12 Step Program: The Cornerstone of Addiction Treatment

12 Step Programs

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This article will provide all the details of the AA 12 step program, but also information about other 12 step programs and their prospects. Most participants find that they have to go back to one or more steps on the 12 step program list. The recovery program can help religious and nonreligious people alike. The language used in its context focuses on the presence of a higher power as each member understands it. This allows for different interpretations irrespective of one’s religion, spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof.

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Table of Contents

The 12 Step Program – Long Road to Recovery

There’s no way around it – recovery can be, and often is, a lifelong process. The good news is that one cannot approach any 12 step program the wrong way. Every recovering addict needs time to figure out what works best for his or her individual needs, and these programs give this time to heal the addiction. As with any recovery process, participants start by admitting a sense of powerlessness over alcohol, which has caused their lives to spiral out of control.-1-6

12 Step Program Steps – Admitting Powerlessness

The 12 step program speaks to the members of AA as a collective body – it is not focused on the individual. A number of other 12-step groups have adapted them for their own addiction recovery and treatment purposes and plans.

  1. Admitting powerlessness over alcohol, which makes it impossible for one to control his or her life.
  2. There is only one authority for the group’s aims–a caring and loving God or another higher power that can bring healing of the addiction.
  3. The recovering addict knowingly makes a decision to receive treatment and turn his or her life over to the care of this higher power.
  4. The recovering addict performs a brave “moral inventory”.
  5. The recovering addict admits doing wrongs and their specific nature to God or another higher power, him- or herself, and/or other people.
  6. The recovering addict is willing to overcome defects of character with the help of a higher power.
  7. The recovering addict is humbled and asks God to remove his or her shortcomings to help overcome the addiction.
  8. Effective treatment involves making a list of the people harmed and a declaration of willingness to make amends.
  9. Direct amends are made wherever possible, unless that could injure the addict or someone else in the course of treatment.
  10. The addict continues to perform moral inventory throughout the program and admits wrongs promptly.
  11. During treatment, the addict seeks to improve conscious contact with the higher power in the program through prayer and meditation. He or she only prays to know its will and for the power to carry it out.
  12. Having had a transcendent awakening after these steps of the treatment, the former addict tries to bring the message to all suffering alcoholics and practice these principles in daily affairs.

Adapted Principles and Additional Information

AA unity is the guiding principle of personal recovery, and common welfare comes first. There is only one authority for the treatment aims–a caring and loving God as He may manifest Himself in the collective conscience of the group. Treatment group leaders only serve Him; they do not govern the group. The only thing one needs to join the AA program is a desire to stop drinking alcohol. Treatment groups are sovereign in nature unless a matter affecting other groups or the AA program in general is at hand. An AA group never finances, endorses, or lends the name of the organization to any outside enterprise or related facility, because issues involving money, property, assets, and recognition could divert it from its main purpose – treating addiction.

12 Step Programs Support Themselves

In this connection, it is to be made clear that all AA groups support themselves. They are not allowed to accept outside contributions. The service centers of Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step programs are allowed to employ professional staff, but the organization itself remains nonprofessional. AA programs must never be organized, but groups may create committees or service boards directly responsible to the members. The name of Alcoholics Anonymous must never be mixed in public controversy because the treatment facility has no stance on outside issues. The organization’s PR policy is based not on promotion, but on attraction. Hence, personal anonymity is always preserved on the media level. Participants recovering from addiction can rest assured that their anonymity throughout the treatment is guaranteed.

What Other Addictions Can 12 Step Programs Treat?

It’s been almost a century since the only recognized addiction was to alcohol – Alcoholics Anonymous was started back in 1935. It has grown into an international organization since, with more than 70,000 groups all over the world. With time, the 12 step program has been modified to address a wide variety of addictions, including drugs, sex, gambling, and even food addiction. They have done so successfully for the most part, because these addictions have quite a few key aspects in common.

Addiction Treatment – The Common Core

If an addict were completely honest, they would find they cannot put an end to their addiction. There is little control over the substance consumed. It truly is a fine line between normal and compulsive behavior, one that an individual unknowingly crosses only too often. This is precisely what 12-step programs are aimed at. An addiction is diagnosed based on how the individual is affected when they make an attempt to stop a certain behavior. They find they cannot stop the behavior whenever they want. They report lack of ability to deal with the addiction and giving in to it more often than they want to. Sometimes they report having been confronted about this behavior or people around them having joked about this behavior being excessive. Addicts have lost jobs or had relationships fall apart. Finally, individuals suffering from addiction make efforts to hide it because if anyone were to find out, they would feel embarrassed. So what is the 12 step program for treatment of other addictions?

