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12 Step Program: History and Process

The 12-step program is a set of tools for spiritual growth that has saved millions of individuals worldwide. Adapted from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, there are many 12-step programs for a wide range of addictions and compulsive behaviors today, from Narcotics Anonymous to Debtors Anonymous, all using the same methods. During these 12-step meetings, members share with each other the personal lessons they have learned from practicing the steps, and find the courage, honesty, and the support they need in order to successfully overcome their addictions. The 12-steps are effective, free, and universally available.

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Types of 12-step Programs

While many people feel the 12-steps are not the best way to help with addiction, many disagree. This set of principles is everywhere these days, and most common programs include:

These different types of 12-step programs will also provide support, counsel, and social services to address various other life struggles besides addiction, including abuse, financial problems, concurrent mental or behavioral issues, and inadequate housing that doesn’t support life in recovery.

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12 step History

The 12 step program is the masterpiece of Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA. Reportedly, Bill had three influences that inspired him to write the 12-step principles: the Oxford Group, Dr. William D. Silkworth who was his attending doctor during his stay at the hospital where he had his epiphany, and the teachings of the psychologist William James. He came to the conclusion that a book was not enough, that people need a specific program to obtain sobriety. According to Wilson, drafting the 12 steps took “no more than twenty or thirty minutes.”

The original 12 steps feature the use of God on multiple occasions, but Wilson reduced them down to the minimum. In addition to the 12 steps, Wilson also drafted the 12 traditions which speak to the members as a group, unlike the 12 steps that focus on the individual. Both the 12 steps and the 12 traditions are part of the Big Book. Read the 12 traditions here.

Road to recovery

The 12-step Principles

Here are the 12 Steps as defined by Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

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What to expect at a 12-step Meeting

Anyone suffering from addiction is welcome to attend a 12-step meeting. The basic premise of the model is that people can help one another achieve and maintain abstinence. Individuals can experience many perks from attending meetings, including:

  • No mandatory fees
  • An invitation to share personal stories about addiction and its impact on life
  • A no-pressure environment where walk-ins are welcome and all membership is voluntary
  • A non-denominational environment dedicated to spirituality, without leaning towards any particular religion
  • The opportunity to bring a guest along for additional support

According to research, those attending 12-step meetings account for high levels of “flourishing”, i.e. positive mental health and longer-term recovery. The 12-step model gives people an outline that teaches them how to surrender their addiction, process their experience, and move forward in new patterns. Furthermore, individuals attending these meetings learn the ability to recognize they are experiencing an addiction problem, surrender to the reality that addiction exists, and become fully aware of the behaviors that might arise from the addiction. Moreover, they get the chance to achieve self-acceptance, change their behaviors, develop compassion for those affected by addiction, and learn the tools needed to make the process a continual practice throughout their lives. The 12-step model can be a method for change in many types of behavior and help individuals obtain sobriety.

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The Road to Recovery

Historically, 12-step meetings have been a vital part of 95% of all drug and alcohol treatment programs. The majority of experts believe that a residential treatment program that is customized to an individual’s needs is the most effective method to achieve sobriety. Whether this program includes 12-Step aspects or its alternatives, it’s obligatory that care suits the individual. When patients attend drug and alcohol rehab centers, it is suggested they attend daily 12 step meetings and speak with their primary counselors about their experience of the Twelve Step program. Most of the rehab centers provide daily groups focused on 12 Step work such as Big Book studies and step work, hosts Twelve Step meetings, and provide transportation to Twelve Step meetings in the community.

12-Step therapy today is still a tried-and-true proven approach. The patient regularly works with a therapist who encourages not only attendance, but also participation in meetings. The model helps the individual develop a relationship with a sponsor, it explores problems or psychological resistances to attendance, and it opens the door to AA activities and involvement with AA-related social events, retreats, and conventions. In conclusion, the 12-steps program is to alter one’s life for the better, to gain stability in one’s life, and to become more functional in one’s family and in one’s community.

For more information please call our Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a Free and completely confidential call. We are available 24/7. In many cases, your health insurance company will cover 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now.

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