Making A Sea Change: The Spiral Steps Support Groups
Article ID: 9959
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,047
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Author: Dj@SpiralSteps [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: August 7th. 2005
Times Viewed: 7,890
Spiral Steps support groups began meeting for the first time in 2001. I wrote these Steps for a very simple reason; I needed them. I needed them because I had what the psychologists like to call “issues”. I had lots of issues. In fact, my issues had issues.
In my family we have alcoholics, addicts and codependents on both sides of the aisle, going back at least 5 generations. We also have artists, writers, musicians, scientists, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs, activists, warriors, leaders, philanthropists, and healers, all within that same tribe. In fact, they tend to be the very same people. I’m still not sure why this strange brew exists, but it does. Life can sometimes hand us difficult gifts. This heritage was one of mine.
The Spiral Steps are for people who are working on issues such as chemical and process addictions, codependency and dysfunctional family issues. These meetings serve as a powerful support for those of us trying to be healthy people in a very unhealthy culture. The emphasis in these steps is on recovery, health, balance, and taking our power back. We focus not just on the problem, but also on the solution. (Note: You can read the Spiral Steps and the Spiral Traditions, as well as the FAQ, at the links listed below.)
I've spent the last 20 years reading books on addiction and recovery, dysfunctional families, spirituality, history, psychology, education and myth in an attempt to understand just what happened in my family and to heal my own self. I began working on the basics for the Spiral Steps groups in October of 1999. When I wrote these steps I asked myself and several of my friends in recovery three simple questions: What Matters? , What Works?, What’s Next? Two years later, I had completed the Spiral Steps and Traditions and the meetings had begun.
Using these steps we are able to deal with a wide variety of issues, including such issues as:
Anxiety and Depression * Chemical Addictions to alcohol, food, and drugs, etc. * Changing old patterns of behavior that effect us negatively today * Codependency and Counterdependency * Denial * Forgiving others and ourselves * Guilt and Shame * Growing up in dysfunctional families and how that effects us today * Handing Conflict and Fighting Fair * Handling feelings in healthy ways * Physical and sexual abuse issues * Issues around being over or under responsible * Issues with Money and Prosperity * Letting go of old relationships and moving on * Perfectionism * Process addictions such as workaholism, manic shopping, over spending, gambling, creating a constant state of crisis, etc. * Problems dealing with change * Relationship Issues * Resentments * Trust Issues * Self Esteem * Setting healthy boundaries with friends, coworkers and loved ones * Depression * Self Assertion * Stress: what it does to us and how to relieve it * Uncovering and supporting our creative selves and other such challenges.
I started Spiral Steps because I, too, am an addict, an alcoholic and a codependent, as well as being the adult child of an alcoholic:
I’ve been clean and sober since 1987. I have made peace with my childhood and my past and I've moved on. I was a success as world views these things but that wasn’t enough for me anymore. I wanted a more complete life; one that was happy, peaceful, and creative. I wanted to be my Best Self, what Abraham Maslow has called a “self actualized human being”, and to do that I needed a new way of thinking and working through change. Whether you are at the beginning, middle or near the end of the journey towards your Best Self, I believe that the Spiral Steps can help you along the path.
I started Spiral Steps because I practice an alternative form of spirituality:
My tradition requires that I make a commitment to my own health and healing as a vital component of my Path. However, this form of spirituality is neither welcomed nor understood by most traditional 12 Step meetings. 1
I started Spiral Steps because I wanted a Program that was inclusive:
I wanted a meeting where those friends who are people of color, people from other cultures, people from minority faiths or people with different lifestyles could feel welcome, heard, and supported.
These meetings are nondenominational and we support interfaith work and tolerance. The only requirement for membership is a desire for health and healing and a respect for EarthWise Ethics.
