The Proactive Twelve Steps For Mindful Recovery
Millions of people credit the Twelve Steps for their recovery from addiction to alcohol and other substances. But the original 12 steps are not a list of instructions specific to substance abuse or addiction. They describe a path toward self-discovery and personal growth. This is what I find very inspiring.
I believe that, as we develop a deeper sense of who we truly are, we increase our ability to lead a more fulfilling life. This, in turn, makes it easier to make difficult changes.
This site is a 12 steps online workbook. You will find here the traditional wording of the 12 steps together with an original approach: the "Proactive Twelve Steps".
With this different wording of the Steps, and the accompanying commentary, my goal is to describe the “steps” as a self-directed process—as opposed to a mystical process in which change somehow happens to you. This is about how you can take a proactive role in your growth as a person. This is meant for all people who seek wholeness in their lives, and are not necessarily dealing with alcoholism or addiction.
I originally wrote these steps for people who, like me, were not part of the “twelve steps” culture. Over time, many people involved in 12 steps recovery have told me that they find inspiration in these “proactive steps”: Not necessarily as a replacement for the wording they are so familiar with, but as a way to gain a new perspective on it.
This down-to-earth approach describes a path that is meaningful regardless whether your orientation is humanist, secular (non-religious) or spiritual or religious.
I am inviting you to see the "proactive 12 steps" as a process of self exploration. I suggest you read each step as an invitation to a dialogue, as opposed to a directive that is carved in stone. Take a moment to see what comes up for you as you read each step. Not just logical thought: Let yourself be curious about the felt sense of it. In other words, be prepared that much of what comes up may be murky. It's not a problem, it's actually great: "Murky" is an invitation to explore further, as opposed to "case closed".
This process is about gaining wisdom. The goal is not to memorize the 12 steps as they are written here. It is to use these steps to develop your ability to bring a mindful quality to your life. Mindfulness is not a mysterious, mystical quality. It is just the opposite of mindlessness. It means you are engaged with what happens in your life. You are connected to your feelings, you reflect on what happens, and you learn from that.
Reflecting on each step is not just a way to better understand the step. It is a way to practice a reflective, mindful orientation toward felt experience. This is what you cultivate in order to be more present in your life, which means: You experience each situation with an ability to feel and think, to notice that there may be ways of reacting to it differently from your habitual knee-jerk reactions, and to grow from that experience.
It is good to be open to whatever may come up. It may also be helpful to prompt your curiosity by asking yourself a few questions, for instance:
- If I close my eyes, and try to remember the gist of the step, what comes up?
- Does this make sense to me?
- If it makes sense to me, what is it specifically that make sense?
- If it doesn't make sense to me, what is it that doesn't?
- What situations does it remind me of?
- What is it that I might do differently in these situations, based on my reactions to the step?
- How would it feel inside to act this way?
Proactive 12 steps is part of the LifeSherpa ® project
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