After much consideration, we proposed the following general "12-step" framework which reflects the success of other established support groups across the country. As PTSDA grows, this framework will change to meet new challenges and the experiences of those running the program.
For some, the experience of military trauma causes deep conflict in their spirituality and past relationship to a God or Higher Power. The complementary version of a 12 step format is included in the following section of this site.
1. We admitted we were powerless over our trauma and the effects of the trauma--that our lives had become unmanageable.
Our first step is to accept the fact that we have become powerless to manage our emotions or to live meaningful lives. Even though we had the power to survive against the worst combat conditions, we must admit we have become powerless to win the battle against a new enemy—our memories, flashbacks, and combat instincts. Our past attempts to live meaningful lives and fight this psychological and emotional hell have failed. We now find ourselves powerless to change it.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
To survive this new battle, we seek meaning in having survived. We want to believe we have survived for a purpose. We would like to be free from nagging thoughts telling us we should never have left the battlefield alive—the place where our comrades gave their lives in war. We want to believe our lives will serve a better and higher purpose if we are alive rather than dead.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Our third step is to begin to find relief by seeking help from God or a Higher Power as we understand them, and from persons we can learn to trust. To find relief, we seek a source of help from persons whom we can learn to trust to renew our sensitivities to human emotions and spiritual qualities we fear we have lost.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and the effects of our trauma on our lives.
We will make a searching, positive inventory of ourselves and our actions. After taking the step of seeking and accepting help, we find ourselves aware of many negative qualities. We may fear that revealing ourselves to others will only be a negative experience. Thus, we ask a person we trust, and a higher power, to help us see our positive qualities and to honestly evaluate the presence of both desirable and undesirable qualities.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs and our anger over them.
We will admit to ourselves, to God, and to a person whom we trust, all our angry feelings and unproductive rage. With an awareness that we are not alone, we hope to understand the reason for our continuing rage. We will discover that our anger is likely to be our only defense against helplessness and experiencing other emotions. Thus, this important step will help us open the door to resolving other painful memories and emotions.
6. To openly discuss our emotions and fears in hope of resolve their origins and impact on our daily lives.
We will open the doors to the past and reveal to God and another person whom we trust, our frightening, traumatic memories. After beginning to realize that anger is often a defense against fear, we will now begin to understand the link between the two. In this way, we can begin to accept the fact that fear is normal and relief from fear may be found by facing it with the help of others.
7. To honesty accept responsibility for our words or actions and to forgive others for that beyond our control.
Ask for and accept forgiveness from God, and persons whom we trust, for committing, participating in, or knowing about acts committed which were unacceptable in our eyes, causing suffering and grief for other persons and now causing us to feel tormented with guilt and self-blame. After having accepted forgiveness, we can now forgive ourselves.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
We seek strength and support to finally grieve for those whom we left behind. We would like to finally be free, shedding tears without being lost in unending grief. This means also being able to understand the link between grief and all the feelings we have harbored for many years: anger at those who left us alone, guilt about surviving while others were killed, remorse for failing to save people who died, and yearnings to join those whose bodies have already been buried.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them, others or even ourselves.
We reveal to ourselves, God, and those we trust, all remaining suicidal or self-destructive wishes, and make a commitment to living. We wish to expose and purge those negative forces within us which still may prevent us from making a complete commitment to life. Thus, after further self-evaluation, we reveal to ourselves, to God, and those whom we trust, all remaining suicidal wishes, and ask to be purged of the remaining, destructive, death forces which have ourselves and others. Then, we seek and accept God’s daily strength to make a daily commitment to living.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
We reveal to ourselves, God, and another person, all remaining wishes for revenge, and ask for God’s strength to give these up. We seek and accept God’s strength to give up our wishes for revenge toward those who hurt us and injured or killed our friends and loved ones so we can learn the full meaning of love of God, of others, and of ourselves.
11. To rededicate our lives and efforts to better our selves and the conditions of others.
We seek knowledge and direction from God for a renewed purpose for our lives. Having been freed from those burdens which have kept us from having meaningful and purposeful lives, we are ready to find a renewed purpose for our lives. Recognizing that God’s power also can be a source of strength to live, we will daily seek freedom from old burdens or new problems through prayer, meditation, and a daily surrender to God. In this way, we can continue to find daily freedom from the past prison of rage, guilty memories, and impacted grief, and gain a knowledge of His purpose for our lives and the endurance to carry it out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to survivors of trauma, and to practice these principles in all our affairs
Having experienced spiritual rebirth, we seek God’s strength to love others and to help those who suffer as we have. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we seek to carry this message and to help all those who suffered as we have suffered.
Adapted after review of many internet sites and input from those facing the challenge of PTSD.