12 Step Program

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There are varying levels of addiction — mild, moderate, and severe — and each one requires its own level of support. Support is one of the most crucial parts of recovering from any drug or alcohol addiction treatment plan. With everyone having their own story with unique reactions to each experience, there are no two recovery journeys that are the same. One of the elements in any addict’s recovery that is proven to be beneficial is the quality of their support system. If they are surrounded by cynicism, negativity, and peers who are still abusing substances, their sobriety will most likely suffer. Being surrounded by individuals who will not judge them and who are going through similar situations can help an addict learn how they cope with triggers and move forward in their life without depending on the use of substances to get them through.

What is involved in a 12-step program?

The 12-step program was created by AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) in the late 1930s to provide a supportive environment in which people who are struggling with addiction can share their experiences without judgment. They also learn how others that have been in similar situation function normally without drugs. This helps them maintain their sobriety. With the success of the 12-step recovery program proven over the course of decades, many groups appreciated the benefits of this self-healing process and have adapted the steps to fit specific addictions.

The steps give emphasis to the presence of whatever higher power exists in each person’s life. They can be adapted to fit everything from religious beliefs to more secular viewpoints and everything in between. Some programs been revised so that the steps can be used according to each addict’s needs and in whichever order benefits them best, whereas, many of them stress working the steps in sequence for the result of freedom from their addiction. The steps are only beneficial if the participant is deeply involved in transforming their behaviors and thought processes.

What is the basis of the 12-steps program?

The initial 12-step program for addiction treatment was shaped around Christian beliefs, but a more universal practice can be used for the recovery of any dysfunctional or addictive behavior, from compulsive gambling to drug and alcohol addiction. Individuals who believe in other higher powers, energies, or their own efforts should not let Christian prejudices deter them from a powerful and effective treatment that could save their life. So, what is the premise of the 12-steps?

Why do the 12-step programs for addiction work?

12-step programs can be used during a stay in a rehab facility, and there are also meetings where people who are trying to live a normal life without drugs support each other. The 12-step programs that are used for any drug or alcohol addiction cause a cognitive restructuring, which is important when an addict is attempting to change their future. No one wants to slide further down into the clutches of addiction and will benefit from all the help that is available to them. This transformation is from the change of thought patterns, which also alters behavior. The attitude is to give people who are struggling with addiction the power to manage their substance use disorders (SUD), as well as provide the supportive environment that is essential to maintaining sobriety.

What is the role of the sponsor in the 12-step drug and alcohol addiction programs?

Each process involves treating the addict as a whole instead of someone with a mental addiction to some behavior. Their mental, physical, and spiritual components are represented in the steps. People who are experienced in the process and are there to help others through the beginning where they feel the most lost and confused are called sponsors. Sponsors have an enormous responsibility in that they not only mentor and guide someone as they work through the steps, but they also provide support in an emergency moment when the one struggling is feeling weak. When someone has a sponsor, studies have shown that they are more likely to maintain their success by attending meetings on a regular basis.

One of the qualities of the sponsor-sponsee relationship that makes it work is the honesty, objectivity, and accountability provided by both sides. This means that a sponsorship may be less effective if it is established between a friend or romantic partner. To be effective, a sponsor should be someone who is trusted and respected but not someone with whom there was a strong personal relationship. There should be a high comfort level with one’s sponsor because they are relied on heavily to help the previous user navigate the new waters of sobriety. They will be in an extremely vulnerable state. Sponsorship creates a confidence in the person trying to overcome their addiction, because they know that they have someone on whom they can be certain will not judge them.

Are there different types of 12-step programs for addiction?

With the steps being immensely effective, a variety of programs that focus on other dysfunctional behaviors have adapted the steps to better suit the interests of those who will benefit from their usage. Some programs help the families of drug addicts to understand the process and some will help the addicts themselves. The inherent structure is the same. Examples of programs that use the steps include, but are not limited to:

If someone finds that they slid down the path of addiction because they are depressed or having a hard time controlling their emotions, they may apply these steps and find support in multiple groups that will fit their situations perfectly. Every single version of the program should have the primary purpose to carry its message to the addict who still suffers.

How effective are 12-step drug and alcohol addiction programs?

Members of AA and other 12-step programs who have had success in the process of the steps will say that “if you work it, it works.” Studies show that this is a true statement. The number of individuals who stop drinking and maintain their sobriety are twice as high among those attended AA meetings, although every person responds differently to each form of therapy. Not everyone who is struggling will find solace in it. The most abstinence was seen at the six month and one-year marks. Those who showed the most success was in groups that also had taken part in other therapies, such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and MET (motivational enhancement therapy).

What are the 12 traditions?

The 12 traditions of the 12-step program are focused on the group as a whole. After AA was established, it grew in popularity across the country, so the founders analyzed what worked, creating guidelines for those leading groups.  12-step programs and any kind of therapy to remain sober not only takes personal reflection, but it also takes the accountability, fellowship, and reinforcement found in group settings. Many drug and alcohol rehab facilities base their treatment on a combination of medication, individual psychotherapy, and group counseling with a 12-step process. Over 80 years of successful testimonials emphasize its positive role in sobriety, but there is no one size fits all program when someone decides that they want to live a sober life. fighting the cravings takes dedication and work, and the goal of the 12-step program is to enable those who want their happy lives back to achieve that goal a little quicker.

Picture being able to be at your niece’s birthday party where there is alcohol flowing abundantly and you barely notice. You have been through rehab and feel like nothing can get in your way now. The next weekend you walk into a barbecue at the neighbor’s house after a stressful workday and barely feel able to resist having a beer. Your partner sees you struggling and suggests that you either call your sponsor or go find a meeting. It is amazing how situations can vary from day to day. You attend a meeting and feel the love and support of recovering addicts who know the struggle and pain you feel when you just want to escape and feel the numbness that only drugs or alcohol can deliver. You know that you could not have fought the cravings and remained sober without being able to rely on these people who in another life you may not have ever met. Being able to make new and relevant friends and learn from them is the magic that can be found when you rely on a 12-step program for drug and alcohol addiction.