September 23, 2014
The 12-Step Healing Process for Survivors
This week, I am so excited to continue our series brought to us by Neil Brick, founder of the S.M.A.R.T (Stop Mind Control and Ritual Abuse Today) newsletter. This week, Neil talks with us his own personal journey of healing and how the 12-step program guided him in his recovery.
In the past, I attended a variety of 12-step programs to heal from addictions I had before I started the major part of my recovery years ago. During this presentation, I will be referring to the adapted 12 Steps of Survivors of Incest Anonymous. For more information on Survivors of Incest Anonymous, see http://www.siawso.org
Please note that the interpretation of the steps below is mine only, and not necessarily representative of S.I.A. or any other 12-step program.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over the abuse, the effects of the abuse, and that our lives had become unmanageable.
As a child abuse and ritual abuse survivor, it was very difficult for me to admit that I am powerless. The power over my body and my soul was taken away from me at a very young age. The last thing I wanted was to be powerless again. But I realized that this step meant something different. What it really meant was that I was powerless over what happened. As a young child, there was no way I could stop the abuse. I was powerless to stop the effects of the abuse and the problems the abuse caused for me internally.
Once I realized I was powerless, I could begin to let go of the guilt of the past abuse and heal and grow. I could take back the power from the abuser. I could become whole and healed and powerful in my own world.
It has always been easy for me to admit that years ago my life was unmanageable. The first time I went to 12-step meetings, I started to realize what a mess my life was. At the time, I was in the middle of many life changes. I was trying to rebuild my life and at the same time many memories of the abuse were coming up. My life was definitely unmanageable.
Step 2: Came to believe that a loving Higher Power, greater than ourselves, could restore hope, healing and sanity.
As a child abuse and ritual abuse survivor, this was a very difficult step for me. Most of the “higher powers” I had known in my life had hurt and abused me. It forced me to admit that there is a power greater than myself, something I did not want to admit. I did not trust any power greater than me. Now I realize that there is some sort of higher power, something that connects all of us that leads me to hope, healing and sanity. This helped me healed a lot. Now I have hope and feel stronger than I did years ago.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a loving Higher Power as we understood Her/Him.
It was one step to believe in a loving Higher Power. But it would take a much larger step of faith to turn my will and life over to that Higher Power. I still haven’t totally done this. At times, I still don’t trust that Higher Power. But in my stonger moments, I realize that the power that connects me to things is the right thing to follow. This doesn’t mean that I give up my individuality or soul, all it means is that I go with the flow of things and adapt to the world.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, the abuse and its effects on our lives. We have no more secrets.
The two times I did this step fully in my life, I made major growth steps in my life. By writing down my inventory and the things that had happened to me in my life, including the ritual abuse, I was able to see these things from a different perspective. I was able to see what I had gone through and concealed from the rest of myself. This tore down many internal walls and began a very big healing process. This helped me have no more secrets about myself.
Step 5: Admitted to a loving Higher Power, to ourselves and another human being our strengths and weaknesses.
Now that I had shared the terrors and the horrors of my life with another safe person, I was no longer alone. I told them all of my memories. I told them all of my fears. By sharing all this I was breaking one of the rules of the abusers, do not tell. But I did tell, and it made me stronger. It also made the world a safer place, because more people knew about child abuse and ritual abuse and it made it harder for the perpetrators of this abuse to continue practicing it in secret. I realized that nothing bad happened to me when I told. I was clearer-headed and was able to move forward in my recovery. It was all right if I had strengths and it was all right if I had weaknesses.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have a loving Higher Power help us remove all the debilitating consequences of the abuse and became willing to treat ourselves with respect, compassion and acceptance.
During the recovery process, the debilitating consequences of the abuse were gradually lifted. The personality defects that kept me separate from other people started to disappear. One problem after another was removed. Though I was unsure about a loving Higher Power, I was more sure that change was occurring. I was growing and healing.
