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A Complete 12-Step Program Guide

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can provide the support and guidance you need.

When you or someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, it’s easy to feel alone in the fight. Fortunately, there are millions of members worldwide participating in various self-help groups using the 12-step program that band together to help people with substance disorders of all kinds.

Abundant and easy to find, these meetings are often open to the loved ones and friends of those struggling with addiction, although closed meetings exist for just those dealing with addiction as well. Anonymity and privacy are important tenets of these meetings, as those who attend have chosen to receive help – not be outed for their admission of addiction.

These 12-step programs complement and extend the effects of professional treatment, as most drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs encourage patients to participate in self-help group therapy during and after treatment.
Seeking these groups can be particularly helpful during recovery, offering an added layer of community-level social support to help people achieve and maintain abstinence and other healthy lifestyle behaviors over the course of a lifetime[1].

The 12-Step Program Origin

Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-Steps began in June of 1935, during the great depression. The founder Bill Wilson created the organization while detoxing in a Manhattan drug rehab center which resulted in the 12 steps and traditions which are at the heart of AA [2].
Wilson had no formal medical or psychology training – instead, the 12 Steps were created by combining ideas from philosophy and religion. He condensed these ideas into a concise list with a structure inspired by the Bible, although a belief in any religion is by no means a prerequisite for attendance and success.
Today, an estimated 1.2 million people across the country participate in one of the over 55,000 different 12-step program meetings. Meetings are free and entirely self-supported through voluntary donations that cover meeting space, coffee, and other refreshments.

The 12 Traditions Of Alcoholics Anonymous

These twelve traditions are representative of members of 12-step groups as a group, unlike the 12 steps which focus on the individual and their own path. See if these traditions speak to what you’d like to see in a community that will help you on your path to recovery.
Here are the 12 traditions [3]:

Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.

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.

The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.

Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

An AA group ought never to 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.

Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

AA, as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never to be drawn into public controversy.

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.

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
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.
Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
AA, as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never to be drawn into public controversy.
Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
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.
An AA group ought never to 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.
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

The 12 Steps

Alcoholics Anonymous and all other 12-step substance abuse groups all adhere to 12 ideals known as the 12 steps. These steps are outlined in the expansive yet concise “Big Book”, which is seen as the foundation of addiction treatment throughout the country [2].
Here are the 12 steps in their entirety:

1) We admitted our powerlessness over our illness, or drugs and 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 our Higher Power.

4) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5) Admitted to our Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6) We're entirely ready to have our Higher Power remove all these defects of character.

7) Humbly asked our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings.

8) Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make 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 our Higher Power, 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 drug and alcohol addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

How The 12 Steps work

Now that we’ve covered the actual 12 steps, it’s important to know the 12 ideas behind each of the steps [4]. Keep in mind that while steps like topics such as faith and soul searching are part of the program, that the 12 steps and programs that utilize them stress the importance of substituting whatever faith or ideology – or lack thereof – you personally follow onto sections asking you to surrender or consider a “Higher Power”.

Honesty

After many years of denial, recovery can begin with one simple admission of being powerless over alcohol or any other drug a person is addicted to. Their friends and family may also use this step to admit their loved one has an addiction.

Faith

Before a higher power can begin to operate, you must first believe that it can. Someone with an addiction accepts that there is a higher power to help them heal.

Surrender

You can change your self-destructive decisions by recognizing that you alone cannot recover; with help from your higher power, you can.https://www.magventure.com/us

Soul Searching

The person in recovery must identify their problems and get a clear picture of how their behavior affected themselves and others around them.https://www.magventure.com/us

Integrity

Step 5 provides a great opportunity for growth. The person in recovery must admit their wrongs in front of their higher power and another person.

Acceptance

The key to Step 6 is acceptance—accepting character defects exactly as they are and becoming entirely willing to let them go.

Humility

The spiritual focus of Step 7 is humility, or asking a higher power to do something that cannot be done by self-will or mere determination.

Willingness

his step involves making a list of those you harmed before coming into recovery.

Forgiveness

Making amends may seem challenging, but for those serious about recovery, it can be a great way to start healing your relationships.

Maintenance

Nobody likes to admit to being wrong. But it is a necessary step in order to maintain spiritual progress in recovery.

Making Contact

The purpose of Step 11 is to discover the plan your higher power has for your life.

Service

The person in recovery must carry the message to others and put the principles of the program into practice in every area of their life.