Narcotics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery

Narcotics Anonymous is an international, community-based organization with a multicultural membership. It holds 67,000 meetings weekly in more than a hundred countries. The organization offers recovery from addiction through a twelve-step program, of which regular meeting attendance is a key aspect. By offering peer support, the group atmosphere of a 12 step recovery program provides help for former addicts who wish to become completely drug-free. The organization doesn’t focus on any particular drug, and membership is free. Another addiction treatment organization is Celebrate Recovery. It provides help not only for drug and/or alcohol addiction, but also for addiction to anger (including anger management therapy), food addiction and other eating disorders, sex and/or relationship addiction, codependency, and gambling addiction.

Cocaine Anonymous – Help for Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine Anonymous is a community of men and women who share their hope and experience to solve their problems with cocaine addiction and help others recover. The members of the group come from various ethnic, social, religious, and economic backgrounds, and the wish to stop using cocaine is the only requirement for participation in a 12 step program. There are no membership fees; the organization supports itself. Voluntary contributions can be made to cover expenses such as rent, literature, and services to help recovering addicts. Like all other 12-step programs, CA is not affiliated with any outside organization, nor does it align itself with any particular religion.

Sex Addiction – Support and Treatment Options

Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) is an organization aimed exclusively at helping people overcome their addiction to sex. The main goal of the 12 step program SAA has put in place is stopping addictive sexual behavior, such as compulsively seeking one-night stands. The organization puts its members on the road to recovery by helping them understand they have been powerless over addictive sexual behavior until that point and cannot change without outside help. During SAA meetings, members listen to each other’s stories and come to realize the possibilities of recovery from addiction. In this non-threatening, accepting environment, participants learn how to apply the 12 step principles in everyday life. The steps of recovery help sufferers abstain not only from compulsive sexual behavior, but also from the obsessive, painful mental preoccupation with sex. The ultimate objective of the program is the return of personal integrity. Members rediscover the joy of freedom from addiction and a new sense of purpose in life.

How Effective is a 12 Step Program for Addictions?

For some people, the 12-step approach to addiction treatment is extremely beneficial. However, not every recovering addict will feel comfortable with its spiritual aspects. This is why some organizations have put non–12-step programs in place. There have been quite a few studies on how well 12-step programs work over time. Understandably, the anonymous and voluntary nature of these groups makes it hard for researchers to hold randomized controlled trials. The following statistics are available:

  • A review of the available data found indisputable evidence of AA’s effectiveness. More specifically, the rates of abstinence are two times lower among those who don’t attend AA compared to those who do.
  • Researchers have found that 49% percent of AA group members were able to achieve abstinence in the long term compared to 46% of formal treatment participants. The study also found that the likelihood of a person staying abstinent was directly proportional to the duration of their stay in AA in the first 3 years of recovery.
  • A study found that involvement in AA led to decreased alcohol consumption and fewer alcohol-related problems.
  • A study of 3,018 male inpatients found that 12-step meeting participants were less likely to relapse at follow-up compared to non-participants. Depression incidences were inversely proportional to durations of participation in 12-step groups. The best outcomes were achieved by patients who attended both 12-step programs and some form of outpatient treatment.
  • The above findings were corroborated in studies of other organizations offering 12-step programs, including Gamblers Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous, and Crystal Meth Anonymous.

Should One Join a 12 Step Program?

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74% of addiction treatment facilities worldwide use the 12 step model, which testifies to its effectiveness. Questions still remain, however, about whether these programs are the best possible setting for people with dual diagnoses because their focus is on substance use and addiction, not mental and psychological health. Some recovering addicts in 12-step programs have reported feeling uncomfortable during meetings because they perceived them as overly spiritual, male-dominated, and aimed at an older population. Notwithstanding this fact, 12-step facilitation remains prevalent in rehabilitation organizations. Focus is given to common misconceptions and erroneous beliefs addicts harbor. Emotionally, addiction begins with avoidance, reliance on oneself, and escalating denial, which gradually transforms into vicious self-defense. 12 step programs recognize this and tailor their approach accordingly.

View Sources
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2746426/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10535246


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