The 12 step recovery support program is probably the best-known addiction service in the world. This is not only due to the fact it was founded back in 1935 but also to its proven effectiveness for a large number of recovering addicts over the years. 12 step treatment centers offer a common approach to addiction recovery that endeavors to keep members focused on the goal of achieving long-term sobriety within a community that shares common principles and beliefs.
Among the most well-known 12 step groups are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA). Other support groups founded on the same principles as 12 step are Al-Anon and Alateen which are both aimed at people who have been affected by another person’s substance abuse.
According to research, around 73% of the almost 15,000 inpatient drug rehab centers in America incorporate the 12 step approach into their treatment programs.
12 step rehab centers are completely free and are held at regularly scheduled times in public places like churches and community centers. Members are encouraged to share their experiences with each other in an environment of mutual support and healing and many gain significant benefits from being amongst like-minded people.
A 12 step meeting is intended to provide a safe place for open communication on intensely personal aspects of a member’s addiction so that others can draw encouragement and motivation to work towards shared goals.
The 12 step recovery program itself is actually very straight-forward in that the steps have to be worked through in the correct order and to the fullest extent possible. For individuals who are concerned about the fact that 12 step treatment centers are faith-based, there are objective ways of looking at the steps so they can be adapted to any belief system.
An Overview of the 12 Steps
Step 1: Members first have to accept they are powerless to overcome addiction on their own and that their lives have become unmanageable and chaotic. Part of this acceptance is for the person to acknowledge their own role in their struggles with substances. This first and possibly most important step of the 12 step recovery program is all about admitting the truth and openly recognizing a problem.
Step 2: Step two is mostly about placing complete faith in a higher power and relinquishing control to them in order to find a path to recovery. Even if a 12 step member is an atheist or agnostic, they can still come together in this step by interpreting it slightly differently as meaning they need to learn humility and recognize they are not all-powerful in the fight against addiction.
Step 3: This step is about removing the self-will and ego that prevents many people from becoming humble enough to seek help. In order to succeed in sobriety, it is important to be able to reach out to others and learn how to lean on them for help. In turn, 12 step members are encouraged to be supportive of others in the same situation which serves to keep them grounded.
Step 4: This involves taking the famous 12 step inventory of the wrongs committed while addicted to drugs or alcohol. No matter what a person’s spiritual or religious background, it is a cathartic experience to identify, recognize and accept past behaviors, which is best done by contemplating the past and writing things down.
Step 5: After completing an inventory and accepting negative actions and behaviors of the past to themselves, the next step is for the member to admit them to their higher power and another human being. For many 12 step members, this is the hardest step as it requires 100% honesty so that everything is out in the open. For many addicts, the temptation might be to make excuses or justifications for their behavior but once step 5 of the 12 step recovery program is completed, there should be nothing left to hide.
Step 6: Once the inventory of addictive acts has been compiled and openly acknowledged, the member can prepare to make significant changes in their lives. This step requires a willingness to change in ways that have been identified by the member themselves. Setting goals helps in completing this step as it marks small victories during their gradual progress towards recovery.
Step 7: This step acknowledges the personal changes members each have to make toward sobriety and marks a change in attitude that allows humility to guide them. This is an actionable step in that members are required to actively pursue change by casting out toxic people and places and removing all sources of temptation for substance abuse that stand in the way of their sobriety.
Step 8: The eighth step is another that requires action by making a list of all the people who have been harmed by a member’s past behaviors and reaching out to them one-by-one. By this point in 12 step treatment centers, members are generally ready to have the often difficult conversations they need to so they can make amends with the important people in their lives. Addiction is an illness that manifests itself in very selfish ways which can make life very difficult for others. This step is important in helping addicts becoming accountable for past-wrongs and also for future success in sobriety.
Step 9: This is a continuation of the last step in that members must set about making amends with those hurt by them in the past. The only instances where individuals are not encouraged to reach out to apologize are when to do so would be detrimental to the other person. It is important to recognize that sometimes it is not possible to make amends because the damage done was too extensive. This increases a person’s motivation to maintain their sobriety.
Step 10: This step encourages members to keep a recovery journal and to be completely honest about any mistakes made by admitting them straight away. This is to reinforce the fact that recovery from addiction is a process that takes many years and often a lifetime.
Step 11: Members are expected to focus on their spiritual needs for this step. The objective is to improve lines of communication between themselves and their idea of a higher being through meditation or prayer.
Step 12: By the end of a program at a 12 step rehab center, members will have come to terms with their addiction and put it in the past, with the intention of moving forwards in sobriety. Members are encouraged to reach out to others with addiction issues and spread the word of 12 steps which allows them to motivate others with their own success story.