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Consciousness6: Life After 12 Steps


I’m a little bit nervous about posting this episode, I have to admit.

I know a lot of people who love the 12 steps and feel that they owe their happiness and sanity to “the program.”  I have no desire to belittle or diminish their experience, and am glad that the 12 steps make their lives work better.

But what about people for whom the 12 steps are no longer (or never were) a saving grace?  People who don’t feel right calling on a “higher power?”  People who want to follow their own inner leading, rather than an externally prescribed set of rules or guidelines?

When our brave and articulate guest Megan Odhner discovered the 12 Steps, she jumped in and participated with enthusiastic gratitude and relief.  In today’s show she “comes out” about how the evolution of her beliefs (or lack thereof) have left her in an uneasy relationship with the community and organization that for so many years felt like home.

And for that she has my admiration, thanks, and a little kiss on the cheek.


5 comments to Consciousness6: Life After 12 Steps

  • Thor Odhner

    I’ve gotta say… my 14-year highschool crush on Megan has definitely been sustained by listening to her on this episode. What a cool person…

    —–begin saving face—–
    …even if her memory about high school is pretty cloudy (for the record, Megan had been asked by Ryan to go to the big dance but then asked ME out, and Ryan admirably stepped aside. And Megan’s sister didn’t arrive at school until two years after that.)

    So Ryan, my good friend, you can have your world tours and your groupies and your wild adventures overseas… Megan loves me!
    —–end saving face—–

    There! Now I just look insecure, jealous, and lame rather than looking like a consolation prize. WAY better.

  • Thor Odhner


    Since your next installment will focus more on dissecting the 12-step program/process and go into some questions about what some of it’s potential strengths and weaknesses are, I thought I’d point out a distinction that seems important. When contemplating whether you want a “Life after 12 steps” you could be asking yourself (at least) two very different types of questions.

    1. Do I need the 12 steps to remain sober/abstinent/debt free/etc.? Is that the best way for me personally to accomplish those goals? Can I leave the program(s) I’m in and still maintain that status?

    2. Is being completely sober/abstinent/debt free/etc. by those definitions actually what’s best for me? Is that what I want? Am I denying myself experiences that might be somehow valuable to me?

    I could see one person planning to leave AA and thinking, “I’m pretty sure I could quit the program and still not drink.” But is that necessarily the point? Or one might think, “Maybe I could just drink occasionally without it spinning into heavy drinking.” It’s probably not desirable to most, but is the experience of getting drunk as hell and waking up sick with a splitting headache really bad/wrong?

    I guess I’m just asking if some people are trying to get away from the format/process/commitment without changing the definitions of right/wrong or success/failure they attribute to certain ways of being, while others are feeling that those definitions are what is too restrictive or unhelpful for them.

  • amychilds

    As I’ve been thinking about next week’s “part II” show, I realize the topic really warrants FAR more than two episodes worth of discussion.

    The plan for C7 is something more along the lines of “a couple of aspects of the 12 Step Program that I’d like to talk about” (ie powerlessness, higher powers, and character defects.) But the things you’re mentioning here Thor are also really valuable, and has me thinking another show called simply “Addiction*” is in order.

    (*Or maybe “Addiction – What Is It, How Do I Cure It, and Do I Want to Cure It?”)

  • Megan it really resonated with me when you said you went to the 12 program sometimes for the fellowship and truthtelling…that is so key …and I laughed about the free babysitting…cute. Being able to tell your truth is so completely powerful…especially when it is wrapped in unconditional love.

    \having participated in 12 step program for two years for anorexia…I finally came to see that for myself I needed NOT to be in a program and learn to fully trust myself…and not do it with rules and regulations and guilt and confession…I needed to heal myself from the inside out…and I couldn’t do it in the 12 step program. I had all kinds of guilt about leaving the program and feeling that it wasn’t for me and that somehow I was wrong…however, somehow I was able to just let it go…..and not worry about it.
    I still have days where I worry…I still have days where I have on going conversations in my head about food and what I look like…however, I eat three meals aday and i don’t throw up and I feel healthy and loved for maybe the first time in my life…do I equate being loved with being thin? no…….not anymore.
    I have finally come to the realisation that I am lovable…no matter what I think or look like and who I am is special to alot of people…and more importantly who I am to me is valuable and I there are many more days that I love me…than there are that I don’t…and that feels really good.

  • amychilds

    All really interesting Gwen, and touching too.

    I’m very grateful to Megan for shining a light on some of the feelings and experiences that I think a lot of people have had to wrestle with alone.