It is said that only those who are truly desperate will ever end up doing the entire 12 Step recovery process from beginning to end. Desperate for what you may ask? Desperate for a new way of life.
I asked my best friend a few weeks ago, how many sponsees of his have fully completed the entire 12 Step recovery process in his almost 28 years of sobriety. He guessed somewhere between 20 to 30, which is out of what I’d say is well over 500 people by now that he’s ever sponsored. Personally, I’ve sponsored well over 100 individuals now myself in the years I’ve been doing this 12 Step recovery process, and can count on two hands the number of people who’ve actually completed the work.
I provide these unsettling statistics because most really aren’t desperate enough to finish the 12 Step recovery process after a few months of sobriety and stability get under their belt. The sad reality is that most individuals when they first make their way into the rooms of recovery are only desperate until whatever drove them into the rooms gets resolved or calms down enough for them to start focusing their energy elsewhere.
Quite recently, I had to let a sponsee go for this reason. They started out in total desperation with a desire to do this 12 Step recovery process and for the first three to four months, they proved that week in and week. At some point though, their work, relationship, family, a new home, and more began to take higher precedence, all of which ironically were in dire jeopardy of being lost when they started out with me. But, once those things no longer seemed to be in serious jeopardy and once their life began to feel far more stable, I watched as they slowly pushed the step work aside more and more. After several months went by with no real progress being made on their step work and constant promises that they’ll eventually get it done, I realized I could no longer be held hostage when so many others were still out there desperate for a solution.
When I first came to 12 Step recovery, I was 100% desperate for a solution. When a woman saw that fire in my eyes, she took me under her wing and brought me through the 12 Step recovery process. And even when my life started to get calmer and more stable, I clearly remembered how desperate my life was before the work, so I stuck with it and that desperation is precisely what powered me through to the end of the work.
I’ve learned in all the years since, that being desperate truly is the key to doing the 12 Step recovery work and sticking with it till the end. That’s why I had to cut my sponsee loose because they no longer were desperate enough to be driven to do this work and instead, were making excuses to getting it done.
The fact is, it’s desperation that drives a person to do just about anything. But when life provides a person the things they desire, like a good job with good pay, a great partner, a wonderful family, a beautiful home, etc., there begins to not be the need for the 12 Step recovery process, because it’s then that feeling of desperation starts to go away. I know this oh so well because I spent the first twelve years of my sobriety having everything I wanted in life and thus never feeling desperate enough to do the 12 Step recovery process. It was only after I lost a seven-year relationship, a business, my mental and emotional health, and my home, that I became desperate enough for this work. And when life started to get better again for me, because it eventually did, I didn’t lose that feeling of desperation, because I forced myself to constantly remember all the pain I had gone through prior. For those who aren’t desperate enough to complete the 12 Step recovery process though, the tragic reality is that they tend to relapse. Why? Because they start believing their life is more important than their recovery, which is the very thing that leads them away from this work. But, my door always remains open for those who are desperate.
What does desperation look like? Well, sometimes, it looks like a person knocking on my front door at 11:30pm on a weeknight, where I welcome a person into my kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee and a shoulder to lean on while they cry. I only wish when that type of desperation comes, that I could bottle it up, so it could be returned when things get better for them, to help remind the person how bad it once was.
Nevertheless, the 12 Step recovery process is ultimately only for those who are totally desperate, desperate for a new way of life, and desperate enough to stick around, even when life begins to get better. Because it always does, and when it does, it’s those who hold onto that desperation that tend to make it through, and I thank God for each of them, for I wouldn’t be here doing what I do today, even right here in this blog, if it wasn’t for them…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson