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12-Step Programs For Addiction

How the 12 Steps Can Help You Fight Addiction

The 12-step programs available today have helped millions of people regain sobriety and go on to live fulfilling lives after battling substance dependency and addiction.

Despite the lack of scientific evidence, there’s growing support for the implementation of the 12-step method into clinical forms of treatment such as inpatient and outpatient programs, which can enrich the recovery experience by offering a level of spirituality in addition to addressing physical, psychological, and social needs.

What Is a 12-Step Program?

A 12-step program uses 12 principles to guide people as they work to recover from substance addiction, dependency, and other disorders, including behavioral issues. It is estimated that more than 200 self-help groups now use some form of the 12 steps for recovery. The programs are free or low-cost, which also be among the reasons they are attractive to some who are recovering from substance abuse. Participants who join 12-step groups attend regularly held meetings as they start their journey to taking and completing the 12 steps. During this time, they will fellowship over their experiences and face their strengths and weaknesses as they put their lives back together.

The most widely known programs based on the Twelve Steps model of recovery are:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)

The 12 Steps model of Alcoholic Anonymous, which was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson, has served as the foundation for other programs that use the same approach to addiction treatment and recovery.

The Origin of the 12-Steps Model

In the scope of history, 12-step programs are relatively new resources that starkly contrast with some of the earliest perceptions of addiction. Before substance abuse problems were considered an issue worthy of study and treatment, the consensus was that addicts were at fault rather than suffering from a disease or the addictive potential of substances.

The belief was that anyone who habitually abused alcohol or other substances was simply choosing not to control himself, which warranted punishment. This view is what allowed people to continue to believe that alcohol posed no danger to them and that chronic substance abuse was simply a person consciously sinning.

Bill Wilson was a former Wall Street banker and an alcoholic who had made the rounds at the various rehabilitation resources that were available, including the Oxford Group. He found certain bits and pieces of the Oxford Group’s methodology to be effective, but he felt that the higher volume of ineffectiveness negated the group’s value, so he began to create his own ideology and hold his own meetings.

Initially, the goal was for Wilson to help both himself and his colleague, Dr. Bob Smith, overcome alcoholism using Wilson’s method.

He had intended for his method to be more spiritual rather than overtly religion and wanted to account for the disease perspective that had become the most compelling understanding of addiction. Once he broke his method down into his renowned 12 Steps, Wilson’s new support group, Alcoholics Anonymous, gained rapid momentum throughout the United States.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have remained virtually the same as when they were first written in 1935. Since then, the 12-step method has been adapted for narcotics addictions, cocaine addiction, and even to serve as support groups for the loved ones of addicts.

It’s likely that the method’s longevity and popularity can be attributed to its versatility; though conceived as a blueprint for spiritual recovery, the 12-step method is accessible to individuals of virtually any faith, even atheists and agnostics.

What Are the 12 Steps?

Here is a comprehensive list of the 12-Steps:

  • Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

How Do Twelve-Step Drug Treatment Programs Help with Addiction?

There are many ways 12-step treatment programs can help in the treatment of addiction. One of the main reasons people abuse drugs and alcohol or other substances is because they feel unfulfilled or their lives have no meaning or value.

To overcome these feelings and numb themselves from their unhappiness, such individuals would turn to alcohol and drug abuse as a way to fill that void and keep from feeling unhappy. With a 12-step program, there’s a major emphasis on using one’s beliefs and spirituality to address that inner need.

This is helpful is because guiding a person toward finding fulfillment and meaning in life will address what was likely the main cause or motivation for his or her substance abuse. In short, it helps a person to both get and stay sober.

After developing an addiction, a person experiences a decline in physical health, mental and emotional well-being, and a loss of spirituality. Although most traditional, clinical addiction treatment programs can address the physical and the mental, the emotional and spiritual are more in the client’s hands as they are typically more difficult to address via psychotherapy and counseling.

However, when a program utilizes a 12 step-based approach, clients benefit from a much more comprehensive recovery.

Is a Twelve-Step Program Right for You?

Anyone can benefit from a 12-step program, and research shows the incorporation of twelve-step methodology in a clinical addiction treatment program offers the best of both worlds.

Many clients have reported preferring this twelve step-facilitated treatment over either clinical treatments or a 12-step program on its own. However, there are a number of situations in which a 12-step or 12 step-based addiction treatment program would be particularly beneficial.

In particular, anyone for whom their belief system, religion, or spirituality is an important part of life would be an ideal fit for 12-step programs; on the other hand, this shouldn’t be taken as discouragement for those who aren’t very spiritual as the 12-step method can be just as beneficial to an atheist as someone who’s spiritual.

