12 Step Program: An Overview

The 12 Step program was initially developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith (both recovering alcoholics) in 1935. The program provided a system of recovery based on spiritual principles, and due to its success was adapted for many other recovery programs including Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous and Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.

Although the 12 Steps are based on spiritual or religious principles, non-religious people have found them to be helpful. The language used emphasizes the presence of “God” as each participant understands the concept. This can be a higher power, a deity, or even the support group itself, allowing for different interpretations and religious beliefs to garner the benefits of such a program. Participants of 12 Step Programs have found that the steps not only help them to overcome drug and alcohol addiction but are also a guide to managing and maintaining a new way of life. Although the steps are presented in a linear fashion, participants often view them as an ongoing process and revisit the steps until they are comfortable with that particular part of their recovery.

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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.

Why is the 12 Step Program effective?

The 12 Steps encourage accountability for those that want to overcome their addiction, but because the foundation of the program is anonymous, it’s difficult to tell exactly why it is effective. The program provides support and encouragement, but regular meetings also provide structure and routine – two important factors in recovery. 

When an individual begins the process of recovery, they often spend a significant amount of time in counselling, whether with a therapist, a group therapy session, or family sessions. Even though counselling is paramount to recovery, spiritual and emotional healing are just as important. The Twelve Step method provides a platform for a better understanding of self, helping the individual to unpack the reasons that led to addiction in the first place.

In conclusion, 12 step programs play a significant role in addiction recovery by providing a structured framework, social support, and spiritual guidance to individuals seeking to overcome their addictive behaviors. By fostering a sense of community, promoting abstinence, and adapting to various addiction challenges, these programs have proven to be a valuable resource for those on the path to recovery.

Recovery852 specialises in 12-step Facilitation Therapy, Motivational Interviewing (MI), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Person-Centred Therapy, and Wellness Coaching. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, you have options. Contact Recovery852 today.