Working The 12 Steps Is The Best Way To Be Close To God
We have Sidreis, author of the recovery blog By The Light of Grace, here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery with us today. She’s also the creator of LDS Addiction Recovery Blogs. She works the steps–even when she’s grumpy! Welcome Sidreis!!
Sidreis: Even when I’m grumpy! Thanks, I’m happy to be here!
Anne: So Sidreis and I were texting a few days ago and she said, and I quote, “I’m not shiny-happy right now.”
Sidreis: There’s this added layer of perceived expectations on my part that other’s are expecting me to be shiny-happy. As if they are thinking, because she works recovery (and because of my perceived expectations that they think that recovery looks shiny-happy) I have to be shiny-happy. It’s this back and forth assuming of what other people think.
Using The Surrender Process In 12 Step
Anne: So pause there for a minute. I often surrender in my program, and the process that I use is this: I write my surrender first, then I pray, then I call my sponsor, then I put it in my box. That’s my process, and I often surrender other people’s perceptions. Actually, my surrender box is my husband’s old sock drawer.
Sidreis: Nice! Does it stink? Were the socks clean or dirty?
Anne: They were clean before he moved out. It was just this empty drawer and it reminded me of all my sadness and all my pain. So that’s where I put all my surrenders now. And it literally fills up with post-it notes. I look through them occasionally and some of the things I surrendered I don’t even think about anymore! I don’t even worry about them.
Sidreis: Because you surrendered it to the drawer.
Anne: Well, to God. Like surrendering the world’s perceptions so you don’t have that pressure.
Sidreis: Yes! And then you’re free to be who you want. And sometimes I’m, I’m shiny-happy people! and sometimes I’m not. I’ve been struggling with depression lately. Another added layer of another expectation that tries to push me into the shame thinking of, But you have a good life, and your family is so awesome, and you have recovery, and you have good jobs, and you’re a good member of the church, you have no reason to be depressed, so why are you depressed, you are so awful for being depressed. It’s just like dangit, I can’t get away from it! But recovery has allowed me to voice when I’m depressed. So to people who ask, “How are you doing”, I can say honestly, “Not so good. I’m not feeling real good right now and I have no idea why.” But surrender in recovery also allows me to show that “weakness” if you will and ask for help, because if I don’t show that weakness that disallows me from asking for help. Sometimes asking for help, for me, is literally saying the words, “I need help with this.” But most often it’s just creating the space where I can voice it. Going to group or talking to my support group network and saying, “I’m having a crappy day right now. I’m not shiny-happy people right now.” Group creates a space between us where I can be honest about that and not expect to be judged or fixed. Instead, I can expect to hear, “I’m glad that you’re being honest about where you’re at. That’s what we are wanting to hear.” It’s so validating.
Anne: Absolutely. There are days where I am very down, and then sometimes I realize it’s because I forgot to take my antidepressant medication.
Is It Okay To Take An Anti-Depressant When I Work 12 Step?
Sidreis: Yes! Actually, it’s funny you said that because I recently reduced my own dose. It was a couple of months ago, but last week the spirit was like, Did it ever occur to you that you were doing well back then because of your dosage, and now you’ve cut it? And I’m like, Oh, kay! So I think I’m going to increase the dose and see if that helps, but if it doesn’t, then I move on to the next thing. Maybe I start therapy again, you know, I don’t know what I’ll do.
Anne: You mentioned going to Group helps you, and I know that you work a different program than I do. I work SA Lifeline and you work Healing Through Christ. Our podcast and our Betrayal Trauma Recovery organization specifically promotes SA Lifeline, but we also want to make people aware of other programs that are available. Can you tell us a little bit about Healing Through Christ?
Sidreis: Healing Through Christ is a non-profit foundation that offers recovery material for all those affected by sexual addiction. It originally started as a manual for the family members, and right now we are in the midst of writing a manual for the addict.
Eventually, down the road, we are planning on writing a Healing Through Christ manual that can apply to all circumstances. We have been asked to write a manual that is not so specific to any addiction, but that can be used simply for life! Right now, we have many groups going. It’s LDS focused or Christ focused.
We are just a whole bunch of people who have been affected by sexual addiction–whether it’s a family member or we are struggling ourselves–who are working a very hefty Step 12 to do what we can to pay forward that which has been so graciously given to us by God and by others. We just want to take everything we’ve learned–not just about the skills and basics of the 12 steps–but everything we have learned about emotions, trauma on the family side, what drives the addiction on the addict side, and then pick it apart and surrender it to God so that we can be healed. Because ultimately my view, and I was talking to someone about this last night, my view on recovery from the addict side it’s not about just stopping the acting out.
