12 Step Programs and How They Can Help

Written: 4 September 2021
Reading Time: 6 Minutes

When it comes to treating alcohol, drug or process addictions, most rehabs will recommend a multi-disciplined approach to recovery. Whilst quality counselling and therapy are important parts of this work, becoming part of a group of like minded people is probably the most important aspect of what rehabs offer to their clients. 12 step programs are recognised around the world as the gold-standard for building fellowship and maintaining long term recovery. 

History of 12 Step Programs

12 Step programs were first developed with the introduction of Alcoholics Anonymous back in the 1930’s. The founders of AA, Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith, realised that they had come up with “a way to help Alcoholics get sober that actually worked.” 

Since their inception, the steps have been re-used by fellowships all over the word with similar success. Organisations such as Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous are just a few of the variations that recovering addicts now have access to. 

The 12 Steps Explained

Every 12 step program is based on the same set of steps that originated in Alcoholics Anonymous. 

12 Steps List

  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 had 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.

To some people the steps can seem daunting. Others run through the steps ticking them off as if they have already done them in their life. 

But the process of working through the 12 steps is more than just ticking off a to-do list. Doing the steps requires the help of a sponsor and is a highly intimate experience where one person shares their life with another. It’s a process of coming to believe in a higher power who helps the person to recover from their addiction.

Don’t be scared by the words “higher power”. 12 step programs are non religious. They ask recovering addicts to find their own meaning of a higher power. The core requirement is to look outside of ourselves for the answers and many find comfort in looking to their higher power for help. 

Fellowship of 12 Step Programs

There are a couple of sayings that recovering addicts know well. “Connection is the opposite of addiction” and “we can’t do it alone”. Recovering from addiction is a team effort. Whilst the process of getting to know oneself is at the core of recovery, it’s often the connections with those around us which can define success or failure. 

12 step programs are so much more than just a set of steps and traditions. They give people a sense of belonging. An opportunity to share about their challenges and not be judged for it. Recovery can be transformed from a chore to something beautiful with the fellowship that 12 step programs bring. 

Many don’t know that most 12 step groups go for “second halves”, which are casual meetings after the 12 step meeting for recovering addicts to socialise, laugh, eat and interact together. It’s at these second halves that many will form connections that will last their lifetime. Fellowship is available in 12 step programs. 

90 Meetings in 90 Days

It’s widely acknowledged in the drug treatment world that 90 days is the ideal length of time for most people to get a solid foundation for their recovery. 12 step programs take a similar view, with most of them recommending a newcomer attend a meeting each day for their first 90 days. 

Repetitive reinforcement is generally the key with someone who’s early in recovery. It takes hearing the same message over and over to really start to feel a shift in thinking. That’s what’s so great about longer term rehab. When we combine daily 12 step meetings with the longer term rehab we can see the effects multiply and give an even greater chance of success. 

The other great thing about doing 90 meetings in 90 days is that it encourages fellowship with existing members in the group. Forming trust and respect for the group takes time so committing to see the same groups regularly for 90 days will only enhance that feeling of connection and fellowship.

12 Step Rehabs

Rehabs and detox centres are vitally important to many addicts around the world. They create the space that a person needs to really address the immediate effects of their addiction. Whether it’s managing withdrawal symptoms in a detox facility, or starting the process of self awareness in a rehab, these institutions can make all the difference to successfully getting clean. 

As important as getting clean is, it’s staying clean which is the challenging part. And whilst it might be nice to wrap ourselves in cotton wool and live the rest of our days being looked after in rehab, the reality is that we have to go back to everyday life eventually. 

That’s why many rehabs introduce their clients to 12 step programs throughout their stay at rehab. It’s an acknowledgement by rehabs that they are only part of the solution, and to get long term relief the addict needs to form fellowship and connection in life after rehab. 

Refocus endorses 12 step programs as part of our treatment process. Our clients attend daily meetings whilst they are residents here at Refocus. Many even get their first sponsor and develop lifelong friendships at these meetings. 

We know that a person’s chance of success is significantly improved if they cement themselves into a 12 step program and form these bonds before they leave our doors. To find out more about the Refocus program and organise a tour of our rehab facility, contact us today

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