The 12 steps program was designed to aid alcoholics and addicts in achieving and maintaining sobriety. The twelve steps are a carefully thought-out action plan to lead these individuals to a sober lifestyle. These steps were first published by Alcohol Anonymous, a support group for alcoholics, in 1939. These practices have since been used in recovery groups and rehabilitation centers across the globe.
For all kinds of behavior related issues, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques are highly recommended. A 12 step program is best for people who have struggled with addiction for years. The 12-step program involves a process of spiritual awakening and turning one’s life over to a higher power. This doesn’t require a specific religion, but it is recommended. Individuals must also write down their life story and accept accountability. If they’re struggling with substance abuse, they can seek support from their sponsors and mentors in these programs.
Breaking Down The Twelve Steps
In order to truly understand the effectiveness of the twelve-step program, it is important to look at each step individually. Americanaddictioncenters.org lists the steps in this order:
- Admit Powerless Over Alcohol
- An individual must first admit the presence of a problem.
- Accept that higher power, in whatever form, will restore your sanity.
- This step requires the alcoholic/ addict to admit that they cannot face this on their own, and they simply need help.
- Decide to turn your life and your will over to a higher power.
- Willpower comes into play here. One must submit to a power greater than themselves.
- Take a moral inventory of yourself.
- This step involves reflection. Where did you go wrong? Who have you hurt in the process?
- Admit to a higher power, another human, and yourself the nature of your wrongdoings
- One must confront their painful past to move forward in healing.
- Accept that a higher power will remove your deficits.
- An individual must believe that change is possible with the help of a higher power.
- Humbly request the higher power remove your shortcomings.
- The individual can use prayer or meditation to seek a life without addiction
- List people, you hurt and be willing to make amends
- This step involves reaching out to those affected by your addiction and restoring the relationship.
- Make amends with those people unless it will harm them.
- Individuals should seek resolution so long as it does not negatively impact the mental or physical well-being of the other person.
- Continue to take a personal inventory and admit when you are wrong.
- The admittance of a problem and willingness to accept your shortcomings is an ongoing process.
- Use prayer and meditation to connect with the higher power.
- One should continue to use prayer and meditation to improve their life.
- Carry the message of AA to other alcoholics and continue to use the steps in your daily life
- The final step focuses on maintaining a sober life and encouraging others to do the same.
The Twelve Steps Continued
A recurring theme was very prominent while breaking down each step. The central focus of the steps is centered around a higher power or divine being. Alcoholics Anonymous does not explicitly state which higher power they refer to as they leave it up to the individual themselves. Overarching central religious themes such as breaking the will, submitting to divine authority, admitting wrongdoings, and seeking repentance are at the program’s core. The program suggests redemption should be sought through prayer and meditation, as well as making amends.
A “higher power” can technically mean anything. As long as the addict admits that they cannot achieve sobriety alone and need help from an outside source, they should be able to work through the steps just like a religious individual. A non-religious person seeking rehabilitation is still encouraged to try the twelve-step program.
What is The Length of the 12 Step Program?
There is no set length of time in the program to see success. Some individuals may spend more time at a specific step, and others may need to spend more time in meetings at first. It is vital that the steps are not rushed. If one is truly dedicated to a sober lifestyle, the length of the program will be ongoing. However, many who have completed the program began to see improvements in their lives early into the program.
It is also important to note that the twelve-step program can be completed more than once, and it is encouraged to be completed several times. Addicts and alcoholics may need to work through the program numerous times before achieving sobriety. People also may need to reference individual steps at different points in their lives. The goal of the program is to have a lasting impression on sufferers and be a constant aid in their sober lifestyle. Alcoholics Anonymous wants everyone to achieve sobriety; however, there is a clear understanding that addiction is complex and the program is not a quick fix.
If You Are New to a Group
In a typical 12-step group meeting, anyone is welcome to participate, with anonymity held in high regard. The goal is to allow people of all ages, races, cultures, or religions, to feel comfortable gathering with others who understand their journey without fear of their identity being compromised or their stories shared outside of the meeting.
