Are the twelve steps right for you? Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, who were both alcoholics. Originally published in 1939, the 12-Step program is a spiritual philosophy to help those who are struggling with addictions achieve and maintain sobriety. The program has been a popular set of guidelines for helping an individual with their addiction for almost a full century, yet many people do not truly understand what has made it so impactful. Particularly to the modern reader, it may seem like an outdated philosophy given that it is filled with religious reference, but the fundamentals at its core are valuable regardless of an addict’s background and belief system.
Those who do not practice Christianity have modified the steps to better reflect their spiritual beliefs. There are even some alternatives to the 12-Step program that focus on the individual’s ability to exercise internal control. Learn some about the twelve steps and how they can work for you or someone you love. Are you tired of drugs and alcohol controlling your life? We’re here to help. Our friendly team of admissions coordinators are happy to answer any questions and get you the help you need.
What are the Twelve Steps?
Hailed as the standard for recovery from nearly any type of addiction, the Alcoholics Anonymous model of 12 steps and 12 traditions is one of the oldest treatment programs around. Whereas 12-step meetings are the “fellowship” part of the mutual support groups, the twelve steps themselves are the essence of the actual program.
They are the directions that provide members a path that leads to lasting sobriety and a drug-free lifestyle. Newcomers are not asked to accept or follow these Twelve Steps in their entirety if they feel unwilling or unable to do so.
They will usually be asked to keep an open mind, to attend meetings at which recovered alcoholics describe their personal experiences in achieving sobriety, and to read AA literature describing and interpreting the AA program. The purpose is to recover from compulsive, out-of-control behaviors and restore manageability and order to your life. It’s a way of seeing that your behavior is only a symptom, a sort of “check engine” light to discover what’s really going on under the hood.
The guidelines are outlined in these “steps” towards recovery:
• Step 1: Honesty
Admitting we are powerless over the addiction.
• Step 2: Faith
Believing in a higher power (regardless of form) can help.
• Step 3: Surrender
Deciding to surrender control over to a higher power.
• Step 4: Soul Searching
Taking a personal inventory.
• Step 5: Integrity
Admitting to a higher power, oneself, and another human the wrongs done.
• Step 6: Acceptance
Willing to have a higher power correct any flaws in one’s character.
• Step 7: Humility
Asking a higher power to remove those flaws.
• Step 8: Willingness
Making a list of wrongs done to others and being willing to make amends.
• Step 9: Forgiveness
Reaching out to those who have been hurt, unless doing so would harm the person.
• Step 10: Maintenance
Continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when wrong.
• Step 11: Making Contact
Seeking insight and connection with a higher power through meditation and prayer.
• Step 12: Service
Carrying the message of the 12 Steps to others in need.
Why are the steps in that order?
In both AA and NA, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Ultimately, you have to work the program in a way that makes sense for you. At meetings, those in recovery share their experiences, strengths and hopes with each other, and sometimes recover using surprisingly different paths. The Steps are meant to be addressed in sequential order, but there’s no one “right” way to approach them. Sometimes people need a break between Steps, sometimes people need to spend longer on one Step than another, some people never stop working the 12 Steps because they become part of life.
What is usually the hardest step to get past?
Whether you’re working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Al-Anon, or any other program, the most difficult of all the steps is probably step 5. This is the one that asks us to admit “our wrongs” and to do so in front of our higher power and another person. Admittedly, it’s hard to find someone who is not nervous about step 5, and some people put it off as long as possible. However, this step is also one of the most fulfilling steps along the road to recovery because it allows us to let go of the past.
Do you have to be religious to do the twelve steps?
While there are many opinions surrounding the 12-Step program, it’s important to emphasize that an individual does not need to be religious or believe in God to make the program work. Although the 12 Steps were written from a Christian point of view, the concepts are open to interpretation.
The steps are meant to act as a guide that people use to help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from substances to which they are addicted. At most, these principles can be considered spiritual in nature. They focus on the larger ideas of faith, honesty, humility, and repentance. In fact, in AA tradition, these twelve steps are known as the 12 spiritual, not religious, principles.
How long should the Twelve Steps take to complete?
There is no race, no rush. There is no hurry. And there is no definite calendar when it comes to ‘step work’. And you guessed it – there is no timeline. With this being said, most sponsors encourage the AA newcomer to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. That may seem like a lot and it may seem like a long time to commit to going to meetings. However, most 12-step programs, including those for people addicted to drugs, encourage new members to commit to those 90 meetings in 90 days
Do the steps really work?
There are several studies that have shown that people who were involved in mutual support groups were more likely to remain abstinent than those who tried to quit “on their own. A new study published in the Cochrane Library found that AA and 12-step groups can lead to higher rates of continuous abstinence over months and years, when compared to treatment approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy.
Pros of the Twelve Steps
- The Twelve Steps are widely known, established, and organized. (It’s one of the oldest programs around.)
- Those struggling with substance abuse have access to a supportive network of peers.
- It’s easy to find a meeting where the Twelve Steps are practiced.
- There’s little to no cost to those in need—it’s a free intervention to address chronic disease.
Cons of the Twelve Steps
- Some people aren’t interested in participating in group settings.
- Due to the anonymous nature of the group, there’s a lack of official shared success rates.
- The Steps are criticized for not addressing the needs of those struggling with mental illness.
- When the Twelve Steps were originally created, science had yet to prove a genetic link to addiction.
Are there steps to follow after the Twelve Steps?
What you receive, you must pass on. The final step of the program urges the recovering addicts to go out and repay their second chance in life by helping others who are suffering from addiction. This means the twelfth step never really ends. The beauty of the twelve steps is finding a new sense of purpose, and strengthening your ties to a positive recovery community.
Are the Twelve Steps Right for You?
For most support groups, all that is required to join is a desire to begin recovery. Most people join a support group by simply walking in the door of a meeting near them. No invitation is required and it’s truly up to the person to want to be there. Remember that support groups are what you make of them. If you are willing to be open and honest and a good listener who supports fellow members, you will get a lot out of your group, including hope and motivation for a healthier you.
Where can I go to get help with the Twelve Steps?
Are you interested in finding a 12 Step program that could help you beat your addiction? With more than 50,000 Alcoholics Anonymous groups nationwide (and thousands of other Anonymous groups for various addictions). Therefore, you’re bound to find one that works for you.
We’re here to help. Our friendly team of admissions coordinators are happy to answer any questions and get you the help you need. We’re available 24/7! 1-877-566-3869. Contact us now so we can help you find a meeting.