What Are 12-Step Programs? How Can They Help Your Recovery?

What Are 12-Step Programs? How Can They Help Your Recovery?

When it comes to holistic recovery for addiction, 12-step programs are by far the most widely used and well-known support tools available. The programs are highly effective, whether they are targeting alcohol abuse or another addiction. Even as we grow in our understanding of addiction and its root causes, 12-step programs continue to be at the forefront of modern intervention. 

Majority of Treatment Centers Follow the 12 Step Philosophy 

With its documented successes and continued membership, it’s no surprise that 74 percent of treatment centers follow the 12-step philosophy. This also means that you’ll probably run into the 12 steps at some point in your recovery. But, it’s normal to feel unsure of working the steps. Do they provide a meaningful framework for recovery, or are they just another cult that pushes their thoughts and ideas onto you? 

While each person and each recovery journey is unique, there are some things that appear to work well for most people. A 12-step program is one of them. By working the steps in a holistic outpatient addiction rehab center, you’re able to surrender to your addiction, process your experiences and move forward with new patterns and behaviors.

A Brief History of the 12 Steps 

It’s hard to imagine, but prior to the invention of 12-step programs, alcoholism was a crime. People thought that these individuals had a bad habit and the law would correct them. Rich people went to hospitals to sober up, while poor people were sent to prison. This went on until prohibition ended and the 12 steps were born. 

In 1935, Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith founded the first 12-step fellowship, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In 1946, they formally established the 12 traditions to help AA members relate and function as a group. Membership grew as a result, and the AA Big Book was published shortly after.

The Big Book was originally written as a guide for people who could not attend AA meetings, but it quickly became a model for the program itself. The 12 steps were developed through concepts from the Oxford Group (an organization that followed six steps) spiritual, Christian inspiration and Mr. Wilson’s own experiences in recovery. 

Today, there are many 12-step programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Heroin Anonymous (HA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA). 

How Does a 12-Step Program Work? 

Although there are many 12-step programs, they all closely follow the same traditions and guidelines as the first AA meetings. The basic premise is that people can help one another achieve and maintain long-term sobriety as long as they surrender their addiction to a higher power. 

As you work the steps in outpatient drug rehab, you’ll find that they encourage self-examination, self-control and responsibility. The first few steps focus on turning over your addiction to a higher power, which includes admitting your wrongdoings and accepting accountability.

The next steps give attention to your own moral shortcomings and encourage you to make amends with others. To help you work these steps, it helps to use meditation and prayer to connect with a higher power. The final step focuses on learning how to overcome addiction. This is usually the point where people are grounded in their recoveries and can become a sponsor. 

It’s important to know that there is no specific length of time it takes to work the steps. Each person’s journey is unique. You may find that you move through some steps quickly and other ones slowly. You can also revisit the steps at any time. For example, if you relapse, you will have to rework the steps in alcohol outpatient treatment in Phoenix

happy person smiling

Are 12-Step Programs Successful? 

It’s difficult to get concrete data on the effectiveness of 12-step programs for a couple of reasons. 

First, how would we define success? Because relapse is common in the recovery journey, we would have to account for this. So, would relapse mean that the program failed? If not, how many times would a person be allowed to relapse before the program is considered successful? 

Second, people in AA are constantly coming and going. Some studies show that 40 percent of people drop out in the first year. Additionally, AA members are anonymous and may not want to participate in studies due to their anonymity. 

Nevertheless, we know that 12-step programs do work because there are more than 115,000 AA groups worldwide and they are used by most treatment centers. Here is some research that we have available at this time: 

Benefits of Working a 12-Step Program 

Continuum respects each individual’s recovery journey and recognizes that 12 step programs may not be good for everyone. However,  through our long experience, we also believe in the transformative power of the 12 steps. We feel that they provide an effective framework for people who want to overcome addiction and find their path to sobriety. Not only do the 12 steps help people maintain lifelong recovery, but they also help them flourish in their lives thanks to improved mental health outcomes and transformative behaviors. 

Some benefits to working a 12-step program in holistic outpatient alcohol treatment are:  

  • Recognize and admit your addiction problem 
  • Build self-esteem and practice positive capabilities 
  • Develop compassion for others who struggle with addiction
  • Practice self-awareness and self-observation of your behaviors 
  • Surrender to the fact that addiction exists 
  • Discover your greater purpose in life

Start Your 12-Step Recovery Today 

Continuum Recovery Center is sensitive to the needs of all clients. We recognize that each person who walks through our doors has a unique background. While we support the 12-step methodology, we understand that this program should be modified for certain individuals. For example, if you are not comfortable with the religious aspects of the 12 steps, they can be modified to fit your beliefs. 

Once you complete outpatient rehab for substance abuse, we encourage you to continue going to your 12-step meetings. These meetings are integral to your recovery journey, as they provide you with structure, guidance and peer support. To learn more about Continuum Recovery Center and how we help clients build structured lives that support abstinence, contact us today