The Power of 12-Step Groups

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12-step groups are the most well-known type of support group for people struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. Alcoholics Anonymous, the most famous of the 12-step groups, began life when two men who suffered from alcoholism met in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. A stockbroker named Bill had achieved sobriety, which inspired the other man, a physician named Bob, to follow in his steps. 

Bill wrote a textbook describing a set of 12 steps of recovery from alcoholism that was published in 1939. When the Cleveland Plain Dealer published articles profiling various A.A. members and their accomplishments, the way many people viewed alcoholics and approaches to recovery began to change. A.A. opened an office in New York and worked hard to spread the word that there was hope for all who wanted to find recovery. 

12-Step Groups Are For More Than Just Alcoholism

Today, A.A. holds meetings around the world every day of the week and counts among its membership millions of people who credit the organization for having helped to change their lives and bring them lasting sobriety. Many similar organizations have formed using the basic 12-step principles to assist in coping with a variety of challenging issues, including the following:

  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Food Addicts Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Gamblers Anonymous
  • Co-Dependents Anonymous
  • Nicotine Anonymous
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous
  • Al-Anon/Alateen (for friends and families of alcoholics)

If You Are New to a 12-Step 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 12-Step 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.

Sponsors are important in 12-step groups. Someone who feels lost in their ability to achieve sobriety often responds positively to someone who can inspire them because they have been through the same thing. Additionally, many counselors or therapists working in addiction are in recovery themselves. This makes it easier for them to understand what the person they are sponsoring or treating has been through already and what pitfalls may lie ahead. When a person has banked a certain amount of time in their group and is strong in recovery, it can be a great source of pride to become a sponsor for a newer member. 

A Higher Power Can Mean Many Things

One tenet of 12-step groups that sometimes holds people back from joining is the perceived focus on religion. The original founders were both Christian, which influenced their decision to include references to faith in some of the steps. Many people who have joined one of the Anonymous groups or are interested in attending meetings are reticent due to preferring a more secular approach to recovery. Some have a religious affiliation they feel is not represented, or they count themselves as agnostic or atheist. While 12-step groups do not require participants to be religious, many people still feel uncomfortable with the number of steps involving a higher power. 

What is not always known is that no one is required to claim a religious identity in order to join a program. Some groups offer alternatives to the traditional meaning of a ‘higher power’ by emphasizing that this can mean anything the person decides it means for them personally. For example, it could mean their better self to whom they are trusting to keep them strong. Some people choose nature, the power of love, Buddha, or a holistic ideal to use as their higher power. Some groups do not recite the traditional Serenity prayer at the end of each meeting, instead opting for the phrase “Live and let live.” SMART Recovery groups and other recovery support groups which are often based on a 12-step model may remove any reference to a higher power. 

12-step programs have helped millions of people deal with recovering from an addiction to alcohol and drugs. Silver Lining offers a personal approach to dealing with these issues and more. You won’t get lost in your treatment because we limit our caseloads to no more than five people per counselor, allowing us to get to know our clients and how best to help them. We offer several treatment modalities, with a strong focus on how trauma factors into a person’s life and how to heal from it, making sobriety easier to achieve. We offer the opportunity for our clients to engage in 12-step or other recovery support groups to help them in the early recovery process. We have flexible scheduling, offer both day and evening outpatient services, and are happy to work with you on any questions you may have about addiction treatment. We will help you reconnect with yourself, your loved ones, to help you live a life as a sober individual. Call us today and find out more about our beautiful Huntington Beach location. (866) 448-4563.