It was more difficult to treat myself with respect, compassion and acceptance. For the longest time, I didn’t feel I deserved these. I felt that since I was forced as a young child to be a participant in child abuse and ritual abuse, I was evil and bad. It took me a long time to realize that I was forced as a child to do these things. I started to realize that I deserved to be loved by the world. I deserved to be respected and accepted by myself.
Step 7: Humbly and honestly asked a loving Higher Power to remove the unhealthy and self-defeating consequences stemming from the abuse.
I wanted to be released from the problems I had. I wanted to stop being so internally angry and tense. I suffered from these and other consequences of the abuse for many years. But I needed to ask somehow. I realize I did this even before I started having abuse memories. I wanted to know why my life was messed up. Why I was so unhappy. Why I was so tense and angry a lot of the time. I was tired of living this way. And the more I asked, and the more I worked on these problems constructively, the more I was released from these unhealthy consequences. By wanting to be released from these problems, I was asking. And I didn’t even need to direct my questions to a loving Higher Power. I just needed to ask. And after years and years of asking, I changed.
Step 8: Made a list of all the people we had harmed (of our own free will), especially ourselves and our inner child, and became willing to make amends to them all.
I did this years ago. The person that I hurt the most was myself. By continuing to live in the consequences of the abuse, I was continually hurting myself and others. It was never my intention to hurt anyone or myself. At the time, I didn’t even know I was causing myself or anyone else pain. But I was. I was willing to make amends.
Step 9: Made amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would result in physical, mental or emotional harm to ourselves or others.
I made amends to a lot of people when I was working the steps years ago. I wrote some and called others. If I felt it would hurt someone more than help them, I didn’t do it. I did it when I was sure emotionally it was the right thing to do.
Step 10: Continued to take responsibility for our own recovery, and when we found ourselves behaving in patterns still dictated by the abuse, promptly admitted it. When we succeeded, promptly enjoyed it.
Throughout the years of my recovery, I have learned that I need to take responsibility for my actions and when falling back into an old pattern, like holding a grudge or losing my temper, I admitted that it was an old pattern that I no longer needed. What has been more difficult for me has been to enjoy my successes. I am learning to do this now though. I need to be happy that I have succeeded and not fallen back into an old pattern again.
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with ourselves and a loving Higher Power, as we understood Her/Him, asking only for knowledge of Her/His will for us and the power and courage to carry that out.
This has been a difficult step for me to follow. I never believed in prayer. Whenever I prayed for something as a child, I usually didn’t get it. So I stopped overtly praying. But now I realize that prayer for me can also be wishing and hoping that things get better. Meditation has always been easier for me. Sitting and meditating has been a big help in my life. It has helped me prepare for some of the major steps of my recovery. I have found a sense of peace and quiet in meditation. By being able to quiet myself, I have been able to learn how to heal further. By quieting myself, I have been able to see which directions I needed to go in to help others and heal.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other survivors and practice these principles in all our endeavors.
By working the 12 steps, I realize that I have had a spiritual awakening. I have grown and healed tremendously in my recovery. I am now able to carry the message to other survivors. I have learned how to let go and let the healing process work for me. The newsletters, web pages, e-groups and conferences are all part of my carrying this message to other survivors.
Child abuse and ritual abuse survivors face other difficulties in 12-step programs. These include sharing in groups and sitting in circles. But these problems can also be overcome. It is incredibly powerful to be able to share in a group and stay present. This breaks the myth that one can’t discuss child abuse and ritual abuse, or they’ll be hurt. I have shared many times, and it has made me stronger.
Some 12-step local groups in various programs may be infiltrated by cults. I believe that in healthy groups, this will not be a major problem, since there are many examples of strong recovery already present. This is why it is important to support healthy ways of healing and for all survivors to continue becoming stronger.
I hope that this discussion of the 12-steps helps people in their recovery.
Neil Brick is an advocate and researcher for survivors of child abuse. He has worked for years to educate the public about child abuse. Neil Brick has written many research papers on child abuse issues, including his Master's thesis on how child abuse effects interpersonal relationships. Neil Brick runs several Internet lists to help survivors of child abuse and their supporters.
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