What to Do if 12-Step Programs Don’t Work
You may have completed a 12-step program but didn’t particularly like the approach, or maybe it didn’t work for you at all, but there are other options.
I have recently been doing a bit of reading about something called liminal space, or liminality. Liminality isn’t as spooky as it sounds. It is essentially a kind of threshold period—that sense of no longer belonging to the old and not quite yet belonging to the new. This is the season where life has moved us ahead of our plans and we are in what feels like a free-fall state. It is a bit of a “what now?” season.
These shifts can be vocational, personal, relational, or logistical but definitely can be a huge part of the early recovery process as we lay down our old coping skills in exchange for learning new ones.
It is always unsettling for us to be between the now and the not yet, especially when it isn’t by our design or choosing. Sometimes we aren’t even aware we’ve entered these spaces until we experience the emotional fallout. As mystic Richard Rohr describes, liminality is when we have left one room but not quite entered another. This is the doorway we must walk through after life’s most defining moments, the space in which we find ourselves after things like divorces, deaths, job changes, or sudden losses. And even positive shifts like sobriety and recovery can feel like losses at first as we grieve the giving up of our old selves and emotional relationships to substances and behaviors.
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It can also be seen in the shifts in our belief systems or a new ideology that we must adopt to accommodate our new way of being. Regardless, liminality is the space from which we have to address what life will look like from here forward.
Sometimes it is a season of letting go of the illusion of certainty. Most of us describe it as a crisis of faith or a time of spiritual depression when, in fact, it is just a transitional season. We know intuitively that we won’t be the same but we aren’t yet sure what or whom we will be.
The great thing about liminal spaces is that we are no longer on autopilot and we can begin to anticipate something completely fresh. We can finally see ourselves outside of the box we’ve been in for years or sense a wave of spiritual renewal rolling us forward, away from old ways of thinking and being that we might have never left behind on our own. For all the angst and worry that accompanies being in liminal space, there is a great deal to be celebrated and anticipated.
This is an excellent season to expect the fruits of deeper insights, wisdom, and compassion to follow. Liminality doesn’t last forever, so we can be certain we will eventually turn a corner of some kind. Whether we face it with fear or anticipation is up to us.
What are some thresholds you find yourself in today? What fears accompany that transition? How can you embrace a place of anticipation and joy as opposed to fear and regret holding on to what is falling away?
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