Metaphorically Speaking – Down the Drain

by Karen VanDenBerg

Tink, tink, splash. That’s the sound my earring made when it fell into the sink. My favorite earring, too! My heart skipped a beat and my mouth released a few choice words and a simultaneous gasp nearly caused me to choke.

The water was draining out of the sink and I couldn’t see past the bubbles to grab it from the clutches of the drain. My earring was doomed to a life of pipes and sewers. There was nothing positive to pull from this scenario. Nothing. I’ve never seen earrings like this before and I will never be able to replace it. My only hope is to someday be walking innocently along the beach after a sewer breech and stumble upon the little earring that could. Wait. I’m so distraught over my earring that I’m hoping for a sewer breech?

Where’s my serenity? Where’s my faith? Where’s my reason to live?

Then I remembered. There’s a screen at the bottom of the sink. It is there to keep exactly this kind of tragedy from happening. As the water finished draining, my earring was sitting in the screen a little wet, but unharmed.

And like a flash, my next thought was, “Wow, that little screen is just like my Higher Power—always in the right place to keep me from going down the drain.”

More Metaphorically Speaking

Milestones of a Vision by Karen VanDenBerg

Laid off after thirty-one years with one company, newly sober again, and not sure what I wanted to do when I “grew up,” I had a vision. I love to write, and I love recovery, so I decided to start a magazine. The idea to start a recovery magazine with zero experience in publishing or graphic design seemed preposterous. However, I couldn’t shake it. I fell in love with the idea of loving my job!

issue 1 12 step gazette californiaIn March 2013, I was trying decide whether or not to move forward with this unshakable dream. My pros and cons list was the extent of my business plan, but I knew that funding would be important. I told myself, and a few others, if I could raise the money I needed by the end of the week, it would be a “go.” In my mailbox that day was a check for exactly the amount I would need to get this magazine off the ground, and I made a commitment. That was the first milestone I achieved.

July-August 2014
July-August 2014

Initially, my vision was to have a local magazine for the Inland Empire that would publish events, advertise local businesses, and profile local people. However, by July 2014 we expanded into Orange County, San Diego County, Palm Springs and the San Gabriel Valley. We had increased our print run from 1,500 to 5,000. Printing more than 5,000 magazines was another significant milestone achieved.

July/August 2015
July/August 2015

We changed the name to Step 12 Magazine in early 2015 so we could own the website domain and social media identities. We took 1,000 copies of the magazine to the AA World Convention that year and poof, we weren’t just in California anymore. None of these milestones were in my business plan because I had no business plan. I truly flew by the seat of my pants and was caught regularly by my Higher Power. I prayed “bless it or block it” on a regular basis and tripped over unexpected milestones without seeing them coming.

Jan/Feb 2016
Jan/Feb 2016

I finally got some help in December 2015, when Roni came on board. This was a thrilling milestone to reach. She gently began to convince me to improve some of the formatting and finally convinced me that two spaces after a period is no longer the standard. Subscriptions increased and sponsors began to see the value. We were able to make a donation to New Creation Behavioral Healthcare Foundation’s treatment scholarship program—a milestone of giving back that I hope we continue to improve upon.

issue 22 coverWe now have subscribers all over the country, and we distribute to facilities nationwide. When we exceeded 10,000 copies in print, I almost fainted. That was a milestone I never expected to see. I had laughed in the ear of the printer who told me the cost of printing would be lower once I hit the 10,000 copy volume. “Ha, ha, like that’s ever going to happen,” I said, while my head was saying, “wouldn’t that be amazing?”

In 2013, I had a crazy vision and gave birth to a magazine. We have gone from 20 pages in our first issue to 68 pages today. We’ve gone from 1,500 issues in print to 15,000 and have become self-supporting! What a huge exciting milestone this is!

REcovery IllustratedStep 12 Magazine has matured and gotten “married” to Serene Scene Magazine. She’s changing her name to Recovery Illustrated and is moving forward with her purpose as a beacon of hope for the recovery community; whether someone is in a twelve step program, smart recovery, celebrate recovery, or just on the fence. The new name will “illustrate” our diversity better (pun intended), but our mission remains the same. Now, we’re actually going to set goals and milestones so we don’t trip over them when we get there.

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About the Author

The Secret by Suzanne Whang

In October 2006, I watched a documentary about the law of attraction called The Secret. I loved it so much that I bought 100 copies of the DVD for my family and friends. A voice inside me whispered, “Send it to Oprah,” but I thought, “She’ll never get my package, and she’s probably already seen it anyway.” The voice said, “What do you have to lose?” So I FedEx’d the DVD with a letter to Oprah, infusing it with good energy, and then forgot about it.

A month later I was driving, and my cell phone rang. It wasn’t a number I recognized, so I had no intention of answering it, until a voice said, “Answer this call.”

“Hi, is this Suzanne?”
“This is Abby from Oprah Winfrey’s office.”

OH MY GOD! I started driving like an Asian, so I pulled over.
“Abby! I never answer the phone when I don’t recognize the number, but a voice told me to pick up.”
“Well, I never call anyone who sends anything to Harpo Studios because of the sheer volume of mail we get here. But last night, my friend Frank made me watch a DVD called
The Secret. I hadn’t seen it before, and I loved it. This morning I came into the office, and YOUR PACKAGE was on TOP of the stack of mail of my desk.”
“Also, Oprah hasn’t seen this movie. You’re the first person to send it to her.”

How is that possible—the movie was released a year ago! I guess everyone else assumed that she had already seen it.
“Abby, that’s incredible.”
“We’re going to South Africa for six weeks to visit the school that Oprah opened there. I’ll bring the DVD and make sure she watches it.”
“That’s phenomenal! Have a wonderful trip, and I’ll talk to you when you return!”

It felt like my car levitated the rest of the way home.

Six weeks later, I was sitting at a table for two, waiting for my friend Lucille at a café in LA. A tall friendly man walked up to my table, sat down, and said, “Hello!” A bit taken aback at his presumptuousness, I said, “Hello.” He said, “How are you?” I said, “Blissful. How are you?” He said, “Following my bliss.” Then he paused and said, “Have you ever seen the movie The Secret?” And I said, “What?? Not only have I seen it, but I was the first person to send it to Oprah, and—”  Before I could finish my sentence, he had sprung up from his chair and was running around exclaiming, “Oh my God! Did you know that Oprah’s doing a show about The Secret in two weeks?” I blurted out, “NO, I didn’t know that! How do YOU know that?” He said, “I attend the Agape Spiritual Center, and Rev. Michael Beckwith was in The Secret. He just announced that he’s flying to Chicago in two weeks to talk about The Secret on Oprah!” I was flabbergasted. Then I said, “Wait a minute—why did you come over here and ask me if I’ve seen The Secret?” And he said, “I have no idea.”

The next morning I left Abby an excited voicemail asking if I could please come and be in the studio audience for this episode! Through a series of miraculous circumstances manifested by the law of attraction, I flew to Chicago for an insanely low airfare, got upgraded to a suite at the hotel I booked, met Jack Canfield (another panelist from The Secret) in the hotel’s check-in line, got invited to dinner with him and the rest of The Secret panelists the night before the taping, sat next to Rev. Michael Beckwith and became friends with him, rode to Harpo Studios in a stretch limo with the panelists the next morning, witnessed the most incredible hour of television as it happened, told Oprah my story and heard her confirm that I was the first person to send her the DVD, and had my picture taken with Oprah’s arm around me. On my flight from Chicago back to LA, I got goosebumps as I remembered that just a few months prior to this moment, I had scotch taped a photo of Oprah next to a photo of me, and put it inside my Magical Creation Box (a 3D version of a vision board). And now I have a real photo with her!!!

Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” It was a small gesture to send a letter and DVD to Oprah, but I did it with great love, completely detached from any particular result. I had nothing personally to gain from it, and I know it’s had a positive ripple effect on the world.

About the Author

Milestones in Recovery by Kyczy Hawk

I just wanted to get sober and stop using drugs. I wanted the craziness to stop. I wanted the constant stream of internal invective to stop, to quit yelling at myself, and to get away from all of the abuse. I wanted to be a REAL mom, not just a mom who was “on her way”, “just about there” and who would feed you, care for you, read to you “in a minute”; a minute that would never come. I wanted the pain to stop. It was clear I couldn’t overdose or drink myself to death. I would have to quit.

So, one day, I hit bottom. I wanted my soul back. I wanted to live. I hurt enough to call a friend. I went to my first meeting. And from that very bleary evening to this I have not had a drink. The drugs would tempt me from time to time for another year and a half. I have been able to accrue quite some full on clean and sober time since then. April 29th is my anniversary/birthday. It is this time of year that I look back; consider, appreciate and find grace in what I have been given in my recovery. Not all of it was planned, most was unexpected. Here are six things that surprised me.

1. My first milestone was letting go of the “I have to do it myself” illusion. I learned to become a student in the rooms. I had to develop a bit of trust, a little mental clearing in order to understand what was being said. It took a little while for me to be able to comprehend what I was reading and to concentrate through a whole meeting; but eventually I settled down. I had grown up thinking that I had to know everything before I was taught—to  jump right into any task and master without a lot of instruction. I discovered in recovery that pausing to listen and to learn was not only permitted, but preferable. I learned to follow suggestions and to do homework. Later this skill of becoming a student helped me gain the degrees and certifications required in my professions.

2. Along with meeting recovery a day at a time my next milestone was giving up immediate gratification. I learned the long game. We do recovery a day at a time, and at the same time you learn to defer rewards and results. This didn’t happen right away. (I didn’t get the wisdom of multiple years’ sobriety until that number of years had passed.) I stayed clean and sober when life was hard; one day at a time, at the same time remaining clean for the long haul. Illness, death, issues with children and with finances, car trouble and heart trouble; I stuck to my recovery process one day at a time. I learned the art of sticking to it—whatever it is. Even waiting. Even silence.

3. I thought I was useless and a drag on society when I came into recovery. I recall the exact day, where I was standing in my alano club amid the smoke and laughter when I thought to myself; “I get to be here”, “I am accepted”. I was called on to share. People looked toward me and laughed when I was funny, and held that deep abiding silence when I was sad. I learned that I have something to offer; in recovery and in life. Each day I go to or participate in a meeting I get to reach deep into myself and find the best of myself in that moment. When I share one on one I am looking for my best and highest good. An amazing milestone in my deep abiding recovery was to discover that I have something to share.

4. I learned that I could dance sober. Now that might seem like a small thing, but it was a big thing to me. I have felt all angles and kinks when I got on the dance floor. It was as if each part of my body had its own rhythm section and nothing was in sync. There was a lot of enthusiasm but very little grace. Early in sobriety I was invited to the celebration of A.A. in Santa Clara Valley—a big dinner dance in a hotel. I was overwhelmed; it was fancy, I was not. Special dress and semi formal attire; I was sure I wouldn’t fit in, that I wouldn’t know how to behave and I couldn’t possibly dance. I was a wreck. But I went. It was amazing—it was as if all the ragged edges in the joints of my body had been smoothed out. I wasn’t the best dancer by far but I didn’t look like a ragged marionette with a shaky person as the puppet master. I now enjoy dancing—of any style—as a fully sober woman.

5. One hurdle I return to from time to time is self acceptance. The miracle milestone is that I am able to enjoy self acceptance at all. My life had been driven toward fun and forgetfulness (of feelings, circumstances, despair) until it became overwhelmed with fear guilt and shame. Those last three were the only ones I could identify in early recovery; those and rage. I was always the backward magnet repelling and being repelled by others. I repelled myself. Building on the unconditional love in the rooms, the safe and loving care from my sponsor, and the eventual purging of the pain from the past through the steps allowed me to establish a sense of self that was kinder. I “did esteemable acts” to develop self esteem, and have eventually come to like myself. I have come to accept myself, good and bad, for who I am. This has given me a firm and reasonable foundation for considered change; a good person who is evolving.

6. Active addiction is such a baby way to be; days filled with self indulgence and skirting responsibilities. Even when I was doing for others I secretly doused myself with chemicals to make that giving bearable. I really was “her majesty the baby”. In early recovery I learned how to start acting like a grown-up. It was a huge milestone to practice “adulting”. I started with the basics of self care; regular meals, regular bed time, doing laundry each week, cleaning up after myself and my family, paying bills on time, and not buying things I couldn’t afford. I took care of my health as well as the health of my kids, I got a job and got there on time each day. These small steps grew and I went back to school, became qualified for other, better paying jobs. I took care of my kids AND learned to let them go. I was able to practice principles of honorable behavior in my relationships and started standing up for myself in healthy ways. The result is that I am able to act my age in a respectful way.

Milestones for me have not just been the days, the months or the years—the milestones are what I have done with those units of time. These are six ways that I have grown into the woman I had always wanted to be; the person I have wanted to be. These aren’t the only significant experiences but with others have helped me create a life that is truly “Happy, Joyous and Free”.

About the Author

The Leroys: A Recovery Parody by Mark Masserant

With the final days of the winter of 2025 approaching and extreme boredom setting in, the Pink Elephant Group decided it was time for something new. Already in the books were several Bowl-a-thons, Karaoke Nights, and finally, the fly-by-night Velcro Twister Games, which led to random thirteenth steps and oodles of resentments. We dropped them like a bad habit.

Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Drunkard was proposed, but shot down unanimously—our butts had fallen off long ago, leaving most of us disqualified. After multiple suggestions were sunk, Bitter Bill spoke up from the back of the room.

“How’s about giving out some awards? ‘Course I probably won’t get one,” he droned drearily.

With the Oscars on the horizon, we decided he was right—we would host an awards ceremony, with our own peculiar spin to it. It immediately wobbled into our Pink Elephant think tank.

With much forethought, we agreed the trophies should be called Leroys, after the unforgettable drunk in newspaper comic pages, Leroy Lockhorn. Not to be overlooked, Leroy’s feisty wife, Loretta, would be credited with founding a new chapter of Black Belt Al-Anons, named Samurai Butterfly.

Despite the ever-present threat of plumping up widespread egos, the date was set for the inaugural event: The First Annual Leroy Awards. My sponsor thought it might not be in our best interests. He often stated, “Alcoholics are egomaniacs with inferiority complexes.” It was profound, but also a complete duh. Inasmuch as he assured newcomers they were in good hands, having assembled a panel of experts, moments later he would share how we used to feel lower than whale poop at the bottom of the ocean. He was a little inconsistent.

Apparently, he was trying to bring our ups down and our downs up in his own oddball way. Still, his far-out grasp of Zen was puzzling, although helpful on many levels—if you were an oxymoron-lover.

Nevertheless, next year I’ll nominate him for a new category; Best Producer of Confusion.

The old clubhouse was chosen as the venue. Cigarette smoke stains were scrubbed off the walls, and we loaded up on pamphlets, styrofoam cups and butt cans galore. A fleet of coffeepots was fired up to accommodate some serious sipping, and a metal sea of folding chairs was arranged. Donuts were plucked off shelves until local stores were bare. In no time, everything was in place, the room was packed and the festivities were ready to commence.

The one and only cable channel that considered filming it was the EGO Network, but they withdrew—too many old-timers were seen photo-bombing on the red carpet, with ghastly results.

After the banquet, the legendary but fictitious Juan Valdez was honored with Oscaresque razzle-dazzle for his life-time commitment to coffee beans. A barista’s toast was followed by a rousing group-slurp. Next was the main event: the winners of the Leroys were ready to be announced. To counterbalance ego re-inflation, attendees were urged to limit their applause and keep the schmoozing to a minimum. Nominees wondered if that wasn’t resentment material, but chose to let it go. It was time to begin.

MarkMasserant2aThe Winners of the First Leroy Awards:

Best Denial: Ain’tNoDuck Chuck

Best Pity Party: Bitter Bill

Best Dishonesty (Over and Over): JustaCouple Jimmy

Best Justified Resentment: NobodyHug Doug

Best Jaywalker: Category withdrawn; We are NOT good jaywalkers!

Best Creative Walking: Cain’tWalk Skip

Best Fridge Magnet: Surrender2Lynne

Best AA Urban Legend: Meeting-Makers Naked

Best Spiritual Experience: OuttaBody Dottie

Best Collapsible Bottoms: NotSoDead Fred

Best Stuck on Step 2: NutJob Bob

Best Slogan Slinger: My Sponsor

Best DTs: KindaScary Mary

Best Instrumental Soundtrack by an Al-Anon: Does not exist

Best Lower Companion: Bottomfeeda Rita

Best Sex Inventory: Fifty Shades of Jay

Best Thinking Problem: Cup-is-Half-Phil

Best Knowitall: You already know, don’t you?

Best Hole in the Soul: Incomplete Pete

Best High Bottom Drunk: Misdemeana Gina

Best Double-Dipper: Double-Dip Skip

By evening’s end, there were more mini-leads than any butt could endure, and rollicking ovations that rivaled any sobriety countdown. Still, egos were untarnished, gallons of coffee were gulped, and no directions were followed. No surprise there.

The premier event was enjoyed by all, even those who didn’t get a Leroy; in fact, those people were especially grateful. After clean-up, Pink Elephant Group members were asked if there would be another. Their response, of course: “We’re only doing this One Year at a Time.”

About the Author

Service is Good for the Soul, the Mind and the Body by Susan Logan-McCracken

I can’t think of a time when my mother wasn’t serving someone. From cooking a meal for a family in need to driving an elderly person to church, Mom was a model of service for me growing up. What’s amazing to me now is that, at eighty-two, she still serves others at her church and in soup kitchens. Not only does she motivate me to serve, numerous studies show that she herself reaps multiple benefits from serving others.

In “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) reviewed thirty-two studies that showed numerous mental and physical health benefits of serving others. Here are just a few highlights from the research.

It really IS more blessed to give than to receive

You may have been taught the biblical principle that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Stephanie L. Brown and her colleagues actually found evidence supporting the adage. Individuals who provide support to others have more health benefits than those who receive support from others. The study, “Providing Social Support May Be More Beneficial Than Receiving It: Results from a Prospective Study of Mortality,” published in Psychological Science, concluded that giving rather than receiving promotes longevity.

That doesn’t mean we should always give and never receive. Graciously receiving allows others to benefit from giving and fulfills needs in our own lives. Brown’s study cites forty-one other studies that explored giving, receiving and their profound effects on health, happiness and society.

It’s never too late to start serving

Serving is especially healthful for the elderly. In fact, research shows that volunteering yields physical and mental health benefits, especially for older adults. The CNCS cited the work of Nancy Morrow-Howell and colleagues, “Effects of Volunteering on the Well-Being of Older Adults,” published in The Journals of Gerontology.

Morrow-Howell reported that in 1996, forty-three percent of people over the age of sixty-five and thirty-seven percent of people over the age of seventy-five volunteered, and because of this, learning about the impact of volunteering on older individuals became an important area of research.

The researchers found that even when controlling for factors like race, gender and social integration (defined as contact with family and friends), adults over the age of sixty who volunteered experienced better health and functioning, and lower depression levels.

Volunteering alongside others has inherent benefits in itself, because when we serve, we form friendships with those with whom we serve. By controlling for social integration, the study shows that volunteering has benefits beyond increasing friendships, a fringe benefit of volunteering.

Serving helps in recovery

The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) calls upon those in recovery to carry the message to others who need help attaining sobriety. Many people find that sponsoring helps them to maintain their own sobriety. The wisdom in this step has far-reaching effects on both the sponsee and sponsor. People who practice the twelfth step provide the sponsee (or those new to recovery) with much-needed support and solidify their own commitment to sobriety.

Helping others addicted to alcohol contributes to the sponsors staying sober, because focusing on others helps in their own success of not picking up another drink, according to Maria E. Pagano, Ph.D., in “Helping Others and Long-term Sobriety: Who Should I Help to Stay Sober?” published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. Pagano and her colleagues also noticed these patterns in their research:

“Sober alcoholics were significantly more helpful to others at home, work, and in twelve-step programs than they had been while drinking.”

“Lower levels of general helping while drinking increased to moderate levels at one year and twenty years sober.”

In AA, the sponsees become sponsors, and the sponsors increase their level of service, creating a healthy cycle of receiving and giving back. Isn’t that what life is all about?

Susan Logan-McCracken is a writer and editor for Sovereign Health, a Joint Commission-accredited behavioral health treatment provider with locations throughout the United States. To learn more, visit us at, Facebook and LinkedIn or follow us on Twitter. Image: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

Perfect Love by Dr. Phyllis and Rev. Carrol Davis

It is important to make special note of significant events in our lives: marriage, birth of a child, earning a degree, purchasing our first home, and paying off our home. Did you ever consider marking the milestones of your spiritual journey? Our walk with our higher power is the most important and critical part of our recovery process, yet, after years in the program, how many of us take our new life for granted?

The Bible talks about the milestones of our lives in terms of monuments, telling us about monuments that were erected at various points in biblical history to mark the event of victory over enemies. Do we make note of the victories in our lives, the changes in our relationship with Christ?

We have been on a specific spiritual journey for quite some time. We’ve been looking at the words of the scriptures, the promises of Christ and our beliefs. Do we truly believe in our hearts what our mouths have confessed? Have we totally trusted Christ in all things, or do we just say we do?

Our most recent test came about four years ago. Without notice the disability insurance company quit paying our insurance which amounted to half our monthly income. We were faced with the same accounts payable and half the previous income to meet expenses. We were terrified. We say the Lord will provide—but will He? Maybe He will not provide the things we want. We say all things work to our good. Do we really believe that in our hearts? If so, why were we so stressed out about our situation? We found that we believed in our heads—not in our hearts.

Over the next months and years we struggled with those thoughts that did not line up with the word of God and looked at the beliefs that were causing us stress. When we found a belief that invoked fear, we took that thought captive to the Word of the Scriptures and the promises of Christ. It was a hard several years—not because of our circumstances—but because of what we believed to be true about our circumstances. We say the Lord is our refuge in times of trouble but if we truly believed that in our hearts, we would not fear. We say perfect love casts out fear so why were we afraid? We feared we would lose our home. Where would we live? What would our lives be like given this new situation? We say the Lord has plans to prosper us and to give us hope and a future. Yet; if we really believed that, we would have been in perfect peace and we were not.

When Christ brings us through, we must celebrate and acknowledge all that He has done. Applying the Word of God during difficult times is when we learn to trust Him more. Celebrate the deliverance and give credit to your higher power.

Three short years ago, we were afraid we would loose our home, had times when we did not know what we would eat, much less pay bills. Today we reflect on the trip of a lifetime as the Lord not only delivered us from our dire financial situation but has given us many additional blessings: a published book of our journey that has received five star reviews, a published workbook that was recommended by a noted Christian Author, receipt of the Christian Author’s Award in counseling and recovery, and a full practice. A milestone has been this walk through terrifying experiences and trusting His provision when we could not see.

Thank you Daddy for our amazing trip that marks this milestone in our lives: You brought us through the valley of a belief in financial ruin to the promise land of abundance (a trip to seven countries, a cruise, six nights in Paris, airfare and entertainment for the cost of a vacation in the USA).

Who would have thought? Who would believe? We asked and He provided. “You don’t have because you don’t ask” became an experienced verse in the scriptures, not just words on a page. Will this always work? Of course not! It is not always in our best interest; but when the desires of our heart line up with the plans He has for us, it is amazing what He can and will do. Thank you Lord for an amazing vacation; the one that serves as a milestone to us: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.”

About the Authors

War Cries by Shelly Marshall

Traditionally, armies used rallying cries and military mottos to mobilize troops and overcome the often paralyzing fear of the enemy. These war whoops usually had religious overtones and were designed to capture their troop’s commitment, not unlike encouraging a newcomer’s commitment to recovery. Today, those battle cries survive in what we call slogans, which originate from the Gaelic word sluagh-ghairm, translated as war cry.

Getting clean and sober can feel like war. War against a disease. Although we eventually learn to cease fighting anyone or anything, in the beginning we battle a ferocious enemy: the compulsion, obsession, and jonesing to pick up just one more time. To confront this fierce enemy, the old-timers gave us a very powerful tool in slogans, which often goes unrecognized. Most members, if we are honest, have grumbled at one time or another about the constant repetition of “mindless” sayings. Yet slogans, even if irksome, are a powerful way to reach the suffering alcoholic.

Slogans and Service Go Hand in Hand

Even if the twelve-step war cries don’t get the respect they deserve, slogans and service go hand in hand. We hear slogans are “simplistic” and “bumper sticker recovery.” All the same, old-timers and newcomers alike walk into meetings and Alano clubs everyday, walls bedecked in the classics: First Things First; Live and Let Live; Easy Does It.

Our slogan’s convey messages. They are brief, memorable and usually seize the attention of the person they are meant to influence. Whether begrudgingly or gleefully, we repeat a handful of these sayings meeting after meeting hoping to penetrate the resistant skull of the newcomer.

Practice for our Brains

Brain research tells us repetition is the most basic technique for learning. You know, the “practice makes perfect” kind of thing. So while it may be frustrating to hear, Keep coming back; it works if you work it after every meeting, that simple phrase is burning its way into the consciousness of the newcomer, slipper, depressed and forgetful. That war cry means that some alkie will get up in the morning and hear the enemy’s cry of “Just one won’t hurt,” and they’ll use their counter cry, “Keep coming back.”

Because you chanted the war whoop with them at the meeting yesterday, you are more likely to see them back in the room today, despite the presence of the enemy.

As I approach half a century drug and alcohol free, my brain circuits have healed, where once they were fried. When people shared around the tables, my mind dawdled between fleeting thoughts. How would the rent get paid; could I take those pain meds after getting my wisdom teeth pulled; should I tell the group I dreamed about taking speed last night? Hmm, what did that guy say? Focus. Focus. Finally, something actually made it into my head, Learn to listen and listen to learn. Wow. I knew I wasn’t listening and also knew I wanted to. I could learn to listen and would listen to learn. That war cry gave me the strength to try harder.

In early recovery, my mother and I attended a meeting in San Pedro down by the docks. (Mom brought me to my first meeting and at this time we only had a few weeks each.) A huge display rack showcased hundreds of little cards with various slogans on them—free for the taking. Selecting which one we wanted to represent our innermost self was serious business back then. I chose several that had meaning for me while Mom deliberated a bit longer. Finally, she picked her perfect message: Be Humble and You Will Not Stumble. In later sobriety, we often remembered that slogan and laughed heartily, finding it all the funnier because at the time it seemed so profound.

Slogans Save Lives

Slogans are our method of capturing clean and sober insights in a compressed form. They are our weapons against the inner addict/alcoholic, the little itty bitty shitty committee upstairs, and the ever present disease doing push-ups in the parking lot while we attend a meeting. For alcoholics and addicts who have a rough time focusing in early recovery, slogans save lives, literally. They are the Swiss army knives of the Twelve Steps. Give slogans their due respect when working with others for they remain the War Cries in the battle for recovery.

Milestones Against Meth by Angela Goldberg

Stories of meth use and abuse permeate the news, leaving a string of tragic milestones, murders, domestic violence, and officer-involved shootings where a suspect’s meth use provoked the response. As disturbing as those stories are, there are also positive milestones. The County of San Diego Meth Strike Force has worked diligently to reduce meth problems through prevention, enforcement and treatment.

The following story is just one news-making incident of a meth-afflicted life gone wrong. In 1995, Army veteran Shawn Timothy Nelson, his life in a downward spiral due to meth use, slipped into a San Diego National Guard Armory. Nelson pried open the hatch of an M-60 Patton tank and went on a demolition mission along San Diego streets. He flattened cars and bulldozed fire hydrants before getting stuck on a median on Highway 163. Nelson’s life ended when he attempted to dislodge the tank and drive it into oncoming traffic. He was shot to death by a police officer. This story received a great deal of attention, but it only scratches the surface of the destruction that can be attributed to meth use.

In 1996, in response to growing meth problems, San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob established the Meth Strike Force (MSF); a multi-agency partnership charged with addressing meth-related issues in the region. It was the first, in what has become a long list, of milestones in the fight against meth in San Diego County. The following are several other positive milestones:

In 1998, San Diego County was one of the first to establish local limits on the sale of precursor chemicals used to manufacture meth. This became a State Law in 2001 and a national standard in 2005.

The Vista Partners Project began in 1999; a multi-pronged, intensive, local community effort to reduce meth problems in partnership with MSF and the City of Vista.

Supervisor Jacob convened a Board of Supervisor study session on women and meth, laying the groundwork for gender appropriate services in 2004.

Also in 2004, the MSF held the first of several large conferences at Marine Corp Air Station Miramar to ensure a common understanding and knowledge base regarding meth and meth-related issues.

In 2005, the Stop Meth Associated Crimes, or SMAC, campaign targeted meth-fueled identity theft, helping to enact a State standard blocking key credit card information printed on sales receipts.

Meth quotePrevention specialists and law enforcement teamed to eliminate drug paraphernalia sales in 2006.

In 2007, the documentary Crystal Darkness aired in San Diego, resulting in numerous calls to the Meth Hotline.

