Twelve-step programs are some of the most popular methods of addiction treatment used today. They first appeared with the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935 and have since become a fixture in the rehab industry. We firmly believe in the efficacy of a peer-based approach for both overcoming addiction and relapse prevention. When used in conjunction with traditional means of treatment such as medical detox and residential treatment. A 12 Step recovery program is a powerful tool to help provide valuable insight the can lead to lasting and meaningful change.
Benefits of A 12 Step Recovery Program
There’s a reason why 12 Step programs have managed to stay relevant nearly 100 years later after their inception. They offer a low-pressure environment that’s conducive to recovery, but motivating enough to encourage positive change. More importantly, it imparts a solid framework that provides some much-needed structure and stability for a recovering addict. There are plenty of great things that can be said about these types of programs, here are a few of the benefits that we find are most helpful to our clients:
Confidential, Non-Judgmental Environment
What do 12 step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, or Overeaters Anonymous have in common? No matter what the substance or behavior is the focus, the protection of anonymity is non-negotiable. Meetings are conducted with strict adherence to confidentiality, to the point that members and attendees often only know each other on a first-name basis–if at all. There is no pressure to provide proof or documentation of your membership meaning your identity is also protected from being associated with the organization if you so choose.
When privacy is fiercely protected, members can speak freely about any and everything without fear of social or legal repercussions outside of group meetings. This allows 12 step meetings to function somewhat like an in-person forum thread. Anonymity is a shield that helps lower inhibitions and encourages sharing–and even vulnerability–that allows for lasting, healing change.
Open To All Faiths, Races & Backgrounds
The cornerstone of 12 step groups is inclusivity; there are no hoops to jump through to join, no criteria to meet to attend a meeting. There are no limitations or restrictions on who can participate in a 12 step meeting even when it comes to the type of substance.
Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, was created specifically for the treatment of alcohol addiction, however is open to individuals addicted to other substances as well as affected family members. Narcotics Anonymous was initially created to be a safe place for individuals addicted to illegal drugs like heroin (which faced greater social stigma) but has since opened its doors to all types of substance abusers including alcoholics.
The only requirement to enroll in a 12 Step program is that the individual is a willing participant and has a genuine desire to get sober.
Recovery At Your Own Pace
Sometimes real life can make it difficult to prioritize your recovery which might include attending meetings. The flexible and informal structure of 12 step programs removes the pressure of feeling forced to maintain regular participation. Can’t make it one week? Not a problem, just come when you can. Most (if not all) of these programs have an open meeting format where attendees are welcome to walk in sporadically and attend meetings as often or infrequently as needed. However, when we believe that consistency is key and regular meeting attendance is strongly encouraged in our facilities.
Additionally, these meetings aren’t exclusive to those in a certain stage of recovery. Whether you are in the last stages of rehab, still haven’t admitted you have a problem or are years into maintenance, 12 step programs are always open to you. When it comes to working the 12 steps, there is tremendous flexibility as there are zero time constraints or expectations. Take as long as you need to (including revisiting previous steps or doing the whole process over again)–the 12 step approach truly puts recovery in your hands and allows you to grow in the areas you need most.
Understanding of Relapse
Success isn’t always linear–which is especially true in the case of recovery. Overcoming addiction is as much about willpower as it is a biological process. Rewiring your brain and body isn’t something that happens overnight and it’s very normal to have setbacks. Relapses are something that 12 Step programs understand and accommodate for. Whereas feelings of shame or failure might otherwise further feelings of isolation, the open-meeting structure makes it easy for individuals to come back and resume their efforts to get clean–no questions asked.
Social Support From Peers
The importance of having a support system is a frequent topic in drug addiction. As such, the benefit of 12 step groups is a basic–but essential–one. Surrounded by peers who have gone through what you’ve been through, or going through struggles you might encounter for the future, is an invaluable resource that can better prepare individuals to face the hurdles of rejoining society.
The social aspect is particularly beneficial as addiction can be an isolating experience. Group meetings serve as an important reminder that no one is an island and that what you are going through is something that someone else has already overcome. Friendships and even romances can sometimes spawn from these meetings, and allowing individuals to re-learn social skills in a safe, judgment-free environment.
The social aspect also adds a helpful layer of accountability to peer-based addiction recovery, which can be a particularly helpful factor when it comes to relapse prevention. This is something that comes about with regular meeting attendance and pays of tenfold in the future. Developing relationships with other group members (even if done under anonymity) can be a powerful motivator to not just continue attending meetings, but to try harder in your recovery efforts. While you must first and foremost want to get clean for your own sake, it doesn’t hurt to have external motivators that provide extra encouragement to stay the course.
What Are The 12 Steps & What Do They Mean?
At the core of a 12 Step recovery program are the steps themselves. Originating from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, these steps have been adapted over the years to reflect both modern needs and be applicable to all different types of addiction. These steps guide participants through a journey of self-discovery and mindfulness that enables them to achieve (and maintain) sobriety and a healthier overall mindset.
“We admitted we were powerless over [type of addiction]—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
The moment clients accept their need for recovery, they have made a start on Step One. When we accept that our substance abuse has grown out of control, we take a major leap toward complete honesty with ourselves. Without this foundation, we can make no real progress on the rest of the steps. At this point, we begin breaking down denial and fully accepting the consequences of our actions, coming to realize that continued substance abuse will only make things worse.
