According to the American Society of Addiction Medication (ASAM), addiction is recognized as a “primary, chronic disease of the brain with characteristic biological, social and spiritual manifestations”. Whereas in the past, addiction to alcohol or drugs was considered a criminal justice issue, it is now known to be a public health problem.
When someone has attended an addiction treatment program, they invariably need support to assist them in the transition to recovery. Many people rely on a support group for many years after rehab and perhaps the most well-known is the 12 step recovery program or Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
However, despite widespread awareness of 12 step rehab centers, many believe that because it was originally founded back in the 1930s, that it has no relevance to modern times. In this article, we want to translate the 12 steps into modern English to show how it is as relevant today as it has always been.
Step 1: Recognizing substance use is out of control
Recognizing that an individual has addiction issues is just a small part of accepting they need help. The kind of soul-searching involved should consider the following points:
- The areas the person wants to change
- The pains and fears they associate with this change
- The pleasure derived from not changing
- The costs of not changing
- The potential benefits change could bring about
- How substance abuse has affected others
- The damage done to reputation because of this problem
- Whether there are health complications caused by substance abuse
Step 2: Identifying reasons it has not been possible to quit previously
As well as understanding the need to change, it is also important that someone with addiction recognizes why they have failed to do so in the past. It could be for a combination of “reasons” although generally people continuing to use, even when they don’t want to, have to accept they need help to make a positive change.
In the second of the 12 steps, modern-day participants are required to identify something or someone that represents a “higher power”. For many people, this being is represented by God but for others, it can be the following:
- Nature or the “universe”
- Consciousness beyond the individual
- The collective “power” of a family or group of people with common goals
Believing in a power greater than oneself is an integral part of 12 step rehab center programs, which now allows for each participant’s personal beliefs.
Step 3: Recognizing the individual does not have the capacity to overcome addiction on their own.
Once an individual on a 12 step treatment program has defined their version of a greater power, they then have to identify the root cause of their pain and spiritual unease within the following areas:
- How they are viewed by others
- How they view themselves
- How they present themselves to others
- As above but within a sexual context
- The individual’s overall vision of their perfect selves
- Their attitude towards money and how it affects self-worth
Step 4: Writing an honest inventory of negative events caused by addictive behavior and their impact on others.
In the fourth step, a 12 step recovery program places emphasis on recognizing the damage done by addictive behavior. Participants are required to identify the times they made mistakes, were selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, frightened, guilty or at fault. This is designed as an exercise to help people fully appreciate the extent of the damage done by alcohol or drug abuse and is the first step to becoming accountable for it.
Step 5: Disclosing the individual’s inventory to a trusted person, sponsor or mentor.
Before taking this step, it is important to assess the inventory and check that it is 100% honest and accurate. 12 step recovery programs continually reinforce acceptance of the damage done to others through substance abuse, with participants being prepared to address each individual affected by their inventory in order to offer an apology.
However, step 5 entails divulging a full and honest inventory of abuses resulting from substance abuse to just one individual as a preamble to the next step.
Step 6: Reconfirming commitment to change and ultimately sobriety.
Step 6 requires individuals ask themselves how strong their commitment is to sobriety and whether they are prepared to make the significant changes required to achieve it. This involves a lot of soul-searching in order to unravel why sobriety has never been achieved before entering a 12 step rehab program. In many cases, individuals are called upon to question how returning to substance abuse could possibly benefit them. This step allows people to develop more clarity on their addiction illness, acknowledging mistakes made and making a commitment to not repeat them in the future.
Step 7: Is the individual prepared to transform their lives for the better?
This step revisits earlier parts of the 12 step rehab program, mainly to reinforce its principals and ensure there is motivation to change. Individuals have to ask themselves the following questions:
- Why is change important to me?
- Am I determined to make the required changes?
- Do I commit to achieving sobriety through a positive transformation?
Step 8: Prepare to apologize to everyone mentioned on the inventory prepared earlier.
It is important in 12 step treatment programs that individuals don’t take responsibility for those involved in their inventory as soon as they have written it. This is because there is still some work to do, which has been addressed in previous steps. Step 8 is when the time comes to consider past mistakes and prepare to apologize to those affected by them.
Step 9: Saying sorry unless it is detrimental to do so.
12 step requires people to speak to each individual affected by addictive behavior unless it would be hurtful to reach out to them. It is important not to disrupt the lives of people who may have restored order after the chaos caused by an individual’s substance abuse. For this reason, going through the inventory carefully with a sponsor, mentor or other trusted person in step 5 is crucial so as to make sure it is possible to make amends with everyone. Some people may not have included every “victim” of their addiction in their inventory for various reasons or may have previously avoided discussing a particular incident in therapy.
Step 10: Watch out for negative behaviors and be honest when things go wrong.
This step is all about making a commitment to personal growth, acknowledging weaknesses on the way and seeking to overcome them. People in 12 step are required to be fully committed to maintaining sobriety and focusing on their personal growth on a daily basis. Step 10 also requires individuals to be fully accountable to another human being, should that be their sponsor, mentor or other trusted companion.
Step 11: Staying connected to the person’s new perspective.
Step 11 calls on participants to align themselves with the higher power of their choice and commit themselves to living in its service. These days, 12 step rehab programs encourage people to create their own incantations or affirmations they can use on a daily basis to help them maintain sobriety. Being completely aligned to the principals of the appointed greater power is essential if these affirmations are to have a strong resonance in recovery.
Step 12: Becoming more selfless in life and helping others struggling with addiction.
The final step is all about maintaining sobriety and shifting the focus from the individual and their needs and wants, to others. It is an important part of completing the 12 steps for individuals to take what they have gained and use it to help others with addiction issues.