Most people who join a 12-step program will come to see their home groups, or the groups they attend more frequently than any other, as a surrogate family and a substantially part of their support networks.

In fact, it’s this atmosphere of acceptance and support that is an instrumental part of 12-step programs and what has made them so effective for millions of people.

A 12-step program uses 12 principles to guide people as they work to recover from substance addiction, dependency, and other disorders, including behavioral issues. It is estimated that more than 2 self-help groups now use some form of the 12 steps for recovery. The programs are free or low-cost, which also be among the reasons they are attractive to some who are recovering from substance abuse. Participants who join 12-step groups attend regularly held meetings as they start their journey to taking and completing the 12 steps. During this time, they will fellowship over their experiences and face their strengths and weaknesses as they put their lives back together.

The most widely known programs based on the Twelve Steps model of recovery are:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)

The 12 Steps model of Alcoholic Anonymous, which was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson, has served as the foundation for other programs that use the same approach to addiction treatment and recovery.

In the scope of history, 12-step programs are relatively new resources that starkly contrast with some of the earliest perceptions of addiction. Before substance abuse problems were considered an issue worthy of study and treatment, the consensus was that addicts were at fault rather than suffering from a disease or the addictive potential of substances.

The belief was that anyone who habitually abused alcohol or other substances was simply choosing not to control himself, which warranted punishment. This view is what allowed people to continue to believe that alcohol posed no danger to them and that chronic substance abuse was simply a person consciously sinning.

Bill Wilson was a former Wall Street banker and an alcoholic who had made the rounds at the various rehabilitation resources that were available, including the Oxford Group. He found certain bits and pieces of the Oxford Group’s methodology to be effective, but he felt that the higher volume of ineffectiveness negated the group’s value, so he began to create his own ideology and hold his own meetings.

Initially, the goal was for Wilson to help both himself and his colleague, Dr. Bob Smith, overcome alcoholism using Wilson’s method.

He had intended for his method to be more spiritual rather than overtly religion and wanted to account for the disease perspective that had become the most compelling understanding of addiction. Once he broke his method down into his renowned 12 Steps, Wilson’s new support group, Alcoholics Anonymous, gained rapid momentum throughout the United States.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have remained virtually the same as when they were first written in 1935. Since then, the 12-step method has been adapted for narcotics addictions, cocaine addiction, and even to serve as support groups for the loved ones of addicts.

It’s likely that the method’s longevity and popularity can be attributed to its versatility; though conceived as a blueprint for spiritual recovery, the 12-step method is accessible to individuals of virtually any faith, even atheists and agnostics.

Array

Here is a comprehensive list of the 12-Steps:

  • Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Step 1: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

There are many ways 12-step treatment programs can help in the treatment of addiction. One of the main reasons people abuse drugs and alcohol or other substances is because they feel unfulfilled or their lives have no meaning or value.

To overcome these feelings and numb themselves from their unhappiness, such individuals would turn to alcohol and drug abuse as a way to fill that void and keep from feeling unhappy. With a 12-step program, there’s a major emphasis on using one’s beliefs and spirituality to address that inner need.

This is helpful is because guiding a person toward finding fulfillment and meaning in life will address what was likely the main cause or motivation for his or her substance abuse. In short, it helps a person to both get and stay sober.

After developing an addiction, a person experiences a decline in physical health, mental and emotional well-being, and a loss of spirituality. Although most traditional, clinical addiction treatment programs can address the physical and the mental, the emotional and spiritual are more in the client’s hands as they are typically more difficult to address via psychotherapy and counseling.

However, when a program utilizes a 12 step-based approach, clients benefit from a much more comprehensive recovery.

Array

Anyone can benefit from a 12-step program, and research shows the incorporation of twelve-step methodology in a clinical addiction treatment program offers the best of both worlds.

Many clients have reported preferring this twelve step-facilitated treatment over either clinical treatments or a 12-step program on its own. However, there are a number of situations in which a 12-step or 12 step-based addiction treatment program would be particularly beneficial.

In particular, anyone for whom their belief system, religion, or spirituality is an important part of life would be an ideal fit for 12-step programs; on the other hand, this shouldn’t be taken as discouragement for those who aren’t very spiritual as the 12-step method can be just as beneficial to an atheist as someone who’s spiritual.

Most people who join a 12-step program will come to see their home groups, or the groups they attend more frequently than any other, as a surrogate family and a substantially part of their support networks.

In fact, it’s this atmosphere of acceptance and support that is an instrumental part of 12-step programs and what has made them so effective for millions of people.

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