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What Is The 12-Step Program?

twelve steps program meetings

The founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous created the 12-Step Program to establish the essential guides that were designed to help overcome an addiction to alcohol.

The 12-Step Program was first developed and put to use by Alcoholics Anonymous; the program entails a 12-step plan for keeping compulsions and addictions in check.

A twelve step program helps with a spiritual awakening of people suffering from addictions, including alcoholism. The 12-step Program offers the ideal results when it is paired with proper and medicated detox and inpatient programs.

If you or a loved one is suffering from substance use or abuse, find proper addiction treatment at Haven Detox-New England.  

Basic Principles of a 12-Step Program

The actual premise of this model is that individuals can help each other maintain and achieve abstinence from all kinds of substance and alcohol abuse (alcohol addiction).

However, according to the 12-Step Program, healing is not possible unless people going through addictions are willing to surrender to a higher power.

The higher power mentioned here doesn’t have to be the traditional Christian version of God; the higher power can be as simple as the support group, the world, or a varying version of a higher power that fits your description of spirituality.

Mode of Treatment

The 12-step programs remain one of the most commonly used and recommended treatment modalities for the varying types of addiction.

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) in its survey of Substance abuse treatment services of 2013, the 12-step models are put to use by more than 74% of treatment centers.

The American Addiction Centers partners with many insurance organizations, making your addiction treatment free dependent on your policy.

Purpose of the 12-Steps

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous put forward the sole 12-step to establish the guidelines to help communities overcome addiction to alcohol collectively.

The 12-step programs are powerful peer support groups that help people recover from substance use disorders, co-occurring mental health conditions, and behavioral addictions.  

The 12-step programs help people who are suffering from addiction achieve total abstinence. While the 12-step programs are not the correct tool for everyone, these do help people with substance abuse issues manage and acquire new coping mechanisms and skills.

All of that, in addition to offering them the support and acceptance of their communities.

The 12-step programs also ease the way for people going through addiction by helping them transition into sobriety and foster long-term recovery from substance addiction.

The Twelve Steps

The Twelve Steps as those outlined in the original Big Book, and presented by the AA, include:

  1. Admitting powerlessness over the addiction.
  2. Believing that a higher power (in whatever form) can help.
  3. Deciding to turn control over to the higher power.
  4. Taking a personal inventory.
  5. Admitting to the higher power, oneself, and another person the wrongs done.
  6. Being ready to have the higher power correct any shortcomings in one’s character.
  7. Asking the higher power to remove those shortcomings.
  8. Making a list of wrongs done to others and being willing to make amends for those wrongs.
  9. Contacting those who have been hurt unless doing so would harm the person.
  10. Continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when one is wrong.
  11. Seeking enlightenment and connection with the higher power via prayer and meditation.
  12. Carrying the message of the twelve steps to others in need.

How The Twelve Steps Work

Most trusted and evidence-based sources state that the critical factor in a 12-step program involves providing support and a social network to help people remain substance-free or achieve their other behavioral goals.

In fact, the fellowship or the social benefit is one of the significant aspects of the social program that is closely linked to abstinence.

When people take membership in one of the groups, it changes their social group, effectively reducing the number of people in their lives who are likely to engage in substance misuse. While also working to increase the number of people who abstain from substance abuse.

This very social shifting of interests results in lower exposure to activities and related behaviors linked to substance use, offering increased opportunities to participate in unrelated constructive activities.

The social bonding between the group members is another additional factor that outshines the programs’ effectiveness. This very bonding leads to the provision of role models for reaching abstinence, and it also helps foster goal-directedness.

12-Step Program History

The AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) put forward the idea of a 12-step program model back in 1938. It was when the founder Bill Wilson wrote the ideas that developed along his experience with alcoholism.

He penned down the positive effects he saw and experienced when people with alcoholism swapped their personal addiction stories with one another.

Wilson’s Program is now known as the Big Book. As outlined in the historical information from the AA, the current steps were developed via synthesizing concepts from a bunch of other teachings that Wilson encountered.

These include the 6-Step Program backed by the organization known as the Oxford Group.

The original twelve steps came from the Christian spiritual inspiration that looked to seek help from a greater power in addition to fellow community members (peer support) who were suffering from addiction and its prevalent struggles.

The Big Book 

The Big Book was expertly written to serve as a guide to people who could not attend the AA fellowship regular meetings; however, it soon turned out to become the program model itself.

The Big Book was adopted as the model for a wide range of addiction and peer-support programs. 

Even the book served as the baseline for programs designed to help drive behavioral change. In addition to the original AA group, there are many other program branches.

