12 Step Program for Addiction Treatment

12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are popular ways to treat addiction. But what exactly are they, and do they really help? Find out how the 12-steps work and what scientific research has to say about it.

12 Step Program for Addiction Treatment

What Is the 12-Step Program for Alcohol and Drug Addiction?

A 12-step program is a detailed way for people suffering from addiction to get healthy and achieve sobriety. As the name suggests, you go through 12 steps one by one, each guiding you along the path to recovery.

These steps can vary slightly depending on the program and type of substance being abused, but they are always based on the original 12 steps published by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939.

In fact, all 12-step programs involve the principles and strategies designed by Alcoholics Anonymous. According to the American Psychological Association, these include:

  • Admitting that you can’t control your addiction
  • Believing in a higher power that can give you strength
  • Working through past mistakes with the help of others
  • Making amends for your mistakes
  • Learning to live a new life with new behavior
  • Helping others who suffer from the same addiction

Other major parts of Alcohol Anonymous and therefore 12-step programs include regular organized group support meetings and sponsorship. With sponsorship, someone who has already gone through the steps and is in recovery helps and guides a new member.

What Are the 12 Steps in a 12-step Program?

The following are the 12-steps as originally published by Alcoholics Anonymous. Different programs may change the wording a little, but the principle is always basically the same:

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

The History Behind the 12-step Program

The first 12-step program was started by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. Two men, Bill Wilson and Dr. Rober Holbrook Smith (known as Dr. Bob Smith), founded Alcoholics Anonymous after years of alcohol addiction wreaking havoc on their lives and relationships. The two men met in the 1930s in another alcoholism support network called the Oxford Group and realized how important community support was.

They began helping others in the Akron area, and their success drew in more people. Soon, they were starting more chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous and needed an inexpensive way to teach the philosophy. They published Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism in 1939, which members call The Big Book. To make things simple and easy to follow, Wilson and Dr. Smith included 12-steps in the book, and the program was born.

Does the 12-Step Program Work?

12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are considered effective in helping people quit drugs and alcohol. In 2016, the US Surgeon General stated that, “well-supported scientific evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of twelve-step mutual aid groups focused on alcohol and twelve-step facilitation interventions.”

Many studies have looked into the effects of these programs and found success in many different areas. For example, in 2020 a Cochrane review looked at a lot of past research and found that after a year, 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous showed a 42% abstinence rate versus 35% for other programs. Several other reviews have found similar results, suggesting that these programs are great options for those struggling with addiction.

The 12 Traditions

Along with the 12-steps, Alcoholics Anonymous and sister groups such as Narcotics Anonymous feature something called the 12 traditions. These outline how the groups work and interact with the public. Alcoholics Anonymous originally defined these traditions as:

  • Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
  • 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.
  • The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  • Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  • Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  • An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  • Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  • AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  • Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always to maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  • Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

12-step Program at Northeast Addictions Treatment Center

At Northeast Addictions Treatment Center, we use the 12-steps because science has shown they work. By using this step-by-step process as originally created by Alcoholics Anonymous, our treatment professionals can lead you down a clear path to recovery. If you’re ready to take your first step, call Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today to start designing your personalized treatment plan.

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Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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