What is the 12 Step Program?

One of the most popular ways to recover from addiction is the 12 step program. This is a program that is associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, but it can be a key part of any addiction treatment program. Each of the 12 steps is critical, and the whole philosophy offers a number of distinct advantages.

Step 1–Admit Powerlessness and Acknowledge an Unmanageable Life
This first step can be one of the hardest. It requires you to acknowledge that you have a substance abuse or addiction problem. This step shows that you are ready to make a change and that you understand you’re no longer in control of your life. This acknowledgment might sound simple, but it is the catalyst for life-changing recovery.

Step 2–Believe in a Higher Power
Although the 12 step philosophy can be religious, it doesn’t have to be. This step is simply about acknowledging a higher power greater than yourself. For some spiritual individuals, this could tie into the idea of a god or gods. For others, it is embracing an idea of something larger than the individual.

Step 3–Turn Control Over to That Higher Power
This is abandoning the need to control every aspect of life. Instead, you can begin the journey to a life of sobriety and recovery. If you’re not religious, it can mean giving control over to the process of recovery itself, and trusting that an evidence-based approach will be successful.

Step 4–Conduct a Moral Inventory
This is a chance to complete a self-examination. Individuals need to be honest and admit to any past negative decisions or feelings. This is a time to acknowledge guilt, mistakes or struggles in the past. A moral inventory can be tough, but it can feel like a weight being lifted off your shoulders once you’re done.

Step 5–Confessing Wrongdoing
Next, it is time to confess those past wrongdoings. This might be done by writing them down, admitting them to a higher power or speaking them out loud. This step can be challenging, but it provides a clean slate for the future.

Step 6–Prepare to Jettison Character Defects
No one is perfect. In the throes of addiction, it is normal to make mistakes and experience regrets. Individuals can take this time to put distance between their current selves and the past versions of themselves.

Step 7–Request Removal of Shortcomings
For those with a faith-based approach, this can be a time of prayer and reflection. Asking a higher power to remove flaws and assist in the transformation to a better person can feel restorative. Some people can take this time to meditate and think of ways to become the person they wish to be in the future.

Step 8–Make a List of People Harmed as a Result of Addiction
Addiction doesn’t just impact the drug or alcohol user. It also has an effect on the people around you. In this step, people are encouraged to make a list of those who may have been harmed as a result of your addiction. This might include friends, family members, neighbors or anyone else you may have hurt in the past.

Step 9–Make Amends Wherever Possible
Once you’ve constructed your list, it is time to actually make amends. This step can take some time, and there is no need to rush through it. Asking for forgiveness, or just apologizing, can be a challenge. However, completing this step is one of the last things a person will do before moving to a maintenance phase of recovery.

Step 10–Take an Ongoing Personal and Moral Inventory
This is similar to step four, but it is meant to be a current and ongoing personal inventory. Even in recovery, people make mistakes. This should be a constant phase where individuals are aware of their actions and how they might impact their sobriety as well as the other people in their lives.

Step 11–Maintain Contact With Your Idea of a Higher Power
This step is a way to maintain an ongoing connection with your spirituality. For the religious, it could mean regular prayers and religious attendance. For others, it might mean spending time in nature or meditation.

Step 12–Helping Others on the Journey of Recovery
The final step of the program is perpetuating the 12 step philosophy. Participants are encouraged to share what they have learned with others. Attending meetings is recommended, even years into sobriety. Many patients will become mentors or group leaders to help others as they work through the process of recovery.

Benefits of the 12-Step Program

There are many reasons that the 12 step program is used by millions of people. Having a structured program is ideal for those in recovery. It also encourages socializing, peer support and accountability.

In some ways, the 12 steps are flexible. After all, individuals work through them at their own pace. However, the order itself provides structure. It is comforting to see the whole recovery process in front of you and know what comes next.

Addiction and addiction recovery can be very isolating. Many people feel misunderstood and have a hard time connecting about addiction with friends and family. The community spirit of the 12-step meetings is a huge help for this.

The group dynamic involves everyone. You can learn from your peers, share your experiences and get advice from others who have been in your situation. Plus, the accountability of the group makes it easier to resist relapse and continue on the path to lifelong sobriety.

The Right Candidates for 12 Step Recovery

Virtually anyone struggling with addiction can benefit from this recovery approach. In order for it to be most effective, it should be combined with other treatment methods. A rehab program that includes the 12 step philosophy can be a great place to start. Then, patients can find local 12-step meetings as needed to continue their journey after they return home.

The 12 steps are known around the world, and that is because they can be truly effective. Incorporating them into a recovery plan can help patients achieve a lifetime of sobriety.