“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Many people commonly misinterpret Step Two as a religious undertaking; however, spirituality and religion are not entirely synonymous. Simply by accepting the existence of something greater than ourselves—be it God, the AA program, or something else—we learn to get out of our own heads. During active addiction, we fall victim to a world existing largely between our ears. When the addict or alcoholic begins to see that this life is illusory, they begin thinking more rationally and approaching their recovery without the sense of hopelessness that once pervaded their thought process.
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
No matter how we define our Higher Power, we must now accept it as a source of guidance. In Step Three, we learn to accept that our assertions of willpower often lead us down a treacherous road. No matter how many times we tried to control our substance abuse on our own, we never found ourselves capable. By surrendering this incessant need for control, we allow ourselves to benefit from our treatment program. We give up our control over the world around us, but gain control over our own course of action.
“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
When we take our clients to outside meetings, we provide them the opportunity to meet a sponsor. After working with their sponsor for a while, they will eventually be asked to list out their resentments, fears, and misconduct. This applies not only to the course of their addiction but their entire life leading up to it as well. Substance abuse is only a symptom of a greater affliction. Taking a thorough inventory in Step Four allows us to identify the rest of our symptoms so that we may treat them appropriately.
“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
After taking inventory, we present it to our sponsor. Many struggle more with Step Five than the previous step, finding it difficult to share certain items on the list. Once they break through this resistance, however, they often find that they are not alone. No matter how dark the wreckage from our past may feel, we can always find someone who relates to it. This realization helps relieve our self-imposed burden of shame, afterward, we find it easier to approach our sponsor, therapist, and fellow addicts with complete honesty.
“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
When we present our inventory in Step Five, our sponsor helps us to identify various shortcomings that often made our life more difficult. As noted above, addiction is only one symptom of our disease. In Step Six, we become ready to relieve our other symptoms to the best of our ability. Control issues, envy, anger, deceit—these are all examples of the types of issues we will face in Step Six.
“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
Step Seven entails developing the humility to recognize that we cannot remove our character defects on our own. We pray for guidance, meditating on the issues we must face within ourselves. Using the honesty developed in earlier steps, we allow others to hold us accountable for the shortcomings we find most pressing. Not only do we seek to become unfettered from our primary defects of character, but we also pray to replace these defects with positive attributes that may allow us to become more useful to our fellow addicts and alcoholics.
“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
When we made our inventory in Step Four, we came across many people we had harmed. Even when we had valid reasons to feel wronged by these individuals, we must now resolve to clean our side of the street. We make a list of everyone to whom we owe financial amends, admissions of guilt, or other reparations for our past misdeeds against them. In Step 8 we go over it with our sponsor, determining whether any amends should be delayed or omitted. In most cases, however, we will be told to push ahead and begin clearing the wreckage of our past.
“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Most of the people we’ll refrain from including in Step Nine will be drug dealers or people with whom we’ve shared certain sexual indiscretions. As for everyone else, we must approach them with honesty and humility. We do not point fingers or attempt to displace blame. Instead, we must whole-heartedly demonstrate our contrition and ask how we can make things right. Unfortunately, not everyone will accept our amends. Some will refuse to forgive us no matter what we say or do. We must not let this discourage us from continuing down the list. Although not everyone will respect our new way of life, our spiritual recovery depends upon a thorough undertaking of this process.
“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
Step Ten is the first of what we call the “maintenance steps.” Having reached this point in our recovery, we continue taking action to overcome our character defects as they arise. We take inventory once every 24 hours, asking ourselves whether we harbored any resentments or performed any wrongdoings throughout the day. If we identify such an instance, we make amends as soon as possible. In addition to this daily inventory, we also take a spot-check inventory whenever we feel our negative emotions or various shortcomings beginning to crop up. As we continue taking these actions on a daily basis, we ensure consistent personal growth as we continue our journey of recovery.
“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.”
The second step of maintenance in Step Eleven regards the spiritual side of our recovery. As we continue to take inventory, we also practice prayer and meditation on a daily basis. We do not use prayer simply to ask for the fulfillment of our desires, but rather to ask how we should conduct ourselves throughout the day. When we feel indecision, confusion, anger, or other stifling emotions, we turn to our Higher Power for guidance. Upon receiving direction, we ask for nothing more than the strength of character required to do the right thing. If something does not work out in our favor, we rest easy knowing that we did our best. There is great freedom in surrender, and this is what we strive to achieve as we continue putting our faith in something greater than ourselves.
“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.”
When we complete our initial journey through the last of the 12 Steps, we should find ourselves experiencing a greater sense of enlightenment. Upon the realization of our spiritual awakening, we begin spreading the message of recovery to others. We may do this through sponsorship, or simply by taking service commitments that allow us to demonstrate the principles we have learned. Leading by example is the best way to carry the message, and we strive to do this with every action we take. We also continue to live one day at a time, realizing that we may need to revisit earlier steps from time to time. This is okay. We strive only for progress rather than perfection. Fortunately, as long as we continue working the steps, we will continue to find spiritual progress in abundance.
Our Philosophy: 12 Step Recovery Program
Here at Amethyst, we believe in the value of educating our clients to promote long-term, genuine recovery. We provide numerous methods of substance recovery in addition to relapse prevention. The cornerstone of our addiction treatment approach is rooted in a 12 steps program. In addition to the medical and therapy, we strongly believe that facilitating spiritual growth is the key to a successful addiction treatment program.