For many years, the 12 step approach to addiction recovery has been hailed as the standard, primarily because it is one of the oldest support structures in existence. These days there are tens of thousands of NA and AA groups scattered around the world.
The Purpose of 12 Step Recovery Programs
The 12 steps were devised in the 1930s and used as a guideline for overcoming addiction to alcohol, with recovery from drugs being integrated into the program in later years. The program was so successful when first created that it gained traction around the world, spawning other groups based on the same principals.
Despite the fact that 12 step recovery programs have their origins in religion and spirituality, many people without specific religious beliefs have found the program extremely effective. The language used in modern day 12 step meetings places emphasis on the presence of a higher being. which participants have their own interpretation of and relationship with according to their religious beliefs.
The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
Recovering from addiction is a lifelong commitment which means that a 12 step recovery program allows individuals to take their time tackling each task, revisiting steps as and when they need to.
The 12 steps as set out by AA and NA are as follows:
- Admission of being powerless over drugs and alcohol and that an individual’s life has become unmanageable as a result of substance abuse.
- Reach understanding that only a power greater than us is capable of restoring our health.
- A decision to submit to one’s life to a higher power.
- Taking inventory on the wrongdoings of the past and the person’s involvement in them.
- Admitting to their higher power, themselves and one other person the nature of past wrongdoing.
- Offering themselves to the higher power for removal of character flaws.
- Humbly requesting the supernatural power removes the person’s shortcomings.
- Listing those who have been hurt by someone’s addiction and being prepared to make amends.
- Reaching out to those people on the list to apologize for past behavior unless doing so would be detrimental to them or others.
- Keeping a journal that records any wrongdoings promptly for future reflection.
- Using prayer and meditation to improve communication with the higher power as the patient understands them, requesting strength to carry out their will.
- Spreading the word about 12 step rehab programs as a result of the spiritual awakening experienced during the program.
The 12 Traditions
The Big Book is the “bible” of 12 step rehab programs and was published when the program was introduced as a guideline for other groups based on the same principals. Whereas the 12 steps relate to individuals, the 12 traditions speak to the members of an AA or NA group as a whole.
They are as follows:
- Personal recovery depends on the unity of the group and its welfare as a whole should come first.
- All groups recognize there is one ultimate authority which is a loving God or higher being as expressed by the group’s consciousness. Leaders of AA and NA groups are trusted servants and not empowered to govern.
- The only requirement for joining a group is the desire to stop drinking or taking drugs.
- Each 12 step treatment centergroup is autonomous although they may join with others on matters affecting other groups or the program as a whole.
- The primary purpose of each group is to spread the word about 12 step rehab programsto suffering addicts.
- AA and NA groups are not permitted to endorse, fund or lend its name to any addiction facility or enterprise outside of the 12 step organization.
- Outside contributions and donations to groups are to be declined as they are fully self-supporting.
- Groups should always be organized by voluntary workers although some may employ special workers for such things as building maintenance.
- AA and NA groups are not organized in terms of a management structure although service boards or committees can be created.
- The reputation of 12 step treatment centersis paramount and its name is not to be drawn into negative public scrutiny.
- 12 step’s PR policy is based on attracting members rather than promoting its services and anonymity is maintained across all media platforms.
- Anonymity is acknowledged as the basis of the 12 traditions as a reminder that individuals should place principles before personalities.
The approach of 12 step treatment centers to addiction recovery is not for everyone although, for those with a belief system that resonates with the program, it is highly effective. Finding the right fit for each individual with substance use disorder is fundamental to the success of treatment and is more likely to lead to a sustainable recovery. Everyone is unique which makes it crucial that individuals in addiction treatment are prepared to incorporate what they learn in rehab into their lives. For some, 12 step rehab programs suit their beliefs and lifestyles but for those who are looking for a less spiritual addiction treatment path, there are numerous alternatives to consider.