The Twelve Steps were first developed by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1935 during the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Over the decades, 12-step addiction recovery programs have helped millions pursue a life free of drug and alcohol abuse.
The essential tenet of a 12-step recovery plan is that a person must admit that they’re powerless against substance use and must seek help from a higher power — spiritual or otherwise.
The 12 Steps Of Drug And Alcohol Addiction
There have been several iterations of the original Twelve Steps for AA, ranging from Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to Gamblers Anonymous (GA), and many others.
The 12 steps outlined in Alcoholics Anonymous are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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 basic foundation of the 12 steps remains the same regardless of the addiction, and participants can calibrate their program to fit their individual needs.
If you do not believe in a spiritual higher power, such as a religious god, there are other ways to interpret this component of the 12 steps.
For many people, surrendering to a power greater than themselves can include a rehabilitation program, support group, a network of friends and family, or other system meant to bolster sobriety.
What Happens During A Twelve-Step Meeting?
A 12-step recovery program typically consists of a group of people seated in a semi-circle of chairs.
The leader of the group begins the session with a reading of the AA Preamble and the Serenity Prayer, then asks if there are any first-timers who would like to introduce themselves.
Each meeting will usually focus on one of the 12 steps listed in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. The group will read a chapter from the book and have a group discussion.
During the discussion, people will tell their stories about addiction one by one, and the group will thank each person when they finish their story.
At the end of the meeting, the chairperson will lead a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. People do not have to participate in the prayer if they wish not to.
Why The 12 Steps Are Effective For Addiction Recovery
The overall effectiveness of the 12 steps was unknown for a long time, as there were no scientific studies done on this approach to addiction recovery.
Recent research compiled on the subject points to a strong correlation between sobriety and long-term participation in a twelve-step group.
One of the main reasons that the 12 steps may prove to be effective for people is the strong peer support network that forms over time.
Support and accountability from peers are essential aspects of the recovery process, along with the ability to understand the root causes of addiction and the consequences of substance abuse.
Alternatives To 12-Step Programs For Addiction
While you don’t have to be religious to participate in a 12-step program, many atheists or agnostics may feel uncomfortable with the language of “surrendering to a higher power.”
There are secular alternatives to the 12-step model that also emphasize the role of mutual support.
SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training.
This approach to addiction recovery is focused on empowering people to take control of their own lives through evidence-based recovery methods such as behavioral therapies for addiction.
The SMART program’s approach to behavioral change is built around a four-part program.
These four parts include:
- Part One — building and maintaining the motivation to change
- Part Two — coping with the urge to use substances
- Part Three — managing thoughts, feelings, and behavior in an effective way without addictive behaviors
- Part Four — living a balanced, positive, and healthy lifestyle
Rather than focusing on the past, SMART Recovery meetings place more emphasis on the present and future, and how to apply SMART’s tools to lead a more productive life.
Secular Organizations For Sobriety (S.O.S.)
This is a non-profit network of local groups dedicated to helping people maintain sobriety and abstinence from alcohol and drug addiction.
S.O.S. welcomes people of religious and non-religious backgrounds, and the support groups are always conducted in a secular setting.
Other Common Substance Abuse Treatment Services
Twelve-step programs can help people from all walks of life achieve long-term recovery, but their approach may not work for everyone.
Some people respond better to holistic treatment plans that may include acupuncture, yoga classes, and music therapy for addiction recovery.
Other people may find that an evidence-based recovery program that emphasizes scientifically backed treatments is the best for them.
Addiction treatment programs may include:
- dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
- residential rehab programs
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- medically monitored detox
- relapse prevention services
There is no right or wrong way to approach addiction recovery, and every person will respond differently to different treatments.
Reach out to FreeRehabCenters.net to learn more about how to choose the best addiction treatment center.
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Published on February 15, 2023
Free Rehab Centers aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
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- Alcoholics Anonymous
- National Institute of Health (NIH)
- SMART Recovery