Do 12-Step Programs Work?

Above all, there is one question people ask when looking into recovery from a potential addiction: Do the 12 steps work? You might have developed a dependency, and now you’re wondering if these programs work, or perhaps someone told you they don’t. These are good questions, and they deserve good answers. 

Thousands of alcoholics and addicts have tried 12-step programs. You can follow their example, as long as you listen to the advice of medical experts. But only then can you determine if following the 12 steps are right for you. If you wish to discuss 12-step programs or further treatment options then call us today. If you have questions about 12-step programs or simply wish to discuss available treatment options, call 405-583-4390. We would be happy to help. 

Self-Help Organizations

The 12-step program was first created by Bill W. Wilson, Ebby Thatcher, and Bob Smith in 1935. In 1938, Wilson and Smith published what would later become known as The Big Book, a guide for recovering alcoholics. In it, Wilson introduced the first 12-step program. Later on, the group would become known as Alcoholics Anonymous or A.A.  

A.A. exists as one of many such self-help organizations specifically designed for substance abuse. They base their program on The Big Book, the 12 steps, and the 12 traditions. These are designed to help people seeking recovery through peer support and regular meetings. 

In short, since then, Alcoholics Anonymous has spread around the world, saving thousands. There are now many more groups. You can join Narcotics Anonymous, Crystal Meth Addicts Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and more. Today, there are around 120,000 Alcoholics, Anonymous groups, worldwide. All in all. These groups have more than 2 million members together. Because based on the sheer number of people using these programs, it is clear that many people find the 12 steps helpful. Call us today if you want help getting into a program. Our professionals are standing by, and are ready to help you. Call us today, then get the help you need tomorrow. 

Let’s Talk About 12-Step Programs and How They Work 

When you hear talk about 12 traditions and big books, it might cause you to worry. It sounds complicated. But in reality, the basics of 12-step programs are fairly simple, which is one of the greatest reasons for their success. 

Every 12-step program focuses on using the anonymity and regularly scheduled meetings. Of course, there is more to it than that. But an essential part of any 12-step program is peer support. You come to meetings, find other people with substance abuse issues, and work together toward recovery. 

In addition, anonymity is important. According to the A.A. website, “anonymity has proved one of the greatest gifts that A.A. offers the suffering alcoholic. However, many would never attend their first meeting.” Thus, being anonymous helps encourage attendance and protects those who attend regularly. 

The meetings themselves vary in format depending on the group. Thanks to a large number of groups available, you have the luxury of choosing which sessions you would like to attend. In general, most meetings focus on a discussion of one of the steps. Then, participants read together, share stories, and pray.  

Prayer is a common element because many 12-step programs center on recognizing a “higher power.” But this is not necessary. In fact, the higher power can be anything—it does not need to be a deity. 

A List of the 12 Steps

It wouldn’t be the 12-step program without the 12 steps. So what are they? Below, we will list the 12 steps. In the next section, we will attempt to explain each step’s meaning and some general misconceptions. 

  1. Admit we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. 
  2. Chose 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 all 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. 

To summarize, do you have questions about the steps? Then call us today. Our team is here for you. Because we only care about getting you on to the path of sobriety.

The Meaning of Each Step  

Some of the steps sound heavy. However, for many addicts and alcoholics, the references to God make it seem like a 12-step program isn’t the right fit. But make no mistake, Alcoholics Anonymous includes many atheist and agnostic members. 

To get a better understanding of what every step means, let’s examine each one individually. 

The  first step is honesty. To begin recovery, you need to reject denial and admit being powerless over your addiction. 

The  second step is faith. It does not need to be faith in a deity. You only need faith in a power higher than yourself. 

Step three  requires surrender. By giving in to the higher power, you recognize your inability to effect needed change on your own. 

Next comes soul searching in step four. Recovery is a process, not an event. You will need to think long and hard about substance abuse and your relation to it. 