The Steps in Action

Finding a meeting

One of the most important commitments to make in your journey in working through the 12 steps, is to meet with those in the 12 step community via attending weekly or bi-weekly meetings [5]. There should be people in those meetings with varying levels of experience, sobriety, and wisdom.
Don’t be afraid of going. You may be amazed at the warm reception that you find. Many people have said that they finally felt like they were coming home when they went to a meeting or that they no longer felt alone.
Other good resources are online meetings (you can use our calendar of online meetings to see if a meeting is available at a given time) or online social networks for recovery.
The online resources might be a little less personal, but oftentimes are more convenient, especially if there are no face-to-face meetings in your local area for your type of addiction.

Find a sponsor

One of the most important commitments to make in your journey in working through the 12 steps, is to meet with those in the 12 step community via attending weekly or bi-weekly meetings [5]. There should be people in those meetings with varying levels of experience, sobriety, and wisdom.
Don’t be afraid of going. You may be amazed at the warm reception that you find. Many people have said that they finally felt like they were coming home when they went to a meeting or that they no longer felt alone.
Other good resources are online meetings (you can use our calendar of online meetings to see if a meeting is available at a given time) or online social networks for recovery.
The online resources might be a little less personal, but oftentimes are more convenient, especially if there are no face-to-face meetings in your local area for your type of addiction.

work the Steps

One of the most important commitments to make in your journey in working through the 12 steps, is to meet with those in the 12 step community via attending weekly or bi-weekly meetings [5]. There should be people in those meetings with varying levels of experience, sobriety, and wisdom.
Don’t be afraid of going. You may be amazed at the warm reception that you find. Many people have said that they finally felt like they were coming home when they went to a meeting or that they no longer felt alone.
Other good resources are online meetings (you can use our calendar of online meetings to see if a meeting is available at a given time) or online social networks for recovery.
The online resources might be a little less personal, but oftentimes are more convenient, especially if there are no face-to-face meetings in your local area for your type of addiction.

Staying Sober

One of the most important commitments to make in your journey in working through the 12 steps, is to meet with those in the 12 step community via attending weekly or bi-weekly meetings [5]. There should be people in those meetings with varying levels of experience, sobriety, and wisdom.
Don’t be afraid of going. You may be amazed at the warm reception that you find. Many people have said that they finally felt like they were coming home when they went to a meeting or that they no longer felt alone.
Other good resources are online meetings (you can use our calendar of online meetings to see if a meeting is available at a given time) or online social networks for recovery.
The online resources might be a little less personal, but oftentimes are more convenient, especially if there are no face-to-face meetings in your local area for your type of addiction.

Different Types of 12 Step Meetings

This free-to-join system of support all started with Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1950s and has since spread to cover 30 types of addictions and disorders. Through these groups, you or a loved one will be able to find a judgment-free zone to work through your disorder with people who have been or currently are in your shoes.

Some examples include: 

  1. 1. Narcotics Anonymous
  2. 2. Heroin Anonymous
  3. 3. Pills Anonymous
  4. 4. Crystal Meth Anonymous
  5. 5. Gamblers Anonymous
  6. 6. Sex Addict Anonymous
  7. 7. Cocaine Anonymous 

Together, We Can Do This!

With treatment and a willingness to communicate and execute your desire to overcome substance abuse disorder, one of the many 12-step programs suited for your disorder can and will help you accomplish your goals [7].
We’re here to help you accomplish your goals as well – please feel free to contact our professionals who will help you start treatment and find a 12-step program nearest to you.

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Where do 12-step or self-help programs fit into drug addiction treatment? Retrieved November 24th, 2021 from [https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/where-do-12-step-programs-fit]

Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Twelve-Step Facilitation. Retrieved November 24th, 2021 from [https://portal.ct.gov/DMHAS/Initiatives/Evidence-Based/12-Step-Facilitation]

Alcoholics Anonymous. The twelve traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved November 24th, 2021 from
[https://www.aa.org/assets/en_us/smf-122_en.pdf]

T, Buddy. (2021, May 12) The 12 steps of recovery programs. Retrieved November 24th, 2021 from
[https://www.verywellmind.com/the-twelve-steps-63284]

12 Step Organization. Newcomers guide for the 12 step program. Retrieved November 24th, 2021 from
[https://12step.org/home/newcomers-guide/]

American Addiction Center. (2021, September 16) How to find the best 12-step substance abuse recovery program. Retrieved November 24th, 2021 from
[https://www.recovery.org/whos-going-to-aa-inquiring-minds-want-to-know/]

Donovan, D.M., Ingalsbe, M.H. (2013, August 26) 12-step interventions and mutual support programs for substance use disorders:an overview. Retrieved November 24th, 2021 from
[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3753023/]

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