What is a 12 Step Call?
A 12 step call is an important part of the recovery process for many. Generally, an individual or group sits or speaks with somebody suffering from addiction in order to help them find recovery. It has become less popular as treatment has grown in availability, but it still is an important part of the process.
Interventions may be seen as a type of twelve step call, although they often cost money. Traditional twelve-step calls are free and done in the spirit of service. People may call into AA Central Office or reach out to a trusted friend or family member. A member of the twelve-step community volunteers to either speak to the struggling individual or meet with them in person.
What is the Twelfth Step?
The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous reads: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. This is the step in which sober individuals begin helping those who are still struggling with addiction. This may come in the form of sponsoring other people, taking service commitments, or participating in things like twelve step calls.
Why do a Twelve Step Call?
The main purpose of a call is to offer the person struggling a friendly and nonjudgmental ear. The belief is that there is just nothing quite the same as one alcoholic talking to another. As such, the person who is struggling to stay sober can hopefully trust the person making the call.
Often, the ultimate goal of a 12 step call is to get the person to commit to a first step toward recovery. This may be something simple like coming to a meeting or seeing a therapist. As with cases like interventions, it may be to get the person to admit to detox or treatment. Recovery may look different for different individuals, but the intention remains the same: to help the person recover from the suffering caused by addiction.
Sometimes, those of us in recovery or surrounded by recovery forget that many individuals don’t know sober people or have sober friends. When people reach out to a Central Office or ask a friend for help, it’s a courageous and scary thing to do. The person who shows up or calls the individual has a really powerful opportunity to impact their life.
When to do a 12 Step Call
Sometimes we are asked to participate in a call, while other times we may do so out of care and worry for a friend or loved one. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to remember a few things about your choice of timing. First, it’s not advisable to do a twelve step call when somebody is still intoxicated. When somebody is high or drunk, they are not clear-minded. Furthermore, we tend to be less desperate when we are intoxicated and feeling alright. It generally is best to work with someone when they are sober.
If the person who needs help is sober, it’s best to make contact as soon as possible. If you have experienced addiction yourself, you know how fast the mind can change. One moment we are desperate for help, and the next we have succumbed and are getting high. If someone is reaching out for help, we can make a huge difference by responding in a timely manner.
You may show up for an individual even when they don’t necessarily reach out for help themselves. Sometimes, a family member or friend may reach out for help. There’s also the intervention-style method in which the person is surprised with the helping individuals. We must be careful about when we show up to intervene on somebody. It can be a fragile situation and we want to be mindful of their needs and health. We also need to know our limitations and when somebody needs professional help.
Twelve Step Call Tips
Jumping into a 12 step call is a big task, so we thought we’d offer a few tips we’ve found helpful in our personal and professional experience.
First, do your best to really be present for the person suffering. If they call, try to answer. If you can’t make sure to call them back! They’re in a vulnerable state and you have a lot of power in your hands to make them feel welcome. Of course you’re not in charge of their recovery, but you do have the opportunity to help.
It can also be helpful to really be present and not distracted. When we’re struggling, simply having someone there to listen to us can make a world of difference. Practice compassionate listening and really make an effort to be present with the person as they share their struggles.
Get the Individual Alone
First, it must be mentioned that we have to be careful in making these calls. We don’t want to make anyone feel unsafe or activate any trauma. As such, we must be mindful of gender differences and the dangers associated with working one-on-one with an individual of another gender. It’s generally best on a 12 step call for the people to be of the same gender.
With that out of the way, it may be best to separate the person from any loved ones or family members. A person is generally more likely to be honest and open when speaking without these people around. If you’re doing a twelve step call and the person’s spouse is home, it may be best to try to speak with the person without the spouse present.
Be Aware of Needs
These calls are valuable methods of helping others get sober, but they can’t fix everything. Sometimes, we go on a twelve step call and see that the person needs immediate medical attention, psychiatric help, and/or emergency services. This may be because the person has taken a lot of drugs, is considering causing harm to themselves or another, or is physically hurt.
Although the twelve steps have helped millions of people get clean and sober, they can’t address absolute everything. Know your own limitations and be aware of the person’s needs. Keep in mind that the person may need more than you can offer. It doesn’t make you a bad twelve-stepper; it just means the person needs a different type of help in this moment!
Share Your Story
Although listening is one of the most important pieces of 12 stepping someone, it can also be helpful to share a bit of your story. By sharing your story honestly, you can let the person know they’re speaking with someone who understands and is not there to judge you. You can share as deeply as you’re comfortable with, showing the addict or alcoholic that they’re not alone in their experience.
When you share your story, make sure to include what it’s like today! Offer some hope to the person. By giving them a glimpse of your addiction and your recovery, you can offer them something to work toward. Maybe they don’t want their life to look exactly like yours, but the principle of hope will come through.
Leave Them with Options
This can make a huge difference. When you get off the phone or leave the individual, don’t just leave them hanging! You want to offer a next step, some way to take action, and/or an actual path toward recovery. This can come in many forms, and will vary depending on the situation. You can’t force the person to take the next right action, but you can do your best to make sure it’s accessible to them.
You may consider leaving a meeting directory, giving them some phone numbers for detox facilities, private treatment centers, or free drug rehabs, or making a plan to go to a meeting together. Use your best judgement and perhaps you can ask your own mentors or sponsors, but make sure you offer the person a way to move forward. In that moment of desperation, they may be willing to take action where they weren’t previously.
Don’t Judge Yourself too Harshly
Finally, remember that your job isn’t to cure or fix anyone. You’re only in charge of your own behavior. Show up, be honest and open, and don’t cling to any specific result. You may do the best 12 step call ever, but the person isn’t ready. You also may make many mistakes but the person still gets sober! Do what you can, be willing to learn new things, and remember that you cannot control the behavior of anyone else!