The 12-step recovery programs aren’t for everyone — but they work and can help end homelessness

I held my brother’s hand as he took his last breath. Looking into his eyes I could see the results of his being exposed to recovery and not embracing it.

I was told by a friend on a recent morning, “12-step recovery doesn’t work for everyone.” This was my response.

Of course, it’s not for everyone and it’s not supposed to be. It only works for those who want it. That’s what people, even professionals, don’t get right.

It’s like “The Secret,” a self-help book about the law of attraction, which I practice and only about 2 to 3% of people actually get. I am blessed to count myself among the small number who do. In 12-step recovery, only about 10% succeed at first. But many people who keep trying do it the next time or after many attempts (like me) triumph — if they live through the madness, which is not guaranteed.

Life-changing programs or philosophies require the kind of honesty that very few people are willing to exercise or even are capable of until the point of physical or spiritual death.

The only people who can’t get 12-step recovery are people incapable of being honest with themselves. Who wants to look themselves right in the eye and talk about then work on their faults and shortcomings? So no, it’s not supposed to work for all who need it. It just works for those who badly want what we have. That’s freedom from self and self-destructive behavior and thinking.

All that said, 12-step recovery has been getting people clean and sober since 1936 with millions worldwide saving themselves as it saved me. It may not be the only way to recovery but it does offer most people the best chance of success.

No human power could stop my wild ride to oblivion, so many people tried. But finding God in an alley and 12-step recovery did work. Those who have felt the grace and mercy of the almighty know without a doubt they are blessed to have found 12-step recovery because I’ve never spent one day unhoused since I got sober.

Every day at the end of our meetings we lift up prayers for the success of those who still suffer from thinking they have to find another way.

Wendell Williams is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media

Issues |Addiction|Health, Mental

information about New Signature, a Washington DC tech solutions and consulting firm


email updates

We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.