12 Step Program for Addiction

12 Step Program for Addiction | 12 Step Recovery

In the 1930’s from the ashes of many tolerance movements for alcohol abuse rose the first 12 Step program called Alcoholics Anonymous. During the 1930’s a Christian based movement known as the Oxford Groups were finding success based on the premise that all of the personal problems an individual might face are based on fear and selfishness. The success of AA inspired others to adopt the principles of the program into other programs. Narcotics Anonymous is now the largest program in the world for addicts and the second largest 12 step program, after AA.

New Programs Emerge

By the 1950’s, with the success of AA came the Minnesota Model for treatment that employed aspects of AA’s successful program. The vast majority of treatment options available today are based on the Minnesota Model; a self help model utilizing group therapy and behavioral changes. Also available starting in the 1950’s were pharmaceuticals. Antabuse (Disulfiram), Methadone, amphetamines, barbiturates and even LSD were used to treat alcoholism and other addictions. Other 12 Step fellowships have grown in popularity and the number of groups in AA as well as others have increased. Treatment options have grown. Rehab and detox facilities are better equipped to assist individuals with withdrawal since 12 step fellowships generally do not offer treatment or rehab. There are residential treatment programs that accept patients on an ongoing basis and these locations operate like any other business.

Early successes of AA inspired others to try and adapt the program. Most treatment centers utilize aspects of the Minnesota model for addiction treatment which evolved from the ideas used in AA. 80% of all treatment models today incorporate many of the ideas that originated in AA.

  • Mentor’s or Sponsor’s
  • Open and honest communication with others
  • Sharing the solutions and hope found in recovery
  • Commitment to a group
  • The ability to make amends and let go of the past.

Other groups adapted AA’s success to other substances including Cocaine Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and Crystal Meth Anonymous. There are many different programs today, addressing many issues like Codependents Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous.

Narcotics Anonymous is unique in that they adapted the program to what members believed was the source of the problem, rather than specific substances and has become the largest twelve-step programs in the world for recovering addicts. They have adapted the 12 steps to suit their needs and define Step 1 as powerless over addiction.

12 step program

The early success of Alcoholics Anonymous inspired more and more groups to open across the United States. Early groups struggled with unity and with each other. This led to the development of the 12 traditions. Each 12 step program that has emerged has also adapted the 12 Traditions to address their group unity and anonymity. Some would suggest that the twelve steps help the individual survive and the twelve traditions help the group survive.

The twelve Traditions, as written by Alcoholics Anonymous.

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Treatment centers and similar facilities will often recommend or allow clients to attend 12 step programs. Many will suggest an after care program that includes regular attendance at 12 step program meetings.

Twelve Steps

These Steps originated with AA and came from the Oxford 6 step program of recovery. As the process has enjoyed success, other programs have adopted and modified these steps.

What are each of the 12 steps from AA?

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

These steps have been amended by other programs but all of them essentially comprise the same process. Typically only the first and twelfth step are amended by each of the programs using these steps. Each step builds upon the changes brought about by the previous steps. When crafting the 12 steps, it was very important to Bill Wilson and the others involved that this process not be specifically about the Christian Ideals from the Oxford Group but more inclusive to all faiths, belief systems and even those without any faith at all. This allowed local AA groups to form and become the centers of a program of recovery for many alcoholics.


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