In the world of substance abuse treatment, it is easy to find passionate debate over the efficacy of 12-step programs. It is difficult to track outcomes of a program that keeps no formal records or documentation of its participants. Regardless of your opinion, there are principles taught in 12-step programs that are crucial to a flourishing life in recovery and positive mental health. Understanding and implementing the concepts of surrender, connection, community, and anonymity can provide a solid foundation for building a beautiful and sober life.

What It Means To Surrender

The idea of surrender is often met with resistance in early recovery because it is misunderstood. Walking through the door of a treatment center or attending a 12-step meeting requires a person to surrender. The idea that you can’t live this way any longer is the first glimpse of understanding what it means to surrender. Courage goes hand-in-hand with surrender. It takes courage to finally say, “I can’t keep fighting to stay loaded or drunk.” Understanding that you will never win the fight to live a manageable life while using drugs or alcohol is a great place to start your recovery.

What It Means To Connect

It has been said that “the opposite of addiction is connection.” It is clear that recovery is not possible in isolation. As human beings, we crave connection, and a meaningful life requires having relationships. Isolation is a red flag for relapse and often sighted as part of anyone’s relapse cycle. One of the gifts in recovery is connection and community. We don’t have to do it alone and should seek to become part of a community. Embracing the recovery community will enhance our recovery and help others on their journey to a meaningful life.

What It Means To Be Anonymous

I often find myself explaining the concept of anonymity to people in early recovery. This term is complex and important to understand. Anonymity is defined by the dictionary as:

  • 1: the quality or state of being anonymous; i.e., enjoyed the anonymity of life in a large city;
  • 2: one that is anonymous; i.e., a crowd of faceless anonymities

The concept of anonymity is much more than the privacy of attending 12-step meetings. It is actually the idea that we are part of a group with common goals. We are one of many, where no individual is better than their fellow group member. When we understand that we are not the center of the universe and that we are better when we are part of something bigger, our paradigm shifts. Our experience in the depths of addiction is not uncommon, and many people have made lasting changes to their lives. Anonymity allows us to be humble, teachable, and unashamed of our past.

Recovery is about building a meaningful life. It is about becoming the individuals we are meant to be. In a world where so many of us find ourselves lost and far from the path we envisioned for ourselves, recovery is a chance at a better life. Surrender, connection, community, and anonymity provide the basis for a life better than we ever thought possible.

About the Author

Rich McDonald, CMHC, is Wasatch Crest’s Clinical Director. As the leader of Wasatch Crest’s clinical program, Rich has created a clinical culture that empowers clients to rewrite their stories and develop meaningful lives. Rich brings over 25 years of leadership experience and ten years working in the recovery community.

Leading with respect, accountability, and acceptance, Rich embodies Wasatch Crest’s human-centric treatment approach. He’s passionate about incorporating nature into recovery and is dedicated to helping clients build lives worth staying sober for.

Rich is an avid trail runner and has successfully competed in many marathons, ultra marathons, and 100-mile trail races.

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