March 8, 2012

12 Steps For “Normal” People. ~ Herb Deer

Photo: Alan Cleaver




Issues with lust, power, control, drugs, etc., do not simply go away by themselves after some experience of oneness or enlightenment or God! It takes a lot of self-reflection, conscious “letting go” and the ability to ask for help and apologize, regularly.

Who said normal people can’t work the 12 steps?

Just because these step are usually reserved for people who either sold their baby or their mother on Ebay for another fix doesn’t mean you “normal” people can’t get help too!

The beauty of these steps is that what they really do is help us see we’re trying to control things we can’t and help us let and ask for help, take responsibility and apologize when we screw up! Who would have imagined that apologizing was a spiritual practice?

This has less to do with hard core addiction and everything to do with ego! Which applies to everyone—especially assholes!

And of course, if by now you have not gotten the irony of the word “normal” then these steps will be perfect for you!

In examples of public people who act out in weird ways, such as priests, teachers and spiritual leaders, there is always some compulsive/addictive issues that could have been resolved with some simple step work.

I worked the steps due to being addicted to drugs, alcoholic, sex and food.

They helped me a lot, not the drugs, the steps. Now all my normal friends are jealous because I’m so much happier and stable then they are, so I thought I’d try to help them too, even though they don’t qualify for an addictive program.

Before I became a teacher, when I saw silly behavior or heard stories about Zen masters, I wondered how a Zen teacher could act that way! Doesn’t enlightenment somehow protect us from being an addicted asshole? Well—no, actually, I’m sorry to say it doesn’t! But now I know why they acted that way because now I see that I wish I could act that way too. And if I’m not careful, I will. Sometimes it takes more than a spiritual practice to resolve all of our issues. Sometimes it takes two spiritual practices. This applies to all different religions and spiritual leaders who have fucked up! But more importantly, this applies to you and me.

Issues with lust, power, control, drugs, etc., do not simply go away by themselves after some experience of oneness or enlightenment or God! It takes a lot of self-reflection, conscious “letting go” and the ability to ask for help and apologize, regularly.

I have translated the 12 steps in the following way to be more palatable to “normal“ people:

1) Admit I have issues and im unhappy because of them

2) Believe I can heal if I let go and ask for help

3) Let go of “control”

4) List all resentments I have caused or have gotten, list my part in them and my issues/triggers

5) Share this list with someone

6) List my emotional issues and triggers

7) Ask for help with these issues

8 ) List all the people I’ve hurt

9) Apologize to them

10) Do all these things regularly

11) Meditate/pray

12) Help others

Good luck! Look for a meeting popping up near you and “Like” our 12 Steps For “Normal” People!


Editor: Kelly Brichta


Herb Eko Deer is a Zen teacher at Sweetwater Zen Center in National City, CA near San Diego. He’s been sober since 2004, and grew up in Dallas, TX. He incorporates these 12 steps into his Zen teaching, as well as martial arts.





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Andrea Dec 30, 2015 1:44am

I am member of Nar Anon. It is a 12 step program for family and friends of addicts. I have learned so much about myself and the people in general. Since the program is done at my own pace and in own time I have the freedom to take my recovery in any direction I choose.
My conclusion: The majority of people suffer from a disease called neurosis.it is basically a disease of the ego. It’s cause is trauma we’ve lived since the womb and possibly past lives. It affects the way we think which in turn affects every aspect of our being. Neurosis is passed down through generations. My family member’s addiction did not cause my problems. They have always been there
My family member’s addiction was the magnifying glass that made my problems impossible to ignore and hide.
Some of the ways the disease manifests are, and one or a combination of thousands of behavioral and psycological disorders such as, drug abuse, gambling, hoarding, codependency, controlling behaviors, douchebaggery etc…
The best way known for releiving these symptoms of the disease is by working a 12 step program.There are over 300 different 22 strep programs to choose from. If done right you will learn to keep your ego in check and change negative actions into positive actions that work.
My life has improved exponentially as I continue my journey and I feel very fortunate to have found Nar Anon. It has helped me improve every facet of my life, not just my addiction to rescuing my addict.
In the 12 step program the 2nd step introduces us to a higher power. The second step was the pivotal step in my recovery. I could discover a higher power of my own understanding to help me with my journey.
I didn’t see any mention of one in the steps in this article.
I think that since there are so many programs to choose from, people who are “normal” can find one which suits them and their specific area of need. Although I enjoyed your article and you are a good writer, I feel that there is so much more to be gained from a program that cannot happen simply by reading. I think it’s important to live it.

Kelly Dec 30, 2015 1:32am

I’ve heard it said in “the rooms,” and completely agree myself, that everyone (even “normal” people) could benefit from working the 12 Steps. However, I feel that your rewording has stripped them of their true intent of “trust God, clean house, help others.” I can understand a reinterpretation of step one, but no matter what, it boils down to powerlessness and unmanageabilty. The rest of the steps are exact instructions on how to regain that personal power, especially, as it’s been pointed out, step 9, which is not about being sorry, but about being accountable. I hope, for anyone who is truly interested in a spiritual awakening as experienced by millions of recovering alcoholics, addicts, and their families worldwide (afterall, these steps are also used by Alan-ons), they will seek out the original 12 Steps, which can be found by simply typing those words into any search engine. Fourteen years ago, those steps saved my life. I promise you, “normal” or not, they can help you, too, if you are honest, open-minded, and willing. And please remember this, anywhere it says the word God, it really means, insert a Higher Power of your choice. Good luck on your journey xo

Nola E Kent Dec 29, 2015 8:21pm

Being a member of several 12 step programs since December 1981, I believe all humans could benefit from the directions and lessons of these steps, I often talked about putting the steps in all schools as the Big Book is actually a textbook, and what awesome principals our children could learn from these directions for living. I enjoyed your article and have shared it. Thank you and “keep on trudgin”

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