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12-Step Programs

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12 step programs for addiction recovery

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The term 12-step program came about originally in 1939 when the original twelve steps of addiction recovery were outlined in a book for Alcoholics Anonymous titled, “The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism. 12-step programs encompass a set of guiding principles that map the course to recovery from addiction, compulsions, behavioral problems, eating disorders and a range of other conditions. Today, 12-step treatment programs are used to help people with a range of addictions such as alcoholism, narcotics addiction, cocaine addiction and various other drug addictions.

12-Steps to Recovery

Although not all 12-step programs use exactly these twelve steps to recovery, they all use these original 12-steps as the basis for their treatment programs. The original 12-steps as noted by Alcoholic Anonymous in 1939 are:

  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 all persons we have 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

The 12-steps of recovery have been adapted to meet the special needs of a number of different addictions or other behavioral disorders and now emphasize principles that are of particular importance to each individual fellowship but overall the same feel. In most cases, when the twelve steps are re-worded they alternate wordings are most prevalent in the first and the last steps where the term alcohol is used or the term alcoholics. In these two steps, alternate wordings may be used to describe other conditions besides treating alcoholism with the 12-step programs.

The 12-Traditions of 12-Step Programs

A set of traditions that accompany 12-step programs is aimed at providing the guidelines by which 12-step treatment groups are governed. These guidelines were created by Alcoholics Anonymous to help with conflict resolution in the areas of religion, publicity and finances when necessary. Not all 12-step programs abide by the same 12-traditions but the majority of them have adopted these guiding principles for the structural governance of their programs.

The 12-traditions of a 12-step treatment program are:

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement fo AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

12-Step Treatment Programs Process

The 12-step treatment process focuses on recovery from addiction in four core areas including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms. Each problem that an individual has is said to have manifested itself in one of the categories such as physical reactions to drugs or substances. For instance, an individual who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may have poor impulse control, they may procrastinate, suffer from insomnia, irritability, or many other physical aspects. From a mental aspect, addiction causes mania, panic attacks and depression.

An emotional obsession with drugs or alcohol causes the individual to continue taking part in compulsive behaviors such as using drugs despite the negative consequences. In the first step of 12-step programs, the individual admits that their lives have become unmanageable. This term is meant to refer to the lack of choice the an individual has when they suffer from addiction as the mind takes over and makes decisions based on desire rather than on what’s right or good for the individual.

The 12-step treatment process works each of the 12-steps to create a spiritual awakening in which the individual is no longer self centered, moral consciousness is achieved and a will for self sacrifice is unleashed. The spiritual awakening is said to develop over time and with the healing from addiction.

12-step treatment programs are most beneficial when individuals attend meetings with other members who have the same or similar recovery problems. For instance, alcoholics should attend AA, those addicted to methamphetamine should attend a crystal meth anonymous group and those addicted to gambling should attend gambling anonymous. The primary first step of the 12-step recovery process is for members to admit the problem that they are recovering from and identify themselves. For instance, a member would say, “Hi, I’m Joe and I’m an alcoholic.” prior to beginning any meeting conversations.

Types of 12-Step Programs

Today there are many different types of 12-step programs. The most common 12-step groups are still Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) but there is also Cocaine Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Nar-anon, Narcotics Anonymous and various types of groups related to gambling, compulsions and other conditions. Many areas have 12-step programs that are aimed at helping individual groups such as the gay and lesbian community, women’s only 12-step programs, men’s only 12-step programs, and 12-step programs for families of those addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Al-Anon, which is the third largest 12-step program, helps family members of those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. This program focuses on the problems that families face as a result of addiction such as enabling, debt, depression, physical or psychological abuse and trauma. The majority of 12-step programs are actually related more often to the problems that result from addiction or other disorders rather than on the addiction itself. 20% of all 12-step programs focus on addiction recovery such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, the two largest 12-step programs, but 80% of all 12-step programs take a focus on other matters such as debt, depression, and other problems.