These include;

  • Narcotics Anonymous –NA
  • Heroin Anonymous – HA
  • Gamblers Anonymous – GA  

First 12-Step Program

As discussed above, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) was founded in 1935, and it is the first 12-step program ever created.

The steps similar to the above were put into action at the time. In 1946, there was another breakthrough in the AA, and the Twelve Traditions were formed.

These traditions were created to govern the groups, their functioning, and their mutual relationship as the memberships proliferated.

The traditions included the practice of anonymity by only using a member’s first name. And also the tradition of singleness of purpose.

Singleness of purpose is a tradition that means that AA would have only one primary goal, and that is to carry its message to the alcoholic who is still suffering.

Twelve Steps of the Recovery Process

The research-based and tested treatment facilities in the United States use the open doorways toolkit. A toolkit pioneered by the TRI (Treatment Research Institute) in Philadelphia.

Such a method of introduction smoothly guides patients through a series of interactive sessions that include:

Questions and Answers

This section works to introduce the steps and lets patients voice any questions and concerns. For example, the twelve steps encourage reliance upon a spiritual foundation.

However, many groups give individuals the freedom to choose their specific version of a higher power.

What this does is let patients let go of any of the religious resentments or prejudices for the spiritual practices.

Discovering the Right Program

This session encourages people to attend the twelve steps meetings and join a group that might be instrumental to a patient’s recovery.

Three Steps

In this session, patients are introduced to the first three steps. They explore the themes of powerlessness, acceptance, and surrender. They will also be encouraged on what higher power means to them specifically.

What are they?

  • Acceptance
  • Powerlessness
  • Surrender

In addition, patients will start learning and recognizing defense mechanisms that keep them in line and stuck for addictive patterns.

Connections and Sponsorships

Most patients get acquainted with the sponsor and sponsee relationship in this session.

Patients here also learn and are taught the importance of making connections within their communities.

Forming Strong Relationships

The twelve steps are further explained in this session, and a more thorough understanding of the twelve steps is given to patients. The patients are encouraged to attend the meetings and work along the steps.

Twelve Traditions

All of the Twelve Traditions speak to the members of Alcoholics Anonymous as a group, unlike the twelve steps that are focused on an individual.

The traditions are defined in Big Book, which is the primary literature of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Most of the 12-step groups have also adapted to the related 12 traditions for their specific and own recovery plans.  

Here are the Twelve Traditions:

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.

2. For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority–a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. AA, as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name should never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Efficacy of the 12-Step Program

Due to the anonymous nature of the program and lack of proper research, it is hard to tell whether or not the 12-step model is effective.

But given the prominence of such types of treatments in use and the continuing success stories of people in recovery, the program seems much more effective.  

The 12-step model offers support, accountability, and encouragement for patients who want to kick their addiction seriously. The sponsorship model encourages the type of social support that has helped keep thousands of people clean.

A study from 2013 has gone on to look at the data that indicates the effectiveness of these programs. The research concluded that the medium length of abstinence in AA and NA members is longer than five years.

Most better outcomes are primarily associated with the following:

  • Early, continuous, and even frequent attendance of the meetings, like attending three meetings per day.
  • Starting the programs while under medical treatment. Taking an active part in other program-related activities, including calling on other group members or even performing service during the meetings.

To summarize, there lies a strong link between the degree of involvement in 12-step programs and the resulting positive outcomes. Even so, this association is not a cause-and-effect relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the most important step in the 12-Step Program?

The basic step in the program is admitting that you do have a problem with drugs or alcohol and that you require help. This is the first step and the biggest for recovery.

If people do not complete the first step of the program, they will not be able to join the community on their road to lifelong sobriety and healing.

What is the basic concept of a 12-step program?

The basic model and premise of the 12-Step Program are that people join hands to help each other achieve and maintain abstinence from behaviors and substances that lead to addiction.

How long is a 12-step program?

Most programs and sponsors encourage AA beginners to attend meetings for 90 days.

That might seem a lot and feel like a long time to commit to, especially for meetings.

But most 12-step programs, including for people with addiction to drugs, do encourage members to commit to those 90 meetings in 90 days.

Finding Treatment at The Haven Detox-New England

If you are seeking a 12-step program designed to help you beat your addiction, then you will find Haven Detox as the best possible place for treating your addictions, both substance and alcohol.

The residential and detox programs at the Haven Detox New England are ideal for treating addictions of any level and type. The state-of-the-art facility offers comfortable rooms and facilities where clients can recover safely and learn to re-integrate necessary life skills.

Contact (844)933-4145 for admission to addiction recovery programs.