12 Step Programs

Twelve-step treatment began with Alcoholics Anonymous, and Alcoholics Anonymous sprang from the principles of a religious organization called the Oxford Group.

This group of people sought to improve themselves by:

  • Taking an honest self-inventory
  • Admitting to wrongdoing
  • Making amends to those harmed by their wrongdoing
  • Praying and meditating
  • Sharing their message of hope with others

One of the members of this group was an alcoholic and applied the spiritual principles to his recovery with great success. Through word of mouth, the application of the Oxford Group principles to recovery from medically irreversible alcoholism spread and soon one member, Bill W., found his own spiritual awakening and recovery through the group and ultimately began Alcoholics Anonymous. He went on to hold meetings in his home and write the AA Big Book that details the 12 steps of the program that are still followed around the world today.

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous were written by Bill W. and practiced by those working toward recovery from addiction through a variety of 12-step based programs. People often work these steps on a personal level, with the help of a “temporary sponsor,” or a person who has already successfully worked the steps on their own. Many people work the steps repeatedly, while others will turn to a specific step when faced with a challenge in their lives. In some cases, people attend AA meetings that are focused specifically on exploring and better understanding the different steps.

The 12 Steps

  • Step 1
    Admit that the addiction is strong, and that the addict is powerless to overcome it alone.
  • Step 2
    Believe that a power greater than the individual could assist with the problem.
  • Step 3
    Make a decision to turn life over to a higher power.
  • Step 4
    Make an inventory of the self.
  • Step 5
    Admit to the higher power and one other person the details of past mistakes and offenses.
  • Step 6
    Become ready to remove those defects of character.
  • Step 7
    Ask the higher power for help.
  • Step 8
    Make a list of everyone the addiction has harmed.
  • Step 9
    Make amends to those people, when possible.
  • Step 10
    Continue to take inventory and admit wrongdoing.
  • Step 11
    Pray or meditate to understand the will of the higher power.
  • Step 12
    Practice the principles and talk about them to other addicts.

Working the Steps

In recovery, participants are often counseled to take what they need from the experience and leave the rest. It’s not uncommon to come across strong-willed individuals within the program who believe that there is a right way and wrong way to do everything – including working the steps. Because there are no leaders in 12-step meetings and all participants are in recovery themselves, it is important to:

  • Change sponsors if you feel uncomfortable or would like to hear a new perspective.
  • Speak up at meetings and take an active role.
  • Talk to people during breaks and after meetings in order to build a wide networking base and avoid being influenced too heavily by any one person or faction.
  • Attend a number of different styles and types of meetings.
  • Continue utilizing outside recovery resources (e.g., personal therapy, alternative treatments, holistic treatments, etc.).
  • Stay focused on your personal recovery above all else.

FAQ About 12-Step Programs

It’s normal to have questions in recovery, especially when taking part in an organization that is defined by the personal experiences of so many unique participants. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and their answers:

  • How are the 12 steps used in residential treatment? When taking part in a comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation program, 12-step meetings are often part of the program or at least an option for patients. Not only do 12-step meetings offer the benefit of practicing accountability and honesty in recovery, but starting the program in treatment means that patients have a therapeutic intervention that will easily transition with them when they return home after rehab.
  • Is a 12-step approach right for me? Each 12-step meeting is different, and the feeling that one gets when there can vary from room to room. It’s important for those who attempt to utilize the 12 steps in their recovery to try different meetings before making a decision and include a wide range of therapeutic options no matter what their final verdict on the inclusion of the 12 steps.
  • Does the 12 steps work? Because the program is anonymous, there is little research done into the efficacy of the program. Anecdotal reports, a few limited studies, and its longevity as well as the worldwide nature of the program suggest that many have found it to be an important part of their recovery.
  • Are there any alternatives to 12-step meetings? Yes. There are a number of support groups that provide the much needed community and peer support offered by 12-step meetings. Some simply remove the religious aspect of the program. Others provide a professional therapist at the helm of each group to better guide discussions. The options are almost endless.
  • How do I find a 12-steps meeting? Links to meetings in the United States and internationally can be found at the Alcoholics Anonymous site. Additionally, you can learn about smaller meetings by word of mouth at large meetings, and you always have the option to start your own.

Integrated Care at Axis

The wider the variety of therapeutic interventions and treatments during rehab, the more likely it is that your loved one will be able to find an ongoing source of therapeutic growth and support that will sustain them through the long-term in recovery. Learn more about the 12 steps, comprehensive addiction treatment options, and how we can help your loved one overcome drug dependence when you contact us at Axis today.

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