12 Step Programs

In Danger of Relapse? 12 Step Programs Can Help

For even the most committed individuals, staying sober over the years will have its challenges. Drug and alcohol addiction are serious conditions, and recovery will never be “set it and forget it” no matter how long it’s been since that last drink or hit.

No matter where you or your loved one may be in the recovery journey, 12 step programs can be helpful tools to maintain accountability. Through the processes of community engagement, sharing your story, reminding yourself of the progress already made, and maintaining new standards of behavior that facilitate growth and healthy choices, these programs are designed to help those in recovery stay the course and build better lives free from addiction.

What Are 12 Step Programs?

The pathways to long-term sobriety are as varied as the people who embark on the journey, but there are some tried and proven methods that most recovering addicts benefit from throughout their lives, and some of these methods can be found in 12 step programs.

Twelve step programs are programs that utilize the tools originally set forth in the 1939 book, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than 100 Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism. Groups including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, as well as more specific groups such as Cocaine Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, and Crystal Meth Anonymous all employ the 12-step philosophy. Additionally, there are specific groups designed for people with gambling, eating, sex, and hoarding addiction issues, as well as other support groups that have sprung up to serve the people whose lives have been indirectly impacted by addiction, including Al Anon and Nar-On.

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What are the 12 Steps?

The 12 steps involved in these accountability programs are broken down as follows (summarized from Wikipedia’s list gather from the original AA handbook):

        1. Admit powerlessness over the addiction.
        2. Acknowledge a higher power at work in one’s life.
        3. Decide to turn one’s life over to that higher power.
        4. Engage in an authentic moral inventory of one’s life.
        5. Admit to oneself, God, and others the nature of one’s wrongdoing.
        6. Be ready for God to remove character defects.
        7. Ask for the removal of the defects.
        8. Itemize the wrong one has committed against others and be willing to make amends.
        9. Actively make amends wherever possible and as long as those amends will not lead to further injury.
        10. Engage in ongoing moral inventory and admit when mistakes and wrongdoing are made.
        11. Use prayer and meditation to seek out closer communication with one’s higher power, relying on that power’s will to work in one’s life.
        12. Share this message with others on their own recovery journey and practice the principals in all areas of one’s life.

 

But What If You Don’t Believe in a Higher Power?

The effectiveness of 12-step programs generally rely on the idea of a power greater than one’s self, one that is often referred to as “God.” However, for many, the idea of handing over one’s power to God is off putting. This is why the concept of a higher power is so vaguely defined in the world of AA, NA, and 12 step programs.

A higher power doesn’t have to be God or Jesus or any traditional religious deity – it doesn’t have to be anything more than an acknowledgement of natural order. In fact, it can be literally anything – even the AA group itself — as is stated by psychologist Ilissa Ducoat, LPC, FT in an article for Psychology Today entitled, A Higher Power for Those Who Don’t Believe in a Higher Power. The overall point of recognizing a power outside of oneself is to go beyond the self and to recognize that in order to maintain sobriety, you may need help, guidance, community, and accountability. Ultimately, the power lies in admitting that you are not alone – your actions impact others and other people’s actions impact you – in good ways and in bad.

For some, however, the idea of a higher power in any capacity is a non-starter, and this is ok, too. The issue of higher power as essential to recovery is one that is hotly debated these days, and because the tenets and precepts of AA were always meant to be suggestions rather than rules, there are a number of secular groups out there that have done away with all mention of higher power without eliminating the acknowledgement that an addict in recovery benefits from help from outside sources.

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12 Step Programs are Designed to Help You Stay Sober

Any way you look at it, 12 step programs have been effective for decades in helping people stay clean, sober and living healthier more fulfilled lives that are free from addiction. Whatever belief system you employ, wherever you are at in the journey, these programs are there in your community to help you – without judgement and in the capacity in which you feel comfortable. As far as belief is concerned, there is nothing wrong with taking what you need and leaving the rest – the goal, always, is to stay sober, and these programs can help, if you let them.

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Read it Next: Are You Living with a Functional Alcoholic? Know the Signs.

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