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12-Step Programs

12-step programs follow a set of principles that act as guidelines and as a course of action for recovery from various struggles, such as alcohol or drug addictions, behavioral or process addictions, grief and loss, co-dependency, among many other topics.

An Overview of 12-Step Programs

The origin of the 12-Step programs and the 12-Traditions date back to the 1930s when Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith started Alcoholics Anonymous. Both men suffered from alcoholism, and they met to discuss sobriety and healing methods. Wilson and Dr. Smith both got sober and started to write about sobriety. Bill decided to write the Big Book in order to reach more alcoholics that were not in his town to share his experience, strength and hope with. This is how he began to develop the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, the first 12-Step program.

The purpose of 12-Step programs is to help participants achieve and maintain sobriety (or refrain from participating in addictive behaviors). They do this by providing a set of 12 steps and 12 traditions, along with guiding principles, that participants are encouraged to follow that help them achieve their goals. 12-Step programs offer many benefits to members, including support, fellowship, the ability to share one’s strength, experience, and hope, and the ability to help others in similar situations. Millions of those in recovery find 12-Step programs essential to their achieving and maintaining sobriety.

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Different 12-Step Programs

Today,  Alcoholic Anonymous is one of the most well-known 12-Step groups. Due to its success, other 12-Step groups have been founded, such as:

The variety of 12-Step groups allow people to find a program that works for them. Different 12-Step programs may involve both 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions. Some 12-Step programs are faith-based (Christian, Muslim), age-specific (teens), or designed for certain genders, ethnic groups, or the LGBTQ community.

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The 12-Steps: Alcoholics Anonymous and the Big Book

The creation of Alcoholics Anonymous yielded new lifestyle practices for those seeking sobriety. The 12 Steps are a series of spiritually-based creeds which promote hope, accountability in relationships, faith in a higher power, and positive change. The 12 Steps are:

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

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The 12 Traditions, 12-Step Programs, and Community Support

The 12 Traditions are a group of principles similar to the 12 Steps.  Where the 12 Steps create personal accountability, the 12 Traditions are principles that keep 12-step support groups focused on their primary purpose of fellowship. The 12 traditions serve as a guideline or manual that defines the internal operations of the 12-step programs. When someone seeking recovery incorporates both models into their life, they can achieve balance.

Closed 12-Step Meetings

There are 2 different types of 12-Step meetings: closed and open. The closed groups are restrictive, while open groups are available to the public. Closed 12-step meetings are available in any and all 12-step programs and are designed only for individuals who identify as having a problem. For example, a closed AA meeting would be open to only those who identify as being an alcoholic or for those who think they have a problem with alcohol. These groups allow for privacy and honest communication without fear of judgement from strangers. Closed groups also allow for true bonding as meetings are restricted to a small group of members. In contrast, anyone may attend an open meeting.

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Open 12-Step Meetings

Open meetings allow for visitors to attend events and group discussions. These are helpful for individuals who are open about their experiences and comfortable with others being present. Like closed meetings, open meetings encourage direct dialogue and sharing narratives with others. At open meetings, members and visitors get the first-hand experience of empathizing with someone else’s recovery journey. This benefits everyone and educates visitors, possibly discouraging substance abuse.

Find The Program You Deserve

Individuals seeking treatment have several options to help them find connection. If you or a loved one currently faces addiction, you are not alone. Understand treatment and 12 Step programs are available to help you along your way. Empower yourself today and contact a dedicated treatment specialist for help finding a 12-Step program that’s right for you.

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