The 12 Steps: A Personal View


12 step


Aug 10, 2017

Theresa Collins

My story is not unlike many others. Just a good girl from New Jersey who found love in her relationship with heroin and completely ruined her life and those around her through her drug use. But that girl and that part of my life no longer define me. I am a person living in long term recovery and have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. While I don’t live a life beyond my wildest dreams (see last blog post before the judgment creeps in on my life at 9 years sober), I do live a life that is unbelievably fulfilling. I thought a unique way to share my story through this post would be to apply my life to the principles behind the 12 steps. The war stories mean nothing to me anymore. I am not the little girl living to get high and getting high to live. My body and my soul have recovered, thankfully to God, the 12 steps and the fellowship.


Most people know the basis of the 12 steps. Whether you have tried them or live them the majority are aware of what they say. What most people are not familiar with are the principles behind the 12 steps. There is a basic principle behind each one that sums up what lesson should be learned at each step. I took these basic principles and thought about the most important lesson I have learned over my last 9 years in my sobriety.


Step 1: Honesty

Being honest was something I was never very good at. I remember people first finding out that I was a drug addict and the amount of relief I felt. I had kept my using under a rock and while my family knew something was wrong, they didn’t know the extreme. Learning to get honest within the program has helped change my life. I can now be a good employee and faithful wife. Loyalty is important to me and learning to be loyal and honest to others has been a blessing.

Step 2: Hope

Hope was never anything I had. My biggest moment of hope in my life was brought to me through my second daughter. My husband and I had gone through a lot of infertility problems and I unfortunately had two miscarriages. I thought there was little hope for a second child. Until one night when I had this dream that I would have a daughter and she would be Hope; my hope for the future. Soon after we found out that we were pregnant again. In March, we welcomed a healthy little girl, Francesca Hope. Through my sobriety and that little girl, I have found my hope.

Step 3: Faith

Faith was never a real struggle for me. I believed in a higher power that I choose to call God. My faith has been tested and my faith has grown. The beauty of faith I have learned in sobriety is the sky is the limit, figuratively speaking. My faith is constantly changing and evolving. Different stages in my sobriety have called for different levels upon a reliance on God. I am grateful for the door my sobriety has opened up to have a deeper understanding of faith and God.

Step 4: Courage

Courage was the hardest one for me to write about. My brother is my best friend and in the military. When I think courage, I think of him. When my brother went to West Point to achieve his military dreams I felt like a failure. Here I was living a life driven by the use of drugs and here he was signing up to potentially go to war. If he had the courage to do that, I had the courage to get sober. The big book tells us, “Real men of faith have courage.” Belief in God, in something I couldn’t see and a concept that I had failed to live by was the real courage I needed. Men (and of course women!) in uniform have courage and those of real faith have courage.


 My faith is constantly changing and evolving. Different stages in my sobriety have called for different levels upon a reliance on God. I am grateful for the door my sobriety has opened up to have a deeper understanding of faith and God.


Step 5: Integrity

The definition of integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Integrity was something I was raised with and was imbedded in me. 12 years of catholic school will have anyone on their best moral uprightness. My addiction lead me down a path of no morals or integrity. Learning to be a decent person and learning to treat others respectfully was something I needed to learn in recovery as if I was never taught it in my life. One of my main objectives of getting clean was to be a person of integrity.


Step 6: Willingness

When I got clean and sober willingness was one thing I had. When I walked into the room of Alcoholics Anonymous I didn’t want for much because I had nothing. All I wanted was a life that I could live without needing to get high to get out of bed every morning. I wanted that desperate feeling of needing and wanting more to go away. Showing a little willingness to listen to my sponsor and other women in the program saved my life.


Step 7: Humility

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called 'Ego'.”
I’ve watched more friends go out over the years over a little word known as ego. The opposite of ego is humility. I remember celebrating my second year of sobriety and talking to my mom and saying how great I was celebrating another year clean and sober. My mother responded to me, “Normal people don’t do heroin Theresa, you don’t get a gold medal for not doing drugs anymore.” Talk about a lesson in humility. Yes, celebrating another year clean and sober is important but it’s not about feeding the ego, it’s about just walking the walk. It’s about just being a decent human being and not looking for praise. When I did my 6th and 7th step I had to do something nice and helpful for someone every day without telling anyone it was me that did it. That taught me about true humility.


Step 8: Brotherly Love

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called 'Ego'.”
I’ve watched more friends go out over the years over a little word known as ego. The opposite of ego is humility.


Being a girl from New Jersey that grew up over the Walt Whitman bridge from Philadelphia, I know a thing or two about brotherly love. That being said one important lesson I learned in sobriety is I don’t have to like everyone but I have to show love to everyone. Being a therapist, I have learned the silent battles people are constantly fighting within themselves. Showing a little bit of love to one another goes a long way.


Step 9: Discipline

We alcoholics are undisciplined people… that not a loaded statement?! Discipline in the program to me means sticking to the basics. After 9 years it’s hard to stay connected to my sponsor, attend more meetings, and fellowship with other women. But when I don’t stay disciplined to the basics I start to tell myself things like, “you can drink like a normal person,” or “you probably just went through a heroin phase.” Ridiculous I know. Remaining disciplined can be the make or break moment in sobriety.


Step 10: Perseverance

The definition of perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. The journey to sobriety is not an easy one. Furthermore, living a life in sobriety does not mean rainbows and butterflies. There are bumps in the road, tough times, hurt feelings and times you feel like giving up. Perseverance is something that you possess early on and continue to reach for when life shows up. Sobriety doesn’t make you immune to difficulties in life but perseverance will help bring you through anything.


Step 11: Awareness

Awareness can mean many things. In this context, I believe it means to learn a deeper awareness of your higher power working in your life. My day consists of constant reminders of God working in my life and being aware of His presence. God has his hands all over my life today. A recovered heroin addict doesn’t get to live the life I do without God.

Step 12: Service

Service has become my lives mission. The more people I can help on this earth the better place we would all live in. Being of service to those in need should be the most fulfilling part of anyone’s life. Service in sobriety means much more then reaching out your hand to another suffering alcoholic or addict. It means lending an ear and a cigarette to a homeless person. It could be bringing a meal to someone who has a family member in the hospital or just came home with a new baby. Being selfless and showing charity to others can take little effort and be the one part that makes an addict whole.

Theresa Rafferty-Collins has her own blog called "Family Fellowship and the French Fry Store"

for more of her writing about her life as a mom and a sober woman see: