Introducing The First Layer – by Freddie van Rensburg

I am so excited to introduce you to The First Layer by Freddie van Rensburg. I ordered my book last week and it arrived in the post this morning.

One of the reasons I am so excited to have received this book is that I was in treatment with Freddie 9 years ago and it is amazing to look back now and see how far we have both come – the hard work and all the healing. Freddy is now a counselor and brings out regular podcasts on his website which you can access here.

Freddie is a gentle and kind person with an amazing sense of humor, and I can see him making an incredible counselor that has wonderful insight into people.

The First Layer is a 12 step work book that will take you through the 12 steps in 21 days, which is a great thing for newbies to recovery and an oldie like me that gets tired of working the same stepwork book!

Read more about The First Layer here.


Step 5 of the 12 Steps

Step 5 of the 12 Steps is very often misunderstood. It is about sharing our Step 4 with our sponsor, but more importantly the honest admission to ourselves, to God and to another person that brings about spiritual growth.

We admitted to God, to ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

There is often a lot of fear around the fifth step, we often have very familiar feelings of fear or rejection, fear of judgement. We often don’t know if we can trust out sponsor yet and things brings about fear too.

step 5 of the 12 steps

The first time we work our Step 5 we need to face our fear and trust in our Higher Power, this is where our Step 3 really comes into play. Step 5 helps us to work through our fears, and to pray for courage and willingness.

Despite our fears we move forward and continue with our recovery.

Working the first four steps prepares us to work our Step 5.

“Admitted to God, to ourselves and another Human Being…”

Admitting the nature of our wrongs to God differs from person to person, each of us has a different understanding of our Higher Power and it is very personal. Some invite their Higher Power into their lives, other make a formal admission to God.

Once again in recovery we have to be honest with ourselves, we will find this being a common theme in our recovery. This is vitally important because during our active addiction we were lying to ourselves. We were in denial of our problem and our actions.

It is also very important to admit the nature of our wrongs to another person. We often cannot see what others can and other people can help us to accept responsibility for things, and also to accept what we don’t need to take responsibility for.

This will often be the very first time we are honest with another person. Our relationship with our sponsor is very often the first honest relationship we have, it is how we learn how to have healthy relationships with others.  The therapeutic nature of one addict helping another really comes into play with this step. The person we share our fifth step with will often also share their own personal experiences with us.

What is Meant by “The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs”

It is very important to distinguish between the actual wrongs we have committed and the nature of our wrongs. While we are doing our fifth step we will most likely see a pattern starting to emerge, a repetition of the same type of thing happening over and over in our lives. We often refer to these behaviors as our character defects.

So what has my personal experience of Step 5 been?

My first experience doing Step 5 was very scary. I still truly believed that I was somehow special and different. I thought the things I had done during my active addiction would make my sponsor reject me and make her think even less of me.

For this reason I purposefully did not include a lot of my wrong doings in my Step 4 and 5 the first time. To be honest there were a few complete lies in my first round of steps.

So I shared selectively the first time, but even so I expected a little bit of shock and disgust. What happened was completely unexpected. When I shared the worst things I had done my sponsor laughed and told me something she had done which was almost exactly the same. Everything I had experienced she had too, she didn’t turn her back on me, she didn’t run from the room in horror.

We landed up having a good laugh and I started to forgive myself. The next round of steps I got truly honest and I told her that I had purposefully left out a lot of things that I was too ashamed to talk about. I included these things in the second round of steps. Once again she laughed with me and told me she did exactly the same thing. She told me this is why we do the steps over and over again. It is not about getting it 100% correct the first time, it is progress not perfection.

I have now found the same thing when I have a sponsee and a look forward to it. It is not easy to trust someone immediately, so someone will share a little bit to begin with and as they start to trust me more they will share more and get more honest. As this happens I can see spiritual growth in myself and the other person. The therapeutic nature of this program is that when I have a sponsee I am not just helping my sponsee, I am helping myself at the same time.

This step can bring on great spiritual growth, self-love, acceptance and forgiveness. I highly recommend it!

Have you worked a Step 5 before? What was your experience like? Please leave a comment if you have any questions or anything to share.

Buy the Narcotics Anonymous Stepworking Guide 



Step 4 of the 12 Steps

Step 4 of the 12 Steps is where we start to really have an honest look at ourselves.

step 4 of the 12 steps moral inventory

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 4 is the start of finding out who we are. It is the beginning of the process of self-love and acceptance of ourselves. Steps 4 through to 9 is a process within the 12 steps that will lead to comfort, happiness and love.

Step 4 of the 12 steps onion layersIf you think of Step 4 like an onion, each time we do Step 4 we remove a layer of the onion. In the core of the onion is the pure and healthy version of us. Each layer we remove represents a layer of denial, our character defects and the harm we have caused.

Our goal in recovery is to have a spiritual awakening. Each time we do Step 4 we get closer to achieving this goal.

We need to learn about ourselves, discover ourselves again. The fourth step is not just about learning about our defects of character it is also about finding out what our assets are.

During this step we learn that our problems most likely started long before we started using drugs or alcohol. We will probably find that we felt isolated and different long before we started using any drugs. The desire to change how we feel led us to take our first drink or drug. The seeds of addiction were planted long before we touched any addictive substance.

This inventory will bring to the surface old conflicts and unresolved pain from our past.

The Narcotics Anonymous Stepwork Guide has two distinct sections for Step 4. The first takes you through the motivation for working the step and the second part guides you on taking your moral inventory.

For me personally Step 4 was very emotional the first time I did it. I have also found that every sponsee I have worked with has found Step 4 hard too.

Just the words moral inventory scared me. During my active addiction I did terrible things, to myself and others. My moral compass was broken and it was hard to be honest and face those things. I struggled to deal with my feelings of guilt and shame. I felt a lot of anger when writing down my resentments, all the old pain, hurt and anger came bubbling up to the surface. These are all the feelings I used drugs and alcohol to numb so I didn’t have to face them.

Step 4 of the 12 Steps AbuseDuring Step 4 I had to face these fears and look at my relationships, sexual behaviour, abuse I went through and share my dark secrets. It was the hardest step to face.

That is the scary bit about Step 4. The beautiful part about completing this step was that afterwards I felt light, like a load had been lifted from  me. There was a spiritual change in me. I had shared some of the darkest and most humiliating moments of my life, about my character with my sponsor. She didn’t look at me like I was some sort of monster, she accepted what I told her without judgement and shared some of the things she did in her active addiction. I started to feel like I was not alone anymore, somebody understood me and had done similar things.

She also helped me with my assets. I had no problem writing pages and pages of things that were wrong with me, but I could not seem to write any assets I had. I could not see anything good about myself. She saw things in me that I couldn’t see and she helped me to see myself as I truly am.

This was truly a difficult step for me but the gifts that followed far outweighed the pain of facing this step.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or feedback!

Buy the Narcotics Anonymous Stepworking Guide 




Step 3 of the 12 Steps

Step 3 of the 12 Steps is all about Surrendering to your Higher Power.

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

During active addiction we were incapable of making healthy decisions for ourselves. Either we couldn’t make decisions and everything we did was just ruled by our need to use or if we did make any decisions we made bad choices.

step 3 of the 12 steps gods willStep 3 is a process and does not mean that we suddenly start living our lives in a completely different way. Each day we make the decision to hand our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power. This is a very important point to highlight. We are allowing someone or something else to care for us. This does not mean that we simply let someone or something else control us and make all of our decisions for us. Nor do we become mindless robots that just follow directions.

We are allowing someone or something else to care for us. We are choosing to believe that our Higher Power will be able to make better decisions for us. We pray for the knowledge of God’s will instead of running rampant on our own self will.

Until this time we have probably been making all our decisions based entirely on our own self will. As we look back on our lives we will realise that running on self will is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place. We cannot do this on our own and we are incapable of making healthy decisions on our own.

Spiritual Principles of Step 3:

  • Surrender: we need to do this on a constant basis, when things are going well and when things are going badly
  • Willingness: we usually feel most willing after we have surrendered
  • Hope, Faith & Trust: there is a progression from Hope to Faith to Trust in the third step

step 3 of the 12 steps serenity

This step is very important to me personally. Although I have been in recovery for a number of years I constantly find myself in battle with my self will. I will be happily living my life and suddenly start encountering difficulties. When I go back to basics and start looking at what is going on in my life I find that I have been taking back my self will instead of trying to implement God’s will in my life. I then once again surrender myself to the program and to God’s will and find suddenly all the little bumps along the road start smoothing out. Life becomes easier again.

I won’t lie, there are plenty of times that there is a battle within me and I struggle to let go of my self will. It is when I finally let go and let God that peace and serenity once again settles over me.

The serenity prayer that we say at every meeting is beautiful and helps me find my path when I am struggling and don’t know which way to turn:

God, Grant me the Serenity to Accept the Things I cannot Change,

The Courage to Change the Things I Can,

And The Wisdom to Know the Difference.

This prayer always helps me to find the strength to surrender to my Higher Power and to understand what is God’s will and what is my self will.

step 3 of the 12 steps two wolvesI heard a little story a while back that really hits home for me. An old Cherokee tells his grandson that there are two wolves constantly fighting inside us. One is Good and the other is Evil. The boy asks he grandfather which wolf wins and his grandfather answers: The one that you feed the most.

If I don’t continuously check myself and ask whether I am running on self will or God’s will then my addiction will run riot and I will relapse. This is the reason that once the 12 steps has been completed I simply start them over again. I will be doing this for the rest of my life, it keeps me healthy and it keeps me clean.

I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment!


Buy the Narcotics Anonymous Stepworking Guide 



Step 2 of the 12 Steps

Step 2 of the 12 Steps is about hope, there is an answer and this answer is a Power Greater than Ourselves.

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 2 of the 12 StepsThis was an especially hard step for me. When I came into recovery I had a spiritual hole in me and I am not in the slightest religious. Being told that a Higher Power can relieve me of the need to use and to help me in my recovery was a massive challenge for me.

I was also very angry that I am an addict and felt that the world was very unfair. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? How can I live my life being an addict that can never use again?

These challenges are not unique to me, there are lots of addicts that are not religious. Or perhaps they were and are now angry with God for allowing them to be addicts.

What is Step 2 About?

Step 2 simply teaches us that there is a Higher Power that can restore us to sanity if we work the steps and follow the 12 Step Program. Our insanity is that we kept doing the same things expecting different results.

We learn what is meant by a Higher Power. 12 Step programs are spiritual, not religious. Your Higher Power is personal to you and this step will help you to connect with your Higher Power. This step is not so much focused on what your Higher Power is for you, but more on what your Higher Power can do for you.

During our addiction we had no hope. We did the same destructive things over and over again, the results were the same. When we start coming to 12 Step meetings we see other addicts that are clean and living a full life in recovery. We hear these addicts share about their addiction and where it took them, how they worked the program and got clean. We learn that we too can achieve this.

Even though we feel pain when we are stripped of our denial, this feeling is replaced with hope for the future.

Step 2 of the 12 Steps HopeStep 2 also teaches us about our insanity. During our active addiction we believed we could control our using even though it was very clear we couldn’t. We look at how we made bad decisions and how our lives were out of balance.

Most of us have barriers, preventing us from believing in a Higher Power. These barriers are addressed during this step. We look at what is holding us back and what we do believe in. Often we have a clearer idea of what a Higher Power is not, than what a Higher Power is.

The next focus point in this step is restoration to sanity. Through being clean for a short period of time and starting to work the program we are able to make better decisions. We have a better perspective and are able to see that we do have a decision about the choices me make and the way we act. As we grow in recovery our understanding of sanity changes. It is important to realise that just because we have stopped using does not mean all our old destructive ways are miraculously gone. Restoration to sanity is a process and will take some time.

Spiritual Principles of Step 2

  • Open-mindedness: we open our minds to the fact that we cannot do this alone, that we need help.
  • Willingness: to go to meetings, to work with our sponsor, to listen to other addicts’ stories, to do things we might previously have been unwilling to do.
  • Faith: we have to act as if we have faith. We don’t have to be dishonest but faith is not something that appears overnight.
  • Trust: we need to trust in the program and that the pain we will feel during this time we can get through.
  • Humility: we stop relying on our own thinking and begin to ask for help.

When I started Step 2 I struggled with it and was full of self will, which is the opposite of God’s will. I was told by my sponsor that if I can’t believe in God I must find something to believe and trust in. She suggested I use the 12 Step meetings and members as my Higher Power to start with. This was a big step for me and it worked wonders in my life.

Please leave a comment if you are needing help with Step 2 or if you have anything you would like to add.

Buy the Narcotics Anonymous Stepworking Guide 







Step 1 of the 12 Steps

Step 1 of the 12 Steps is about breaking through your denial and facing the consequences of your addictions.

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable

Step 1 of the 12 StepsThe first step in your recovery involves going to 12 step meetings, finding a sponsor and working through the 12 steps with your sponsor. A sponsor is someone in the program that has more clean time than you and has already worked through the 12 steps with their sponsor.

It is important abstain to start the working the 12 steps.

In Alcoholics Anonymous members work the from the AA Big Book and in Narcotics Anonymous members work the steps from the NA Stepwork Guide.

 What is Step 1 About?

Step 1 teaches you about the disease of addiction. It teaches you that you cannot be cured but you can manage your addiction by working your recovery program.

Step 1 starts you on your journey to break through the denial of your problem. You do this by looking at the consequences of your addiction, assessing the damages you have done. Every addict has caused damage in almost every aspect of his/ her life. We have lost jobs, been evicted from our homes and damaged our relationships. A lot of us have been arrested for things such as drunken driving, possession of narcotics or theft.

Step 1 of the 12 steps

Most of us come into the program because of a particular event or series of events, very often this is what we call our Rock Bottom. While working Step 1 you will look at what brought you to this point.

Until we came into the program we most likely believed we could deal with our problem on our own, that we could control our problem. Step 1 addresses our powerlessness over our addiction. It takes us through the ways we tried (and failed) to do things our way. If we continue to try and do things our way on our own, the result will just be the same. We will continue to use and continue to cause damage to ourselves and others.

step 1 of the 12 steps changeWe go back through our life and look at the way our addiction affected every aspect in our lives, how our lives had become completely unmanageable.

On a personal note I can say that my addiction reached and contaminated every part of my life. I couldn’t have a healthy relationship with anyone. This was partly due to my actual behaviour in the relationship, the way I treated others. But another aspect is that no healthy man would ever have considered me a viable partner, the only men interested in me were as sick as I was. The applied to friendships. The only people that would have anything to do with me were addicts, alcoholics and mentally unhealthy people.

Every addict fears not being able to use every again. This fear holds us back and prevents us from seeking recovery.Perhaps we are too ashamed to admit to our problem, too scared what others will think of us if they know we are an addict? I can guarantee you that going for help doesn’t mean that they will find out then that you have a problem. I am sure everyone knows, usually the addict/ alcoholic is the last one to realise!  We go through all our reservations and concerns about getting clean and being in recovery.

Step 1 also helps us Surrender. There is a difference between resignation and surrender. Resignation is what we feel when we realise we are addicts but we haven’t accepted recovery as the answer to our problem. Surrender is when we accept the First Step is true for us and accept that recovery is the solution to our problem. We want to recover and we want to live a different life.

Each Step in the 12 Steps focuses on spiritual principles.

Spiritual Principles of Step 1

  • Honesty: we admit to ourselves we are an addict. We continue to be honest on a daily basis.
  • Open-mindedness: being ready to believe there may be another way to live and being willing to try it out.
  • Willingness: being willing to go to meetings, to follow our sponsor’s suggestions and to give recovery our best shot
  • Humility: acceptance of who we truly are. Not believing ourselves to be less or more than we actually are.
  • Acceptance: when we accept our addiction there is an profound inner change. We start to feel a sense of peace and a sense of hope. Through acceptance recovery can become a precious gift.

My Personal Experience of Step 1

The truth about any addict’s rock bottom is that unless you are dead you can always dig deeper. This was true for me. Every time I thought I was at my lowest point I could be I still managed to carry on and make more of a mess of my life.

I bumped into someone I knew from school (yes 15 years after leaving school) and she asked how I was doing. I told her I had just come out of rehab and her response was “Thank God, it’s about time!”. Yes, everyone knows long before you do! It took me 15 years to come to my realization.

I couldn’t get clean until I was ready to, to get to this point I had to rack up a lot of consequences and damages first. I had to get to a place where I couldn’t sit with my blinkers on anymore and pretend (to myself and to others) that I didn’t have a problem. It is when I had nowhere to wiggle to, now way to get out of things, that I came to a place where I was ready to admit my problem.

This was a scary place for me, but it is also the place where I started to move forward for the what felt like the first time in my life and not backwards.

If you have any questions about Step 1 or have anything you would like to add please leave a comment.


12 Step Program

The Addiction 12 Step Program

The addiction 12 step program is where I find my recovery and I will be sharing a lot on the 12 Step Program.

Addiction 12 Step ProgramAlcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous follow the 12 Step Program. There are also various other 12 Step support groups such as Eating Disorders Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous to help with various types of addictions.

I will be trying my best to cover information on all types of addictions, even the ones that I don’t know much about. From my understanding addiction is basically the same whether your addiction is to alcohol, drugs, food or sex.

Addiction simply put is using something external to try and change the way you feel. It can be work, exercise, relationships, gambling, Facebook or sex.

Non-addicts also do this, in a normal sort of way. Such as eating a chocolate when feeling sad or having a glass of wine to relax. That does not make a person an addict. Addicts take things to extremes and when we use our behaviour changes and very often damages occur in our lives from this behaviour.

If you are an addict I really suggest that you find a 12 Step Meeting near you as soon as possible and if you are looking at going to rehab try and find one that works the 12 step program. Remember that going to rehab can help you get started on the road to recovery, but it is the 12 step program that will keep you clean once you leave. It is also an amazing place to find support and friends once you leave treatment.


Here are the 12 steps and if you want to see more detailed information on each step please check the drop down menu from the top navigation menu.

12 step recovery program


If you have any questions or feedback about the 12 steps or anything about recovery please leave a comment.