12-Step Recovery programs attempt to provide a more personal form of drug rehabilitation through the use of social support, talking with others who are struggling with the same or similar substance addictions, and by encouraging abstinence as a social norm. This form of treatment is gradual compared to other forms of addiction treatment because this method alone does not use medically assisted detox, therapeutic techniques, or professional counseling sessions. This is because the first 12-step program arose from Alcoholics Anonymous, which was founded by two men without training in psychology, who started a personal group for those struggling with alcoholism.
However, this does not mean that Alcoholics Anonymous is ineffective because this small group has grown to millions of members today. Other groups that follow the 12-step approach, that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) established, are Narcotics Anonymous (NC) and Cocaine Anonymous (CA). Many staff members at substance abuse treatment programs have come to view these programs as helpful supplements to treatment. While some programs for alcoholism may allow patients to partake in moderate drinking long after treatment, AA and other 12-step programs have a strict abstinence policy that forbids any kind of drinking or substance use.
The 12 Steps
12-Step programs help members work towards accomplishing 12 steps total to reach full recovery. The majority of these steps are based on spiritual beliefs. Substance addiction is viewed as a disease rather than a choice so that members can come to the realization that addiction will never fully go away. This eliminates false expectations that could lead to depression from future disappointment. However, this is not intended to deplete a person of all hope, but rather, sets the person up for what is likely to come so that there are less surprises.
The first step of the 12 steps is to admit that you are powerless to whatever substance, alcohol or drugs, that you are currently addicted to. This is crucial for overcoming any leftover denial you might still be in about your addiction. People who are in denial might be less likely to be open to the rest of the steps if they do not fully believe that they have a problem. Next, you need to go over your past actions to determine what moral mistakes you have made that are related to your substance use. This helps you realize the extent of your problem and how your substance use has hurt others.
Hopefully, this will give you incentive to realize that your addiction needs to end so that you do not hurt any other people. This is like a wakeup call to yourself. In the next few phases, you are encouraged to admit that you were wrong and to write down a list of the people you have harmed in the past. Lastly, you are told to find ways to make amends to these people and pass what you have learned to others who are going through drug rehabilitation.
What makes the 12-step program stand out in relation to other substance abuse treatment programs is the way that the 12 steps depend on the spiritual belief of a higher power. Most other programs tend to take a secular approach to substance addiction treatment, largely due to certain policies and the idea that treatment needs to be an objective fit for people of many backgrounds. Although, there are other programs similar to 12-step programs that are secular versions.
How 12-Step Programs Work
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the spiritual aspects of 12-step programs has been shown in several research studies to be tied with positive effects for drug rehabilitation. Researchers argue that religious beliefs serve as protective factors for adolescents and even adults, not because of strict dogma, but rather, due to the ways that spiritual beliefs relieve stress. After all, stress plays a key role in the development of substance addictions and whether someone will relapse.
In terms of actual treatment, a research study found an indirect effect of spirituality on recovery, the encouragement of honesty and responsibility. These two personality traits may not seem grand compared to other factors, but they do offer some buffer between a healthy life and drug use behavior. Honesty is important for decreasing the secretiveness of drug use behaviors, whereas responsibility reinforces taking care of yourself and others. Being responsible also means admitting you are wrong and sometimes, making amends to those you hurt.
Benefits of 12-Step Programs
Looking at actual statistics rather than anecdotes about how 12-step programs decrease substance abuse, the median duration of abstinence for AA and NA groups is at least 5 years. That is good news for those who have been struggling with an addiction for several years. 5 years is no small accomplishment considering that many relapse a few months or a year after treatment in a facility. Other studies have even reported an entire 16 years of abstinence after participating in a 12-step program.
Members also report better self-efficacy, which is how much you believe you are skilled at something. Overall, 12-step groups offer you a chance to talk to people who are literally on your level. How often do you get the chance to interact with people who have probably gone through the same things you have gone through, suffered the same doubts, thought the same thoughts? While rehab treatment should not be ignored, the staff there may not be able to relate to you in the same way as members in a 12-step group will.
Where to Find 12-Step Programs for Substance Addiction
At the Recover, we understand how addiction can leave you feeling drained and hopeless. The fight against relapse takes a lot of willpower and not everyone has the right strength all the time to fight the cravings. There are a variety of treatment programs and self-help groups out there designed to maintain that strength.
The Recover is an unbiased substance abuse and mental health news provider that offers information pertaining to substance addiction. We also provide the public with information about West Virginia centers for addiction recovery. If you feel trapped by your addiction, call us at (888) 510-3898 to speak with a treatment specialist who will help you find a substance abuse treatment programs that works best for you.