Spiral Steps groups have members of various backgrounds and faiths, and include those who are guided by a philosophy or a set of principals and have no gods at all. Among our members we have Pagans, Buddhists, Secular Humanists, Goddess Celebrants, Mystics, Eco-feminists, Hindus, Shamans, Druids, Heathens, Wiccans, Unitarians, people from various progressive Jewish and Christians Traditions, and those who follow the various Native American Traditions. All are welcome.
I started Spiral Steps because I believe in a holistic view of healing:
At the time these meetings began, I was working through some personal issues around fear, loss, death, and grieving after my sister’s early death from breast cancer. I wanted to be able to share the entire process, and this included mentioning the rituals her Pagan priestess and I held to grieve for her, rituals which are common to those of us who work in the interfaith communities, but are thought to be too odd or even threatening by those do not understand this practice. I also needed to lower my stress and make some lifestyle changes, so that I could best avoid the cancer that haunts our family. Finally, I needed a meeting that allowed me to share aspects of my recovery, not only from alcoholism, but also from a dysfunctional family and this very dysfunctional culture we live in.
Many complex issues and influences are interwoven throughout our lives, like threads in a great tapestry. I wanted to understand the story of my life and to do that, I needed to unravel those threads, examine them, keep what I could use and throw the rest away. Then I began to reweave the threads I had kept, along with some new ones I'd collected, and so I created the life I wanted to live. This process is life changing and very powerful.
Most people use compulsive or addictive behavior in order to avoid feelings like hurt, grief, sorrow, anger, fear, loneliness and insecurity, and we need a program that sees our recovery in a holistic way; one that addresses the power of mind, feelings, body and spirit. Many people also have multiple issues. In other words, we can be compulsive and obsessive on a number of fronts - and we can’t truly heal the one problem without addressing the others, as well. So many different kinds of experience, strength, and hope came into play as we heal– I didn’t want to miss out on any of these - so I created meetings where everything and anything could be discussed.
I started Spiral Steps because I needed to get beyond “The Problem”:
It wasn’t enough for me to say clean and sober. I needed to address the issues that made me act out in the first place. Like a lot of people, I used chemicals and other creative ways to avoid painful feelings. In these meetings, I can raise a subject, anger, for example, and speak openly of how I, as a woman, was taught to “stuff it down” and be “nice”, . I can talk about the dysfunctional ways in which anger was expressed in my family and examine how that effected my relationships in later life. Then, having stated The Problem, I didn’t want to stay stuck there forever. I wanted to use the tools at my disposal, all the tools, to start working on The Solution.
“Freedom is useless if we don't exercise it as characters making choices... We are free to change the stories by which we live. Because we are genuine characters, and not mere puppets, we can choose our defining stories. We are co-authors as well as characters. Few things are as encouraging as the realization that things can be different and that we have a role in making them so.” ~ Daniel Taylor
If I wanted a better life, then I needed to add new tools to my life’s toolbox. To do that, I needed to be among people who could accept different forms of healing and not worry that I was going to be judged for going “outside of the meeting” to get my needs met. In my spiritual tradition we use such healing tools as meditation, deep breathing, drumming, rituals, and yoga, among others. We also use private therapy, alternative medicine, changes in diet, and whatever else works to get us where we want to be. The other people in a Spiral Steps meeting may not use every one of these tools in their own recovery, but they do accept them as both valued and valid.
I started Spiral Steps because I’d been to a variety of 12 Step meetings for many years and I needed to reach the next level of growth and empowerment.
I didn’t think that the traditional Steps could take me there.
I wanted a program that went beyond teachings about shame and guilt and defects of character. As Dr. Charlotte Kassell has pointed out in her pioneering work titled Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps, the traditional 12 Steps and the Big Book are deeply concerned with “ego run rampant”; a view which is limited, especially to those of us who have yet to tap into our power. Many people; especially young women, gays and lesbians, and people of color, have self esteem issues brought on by a culture that sees us as “less than”. This often prevents us from ever finding our true selves. Our issues, as Dr. Kassel points out, are often centered on feeling power-less, not to power-ful. Among us then, the challenge is finding our voices, telling our truth and speaking up for ourselves. While some of us were indeed abusers and most have made some very unhealthy choices, many of us are survivors and we need to own and use our strength, not deny it. Our challenge as a society, as Starkhawk and others have noted, is not seeking “power over” but finding ways of using “power with”. The Spiral Steps can help there, too.
