Many drug rehab programs utilize 12 step programs in treating recovering alcoholics, drug users, and individuals with addictions to many other things. In fact, it is estimated that there are close to 200 different types of 12 step programs currently operating in the U.S. (including such groups as over-eaters anonymous, online gamers anonymous, sexaholics anonymous, smokers anonymous, gamblers anonymous, to name a few). Interestingly, the third largest 12 step group is Al-Anon: a group designed to assist friends and family members of recovering addicts.
Some may wonder exactly what 12 step programs are and what they hope to accomplish. 12 step groups are formed to recovery from abuse and dependency and addiction problems. The first 12 step group, alcoholics anonymous was founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Ohio. They created the steps and insisted that the program would remain “anonymous” by using first names only. Individuals are only welcomed into 12 step groups if they have a desire to recover and are actively working to do so. Alternate groups are available to family members, spouses, etc., but these individuals arte not welcomed into the group of those who are actually dependent upon something problematic in their life.
Generally, a specific step is discussed at each meeting with the knowledge that the next step will be discussed at the next meeting. Therefore, an individual can prepare to contribute to the next discussing by studying and “working” the next step during the week. First names only are used and shared experiences are kept confidential in the group. The success of 12 step programs is directly correlated to being open and honest with oneself and the 12 step group – not hiding any addictions or behaviors.
Below are the 12 steps of AA. As previously mentioned, these have been adapted to fit other recovery groups as well.
THE TWELVE STEPS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
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.
Individuals in 12 step groups have a sponsor that they can lean on to help them when they are tempted to participate in unwanted behaviors, when they need counsel, or just need to hear a friendly voice. Generally, an individual asks someone to be their sponsor or someone will volunteer to sponsor others and they will be chosen to help the individual. Most of the time the sponsor has been actively participating in a12 step group for a while before becoming a sponsor and is familiar with the steps and the program.
12 step programs are effective when individuals have a desire to “work the steps” and recover. Having a group gives individuals support, and 12 step groups strive to maintain confidentiality, which also contributes to feelings of safety and ultimately more success in recovery.