The approach to addiction recovery used in 12 step treatment centers is recognized everywhere, with tens of thousands of AA and NA groups scattered around the world. However, it is not a program that is for everyone struggling with substance use disorder or addiction. Nevertheless, before making a decision as important as which type of addiction treatment to reach out for, it’s important to be armed with all the facts.
In this article, we set out the 12 steps the program is based around in order to shed some light on the approach.
The steps in the 12 step rehab program are as follows:
- The individual recognizes they are powerless over their addiction and that it has created problems in their lives.
When someone enters a 12 step rehab center, they are encouraged to focus on honesty, both with themselves and others. One of the biggest hurdles to a person getting the treatment they need is that they are unwilling to accept they have a problem in the first place. Sometimes denial can prevent them from accepting the fact, or in other cases, it can be a sense of shame. 12 step treatment centers firmly believe that until a person becomes truly aware of the extent of their addiction, they will not be open to receive further treatment.
- The individual believes that faith can restore his or her sanity.
The second step requires the individual to place their faith in God, the universe or whatever divine that resonates with them in order to find healing. This step is often where people start to feel disconnected from the idea of a 12 step rehab program although it can resonate with people with certain belief systems. The intention of the second step in the program is to give individuals a more positive view of the future.
- The individual submits to the divine being.
The goal of the third step is to encourage individuals to place their trust completely in the divine being central to their beliefs. How effective this step depends largely on the person’s faith and also their understanding of their relationship with God and organized religion. Ultimately, individuals in 12 step rehab centers submit themselves to a higher power in acknowledgment that they are greater and more powerful than they are.
- An honest moral inventory is taken.
In consultation with their families or on their own, 12 step recovery program participants are requested to take stock of their lives and take responsibility for their actions over the years. In order to complete this process, the fourth step encourages patients to write a comprehensive inventory of the things that have happened that they need to take responsibility for.
- Referring to their inventory, patients openly admit to their “wrongdoings”
The inventory written provides information about many events and behaviors individuals would change if they could. The fifth step encourages people to admit to these wrongdoings to themselves, God and one other person. This is due to the beliefs held by 12 step rehab programs that unless someone is absolved of their past wrongdoings, they will always feel ashamed of their personal history.
- Individuals accept their character weaknesses and ask God to remove them.
Step six involves a shift in attitude in the participant where they accept that their character flaws can only be removed by a higher power. This step reinforces the idea that addicts are unable to change without help from a superior being, which is a principal that critics of 12 step recovery programs strongly disagree with.
- The individual asks God to correct their character flaws.
Once a person has admitted that they are powerless to help themselves, they are required to formally ask a higher power to correct their weaknesses. This requires a certain degree of “supplication” as participants humble themselves as they request help from a supernatural power.
- The individual makes a list of those affected by their addiction.
This step involves individuals making lists of all the loved ones, co-workers and friends who have been harmed as a result of their drinking or drug-taking. This can often be a painful process as patients have to be prepared to request forgiveness in person in the next step.
- The individual asks to be forgiven.
As mentioned above, step nine involves asking the people on their list for forgiveness. This process involves approaching each individual concerned to make amends for past behaviors, which can be a difficult experience for many.
- Addicts keep a moral journal and admit wrongs as they occur.
Step ten introduces an exercise which is continued for the long term, which is to write down thoughts and behaviors in a kind of moral journal. If the person does something that is considered wrong, they are to admit to it immediately and record the experience for future reflection.
- The individual seeks a better understanding of God’s will.
Individuals are encouraged to consistently communicate with God through prayer, seeking guidance when required.
- The individual achieves spiritual awakening.
By the time an individual has completed the program, they should have undergone a spiritual awakening. They are requested to spread the 12 step recovery message to others fighting addiction to drugs or alcohol and continue to practice the principals across all areas of their lives.
Are There Alternatives To 12 Step Treatment Centers?
The 12 step recovery program is not addiction treatment in itself. The way the program works is through providing group support, with specific emphasis on religious principles that not everyone is aligned to. However, our better understanding of addiction means that there are now numerous options for people seeking help for drug or alcohol abuse. Non 12 step programs don’t subscribe to the opinion that an addict is powerless to help themselves and that they need to enlist a higher power in order to overcome their issues. It is always important to research the options when looking for addiction treatment as it is an incredibly personal illness requiring an individualized approach.