The fifth step is about integrity. You will need to admit to yourself and your higher power what went wrong. 

Step six brings self-acceptance. Accept who you, warts and all. Let it go and choose to move on. 

Then you move to step seven, humility. You resign yourself to your defects and ask your higher power to do what cannot be done by willpower alone. 

The next one, step eight, is willingness. To be willing to recover means being willing to rectify your past mistakes. 

Step nine is forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness is a process of healing. 

Step number 10 is maintenance. Continue down the path you began. 

The second-to-last step, step 11, asks you to make contact. Reach out to the higher power (as you understand it) to understand your life plan. 

Finally, step 12 , is “how it works.” Continue to practice all the steps. 

Limitations of 12-Step Programs 

While 12-step programs might be useful, this does not mean they are perfect. 12-step programs need real participation to work at all. This means you will need to attend regular meetings and work through the steps. 

But that is not the only limitation of 12-step programs. Alcoholics Anonymous and related recovery support groups are not evidence-based addiction treatment. However, that does not mean they don’t work! Individual experiences do vary, and thousands of people swear by the 12 steps. Nevertheless, it is vital to remember to include other treatment options if you are seeking recovery. 

Because of the lack of evidence-based treatment, 12-step programs are not overwhelmingly effective on their own. When considering a 12-step program, always pair it with other recovery strategies. This should likely include treatment-based options of some kind. In any case, you should still attend support meetings, and there are few better than 12-step programs. 

Some doctors have criticized A.A. for their dislike of certain types of treatment. Using medications for addiction treatment (MAT) has been looked down upon by some members as another form of addiction. However, according to A.A., members may use any medication if so prescribed by a doctor. If this does happen in some chapters, do not take it an indictment of A.A. as a whole. Simply be aware of what groups you wish to join. 

Above all, it is clear that joining a 12-step program can be more beneficial than not joining one. For most people, it is highly valuable when paired with other forms of treatment and therapy.  Call us today and we can help you get into the program that is right for you and your needs. Do not hesitate. Call today, and start your sober path tomorrow. 

Myths and Misconceptions about 12-Step Programs 

Although 12-step programs can be useful when combined with other forms of treatment, many myths about them persist. It is important to understand what these myths are, so that you can make an informed decision. 

You might have heard the program is religious. This is not the case. In fact, you don’t need to believe in any religion to join. As we said above, you can be an atheist and still be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. There are members of every faith: Christians, Pagans, Buddhists, Muslims, and more. All you need is a belief in a higher power, which can be anything “higher” than yourself.  

Another common misconception is members discuss drugs or drinking at meetings. This is also not the case. Actually, members rarely discuss substance abuse directly. The community often frowns upon these stories when told without good reason. Members are looking to recover; they do not want to hear re-tellings of prior substance abuse. Instead, meetings often focus on discussions of personal growth.  

Some people think 12-step programs are only for addicts or alcoholics. That’s incorrect. You can attend an open meeting without identifying as either an alcoholic or an addict. However, most programs have closed meetings only for those who identify as one or the other. This way, you can see what a 12-step program is like, even if you aren’t sure if you are an alcoholic. 

Finally, some have described Alcoholics Anonymous and similar organizations as cult-like. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every 12-step program is nothing more than a peer support group seeking to recover together. If it sounds appealing, attend an open meeting and make your own decision. 

Getting Started 

No matter what decision you make, remember one thing. Every recovery plan should be robust. It is never enough to seek help through one source. If you choose to join a 12-step program, pair it with other forms of treatment. 

In conclusion, this might include rehab, therapy, or using medications for addiction treatment. You will need to see a doctor discuss what possible options are best for you. Nonetheless, peer support is essential to beating addiction. No one will tell you 12-step programs cannot be part of your path to recovery. Do you need or want additional support? Then call our specialists today. We are standing by, and are ready to help you get started on your happier and healthier life today. 

12-step program




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