A Simple Guide to 12-Step Programs
In the world of addiction recovery, there are many different ways to find sobriety. Whether it’s treatment, SMART recovery, therapy, or the classic 12-step programs, there is no one size fits all. What’s important is to find what works for you as an individual. 12-step programs are typical, however, the suggested means of recovery. Sometimes even mandated by the court and judicial systems, 12 step programs are widely popular. Millions of people have found great success in their programs of recovery and found long-lasting sobriety as a result of these programs for the better part of 100 years. But what’s the deal with 12-step programs?
Basic History of AA
12-step programs can seem a little bit complicated and confusing to those who don’t know much or anything about them. Apart from the obvious, there being 12 steps, and the fact that you can’t drink or do drugs, that’s pretty much the limit of knowledge that most people have based on 12-step programs. But they’re so much more!
Essentially, 12-step program began with the advent of Alcoholics Anonymous, AA, in the 1930’s. A man named Bill W. struggled with horrible alcoholism throughout his entire life and watched as his life crumbled around him. Unable to find a way to stop drinking, many doctors and medical professionals declared him a “lost cause” that was destined to die.
It seemed hopeless until Bill W. met up with a long-lost friend who was also an alcoholic but had been sober for months. Upon speaking with this man, Bill W. learned that it was thanks to him following the program offered by the Oxford Group, which cited religion as the way their members found sobriety. Initially resistant to the religious aspect of the group, it was suggested to Bill W. that he choose his own ideation of God. However, it wasn’t until Bill W. had a spiritual experience of his own that he finally had sobriety in his grasp.
Bill W. then formulated his own rendition of that program and thus Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-Step program was born.
12-step programs are spiritual, not religious, programs. The basic premise of these programs is that the only answer to alcoholism and addiction is to have a spiritual experience. Not to be confused with religious, there needs to be no formal worship or organized prayer, but rather, the individual must open his or her mind up to the idea that there is something greater than them out there in the universe. By opening up to this idea, it allows for spiritual healing and growth to occur.
12-step programs tackle a variety of different aspects of the disease of addiction. Primarily, as stated above, it tackles the spiritual void that people drink and use substances to desperately try to fill. The next integral aspect of the program is basically a reprogramming of the way that addicts and alcoholics operate. In order to have different results, a different course of action must be taken. Addicts and alcoholics are guided through the steps and are made to reflect on their wrongdoings, take responsibility for themselves and actions, make amends wherever possible, and continue to grow spiritually by living a life in accordance with principles and moral standings. The last and final piece of the 12-step puzzle is to put others above themselves by helping the next addict or alcoholic struggling with the disease. Simple enough, right?
Now that you have a very simplified look at how 12-step programs work, it’s time to get into the next important factor. The social aspect of the 12-step programs is another key ingredient to why so many people are successful in their recovery and sobriety. The basis behind these programs is unity and camaraderie, working together to help each other stay sober.
When you first enter any one of the 12-step programs, you are told to get a sponsor and to build a support system (typically of your gender) so you can begin on the road to recovery. We cannot find recovery alone, we must rely on others! Your sponsor is the individual who has a working knowledge of the steps, practices the principles of recovery, and is the one who guides you on your own journey through the steps. They are often your voice of reason. They are there to give you direction and support through your program.
You support system, on the other hand, is a far less formal relationship. By surrounding yourself with other recovering people who are on the same quest for spiritual growth and sobriety, it strengthens your resolve not to drink. It allows you access to an entirely new type of people you can socialize within a healthy and sober manner. By forging these amazing friendships, many people find it makes recovery easier and more desirable.
12-Step Program Variation and Meetings
Alcoholics Anonymous is just the original 12-step program. Throughout the years since its conception in the 1930s, variants of Bill W.’s program have cropped up. Narcotics Anonymous, which deals with addiction as a whole as opposed to specifically alcohol, Cocaine Anonymous, Gambler’s Anonymous and Co-Dependants Anonymous are just to name a few. With so many options out there for struggling addicts, no matter what you struggle with you’ll find a program catered specifically to you! They all follow AA’s basic structure of the 12-steps, with minor variations in wording to accommodate their specific problem.
Once you’ve chosen which fellowship clicks with you and your unique struggle, you then can research meeting locations and attend. Meetings are basically the part of 12-step programs where multiple people in the fellowship gather and conduct a conversation about their struggles and recovery in a non-judgmental atmosphere. This is where people can connect with each other, get the message of recovery, find support in times of difficulty, or merely surround themselves with other recovering people. While the meetings associated with 12-step programs are not the answer to addiction, they greatly benefit members and are highly suggested to keep people accountable to their recovery.
Give it a Try!
12-step programs have helped millions of people find the solution to a seemingly hopeless condition for decades. While at first, it may seem scary or overwhelming, over time, you’ll learn the ins and outs of the program. By staying committed and actively working any one of the 12-step programs, you may find this is the right path of recovery for you! You’ll never know until you try!