Recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is an ongoing process. It does not instantly happen when you complete your treatment. It does not happen a week or a year after you achieve sobriety. Lasting recovery takes a lifelong commitment to doing the work needed to stay sober. You also need a strong support system. Being part of a 12-Step program provides you with the guidance and support you need to stay actively engaged in your recovery.
What Is a 12-Step Program?
A 12-Step program provides a supportive and safe place to learn and share knowledge with others in similar situations and circumstances as you build bonds and strengthen your support system. At meetings, participants share their feelings and experiences with drugs, alcohol, and addiction. Program participants work through the 12 steps, making needed personal changes to overcome their addiction.
Programs are peer-based and led by a member of the program. Leaders are often individuals who have a significant amount of time in recovery.
12-Step Programs: An Essential Tool for Recovery
Actively working on a 12-Step program is a powerful recovery tool in itself. The program’s goal is to have you be successful at maintaining your sobriety, and it is set up to do just that. As a participant, you surround yourself with a community that is supportive of your recovery. The program works because it allows those struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction the chance to surrender the addiction. Participants can fully process each step of their journey to lasting sobriety as they keep moving forward with healthy new habits.
According to The American Society of Addiction Medicine, 12-Step recovery programs offer a proven approach that addresses a person’s psychology, spirituality, and personal values. These programs encourage connectedness to others, a willingness to engage with others, and the courage to humbly ask for help.
The 12 Steps: Principles
Over the years, the original twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) have been slightly changed by various 12-Step groups, but the core idea of each step remains intact. The basic principles of the 12 Steps are faith, honesty, surrender, acceptance, soul-searching, integrity, humility, willingness, forgiveness, making contact, maintenance, and service.
Accountability is an essential aspect of addiction recovery, and 12-Step meetings hold participants accountable on many levels. You are accountable to your group to be an active participant at meetings. You can share your story at your home group and other 12-Step meetings. You can take on a job at the meetings, such as making coffee, setting up or breaking down the chairs, or driving someone who does not have transportation to and from meetings. You are accountable to your sponsor to complete your step work.
You are encouraged to find a sponsor in 12-Step programs. Your sponsor is a person who will help you maintain your sobriety, help you with your program, and guide you through your 12-Step work. Usually, sponsors have many years of sobriety. They are your direct line of help in a difficult situation.
The 12 Steps: Religion & Higher Power
One misconception of 12-Step programs is that they center around religion. The programs are spiritual rather than religious. No one will ever ask you about your religion or your view of a higher power. The 12 Steps were inspired by spiritual ideals that focus on ideas of honesty, faith, humility, and repentance. Although the programs encourage you to ask for help from a higher power, there are no doctrines or rules governing how you view or think about that higher power. Your higher power is something you can put your trust and faith in. For some people, this is God. Others may choose karma, science, the universe, Mother Nature, humanity as a whole, or their recovery group as their higher power. Everyone, whether they are religious or not, can benefit from 12-Step programs.
12-Step Programs for Drug or Alcohol Addiction
Founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was the first 12-Step program. During the decades that followed, other programs based on the AA model were founded that focus on specific types of addictive disorders. Although the addiction is different, each one follows the same principles and programs as the original Alcoholics Anonymous.
Some of these groups include:
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
- Heroin Anonymous (HA)
- Marijuana Anonymous
- Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
- Pills Anonymous (for recovery from prescription pill addiction)
There are also 12-Step support groups for friends and families of those struggling with addiction:
- Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)
- Families Anonymous
Do You Need Help?
If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. You are not alone. At English Mountain Recovery, located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the 12-Step program is an essential part of the recovery process. Call English Mountain Recovery and speak to a caring professional. We will answer your questions and help you begin your journey on the path to a sober 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.