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Exploring Recovery Beyond the 12-Step Program

Apr 20, 2021

Cara O’Neill | Corporate Director of Alumni Services

Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for the 12-Step program that saved my life. Because of this program, I have been clean and sober for over 15 years, and I have a strong relationship with my Higher Power. The program gave me more than I thought was possible, but it did not give me everything I needed for my mental health.

I remember being in a meeting early in my sobriety and hearing a peer say, “You can’t 4th Step trauma, and that’s why I see a therapist.”

Now, this is a very general statement, but I can see some truth in it. Some people can resolve their trauma through the 12-Steps, but many others cannot. Some people in recovery need more. They need to supplement the 12-Step program with psychiatry, therapy, workshops, and support groups.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

I received clinical services from day one of my sobriety.

I was able to attend treatment, and I stayed in clinical services of one form or another for the first nine months of my recovery. Around this time, I went to see my individual therapist as usual, and when the session was over, my therapist told me that I didn’t need to make another appointment at this time. I was in shock. She told me to continue working the 12-Steps and call her when I need her. I am grateful for this experience. Years later, after a series of failed relationships, I made that call. That action changed my life.

At that time, I found myself wondering, “Why are other people in the 12-Step program happy, joyous, and free when I am not?”

When I hit that point in my recovery, I could relate to being free from the obsession, but I could not relate to feeling joy. Why couldn’t I feel what everyone else was experiencing? I was doing the Steps as outlined in the book. I had a sponsor, and I was sponsoring others. I was engaged in daily prayer, meditation, and evening review. What is wrong? Well, it turns out that I needed outside help.

Human beings come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. We are different, and that is a good thing.

Some of us have more complex mental illnesses than others in the 12-Step program. Yes, we are all related by addiction, but some people also suffer from depression, bipolar, trauma, anxiety, and mental illness. Others have complicated personal or family histories. The treatment for these illnesses and experiences can range from residential treatment to individual therapy. Whatever the issue, action should be taken. If you are someone facing similar issues, please don’t suffer because you think it is wrong to seek outside help or mistakenly believe that the 12-Step program should solve all of your problems. Do the work in the 12-Step program and seek outside help when you need it. Remember the Big Book states:

“God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons.”

Stay close to your Higher Power and ask your Higher Power in your morning meditation for direction. If you are connected, the answers will come. The next step is action. This action can be the step that leads you to the true joy you seek.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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