It’s so much more than that. Not acting out is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more below that. So many women ruminate on statements like, my husband is not attracted to me, or my husband cheated now what? Ultimately, I want my recovery to feel like this: residing in the presence of the Savior without feeling conflict, being comfortable there, being comfortable with myself enough to be there. Working on that vertical relationship with Him is ultimately what I want. I don’t want to just be sober. I want to be recovered. That’s what recovery is to me–recovered by Him.
Anne: For those of you who don’t know Sidreis, she is a Betrayal Trauma survivor working recovery to heal from Betrayal Trauma. She is also an addict herself. She’s working through sexual addiction. Sorry to push you out of the closet there, Sidreis.
What Does It Mean To Work My Own Program?
Sidreis: No, it’s totally fine. I don’t talk about the Betrayal Trauma part of my journey as much as I do about my own addiction, because my recovery has been about me.
Anne: That is what we focus on in Betrayal Trauma recovery: not worrying about what our spouse is doing, not trying to control them. We do that through learning the tools of boundaries, surrendering, self-care, and forgiveness and trust. How did you discover the 12 steps, Sedreis? What was your rock bottom?
Sidreis: It’s funny that you say that because in my group we recently went over the step in the Healing Through Christ material that we have written on sobriety and what that looks like. It talks about “rock bottom” and whether it’s required or not required. There’s one phrase that says, “Rock bottom is the point at which the pain of the problem finally begins to outweigh the pain of the solution.”
The pain of my addiction, the shame, the secrecy, feeling disgusting, hating myself, that pain finally outweighed the pain of the solution which is, Oh my gosh I have to tell my secret? What are people going to think of me? I have to talk to my bishop. That’s terrifying, so scary. And so for me, I didn’t have a big crashing rock bottom where I got caught in some big lie or act or anything like that. It was a tipping of the scales, like a teeter-totter.
It finally just tipped so that the pain of my problem finally outweighed the pain of my solution. And I had decided at that point I cannot survive like this anymore. So I was like here it goes! We talk a lot about how in recovery we’re finding our tribe. I found my tribe there. And that first day I went I thought, I’m never not coming again. And I think really I’ve only missed a handful of meetings due to severe illness, vacation, or having babies.
Anne: That’s a good reason to miss a meeting. Having a baby. Absolutely. My rock bottom was my husband’s arrest.
Sidreis: Yeah, that’ll do it.
Anne: That was it for me. I thought I cannot do this anymore. I do not know how to do this, I do not know what to do, I just can’t do it. But I think it’s interesting that some people don’t maybe need a rock bottom, or maybe, I don’t know. The rock bottom thing is interesting to me. Sometimes I worry, Was that my rock bottom? Maybe it wasn’t, maybe it’s going to get worse, I don’t know! That was a really bad time.
Whether or not it was my rock bottom or not I don’t know. But it was a really bad time that brought me to the steps. Brought ME to the steps instead of focusing on my husband doing the steps. So what would you say to someone who’s hesitant about attending a meeting?
Sidreis: Me, too. I’ve been there. Every single person that has attended a meeting has been hesitant about attending a meeting. And every single person who has attended a meeting continues to be hesitant about attending meetings for a while. Because it’s not like we walk in one meeting and come out shiny-happy people. We actually might even come out worse for wear because all of the sudden we have the space to feel the emotions that we’ve been stuffing for so long. And then to leave that place that’s safe–that meeting–we’re like, Oh crap, I’ve got to put them back in! What do I do with them? They won’t stop coming.
And so yeah, it’s scary and it’s painful, but at the same time it’s cathartic and so healing. We’re starting to process all that pain. It’s purging out of us. It’s coming out of us. So we’re processing it and we’re putting it in the hands of safe people that have struggled just as we have struggled and it’s scary. But we have this one thing called trust, and we have to get to a point where we can trust the process. I remember when I first started recovery I just felt really lost and thought, How long is this going to take? I was freaking out. I felt like I was crazy all the time.
My sponsor (who actually wasn’t my sponsor at the time), took me by the shoulders and she kind of shook me and said, “You give me a year. You give me a year and I will send you back to your family a completely different person.” And I thought, Well, I don’t have anything else left but to trust her. I have nothing left cause I have tried everything on my own. I have to trust her. That’s what we have to do. We have to go in, and even if we want to gag because everybody is happy, we have to trust that. We have to trust that we can get to that point. We can pray for tolerance for the happiness in that meeting even though we my want to punch people because they’re so happy.
Anne: So when I started going to meetings, there was literally a four month period where I would cry every time. I was working the steps, I was calling my sponsor everyday, and I was like, I hope this works! Because it does not seem to be working right now. Right? I was like it does not seem to be working. Then suddenly, I came out of this dark fog. It was really bizarre, and I was happy, and I looked back and I thought, It totally was working. It was completely working it’s just I had to have faith, I had to keep doing it.
