Life Anon adapts the spiritual programme of Alcoholics Anonymous for non-addicts. I have compiled a step guide that will take the reader on a journey through the 12 steps from reacting hurtfully to responding appropriately to life.
12-Step Guide to life
The way we react to a situation is not arbitrary. Our reactions are generally learnt behaviours. Somewhere, somehow, we have come to learn to react to a particular stimulus with a specific response. Most often, the way we react today is what we have learned in our childhood. Most of our reactions in life are healthy and appropriate, but in some circumstances, the way we learned to react in our childhood is neither appropriate nor functional in adulthood. It is these inappropriate reactions in adulthood which cause us pain and discomfort. Our actions are triggered in our brain, but our emotions are triggered by our actions. We tend to believe that we have no power over these reactions, but in Life Anon we will learn to think and act differently and appropriately. Because we are going to act differently, we are going to start feeling differently, which is the aim of this book.
If you are reading this book, it is probably because you are not satisfied with the way you react to life and you want to feel better about yourself and your life.
I am sharing this programme with you, because I believe many of us are reactors: we live with pain that comes from reacting to life inappropriately. For some of us the situation is even worse, because we may not realise that our dire situation can be changed, and we therefore unnecessarily cling to our miserable ways.
Life Anon is a 12-step workbook which celebrates the existence of possibilities. It is written for anyone who desires a more fulfilled and meaningful life. I share my experience of how I learned to live in the solution, as opposed to being caught in the trap of the problem. In the 12 steps I found the solution I so desperately needed. I believe the life skills I have learned from working this programme are universally applicable.
It is my wish that, by working through Life Anon, you will be empowered to live the life you’ve always dreamed of. This programme delivered results beyond my wildest imagination. I also see this happening in the lives of many others who work 12-step programmes in various 12-step fellowships. I call the results of my 12-step work “gifts”. I wish for you to receive similar gifts too.
The Twelve Steps
For the purpose of the journey we are undertaking in Life Anon, I have changed the 12 steps to read as follows:
1. We admit we are powerless over life and how our reactions to it are contributing to unmanageability in our lives.
2. Come to believe a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
3. Make a decision to turn our reactions to life over to the care of a higher power of our understanding.
4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admit the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Become entirely ready to have our higher power remove all our defects of character.
7. Humbly ask our higher power to remove our shortcomings.
8. Make a list of all persons we harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
9. Make direct amends to those we harmed, wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continue to take personal inventory, and when we are wrong, promptly admit it.
11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our higher power, praying only for knowledge of its will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to other reactors, and to practice these principles in our lives.
I believe the Life Anon approach can help us solve most of our reactionary behaviours. Personally, the character traits it helped me with are mostly, but not limited to:
• Affirmation seeking
• Demanding attention
• Carrying resentments
Undesirable behaviours Life Anon can address
The reactions to life described above, come from my personal experience. There are many harmful behaviours that Life Anon addresses:
• envy or uncontrolled jealousy
• unmanageable anger
• self-centeredness and selfshness
• constant guilt and self-blame
• believing you have to explain yourself or justify your actions
• over-thinking and/or analysis paralysis
• continuous negative self-talk and negative thinking
• distrust and dislike of others
• trusting people too easily
• unjustified superiority and judgementalism
• difficulty in asking for help
• lack of motivation and constant procrastination
• insecurity at home, work and socially
• insincerity and lack of integrity
• gossiping and badmouthing others
Working a 12-step programme is not going to change life. It is going to change you. It is going to help you change the way you react to life. You will learn to cope better with what happens to you. As this is a design-for-living programme, it will assist you in finding a different perspective and responding appropriately to situations.
Life Anon is a workbook. I hope that you enjoy reading it, but that is not enough. It is imperative that you take time to think and answer each of the questions as you encounter them. This is what is called “working the steps”; the programme only works if we work it. Find a notepad or special journal and write your answers down. The questions are numbered, which makes cross-referencing easy.
We are going to do a lot of self-evaluation and -reflection. This will lead to a greater understanding of ourselves, more compassion for ourselves and others, better interpersonal relations and ultimately improved self-love. It does not matter how we feel about ourselves now, we are worthy of feeling better and having a life which we are proud to live. Nothing in our lives is going to change if we do nothing to bring about the change. If nothing changes, nothing changes. This is our Life Anon journey. We are writing about ourselves. Our perspective on things, our feelings, our observations and our beliefs.
It is imperative for us to understand that a 12-step programme is spiritual in nature. We are expected to come to some form of understanding of our own spirituality. It absolutely and totally does not matter what form of spirituality we choose. One of the most distinctive aspects of this approach to our unsatisfactory life is that it allows us to practice spirituality as we see fit.
Spirituality is not a lifeless concept. It consists of a commitment to act. In this programme these actions are referred to as spiritual principles. Some of us may not be comfortable with the concept of spirituality. Others may find this open stance on spirituality incompatible with our spiritual beliefs. We do not let this hold us back from taking this journey. We come to see that spirituality, ultimately, is about being good to ourselves and others and living our best life. Many of us are already living life according to these principles, but do not necessarily think of them in the same way as they are presented in Life Anon. In this design-for-living programme we learn how to apply these principles practically in our lives.
No one ever said that this journey is going to be easy, but most people who follow these steps will agree that it is most definitely worth it. Even if you manage to receive only a small percentage of the gifts I have received by working a 12-step programme, then I am truly excited for you. I wish you all the best on this moving journey.
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About the Author
Freddie van Rensburg
I am a professional Addictions Counsellor, as well as a Specialist Wellness Counsellor, registered with the Board of Addiction Counsellors (M0001232) and the Association for Supportive Counsellors and Holistic Practitioners (registration number HC18/208). I was born, bred and educated in Johannesburg. I did a BA Social Sciences, majoring in Psychology and Sociology, at the then Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and followed that up with an Honours in Sociology, specialising in Family Sociology, Group Dynamics and Industrial Sociology.
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