Since its beginning in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has played an essential role in the lives of many people in recovery from alcohol addiction. In the years that followed, additional 12-Step groups, such as Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), were developed and have become an important resource for those recovering from an addiction to drugs. For most people in recovery, a 12-Step program is a key element in the treatment of their substance use disorder. Although they have different names, all of the 12-Step programs follow a similar set of principles and are dedicated to helping people become and stay sober.
A Plan, Structure, and Routine
Maintaining sobriety is just about impossible without having a plan. Twelve-step programs provide such a plan. You start with step one–admitting your powerlessness over the addiction–and, with the help of a sponsor, work through all the steps, as often as needed. The steps encourage you to delve into the motivations for your addiction, to make amends with those who have been harmed by your addiction, and to work toward a spiritual awakening such that you develop humility, integrity, and a desire to help others.
Attending 12-Step meetings also provides structure and routine to people that had been living in the confusion and chaos of addiction. For many in recovery, unstructured time can be dangerous, leading to anxiety, boredom, restlessness–and cravings for the addictive substance. Twelve-step meetings help to alleviate these feelings and thus prevent relapse.
When a person is part of a 12-Step program, they are part of a unique fellowship of individuals who understand their struggle with addiction. Although each person has their own story, they each understand the turmoil and inner pain caused by drugs and/or alcohol. They understand how hard it is to just say no and how the brain tries to rationalize using.
When you talk to someone in the program, you know that they genuinely understand what you are saying regarding your issues, worries, and concerns. In a 12-Step group, you can learn problem-solving strategies and coping skills from peers. You can share your experiences, hopes, failures, and goals without judgment.
A Network of Social Support
With the bond of fellowship comes an important network of social support. The feeling of belonging and a sense of community are crucial to recovery. Everyone needs encouragement and support. The social support found in 12-Step meetings provides that feeling of belonging. It provides a sense of security and safety while reducing stress and easing feelings of loneliness. Having a positive social support network also:
- Helps to broaden your overall perspective beyond things that only concern yourself
- Heightens feelings of optimism
- Provides a sense of purpose
- Helps with long-term recovery
- Counteracts the negative view and stigma associated with addiction
It is important to find a “home” group where you are comfortable. It may take time, and the best way is to try different meetings. Once you find one that feels right, attend the meetings regularly. Take an active part in the group by sharing your story and exchanging ideas and experiences. Take on a volunteer job in the group. It could be setting up or breaking down for the meeting, taking on the chairing or coffee commitment for a set amount of time, or providing transportation to someone to or from a meeting. Give yourself extra time before and after the meeting to socialize. Exchange phone numbers and make new friends.
When you are in a 12-Step program, you are encouraged to find a member who will help to guide you through the steps. That person will be your sponsor. Your sponsor will be there for you whenever you need help, whether in a crisis situation or in a moment of loneliness. They will offer guidance, encouragement, support, and accountability. A good sponsor is firm yet nonjudgmental; you can trust them to protect your confidentiality and to model a sober lifestyle.
Addiction Recovery Centers and 12-Step Programs
At English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, our addiction treatment program is based on a 12-Step model. Working through the twelve steps, along with experiencing other modes of treatment we offer, will provide you with a full continuum of care and prepare you to live a sober, fulfilling life.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.