And I think a lot of people get to that very difficult phase of recovery where they think, Is this really working? I had a friend who recently decided to push pause on her recovery. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I was very worried when I received the text. I wonder if she’s in this fog phase where she’s questioning if it’s really working when she works it. I don’t know. She’s having a faith crisis a little bit, and I hope that she comes back. We will always be here for her when she is. I just think that’s normal for everyone. Continuing to work the steps is the solution for that fog phase. It’s like with church attendance. If you feel, I don’t like this, that’s not when you stop, that’s when you keep going.
How Do I Get Through Recovery Rough Patches?
Sidreis: Two things come to mind when you say we hit these “rough patches.” 1.) During a recent rough patch the spirit whispered to me, “This is what faith looks like.” Faith isn’t really in existence when we are doing well because we don’t have to rely on faith.
Faith is something to store up for when we need it. It’s in those darker moments when faith is put to the test. That’s when we rely on that supply that we have. 2.) I have this recovery app on my phone that brrrrings at 9 o’clock every morning. It says, “You’ve been sober ______ days.” Sometimes it has recovery sayings with it.
A fews days ago, a recovery saying popped up that read, “Although I’m feeling lost, I’d rather feel lost on the right path then lost on the wrong path.” It was the very next day that I got my church recommend signed so I could attend our temple (a sacred place of worship). I haven’t had one for a few months, and I knew that even though I’m feeling lost and I’m feeling depressed and I’m feeling low, I’m still on the right path. I’m not doing anything that would jeopardize myself in any way physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
I’m persevering right now. Dr. Skinner once said, referring and speaking specifically to wives, “We wake up in the morning and say, ‘I can’t do it. I can’t do it, I can’t do it.’ But then we do it.” I’m sitting here right now getting goosebumps. Every time I say that I think, YES! We do! That’s what resilience is. We are resilient people. God made us resilient. I just love that. Even though we say we can’t, we do. We do it anyway. I am 100% at surviving life. I have survived life 100%. So I think that is pretty helpful.
Anne: Me, too. That’s good, I like that. When things got really, really bad I would say, “A good day is when no one dies.”
Sidreis: Yes, yes, yes!
Anne: No one has died today, so it was fine. In working the steps on a daily basis I have come to think of the 12 steps not as steps, but as principles. I remember when I first attended meetings I thought, Am I really going to have to do this my whole life? Nobody thinks that about going to church, right?
Sidreis: Sometimes they do.
Anne: Maybe they do. In my mind, there will never be a time when I don’t have to go to church anymore. There’s never that time. And so I think of church as the “what.” I attend church, I have faith in christ. I remember to be honest, be kind, serve your neighbor, you know, etc. The “what.” And then when I go to group I see it as my weekly “how.”
So I go to group and I do the “how” of the gospel and the 12 steps are those principles in action. It’s how to apply the principles so I actually take action. I’m actually living them. I’ve found a lot of addicts, my own addict for example, that know exactly what to say. My husband always said the right thing. His words were exactly what I wanted to hear, or what other people wanted to hear, but the application was not there. The doing.
And that’s where the 12 steps come in. Can you talk to our listeners about how you work the steps in your daily life?
How Do I Work The 12 Steps?
Sidreis: So it’s funny because back when I started recovery there would be people in group that could rattle off the 12 Steps. A story would be told and they’d say, “Oh that’s totally a Step 9,” or “That’s totally a Step 12,” and I’d think, What the freak are you talking about? I was so overwhelmed. So when I started recovery I wanted to memorize the 12 Steps. I did it by associating each Step with one word to describe it.
For example, Step 1: honesty, Step 2: hope, Step 3: trust, etc. That’s all I needed. It didn’t take long to get that down, but eventually learning the 12 steps led to this beautiful thing. I started to see the steps everywhere. EVERYWHERE. In everybody around me, in me, in my interactions with other people. I saw them as opportunities. If something happens, I’d think, Hey I get to be powerless right now, I have no control over it, that’s Step 1. Hey, I have this memory of something I did or said to someone back in my childhood and because I just saw them pop up on Facebook as a suggested friend well, ok, here’s an opportunity to work a Step 8 and 9 to make amends to them.
And I’ve done that a number of times. I’ve searched for people that I’ve remembered. Here I am praying and seeking personal revelation, that’s a Step 11 in action. I feel like when we initially work the 12 steps we do work them in order and for good reason. But once we have worked them and we adopt them into our daily lives, when people ask me, “What step are you working on?” I say all of them because I really am working on all of them all at the same time. And it’s beautiful because I don’t just work the 12 Steps now, I live them. They are part of me, they are my life. So all of them. There’s your answer.
