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Personal Responsibility & The 12-Steps by Lauren Christiansen

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Jennifer knew that she had to get sober. She couldn’t continue to drink alcohol and maintain her marriage and keep her children. But every time she got sober for a few months, she experienced intense periods of anger. She was angry at her parents for how they raised her. She was angry at the job that fired her. She was angry at her friends who had abandoned her. Some of her feelings were justified, but she knew that others were unreasonable and immature. So, she continued to drink because it was easier than confronting that type of suppressed rage.

The 12 steps are a life-long process that encourages one to take personal responsibility for their actions. For many of us, those two words can cause us to cringe. It’s especially difficult if we had events happen to us that were out of our control, such as abuse or neglect. How can we take responsibility for those things? How is that even fair?

Taking responsibility to recover from addiction does not mean that we negate the wrong that was done to us, nor does it mean that we are “taking the blame.” We are not excusing bad behavior or inhumane treatment. Rather, we take responsibility for those things which are under our control, and learn to let go of those that are not. It’s a very difficult process that challenges our identity and causes us to confront situations and people that we wanted no part of. Though taking responsibility is hard, it’s the only way to truly recover and look for a way forward. Here’s the benefits of taking responsibility:

1. You Become More Confident

Moving from a “victim” mentality to a “empowered” mentality helps us to learn confidence and increase our self-respect. For many of us who have struggled with addiction, we lost the power of choice. Taking responsibility puts the power of choice back in our hands. We can choose to get better. We can choose to take the steps needed to let go of some of this anger. We can take responsibility for some of the wrongs we have committed, and we can choose to let go of those wrongs that were done to us.

2. You Learn to Laugh at Yourself

Taking responsibility means that we accept the humanity in us. We are not perfect, and are therefore bound to make mistakes. Because we make mistakes, we have the choice to amend them and make them right. Or we can become defensive and blame someone else for our mistakes. Taking ourselves less seriously and learning to accept our imperfections is one of the best benefits of personal responsibility. It’s ok to take a deep-breath and say, “it’s ok, I’m human.”

3. People Respect You

Those who take responsibility for themselves are more respected by others. They are seen as mature and confident, willing to acknowledge their own faults and learn from them. Utilizing assertive skills instead of anger can help win people over and convey your own emotions in a rational way.

4. You Become a Role Model

No matter how far you have fallen into addiction, everyone loves a comeback story. Who doesn’t like hearing about the person who lost everything and gained back everything? When you become responsible for your own life, you create a positive energy around you that others look up to. They see the change in you and want to know the secrets to your success. You may be able to help someone with their addiction problems.

Getting Help for Relinquishing Anger

Though the 12-steps are very useful for confronting addiction, some of us have struggled with very serious problems. Some of us have been abused, neglected, or ignored. Learning to confront these difficult circumstances and making peace with them is a very intense, challenging process that usually needs counseling on top in addition to the 12-steps. Finding a therapist who can help you work through these issues can be tremendously beneficial towards your recovery.

Do you struggle with anger and feelings of unhappiness? Are you confronting an addiction? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.

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