Our best minds and scholars have spent years researching addiction, coming to the conclusion that it’s not merely a sign of abnormality, immorality, or being a self-centered, selfish deviant; rather, addiction is a disease that’s not unlike diabetes or heart disease. However, even though addiction is technically a disease, it’s also quite different from many other diseases. It leads to not only physical side effects, but also emotional, social, and psychological side effects. As an individual who is experimenting with substance abuse sinks into the depths of addiction, the changes he or she experiences can be profound, but some of the worst damage that occurs is to behavior.
Many of the individuals who are incarcerated in the United States today have been convicted of drug-related crimes. This is likely because the disease of addiction forces many addicts to turn to criminal behavior as a means of supporting what becomes an increasingly expensive habit. Addicts frequently like, cheat, and steal, even from their own family, friends, and loved ones, if that’s what it takes to obtain another dose of their drugs of choice.
Even alcohol—legally available for purchase by anyone who is of legal drinking age—can lead to financial ruin if an individual’s drinking happen becomes such that physical dependency becomes too costly. As such, even the most wholesome, caring individuals can lose their money, jobs, and homes over the course of active addiction to alcohol and drugs.
Since it’s the many non-health effects that tend to ripple through the lives of an addict’s loved ones, most addicts damage or even destroy many of the relationships that are important to them. Relationships with parents, spouses or partners, friends, colleagues, and so on, many of these connections are repeatedly tested and strained, eventually broken and leaving the addict with no one to whom he or she can turn.
Interventions are a common way for loved ones to non-aggressively confront an addict, pleading with him or her to receive addiction treatment; interventions have a high rate of success that is likely due to the fact that the addict is able to see and feel how much they are loved and are promised support throughout the recovery process. It’s often a lack of support that renders addicts either unable or unwilling to initiate the journey of recovery, which involves lifelong effort and strength of conviction. This is likely why support groups have proven to be so successful for sustaining individuals’ recovery for the long-term as they offer an ongoing support network of peers who can guide and advise addicts due to having firsthand experience with recovery.
Alcoholics Anonymous: The Original Twelve-Step Program
In 1935, just two years after the end of prohibition in the United States, Bill Wilson—himself a recovering alcoholic—inadvertently started the first twelve-step support group as he attempted to help his associate, Dr. Bob Smith, achieve sobriety from alcohol. Due to the efforts of Wilson and Smith, a recovery fellowship began that would continue to gain momentum by offering alcoholics and other addicts a means of becoming sober.
At the time, Wilson had been participating in another non-denominational recovery movement called the Oxford Group, but was advised that seeking recovery through the scope of spirituality would yield better, more lasting results. The Oxford Group provided a template for Wilson, consisting of the informal group gatherings or meetings, a perspective of change that results from personal development achieved from steps, and working toward personal rather than material gain.
However, rather than focusing on recovery in terms of a medical or scientific experiment, it was Wilson’s hope that his group would become a community, aiding and guiding one another toward the common goal of lasting sobriety, offering encouragement or accountability as needed. As such, individuals who has insofar been unable to remain sober while participating in other recovery treatments found themselves finally able to abstain as a member of Wilson’s recovery fellowship.
It was this power—the power of fellowship, empathy, and of working individually yet together toward a common goal—that was unique to Wilson’s group and served as the core concept for the spirituality that would be a trademark of the program.
As Wilson’s recovery fellowship grew to national proportions, he wrote some of the core literature that remains integral to twelve-step programs today. In 1939, Wilson and other members of the fellowship wrote “The Big Book,” or Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism, which offered the fellowship its namesake and officiated the group’s basic values, principles, goals, and methods.
Much of the book has remained unchanged ever since its first printing and contains the earliest incarnation of twelve steps through which addicts admit to being powerless to addiction, recognize faults of character, and seek help from the higher power of their individual understandings. Additionally, the Big Book asserts the power and recovery potential inherent in prayer and meditation, seeking and offering guidance to fellow members of the group, making amends with those who have been harmed in some way over the course of an addict’s suffering, and so on, providing a template for step-based recovery that made it possible for individuals to organize twelve-step programs anywhere the program is needed.
In 1953, Wilson published The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, which greatly expanded on the individual steps as well as established guidelines for relationships between groups, members, and nationally and global fellowships as the program continued to grow.
Today, Alcoholics Anonymous continues to be one of the most popular forms of treatment for addicts at any stage in their individual recovery. Twelve-step meetings are unique for often being run by peers, or by the members of the groups; in other words, they’re “by and for” the alcoholics and addicts. Additionally, twelve-step support groups are notable for being useful, not only to addicts, but as resources for the loved ones of addicts who want to learn more about addiction or how to be an effective supporter of the addict the know and love.
New members and those addicts who are just beginning recovery are encouraged to find a sponsor in the program, which is an individual who has been a member for a length of time, has maintained sobriety long-term, and who will be able to be an on-call supporter for an individual in the event that he or she experiences cravings or is otherwise tempted to relapse. Sponsors also help newer members to “work the steps,” which refers to learning about each individual step and completing them in order before moving on to the next, considered the fellowship’s official route of recovery. Many recovering addicts will participate in a twelve-step program alongside an inpatient or outpatient program as a supplement to medical addiction treatments as well.
Addiction is a lonely, deadly disease; however, if you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. Our knowledgeable recovery specialists can expertly match those in need with the addiction recovery program that will best treat their addiction. Call us today.