The Start of the 12-Step Program
When a person is suffering from an addiction, they are probably aware of many different forms of treatment that are available. One of the most well-known forms of treatment for both alcoholics and people addicted to narcotics is a 12-step program. The 12-step program was developed by an organization called Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA. It was started in 1935 by a stockbroker and a surgeon. They simply wanted a religion-based meeting to help others who were suffering from an alcohol addiction. Today, more than 800,000 people in the US and Canada are AA members, and they all use the 12-step program as their guide.
What are the Twelve Steps?
Going through recovery is not easy. It takes ample time and a valiant effort. The twelve steps outlined below must be worked through one step at a time. It is only then that the abuser can continue to live an addiction-free life. Since the 12-steps were originally created by AA, they are specific to alcohol users. However, Narcotics Anonymous has also adapted these steps, and their updates are shown in parenthesis. In fact, the twelve steps can be applied to any addiction, including food, sex, etc.
Here are the twelve steps as they were originally written:
- 1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (our addiction)–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 a 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 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 (addicts) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
How Are These Steps Implemented?
The first step for any abuser is to start going to meetings. This is often the hardest part of the process, as many abusers are worried about being judged at a meeting. However, meetings are nothing to be afraid of. They are a welcoming space where judgment is left at the door. Someone who is considering completing the 12-step process can even attend meetings incognito until they are ready to take the first step of admitting they have a problem. The commonly mocked phrase, “I’m (insert name here) and I am an alcoholic,” is very real and nothing to be taken lightly. It is the admission that an abuser is ready to take control of their life and proceed with the complete 12-step process.
Once abusers have started the process, they meticulously work their way through each of the twelve steps until completion. The amount of time this takes varies from person to person. For the first attempt, six months seems to be an average completion time. However, there are many variables at play, specifically, how committed the abuser is. Some people can complete the process in only three months, while other take a full year, or more.
Help Along the Way
No one is expected to go through the 12-step program alone. They are armed with tools to help them succeed. For starters, each new person is given a sponsor. Their sponsor is someone who has already been through the twelve steps. They have experienced firsthand the trials and tribulations that the abuser is going to face. The sponsor is not only a guide, but can also be called upon in moments of desperation. Abusers know that if they are about to give in to temptation, they can call their sponsor for assistance in fighting the temptation a different way that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol.
Even though an abuser’s sponsor is a crucial part of the process, the meetings are by far the most important part of the process. It is through the meetings that abusers really get through each step. Most AA and NA groups will have a meeting once a week. They meet everywhere from churches to parks to restaurants.
Consider the Process
There are several different types of meetings. There are open meetings for anyone who is considering the process and want to get a feel for what they are going to experience first. This is a great way for anyone who in unsure about the process to understand what it is all about and how it can benefit them. The closed meetings are only for people who are fully committed to the process. There are also gender-specific meetings so people can be more comfortable talking about more personal topics.
The most common type of meeting is called a step meeting. In each of these meetings, one of the twelve steps is covered in depth. The attendees will explore everything they need to do to successfully complete the given step. They will be given handouts that they can refer to at a later date. People in attendance will stand up and share their own personal experiences with the step to help inspire others. These shared stories will help each abuser realize that they are not going through the process alone. There are even designated speaker meetings in which someone from the outside comes in to give words of encouragement and inspiration to those going through the process.
Once the 12-step program is complete, an abuser’s journey is far from over. Recovery is a lifelong process that takes continual work. Some people who complete the process repeat it again. They will continue to go to meetings indefinitely to ensure that they do not relapse. Others only go to meetings if they are feeling particularly vulnerable or are facing a difficult situation. There are even some abusers that do so well with the process that they are able to abstain from meetings and still remain sober; however, they will always be in recovery.
If you ask anyone who has gone through the 12-step process how long they have been sober, they will be able to tell you the exact date their life changed. They will probably take their year chip out of their pocket as they proudly proclaim how long they have been sober. The 12-step program has changed countless lives of abusers and their families. It is a method that has been proven time and time again.