To do all this, we need to know what is positive and worth keeping in our life’s toolbox, not just label ourselves as “damaged goods” or “screw ups” and leave it at that. Noting the classic “characteristics” of adult children of alcoholics, for example, is useful as a diagnosis of the commonly held issues we ACA’s struggle with, but it only tells half the story. Much of what we learned as survivors has made us stronger, better, deeper and often as not, uniquely gifted. This is something to be valued, even if it did come at a very high price. The experiences we endured have taken us out of the “cultural trance”, as Carolyn Myss notes, and pushed us further towards the edges of society, which is where progressive ways of being tend to thrive.2 This heritage we have as survivors, as Outsiders, is what the Buddhist’s call a difficult gift and other traditions refer to as a “sacred wound”. With this in mind, I wanted to create a Program which could help people like me achieve a sea change, a radical, even mystical transformation into our Best Selves.
Coming Together As Equals:
This is a non-profit group. We ask for a donation of about $1.00 per meeting in order to pay for the rent of any room we’re using. If you are out of work, the meetings are free. Of course the online meeting os always free and the doors to this one are open 24/7.
The Spiral Traditions are in place to make sure that we all come together in the Circle as equals. Please read these, along with the Spiral Steps, if you are thinking of joining a group.
You Get a Great View from a Glass House:
I’m nobody's Guru. I don’t want your power; I want you to have your power. I don’t want followers; you can find you own way. I’m not a psychologist or an expert of any kind. What I know, I learned the hard way. So, you be the judge of these Steps and Traditions. We offer some real world meetings and online meetings, as well. (see links below) . If you think they will work for you and you have the courage to try this Path, then walk with us a while and we’ll show you how it’s done.
I will leave you with a poem by Edgar Lee Masters:
I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me--
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me, and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one's life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire--
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.
Go well, stay well.
1 Let me state very clearly here that I value the work of Dr. Bob and Bill W., and I cherish the connections and recovery I found in traditional 12 Step meetings, especially the women’s ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings I went to for many years in Los Angeles. Finding yourself mirrored back to you, as not only OK, but valued and worthy and capable of service to others, is the real genius at the heart of these meetings. That is where healing and grace come into those rooms, and that’s what I choose to keep when we started our own meetings. I admire and love the original 12 Steps. They saved my life and they saved the lives of many of my friends. You will see their influence, and the affect these meetings had on my thinking throughout this program. However, as Dr. Charlotte Kassell has pointed out, the traditional 12 Steps Programs are limited by being deeply embedded in a white, male, middle class, heterosexual, Judeo/Christian mindset from the 1950’s. Alternative experiences such as those known to women, people of color or gays, are not addressed. Alternative philosophies, such as secular Humanism, or the various practices of Native Americans, Hindus, or Buddhists are not considered, while alternative forms of spiritually, such as New Age beliefs and the various Pagan Traditions are mistrusted, ignored, or barely tolerated. Many of my friends in recovery who think of themselves as progressive Christians and Jews, felt much the same way and I did. They too, wanted a different kind of meeting. Therefore, if I was going to continue moving forward and I wanted my friends with me, I needed to make a change.
2 I recommend these two books by Carolyn Myss: Why People Don’t Heal And How They Can and Sacred Contracts.
Spiral Steps webpage http://www.spiralsteps.org
Spiral Steps cybergroup: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/spiral-steps/
Location: Bay Area, California
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Bio: Dj is the founder of Spiral Steps. She has been active in the Pagan community. for many years. Her Craft name is Sia.
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