The Atonement and the 12 Steps
Anne: That’s awesome! Well, it’s the “how”. It’s how to apply gospel, God-given principles in our lives.
Sidreis: They are often called “The Atonement for Dummies.” We just don’t get it, but it’s so easily broken up.
Anne: Well, I love in church when you’re in Sunday School and people say, “So how can we invite Christ into our lives?” People raise their hands and they always say, “Read the scriptures, pray, and go to church.” I’m going to start saying, “Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Step 4…” I mean it would take me a while. I’m sure they’d think, When is she going to get done saying step step step.
That is the “how.” And the “how” includes reading our scriptures. It includes prayer. It includes attending the temple. It includes these things, but there’s also these very real, tangible things that we can see, that we can do that will bring us closer to Christ.
Sidreis: To invite Christ is to invite love. Christ is love. And how do you do that? By connecting with group members and sharing your story and listening to their story. So that is inviting Christ into my life: it’s sharing my darkness with others at meetings. Getting Christ into our lives doesn’t have to look shiny-happy. Honestly admitting where we are isn’t always pretty. It’s not. So that to me is inviting Christ in. It’s beautiful.
Do The 12 Steps Have To Be Worked In Order?
Anne: I do encourage people, in their the first year of recovery, to definitely work the steps in order. I think that’s really important. Because knowing your life is unmanageable and feeling that honesty and humility and everything that comes with really being able to admit that helps you naturally move forward.
For example, Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7 bring you to a real place of humility and change in order to actually be able to do steps 8 and 9 with a humble heart. Before my rock bottom I thought “I worked recovery.” I thought I was working it because I was “working” step 12, but I had never done Step 6 and 7, like really, actually done them. I had just prayed and asked God to remove some things. For me, it’s just cyclical.
You have to develop at least some level of honesty and some level of humility. Before working the steps I think I was pretty honest for what I understood at the time, but now I feel I’m a lot more honest. And I was not humble. For sure. I was super, super prideful. And now I laugh at myself cause I say I am so proud of my humility now.
Sidreis: That’s funny. I’m proud of it, too.
Anne: I definitely think, Whoa, I didn’t even know what humility was and now I really feel it. You have to establish those basic levels of humility, of honesty, of trust, and they have to be pretty high basic levels and then once those basic levels have been established then they will continue to grow over time. But I think that first time is all about building a strong foundation.
Sidreis: Absolutely, yes, yes, yes! Well, and you think, Oh I’ve got this. I’ve had people come into group and be like, “Oh Step 8 and 9 I can do that.” And they are brand new to group and they are going out and apologizing to everybody and everything they’ve done. And those people are like, “How dare you ask for my forgiveness when I haven’t even seen any change in you.” You know? So yeah, there is definitely a reason to do it in order.
It benefits us and it benefits everyone around us as well. I’m totally going to go back and do another Step 4 and 5. I’m finding that there are some people coming back on my list. I want to take time to be very thoughtful and prayerful about it. It’s peeling an onion. So if we get to a layer of onion that’s especially aromatic, I want to peel that one slowly and carefully. We work with Heavenly Father and say, “Heavenly Father, for my Step 4 and 5 please bring to remembrance those things that will benefit my recovery so that I can give them to you.”
Or for 6 and 7 I ask, “What character weaknesses are getting in my way of our relationship right now? Please bring them to the forefront of my mind so I can ask you to turn them into strengths, and so that I can recognize them and work on them and refine them.” The first time we do 8 and 9 our list will not be 100% complete because I feel like we only put people on our list who are going to benefit from it. Some people we are not supposed to contact at that time, so later on more people will come to mind. And we do the steps again.
Is There A Time-Table For The Steps?
Anne: It’s interesting how 8 and 9 are in the Lord’s time. You can work them, but you have to have patience and humility. Whereas with the other steps you can ask God for help and move forward in them. It takes work, and you can do that work. But 8 and 9 are almost asking for God’s grace in His time.
Sidreis: We have to allow Him time to prepare those at the other end, too. Ultimately it’s not just about, “Oh I said sorry.” It’s not about that. It’s about each other’s healing. Optimal healing on both parts. And sometimes that’s the ideal. We hope that hearts will heal, but that doesn’t’ necessarily mean we have to trust people again or even be friends with them. It’s about not having hate, resentment, and anger towards them anymore. We can wish them well and mean it.
Anne: Genuinely feel that charity towards them. Well thank you for coming on today, Sidreis.
Sidreis: I’m happy to be here.