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The Bergand Group – October 2015 Newsletter

Five Underlying Principles in the Twelve Steps

SteinbergBy John Steinberg, MD – Medical Director, The Bergand Group

In my last newsletter article, I alluded to the five underlying principles of the Twelve Steps, which some secular advocates of the twelve step programs employ as a non-theological, non-spiritual Higher Power. The utility of this approach is not limited to the secular clientele. Indeed, I find that this explanation of, this approach to understanding the Twelve Steps has great usefulness to all our clients, whether they wish to approach their recovery from a theological, spiritual, or secular foundation.

The five principles and the relevant steps are as follows:

  • Identity: 1-3
  • Insight: 4-5
  • Change: 6-7
  • Responsibility: 8-9
  • Continuity: 10-12

Everyone has certain “core identities” which influence our approach to our work and to our lives. These identities can include such things as our gender, our ethnicity, our country of citizenship, the fact that we are members of the species Homo sapiens, etc. For some people, there is the “core identity” of having a chronic disease which must be managed on a daily basis. A Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetic can never “forget” that he or she needs insulin, must check his or her blood sugar, must carefully monitor food intake and type, etc. So too, the alcoholic or addict who ever “forgets” that he or she is an alcoholic or addict is in grave peril of relapse. The steps that secure one’s identity in this regard are:

  • One – we know what’s wrong- we are alcoholics
  • Two – we know a way out
  • Three – we make a conscious decision to follow that path
  • The sum and substance of these steps secures one’s identity as an alcoholic or addict in need of continuous, ongoing, life-long recovery.

The processes of rigorous introspective insight and the commitment to change at a fundamental level are embodied in Steps 4 and 5, and in Steps 6 and 7 respectively. These processes are best undertaken with one’s sponsor or other trusted guide and mentor, clergy, or therapist.

Steps 8 and 9 are the very essence of responsibility. each recovering person, within the twelve step programs is tasked with identifying the damage done and rectifying to the extent possible, by “direct amends” that damage. Responsibility for one’s actions and their consequences is a fundamental element of the twelve step programs. There are no “free passes” to recovery.

The principle of continuity- emphasizing the life-long nature of this chronic disease- and the recovery there from, albeit on a one day at a time basis, are encompassed by Steps 10, 11, and 12 as follows, giving a brief synopsis of the essence of each of those three steps:

  • Step 10: stay on track
  • Step 11: stay in touch
  • Step 12: use the skills acquired thus far in every aspect of one’s life.

Thus, irrespective of one’s approach to life and to recovery, whether deeply religious, spiritual, or secular, communicating a basic understanding of what is to be accomplished in these programs, to the clients/patients who are referred by us to the twelve step programs is very useful, if not essential. I have found that this road map, in simple terms, helps introduce those who have never benefited from AA or NA to these programs and has as well, in my clinical experience, been useful to those who are returning to recovery after relapse.

John R. Steinberg, MD
Medical Director, Co-Founder
The Bergand Group

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