While many Americans struggle with addiction, the silver lining is that around 22.3 million live in recovery after some form of substance use disorder. In fact, approximately 75% of those who experience addiction eventually recover, so the odds are very good.
When addiction has a hold on you though, it can be challenging to seek outside help. But the good news is, you can get structured assistance from 12-step programs.
If you don’t know what these are, then not to worry. Keep reading to find out what 12-step programs are, how they work, and what you should expect from them.
What Are 12-Step Programs?
12-step programs are exactly what they sound like: detailed addiction programs that walk you through 12 phases of recovery. They first originated from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which is actually a spiritual organization. However, there are many 12-step programs that don’t emphasize spirituality or religion, so if you’re atheist or agnostic, there are programs suited for you too.
Here’s each step in detail, so you know what to expect.
1. Admit Powerlessness
First, you need to be honest about and to yourself. All too often, we deny we have issues when addiction has, in fact, taken over our lives.
When you can stop lying to yourself and admit that you’re powerless over the substance of your choice, then you can take the right steps toward recovery.
2. Find Hope
Next, you need to believe that a higher power to help you get sober. That doesn’t necessarily have to mean it’s God or any deity; it can be any higher you choose to turn to and find strength in.
After putting your faith in this higher power, you must surrender yourself to it. Overcoming addiction won’t be easy or even possible on your own, so you need to trust this higher power to put you on the right path.
4. Take Inventory
Now take a step back and assess your life. There’s a good chance that you’ve hurt your loved ones’ feelings and ruined relationships with them. So identify how you’ve affected these people.
This step might be one of the hardest ones to do, but it’s important to push through. It opens the door to growth.
5. Share Inventory
It’s time to admit the wrongdoings you’ve identified in step four. You need to do it in front of the higher power you’ve chosen to put your faith in, as well as another person you trust.
6. Become Ready
Another tough thing to do is to accept your character defects. But once you can do that, it’ll be easier to let them go and have the higher power correct them.
7. Ask God (Or Another Higher Power)
This is the actual step where you ask the higher power to assist you with your shortcomings. These should be things that you can’t achieve on your own, even with lots of self-determination.
8. List Amends
It’s time to dig even deeper from step four. Make a list of the people you’ve wronged and want to make amends to.
9. Make Amends
This is another challenging step in 12-step programs, as you’ll have to actually confront the people on your list. But it’s an incredibly healing step that can reopen relationships.
10. Continue Inventory
It’s not enough to admit your past wrongdoings and leave it at that. It’s essential to hold yourself accountable, be aware of your actions, and admit when you’re wrong.
11. Pray and Meditate
Here, you should connect with your higher power through things like prayer or meditation. The goal is to discover what your higher power has in store for you.
12. Help Others
When you’ve turned away from addiction and truly find sobriety, then it’s time to help others. There are plenty of other people who are in your old shoes, and you can assist them on the road to recovery.
How Do 12-Step Programs Work?
Addiction is a tough beast to beat, and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone. 12-step programs break down this monumental task into manageable ones so you can make progress slowly but steadily.
However, do note that you can also experience some steps simultaneously. And it’s not uncommon for people to go through some steps in a cycle while in recovery.
While you’re in a 12-step program, you’ll have a sponsor, someone who’s completed the program themselves. Your sponsor will guide you through the steps, and you can always call them when you’re struggling and need an open ear and support. They’ll help you live a drug-free life, which includes coming up with a relapse plan in case of emergencies.
What Happens in a Meeting?
With your sponsor, you’ll attend regular meetings. Here, you’ll meet other people going through recovery and hear their stories.
You’ll share your struggles and thoughts, which can make you feel less alone in your journey. And you’ll also celebrate your milestones together, such as a month of sobriety.
At the beginning of each meeting, you’ll have a moment of silence, which pays respect to those still suffering and struggling with addiction and recovery. Then you’ll say a serenity prayer, which is spiritual and not religious in nature. Next, you’ll read the program’s literature, so newcomers know what they’re in for, and everyone gets a reminder.
The meeting then opens up for speaking and sharing, which is the main part of the meeting. Everyone who wants to speak will get a few minutes to highlight their struggles and achievements. At the end, people can also share if they’ve had the urge to use or do something destructive.
To close the meeting, you’ll have another moment of silence and then prayer.
Examples of 12-Step Programs
We mentioned AA earlier, but there are many other 12-step programs you can choose from. They include:
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
- Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
- Heroin Anonymous (HA)
- Celebrate Recovery (CR)
- Pills Anonymous (PA)
- SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) Recovery
The last two programs are intended for the loved ones of people with substance abuse disorders.
What Should You Expect From 12-Step Programs?
You shouldn’t expect instant success from 12-step programs. You need to put in the work and dedication to make it through each step, but it’ll be highly rewarding.
The fact is, you may relapse, and that’s ok. In fact, between 40-60% of people with substance use disorders relapse, so it’s very common. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed at recovery; you’ve just stumbled a little.
Here are the other things you can expect to gain from being in a 12-step program.
Spirituality may have been something you weren’t interested in before, or maybe you abandoned it in the past. But 12-step programs will help you get back in touch with a higher power, which can be a pillar of light in such dark times.
A Total Life Transformation
Yes, 12-step programs are meant for recovery from substance abuse disorders, but they can do much more than that.
While you’re going through the steps, you’ll grow as a person. You’ll come out with a new outlook on life and take away life skills that you can apply to things other than addiction.
More Compassion for Other People
Addiction is a disease that makes you selfish. 12-step programs give you perspective on how addiction’s affected your relationship with others and how they must’ve felt.
Acknowledging those you’ve hurt and making amends instills more compassion in you. This creates stronger relationships with not only your loved ones, but future friends as well.
A Strong Support System
Some people are lucky and already have a strong support system in place. But when you have no family and friends to count on, recovery is exponentially harder.
12-step programs offer safe and strong support systems where you can make friends for life. In addition to your sponsor, you can count on these people to sympathize with your journey and cheer you on, every step of the way.
Get Help With Your Addiction Issues
There may be times when you feel hopeless about your addiction issues. But it won’t always be like that, especially if you have the right support.
There are many 12-step programs waiting for you, and there’s bound to be one that’s the right fit. While taking the first step toward recovery can be scary, it can also be freeing.
So now that you know what to expect from these programs, it should hopefully be less daunting to seek assistance. By reaching out, you’ll be taking that vital step to fight addiction and find sobriety.
Do you feel like you or a loved one need help with recovery from addiction? Then call (866) 578-7471.