Tool 15: 12 Step Phone Conferences
Introduction to the 12-Step Program
David Hamelech says in Tehillim (13): "Ad ana ashis eitzos binafshi - until when will I try different tactics?"..."ad ana yarum oivi alai" - until when will my enemy rule over me?"... "Habita aneini Hashem Elokai, ha'eira ainai pen ishan hamaves - look and help me, Hashem my Lord, enlighten my eyes lest I sleep the death".
If we feel like these Pesukim were written for us because:
- we've tried every tactic in the handbook till here, yet we still keep falling back into the same pattern,
- we see we cannot do this alone anymore,
- and lastly - but most importantly, we feel that we will "sleep the death" as Dovid Hamelech says, if we don't succeed;
then we have "hit bottom" and we are at the first of the 12 Steps, which states:
"We admitted we were powerless over the addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable".
The 12-Step program, if internalized properly, has consistently proven to be the most powerful approach to breaking free of addictions, all over the world. The 12 Steps are a spiritual program to overcoming addiction that is based on three core principles: (1) Trusting G-d, (2) Cleaning House and (3) Helping Others.
The 12 Steps are built on spiritual principles that are fundamental to ALL religions. Some religious Jews find it hard to accept that they will be learning from non-Jews how to give their life over to Hashem. But this Pasuk in Koheles 7:29 perhaps says it best: "asher asa haElokim es ho'odom yoshor, veheima bikshu cheshbonos rabbim - G-d has created man straight, yet they have sought many complications".
The 12 Steps are the ABC's of being a human being, created in the image of G-d. And we can learn these ABC's from any human being who has lifted himself up above the level of "animal" and seeks to be a humble servant of G-d, regardless of the nuances of the particular religion he may follow. One religious long-time 12-Stepper uses the following metaphor: Often as frum Yidden who are keeping Torah and Mitzvos while acting out in our addiction, we are like someone riding an 18-Wheeler truck that is careening out of control! Instead, we need to get off the 18-Wheeler and get back onto a tricycle again; simple, slow, safe and real.
Technically, the meetings are secular; spiritual but not religious. The program doesn't teach us anything at all about G-d. Instead, it teaches us about ourselves, and somehow that helps us to let G-d in.
At the Agudah Convention in New York (in November of 2009), Rabbi Twerski spoke about the 12 step programs, saying “they work" and denied that they have a Christian component. Each of the steps they entail, he said, "is in Chazal”. Rabbi Twerski also wrote a book called “Self Improvement? I’m Jewish” which shows how the 12 Steps can be found in Chazal. There’s also a great article called “Addiction & Recovery Through Jewish Eyes” by Carol Glass, which compares the 12-Step program to the Teshuvah Templates of the Rambam and Rabbeinu Yonah, finding remarkable similarities.
Many religious Jews who have joined this program have achieved not only recovery from their addiction, but amazing success in all areas of their lives.