more power than we can find within ourselves – a power greater than ourselves – to stop our insane pattern of behaviour and get well. This is our only option – to find that power greater than ourselves – or to carry on with our old pattern of addiction.

The first part of step 2 is to acknowledge this fact and to be open minded to the possibility of a power greater than ourselves. Most alcoholics and addicts have no religious beliefs at this point. No one is asked to believe in a religious God – but only in one of their own understanding. The sole requirement is to be willing and openminded to this prospect – that there is a power out there that is greater than us individual humans and that we need this power, as if we try and run our lives on self-will as we have in the past, we will not be successful.

Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

This step involves making a decision – not necessarily actually handing our will and our lives over. It involves surrendering our self will and acknowledging that we can no longer be the main directors in the show. We are going to be directed by someone else in the future – whatever or whoever our higher power might be. Once we have decided that we are ready to do this, we need to move straight in into the action steps – Steps Four to Nine.  These five action steps are followed by the maintenance steps – Steps Ten to Twelve- which are how we keep it up.

Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Step Four involves taking a good honest look at ourselves. We identify the flaws in our personality, and face up to the truth. We look at our resentments, fears and harms done to others. We are often angry about something, afraid of something or someone, or feel guilt about wrong doing in the past.

In Step Four, we write a list of all of these things, how they have affected us, and where our responsibility is for all these things (‘our part’).  We can usually identify where we have been selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, frightened, over-sensitive and judgemental. Step Four also involves looking at our sex conduct – meaning how we have been in relationships.

Everyone has done things they feel ashamed or embarrassed about and behaved in ways they regret. The difference is that not everyone is prepared to do something about it. Step Four demonstrates a willingness to change and put the past behind us.

Step Four also enables us to begin to understand ourselves.

Step Five: Admitted to God, ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

Simply writing down our Step Four is not enough. We have to share it with another human being and our Higher Power to free ourselves of all the bad feelings that have been hiding within us. By doing this we are admitting our wrongs more forcefully and demonstrating a willingness to address them in the future.

Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

Now we have seen the truth in ourselves and identified the parts of ourselves that we need to work on, we need to be willing to change. This step is not about changing but being willing to change.

Step Seven: Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings

In Step Seven we actually hand ourselves over to our Higher Power and ask for our character defects to be removed. In reality this often means us constantly working to make sure they do not surface – it is very much a work in progress. For example, if a character defect is that we are controlling, we need to recognise when we are tempted to be controlling, and stop the defect in its tracks. With continued practise and experience, this becomes more and more our new ‘second’ nature.

Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

Step Eight can usually be derived from step 4. If we look at all the people, groups and institutions (for example) that we identified in our step 4 inventory – people we had harmed, cheated, been angry with, lied to etc – then these are what we need to list in our Step Eight in order to be ready and willing to make amends. If there is anyone we are reluctant to put on the list, then they most certainly need to be there. Do not leave off the most difficult ones – it is important that they are there and that they are dealt with if our recovery is to be on firm foundations.

Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

This is a true action step. We need to say sorry to the people we have harmed – even if they have done us harm. We can only ‘clean up our side of the street’. We are not responsible for theirs and must not be disappointed if we do not get the response we expected. We are putting things right to make us feel better about ourselves, knowing we have done the right thing.

Sometimes it is not possible to make amends as the individual may no longer be with us. So we make amends in some other way – a visit to the grave, a donation to a charity that is connected to them, for example.

Think about your motivation for making amends and what might be the reaction of the other person. That is not a reason or excuse to avoid the amends but if, for example, your amends will reveal something that will hurt them – an affair is a good example – then leave well alone. In these instances you can do something else. For example you might make an indirect amends – do something that will benefit them from behind the scenes but without them necessarily knowing that it is you that has made the gesture.

Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Having cleaned up the debris from our past, we now clean up on a daily basis. Each day we consider what we have done that is good and what we have done that we wish we had not / should not. If we have said or done anything for which we need to say ‘sorry’ we do it promptly and immediately. It is like a mini step 4, 5 and 8 and 9 each day.

Step Eleven: 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.

In order to maintain a strong, healthy and happy recovery, we need to keep our spiritual health in prime condition. We therefore need to consciously avoid self-pity, dishonesty and selfishness. We need to ask for our Higher Power’s support and guidance in facing the day’s challenges and making the right decisions. At the end of each day we look back in gratitude for what has been good and right about our day and learn from the day’s experiences in order that we can continue to grow.

Step Twelve: 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.

The twelfth step is about helping other alcoholics and addicts. No one else can understand how they feel more than someone who has been there. By meeting with other alcoholics and addicts in all stages of their recovery and including those still in active addiction, we remind ourselves how bad the illness is and how we do not want to return to the drinking / using days. By helping them to get well, it gives purpose to our own experience and makes us feel good that we can help other people.

The Twelve Steps are a lifestyle choice.

The 12 Steps can transform the life of an alcoholic or addict and save them from the miserable slow death that can come from addiction. They were written for alcoholics but have been adapted and used around the world for all types of addicts, including gamblers, people with eating disorders, co dependency issues etc.

They are a good lifestyle guide for anyone – as they promote personal reflection, recognising our defects and wrongs and putting things right. They promote honesty, integrity and a good moral code. They provide freedom from guilt and resentment. How could they help you in your life?