When someone starts a 12-step program, the only requirement is the desire to stop drinking. Many people join on their own, while others join as an added tool while they are engaged in an outpatient or residential treatment program. For some, their introduction to the 12 steps are part of a court-mandated program related to a conviction relating to the use or misuse of drugs or alcohol.
How Programs Work
The twelve steps of any program are suggested to be completed one at a time, starting at one and ending at 12. The first step, which is often credited as perhaps the most difficult one, is for the person to admit they are powerless over alcohol. Other steps include taking moral inventory, connecting with a higher power, making amends to anyone they have harmed, and relaying the message of sobriety to those in need of help. There is no set amount of time to complete all steps. All that is asked is that the person spends time diligently focused on each step until it is completed, then moves on to the next one.
What to Expect from the 12 Steps of AA
Attendees will find a community of active addicts and recovering addicts alike. Those who attend meetings are encouraged to be open and honest about their addiction journey, however; one does not have to share anything they are not comfortable with. Alcoholics and addicts will get the chance to fellowship with others who have been through or going through similar situations.
Most new attendees find sponsors at twelve-step meetings. A sponsor is an individual who has completed a twelve-step program and is ready and willing to help another alcoholic complete the program. Often, sponsors will exchange contact information and act as a mentor in another’s journey to sobriety.
Meetings can range in length and are held in cities all across the globe. Most twelve-step meetings are held in the mornings and afternoons to give people with different schedules the opportunity to attend. Some addicts seeking recovery may need to attend more than one meeting a day.
Meetings are usually hosted at churches, community centers, and recreational buildings. AA.org has a free resource where individuals can find available meetings spanning multiple cities, states, and countries.
Alcoholics Anonymous has been effective in making sure that everyone with alcoholism gets together and shares their stories. Then, there are some people that need a different approach to treat their alcoholism. If you feel like Alcoholics Anonymous is not working well for you, it is important to keep an open mind to the many treatment options available and to never give up on your recovery.
What Happens in A.A.
People in A.A. share their experiences with drinking and addiction with others who are currently struggling. You get a sponsor who has been in your shoes before that you can rely on whenever you feel triggered to drink again. The program offers the 12 steps which are the steps to living a satisfying life away from alcohol. In speaker meetings, a member of A.A. will share their story of what it was like drinking, what happened, and how their life is now. Most of these meetings are for members only and the members agree not to let what is shared in the meetings go outside of them. The person who leads the meeting chooses a topic and members take their turns sharing the topics.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the way everyone lives, including those struggling with addiction. You are used to attending your meetings where you can see your friends who are struggling like you, as well as your sponsor. While you are in your home, however, there are a variety of virtual meetings you can attend to continue maintaining your sobriety.
Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon are offering virtual meetings that you can attend on your own schedule. You can be a part of them through phone, text, or video. On aa-intergroup.org, you can see a list of online meetings in the form of email, text, audio/video, discussion forums, and telephone. On aa.org, you can find links to create your own meetings through Google Hangouts, Zoom, or a free conference call.
On al-anon.org, there is a list of phone meetings at the bottom of the page, as well as a group of online meetings that can be filtered based on language, attendees, day, and platform. An online organization of A.A. at e-aa.org provides help through email once you fill out your information and gives links to email recovery meetings, discussion forums, and group conscience meetings.
New Study for A.A.’s Effectiveness
It has long been criticized that Alcoholics Anonymous does not have the medical research to back up how effective the program is. Well, a new study by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Review discovered that A.A. not only helps people achieve sobriety, but has higher rates of continuous sobriety compared to therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy. This study measured factors like the length of time participants abstained from alcohol, the amount they reduced their drinking, if their drinking continued, and the consequences and health costs of their drinking. The study has found higher rates in long-term sobriety after being in A.A. What makes the program so effective is how free the program is, saving healthcare providers $10 billion.
Power of Surrender
The twelve steps are a powerful approach to addressing addiction and difficult emotions due to recovery. A huge part of this is
1) being honest with yourself about what the issues are, then next
2) having faith in something greater than yourself and then
3) surrendering to the reality of the situation and the truth of your addiction.
To surrender is a form of not only honesty with yourself but also of faith that it is safe to give up the thing you were most attached to. Another way of phrasing it is letting go. When we let go of what is causing us the most harm, we open up the pathway to change and healing from it.