The 12 step recovery program is possibly the best-known, mostly because it is one of the most established support programs in the world today.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are both completely free treatment programs that have been shown to be highly effective for people dealing with substance abuse and addiction.
12 step rehab programs have a spiritual basis and include a belief in a higher power although that does not necessarily mean God. Members of AA and NA groups are able to define their own “higher power” which can be anything from a universal energy to a specific deity.
Meetings are generally held in public spaces used by the community such as schools or churches. There are some NA and AA meetings that are open to anyone wishing to attend, while others restrict their focus on those with substance abuse issues only.
Although 12 step treatment centers are free to attend, members are required to attempt to stop drinking or taking drugs.
The 12 Steps of AA and NA are as follows:
- Members admit they are powerless over alcohol or drugs and that their lives have become unmanageable.
The most important step in healing from addiction is admitting there is a problem in the first place. AA and NA encourage members to acknowledge that they are unable to quit without help, to allow the recovery process to begin.
- An acceptance that a higher power is needed to help members restore their sanity.
12 step treatment centers believe that people with addiction issues need to look outside of themselves and towards a more powerful entity in order to achieve recovery. People in 12 step rehab programs are able to define the higher power that works best for them.
- A decision is made to turn over members’ lives to the care of a higher being as they understand them to be.
This step requires participants to consciously submit themselves to whomever or whatever they choose their higher power to be. The principle is that this release helps recovery from addiction.
- Preparing a deep-reaching and fearless moral inventory.
The fourth step requires a significant amount of self-exploration which can be uncomfortable for members. Nevertheless, it is crucial to maintaining the culture of trust and honesty within an AA or NA setting.
- Admitting to the Higher Power and to those who have been hurt by a person’s addiction the exact nature of their wrongs.
This can be difficult for many people attending meetings as they may struggle to recall the incidents when they caused pain to their loved ones. For this reason, it is a process that can be ongoing for some time.
- Members are prepared and ready to have their Higher Power remove any defects of character.
Members determine they are ready to deal with the wrongs listed in Step 4.
- Become humbled enough to ask the Higher Power to remove shortcomings
Although everyone has character flaws, someone with addiction may have particularly negative behaviors and traits that have accompanied their substance abuse. In 12 step rehab programs members are required to admit they are not strong enough to overcome these flaws without the help of their Higher Power.
- Listing all people harmed by addiction with the intention of making amends with them individually.
As part of a 12 step recovery program, addicts are required to write down all the people they have hurt through their addictive behaviors. Then they have to prepare themselves to apologize and make amends for past wrongs.
- Approaching the people hurt as listed in the previous step unless it would be detrimental to them to do so.
The majority of members work with their sponsor (see below), to figure out the best way of completing this step. It may be better for them to write a letter, send an email or sit down with the individual and talk things through face-to-face.
- Continuing with taking a personal inventory and admitting any wrongs committed promptly.
Step 10 involves making a commitment to self-monitoring recovery progress and the inventory should include any negative behaviors or relapses to substance abuse. This is intended to encourage members to become accountable for their behaviors and the impact they have on those close to them.
- Using prayer and meditation to improve conscious communication with the Higher Power as understood by each member.
This step requires a commitment to some kind of spiritual practice which can be anything that resonates with the individual, such as prayer, meditation or reading scripture.
- As a result of the spiritual awakening resulting from working through Steps 1 through 11, Members are encouraged to carry the 12 step message to others needing help with addiction.
This step is based on the principle that helping others is beneficial to an individual’s recovery. To facilitate this 12th step, many members become sponsors and go on to help others in recovery programs.
What Are Sponsors?
Sponsors are fellow AA or NA members who are still working through the 12 steps but may be further towards recovery than others. Sponsors are able to share their experiences in 12 steps on a one-to-one basis with others on the recovery program. It has been shown that recovery is often longer-lasting when AA and NA members feel completely supported.
The sponsorship aspect of 12 step rehab programs provides continuous and consistent support to people in the process of overcoming their addiction issues. Sponsors remain connected to the members over the long term and many very close personal relationships are formed in 12 step recovery programs among others with a similar mindset.