12-Step Programs

For people who have been in addiction treatment, the real challenge to sobriety begins once they re-enter society. The real world can be a realm of unyielding temptations where relapse appears inevitable. They can be in an alumni program that offers a welcoming community of sober partners and still succumb to old habits. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 40 percent to 60 percent of people who attain sobriety will relapse.

Table of Contents

The fact is, addiction treatment requires lifelong management. Though relapse is a natural part of recovery, rather than a sign of failure, a person who struggles with addiction often trods a lonely path. But it does not have to be that way.

One time-honored treatment method has been a refuge for many who seek to conquer addiction. The 12-Step program method has helped millions of people with drug and alcohol addictions chart successful paths to sobriety.

Indeed, the 12-Step program has long been a fixture in addiction treatment. However, as methods have evolved, is the 12-Step approach still an effective option in these times? This guide will give you an in-depth look at how a 12-Step program works. It will also examine how it has been used for generations as a successful recovery tool.

For people who have been in addiction treatment, the real challenge to sobriety begins once they re-enter society. The real world can be a realm of unyielding temptations where relapse appears inevitable. They can be in an alumni program that offers a welcoming community of sober partners and still succumb to old habits. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 40 percent to 60 percent of people who attain sobriety will relapse.

group addiction treatment therapy

The fact is, addiction treatment requires lifelong management. Though relapse is a natural part of recovery, rather than a sign of failure, a person who struggles with addiction often trods a lonely path. But it does not have to be that way.

One time-honored treatment method has been a refuge for many who seek to conquer addiction. The 12-Step program method has helped millions of people with drug and alcohol addictions chart successful paths to sobriety.

Indeed, the 12-Step program has long been a fixture in addiction treatment.

However, as methods have evolved, is the 12-Step approach still an effective option in these times? This guide will give you an in-depth look at how a 12-Step program works. It will also examine how it has been used for generations as a successful recovery tool.

What Are 12-Step Programs?

A 12-Step program is a treatment approach that promotes the idea that addiction recovery can be achieved through spiritual growth and peer support. The model is most synonymous with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the world’s largest alcoholism support group.

The 12 steps include admitting a need for help with a substance abuse issue, relinquishing control of an addiction to a higher power, accepting help in realizing abstinence, examining flaws and past transgressions, and seeking to make amends for past mistakes. The 12-Steps are designed to tackle an addiction as it affects the three realms of human existence: the physical, mental, and spiritual.

As one of the most widely used addiction recovery methods in the world, 12-Step programs can also be used as a support group and additional therapy for people who already have been through treatment and want help with staying sober.

The History of 12-Step Therapy

The group that would go on to establish the 12-Step methodology began in Akron, Ohio, in 1935. That’s when a Wall Street stockbroker named Bill Wilson and a surgeon named Dr. Robert Smith met to discuss their struggles with alcohol. Alcohol use had cost Wilson his career. He was hospitalized for his addiction and also sought help from a Christian fellowship named the Oxford Group, a religious movement that became popular in Europe and the United States in the early 20th century.

The Oxford Group believed that at the root of all problems was fear and selfishness and the solution to those issues was to surrender one’s life to God.

With the help of a friend named Ebby Thacher, Wilson successfully stopped drinking. He began working with people who applied the group’s standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love as an answer to their alcohol issues.

Wilson shared what he learned from his experience with Smith, that alcoholism “was a malady of mind, emotions, and body.” Thanks to Wilson’s ideas, Smith would soon get sober, never to drink again.

The men came together to work with people with alcohol addiction at an Akron hospital. When Wilson and Smith helped a patient realize sobriety, the beginnings of AA were formed. In the fall of 1935, a second group of men who struggled with alcoholism, formed in New York. A third came together in Cleveland in 1939. “It had taken over four years to produce 100 sober alcoholics in the three founding groups,” states the AA website.

In 1939, Wilson wrote a foundational book titled Alcoholics Anonymous, best known as the “Big Book.” It explained the philosophy and methods of AA of which the 12 Steps of Recovery were an essential part. AA would eventually expand into an international fellowship. While there is no official record of active members, it is believed that the organization has an estimated 2 million active members worldwide and another 118,000 active groups.

The 12-Step model was adopted by hundreds of groups that sought to help people with addictions, starting with Narcotics Anonymous in 1953.

Prevent a tragedy, talk to an experienced professional and stop addiction today!

Prevent a tragedy, talk to an experienced professional and stop addiction today!

How 12-Step Programs Work

The 12-Step methodology has been tailored to cover different addictions, but most of them follow the original 12 steps and traditions created by Wilson and Smith in the 1930s. Essentially, the program’s goal is to build up your spiritual well-being and connect you with people who understand what you are going through. The following are some of the means by which 12-Step programs help members to achieve and maintain sobriety:

The Steps

The 12-steps in the “Big Book” guide you through a process of acceptance and spiritual awakening. Most 12-step programs—from Alcoholics Anonymous to Workaholics Anonymous—use the same 12-steps down to the exact wording. Typically, the type of addiction is the only difference between one group’s steps and another’s.

Here are the 12 Steps for Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  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.
  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.

Ready to get help?Let's get started now

Let our treatment experts call you today.

Meetings

Meetings are a critical component to all 12 Step programs. They are how members connect with those who can truly empathize with their experiences. Meetings are spaces where members can relay their addiction challenges and successes. They allow members to share stories and shortcomings. There are open meetings that anyone can attend, including friends and family members. There are also closed meetings, which are generally limited to actual and prospective members.

Sponsors

Experienced 12 Step program members have either completed all 12 steps or have shown significant progress through the program. By serving as mentors to others, sponsors are fulfilling Steps 11 and 12 in helping members along their 12-Step recovery. When you enter a 12 Step program, you have the option of choosing a mentor or being recommended one.

A mentor is there to help you through the 12 Step, process but they can also assist you with various other needs such as creating a budget or applying for a job. If you want a different sponsor, most programs will allow you to switch at any time.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and you would like to learn more about your treatment options and 12-Step therapy, call Family Recovery Specialists at (855) 251-0493 or connect with us online. Addiction is a chronic disease that is difficult to overcome on your own, but help is just a phone call away.