MSF began Operation Tip the Scale in 2009, a first-of-its-kind project linking law enforcement with drug treatment counselors for the purpose of providing treatment options to offenders in lieu of jail. The operation continues today, including “tip to treatment” where arrestees are taken directly to treatment.

In 2010, the county adopted a crime-free multi-housing ordinance that requires managers of problem apartment and condominium complexes to get training in recognizing and preventing drug-related problems through lease conditions and environmental design.

The Tip the Scale campaign won an award from the National Association of Counties in 2011 for innovation in addressing meth abuse issues.

These milestones give hope that soon the tide will turn in the meth epidemic. Yet, meth use continues to be a problem locally and nationwide. Readers can help by using treatment and recovery resources, reporting meth-related crime and encouraging people with meth use histories to seek help. For more information, visit

Angela Goldberg is the Facilitator, of the San Diego County Methamphetamine Strike Force (MSF) and also the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force (PDTF).

The Sunshine Vitamin by Dr. Keerthy Sunder and Jeffrey Bohnen

The beautiful Californian sun shining down onto the laptop used to type these words couldn’t be more fitting, given the topic of our article this month. The sun’s light is actually absorbed and processed by our bodies to produce Vitamin D!

Want a quick, noninvasive test to see if you’re getting enough Vitamin D?

Here it is: check to see if you have tan lines.

The presence of tan lines is a quick and dirty indicator that your levels of Vitamin D are probably sufficient. However, especially during the winter, it’s quite common to develop Vitamin D insufficiency. In fact, it’s estimated that Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost half of the world’s population.

But why does Vitamin D matter?

The funny thing about Vitamin D is that it’s not really a vitamin. It’s actually a hormone, which means that it can directly affect gene expression. Vitamin D is a key regulator of the mind and body, as it supports:

Bone Health – it helps your body absorb calcium, which strengthens your bones.

Mood and Well-being – it may help regulate mood and protect you from depression.

Weight Loss – may help regulate appetite.

Healthy Energy Levels – may improve energy levels and lower stress.

Disease Prevention – proper Vitamin D levels may reduce your risk for developing multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and the flu.

Cellular Health – Vitamin D may slow down the effects of aging.

A lack of Vitamin D can lead to a variety of related disruptions in the mind and body. For example, research found that people with deficient Vitamin D levels were 91% more likely to develop insulin resistance (a precursor for diabetes). Low levels of Vitamin D have also been implicated as a risk factor for cancer, autoimmunity, gut-brain issues, hormonal imbalances, and dementia.

Okay, that sounds important … so how do I get it?

The easiest way is to soak up some sunshine. Although it’s a rough approximation, fifteen minutes of sunshine per day is a common recommendation. Keep in mind, however, that factors such as distance from the equator, clothing, and skin pigment affect Vitamin D absorption. In addition, it may not be possible to receive sufficient sun exposure during certain parts of the year or in certain environments. In such cases, it’s best to ensure that your diet contains healthy sources of Vitamin D, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and eggs (eat the yolks). In addition, milk is often fortified with Vitamin D.

Fun fact: The government implemented a milk fortification program during the 1930’s to overcome rickets (soft/weak bones), which was a major public health problem at the time.

Another option to ensure sufficient Vitamin D levels is supplementation. Specifically, I’d recommend looking for a Vitamin D3 supplement from a trustworthy distributor. As a gift to our readers, we’d be happy to offer a 15% discount for people interested in our own premium-quality Vitamin D3 supplement. Simply mention Step 12 Magazine Vitamin D3 Discount in an email to, and we’ll hook you up. Taking a Vitamin D3 each day has the potential to help you achieve joy, peace, and balance in your recovery.

Note: Dietary Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that its absorption is dependent on the presence of fat molecules. This means that it’s best to take a Vitamin D supplement with a hearty meal.

Should I be worried about taking too much?

The short answer is both yes and no. The form of Vitamin D that we make from sunlight is more easily regulated by our bodies. Therefore, it’s difficult to “overdose” on sun-derived Vitamin D—although you will probably have other things to worry about if you’re receiving too much sun exposure. On the other hand, you have to be careful with Vitamin D derived from food or supplements because excessive amounts of these molecules can become toxic. Be sure to carefully follow the suggested usage guidelines for Vitamin D supplements. Of course, consult with your doctor before making any changes in your diet and supplementation.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Now get out there and enjoy the sun!

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