Friday, December 9, 2011

12 Step Recovery by Michael Logan

12 Step Recovery has been a path to recovery for tens of thousands of addicts of every stripe since the mid-1930's. I have watched many folks walk the the 12 step recovery path successfully, and I have watched many fall from the path with tragic results.

I have watched many different people work the 12 steps at their own pace, with their own understanding of the language and requirements, and achieve their own version of recovery.

I think continued practice of the steps reveals deeper understandings of personal spiritual truths, so as they say at meetings, keep coming back and keep practicing the steps.

Early in my experience of the steps, the 11th step was extremely important, as I could change my body from stressed to relaxed with a prayer, and the phrase "Gratitude is the Attitude" helped me remember and still helps me to remember that many are far worse off than I am.

While the Promises of AA were very helpful to read, for a long time, while I hoped for them to manifest in my life, I was simply doing a 12 step recovery program to not get drunk again.

Gradually I began to realize that not getting drunk again was different than creating recovery. The prior strategy was fear based, stress hormone based, requiring constant vigilance for the slightest sign of relapse, while the latter strategy was hopeful, excited, curious, open, affiliative, and cooperative, ready to do some 12th step work when asked and so forth.

And other steps began to take on some depth for me.

For example, I began to understand that the amends steps were not about apologies, they were about accountability, about the choices I made and the consequences I created for others.

Later on, I realized that the 12th Step was about offering choice, rather than indicating that I was the bearer of divine truth, so hopefully you are getting a sense of how your experience of 12 Step recovery can mature through regular practice.

In my efforts to stay sober, I looked at many authors and many tools to enhance my 12 step recovery program, and I think that is a good idea.

Most recently, in the last couple of years I have discovered information about two capacities of the human brain, one of which was undiscovered when I began this journey, and that capacity is called neurogenesis,or the daily growth of new neurons, and while there was information available about neuroplasticity, or the brains ability to reorganize itself within minutes of learning something new, that capacity of the human and the 12 Step Recovery Process is really getting studied now.

So guess what folks, I am learning how to attend to the Pillars of Brain Fitness so that my neurogenesis and neuroplasticity are maximized.

What are the pillars of brain fitness and how do they coincide with a 12 step recovery program?

The pillars of brain fitness are physical exercise, nutrition, including lots of omega 3 fatty acid and antioxidants, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences.

The more I take care of my brain, like work it out, the better it does with a 12 step recovery program.

And then of course, you learn that relapse and recovery and attitudes of gratitude and emotions and prayers happen at least twice as fast as you can blink your eyes, which is 1/10th of a second, so you recommit to your brain fitness and your recovery program thought by thought and heart beat by heart beat, and you become more confident that you will stay aware and choosing wisely about your thoughts and feelings.

So maybe you have never thought of a 12 step recovery program occurring in increments as brief as heart beats or thoughts, and you would like to use some tools that give you some practice in that arena.

Well the scientists are helping out with that, providing us with some excellent computerized brain fitness tools which fit nicely in the novel learning experience of brain fitness.

Not only have the scientists uncovered neuroplasticity and neurogenesis tools, but they are refining brain wave and heart rate variability tools which can help us explore 12 step recovery in cycles per second, which is the speed at which brain waves are measured, or heart beat by heart beat, which is the rate at which heart rate variability is measured.

So I can use technology to amplify a 12 step recovery path? Sure can. Research is showing that our brains are incredibly plastic, and if one part is damaged, another part can take over the function of the damaged part, so do your steps and take care of the pillars of brain fitness.