12 Step Programs Aren’t Therapy


A semi driver gave me this token. I gave him candy; he gave me what he had on hand — a Cracker Jack prize. It made me laugh. I hadn’t thought of those…well, since I quit eating Cracker Jacks as a kid. Obviously, he has hung onto a more youthful diet! 

Sometimes I think going to a 12 Step meeting is a little like opening a box of Cracker Jacks! What’s inside? What do I get?

My prize at recovery meetings, however, ought to be no surprise. I should expect:

  • Discussion of how the Steps lead to a spiritual solution for all problems 
  • Visible proof that God has lifted the obsession (to drink, gamble, shop, argue, talk, caretake, be right, control others, etc)  from those who get to Step 10
  • Warnings that to give up on the work of my recovery means that chronic obsessions of some kind may return
  • Opportunities to share what I’ve been given and, at least, one good belly laugh per meeting
  • Observations that practicing the principles of this spiritual program lead to a serene and productive life
  • Opportunities to rub shoulders with some of the kookiest, most interesting and intelligent people I’ve met

Sometimes I get no prize:

  • People talking about outside issues: politics, in-laws, personal relationships, legal troubles and family problems
  • Drama of the ‘reality show’ variety
  • Whining that rises to a near deafening high pitch
  • Autobiographical war stories without a plot… or market

The meetings are not therapy. They’re either a get-together celebrating a recovery program that works… or they’re just bad drama. At worst they’re the excuse for a newbie to go back out and continue in addiction… which for most of us leads to some form of insanity and even death. Meetings can stop the insanity, but it depends on your choice of meetings. I wish it weren’t such a surprise.

If you want the program of recovery, not drama, start going to more text-based meetings. No surprise there!