May 24, 2021

12 Steps to Help us Let Go of our Grief & Trauma.


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I guess you could say I don’t do things half-assed.

I drank and drugged until at 21 I came skidding into the rooms of AA. I was court-ordered. I didn’t like it or know it at the time, but it was the intervention that I needed.

I had no idea what the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous were, but they were read aloud at each meeting and on the wall clearly for anyone to see—not that they make any sense when your brain is full of the mush that is called early sobriety.

I decided to go hard that year and with eight months of sobriety, I got pregnant (surprise) with a guy in AA. We decided to get married to do the right thing. He proposed at Cannon Beach while I was seven-months pregnant, and then we thought, what the hell! Let’s get married! We got married in June, three weeks before our baby was due in July.

Shortly after we had our bundle, we bought a house. We had one car, so we took turns going to our individual meetings.

To say this was a whirlwind was an understatement. Our lives drastically changed in a couple of short years.

But the bonus was that we had these people rooting for us and these steps on the wall that helped us learn to “Let Go and Let God, Keep it Simple,” and we prayed daily that God would grant us the Serenity.

Fast forward 23 years, and we are both still sober. We’ve got this 21-year-old son who has never seen his parents drink.

But like I said, I don’t do anything half-assed. We got a divorce when our little guy was seven and have remained close friends, but he got remarried, and then I met someone shortly after.

I got pregnant (surprise), and we moved in together, but I wasn’t going to get married when I looked like a hippo again (live and learn).

My new guy and I had a baby the first year we were dating and moved in together.

Fast forward 12 years. We’ve got this 11-year-old who has never seen his parents drink.

There came a time in AA when meetings were still important, but there were deeper issues. I was sober, but I needed more.

I had come from a family of alcoholics. My mom had passed while I was pregnant this last time. I had unresolved grief and trauma. I couldn’t hold it together anymore.

I found meetings for Adult Children of Alcoholics and looked at those same steps again to heal my past and make peace with my childhood. I shared things I had never felt safe talking about with anyone. I came clean about how I had been dragging around these feelings of unworthiness for years. I think I was even dragging past generations’ shame around as well.

I am in the process of working the 12 steps in ACOA and came across this passage:

“Grief: The Onion and Time.

Every adult child has unexpressed grief, which is usually represented by the symptoms of depression, lethargy, or forms of dissociation. The grief we speak of in ACA is the cumulative loss of childhood. Grief is loss that is stuck beneath denial, willful forgetting, and the fear of being perceived as dramatizing the past. Grief is the built up defeats, slights, and neglect from childhood. We carry this grief with us as we create careers, raise families, or trudge through life as best we can.”

I do believe I was trying to manage well. I felt like if everything was okay on the outside that I was okay. I had feelings of deep sadness trying to come up and out, but I would eat them away or buy myself something new. I didn’t want to face the pain of my truth. The denial and dissociation were real.

The book Twelve Steps of Adult Children Steps Workbook goes on to say,

“Keeping ourselves busy or focusing on others seems to help us avoid looking at our childhood grief/loss, but it is there.”

So the 12 steps have come to the rescue for me again. I have used them in other programs, such as Al-Anon (for codependency and Debtors Anonymous for overspending). They use these same steps in Overeaters Anonymous too.

If you’ve never seen them, here they are:

The Twelve Steps are a set of guiding principles in addiction treatment that outline a course of action for tackling problems including alcoholism, drug addiction, and compulsion.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” 

They won’t make a lot of sense at first, but I am always here as a resource if there are questions.

Quitting anything that has become a habit isn’t easy, especially when there are not yet outward consequences of the use or it helps distract us from bigger issues. Our pain doesn’t want to be shoved down anymore. It’s time to come clean. We are worth it.

We can’t do this alone, though. It’s important to find others walking this path. There are Zoom meetings for just about any recovery program. You don’t even have to put on pants.



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