There are many ways to get over an addiction, but 12-step based programs have proven among the most popular and proof-positive across the world. 12-step meetings have existed for several decades and are used to help treat a variety of addictions from alcoholism to anxiety and everything in-between. 12-step meetings can be mysterious and intimidating, but not if you know more about them.
Let’s learn about 12-step based programs including their history and benefits of the 12-steps so you know what to expect if you find yourself in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. They may be intimidating at first, but 12-step based programs have helped thousands across the globe and can help you too.
An Overview of 12-Step Based Programs
Support group Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was the first major organization to publish a 12-step based program for treating alcoholism and its success is infamous. Once people started getting sober in the 12-step rooms of AA, others realized the 12 steps could be applied to other addictions and issues. Since AA’s inception Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and several other 12-step based programs have formed based on the original principles of AA. Let’s find out more about those 12 steps and the higher power aspect of 12-step programs.
The 12 Steps
The 12 steps vary in different programs, but they all follow basic principles:
- Admitting you have a problem
- Turning to a higher power outside of yourself for help
- Taking inventory, healing, and seeking forgiveness
- Continuing your recovery daily
- Helping others
Fellowship in 12-Step Based Programs
Bill W, the founder of AA, always made it clear that the program worked because you were helping yourself by helping others. During early sobriety, Bill quickly realized the only thing that really worked to help him stay sober was helping others stay sober. One fateful night a desperate Bill W was looking for someone to help when he stumbled across Bob Smith’s bedside. He and Bob realized they needed to promote this message of sharing and caring for other alcoholics to all who needed it.
This helping other alcoholics is the basis for all 12-step meetings and continues to be the reason they are successful. We’ll discuss this alcoholic fellowship later.
12-step based programs center around God or a higher power. The higher power is anything outside of yourself that you’re willing to put your faith and trust in. It could be the God of your childhood religion, it could be something new, it could be your cat. The program is focused on helping you out of your former broken self and onto a guided path.
Are 12-Step Meetings Religious?
This one of the largest misunderstandings of 12-step meetings. Though 12-step programs encourage you to get help from a higher power, there are no rules or doctrines to how you see that higher power. It’s common to see the word God in 12-step literature and discussion but you don’t need to be religious to benefit from 12-step programs.
In 12-step based programs you are encouraged to find a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who can guide you through the 12 steps and help ensure your sobriety. Sponsors traditionally completed all 12 steps of the program before taking on sponsees of their own. A sponsor is a direct line of help and guidance while you work through the program.
It will be almost impossible to maintain sobriety without a plan. 12-step programs give you that plan with concrete steps. You do step 1, all the way to step 12, with long-term sobriety found at the end of the steps. Those who thoroughly complete all 12 steps have a much better shot at permanent sobriety.
You need to make yourself accountable if you expect to stay clean. Accountability is important for sobriety and 12-step meetings are a great source of it. You have steps to follow, coffee to make, people to see, and a sponsor or sponsee to talk to. Accountability is your safety net during recovery and 12-step programs can hold you accountable on several levels.
It’s difficult to stay sober for 24 hours let alone 50 years but that’s what you can get in the rooms of 12-step programs. In any given 12-step room you could be sitting next to someone with thirty years of sobriety on your left and someone with sixty years on your right. Those people didn’t get to multiple decades of sobriety by accident – they worked the program. Talking to someone who is happy and has years of sobriety under their belt can be an inspiration for you to achieve your own long-term sobriety goals.
The 12 steps are the pillars of programs like AA and NA but ask anyone in the program the secret to its success and they’ll probably answer fellowship. What was so groundbreaking about AA and 12-step based recovery was that it was the first major program that based itself around alcoholics helping each other. Before 12-step programs, alcoholics were sent out of town, sent to the looney bin, to a misinformed doctor, or hospital. In 12-step meetings, alcoholics and addicts turn away from professional help and simply turn to one another.
It’s better to turn to another alcoholic or addict for one simple reason – they understand. Someone who has never been caught in a nasty addiction will never understand the inner pain and outer turmoil it causes, and why you can’t just say no. In a 12-step meeting, everyone understands the pains of addiction and how awful it can make you feel. When you talk to someone you know genuinely understands your issues you’re more likely to listen to their suggestions. This unique fellowship bonds alcoholics and addicts across the world.
You can find 12-step-based programs for alcoholism, drug addiction, online shopping, and everything in-between. The 12-step program has been popular for so many decades because uses a concrete plan, holds you accountable, encourages fellowship and understanding, and gets you outside of yourself. If you need more benefits of 12-step based programs simply visit one for yourself and talk to others who have used the program – it works if you work it.