The 12-step program was first established as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1935 and has since become one of the most tried and tested treatment programs for treating a wide variety of addictions, including drug abuse and behavioral addiction problems. 

What is the 12-Step Framework?

12-step programs are a framework for helping people who struggle with addiction to recover through attendance of regular, community-based support groups that encourage mentorship, home practice, and spiritual growth. Scientific studies have found that the 12-step program is very effective, especially when it serves as a foundation for other forms of therapy and treatment.

While the program was originally set up to support recovery from addiction to alcohol, there are now 12-step programs available for many addiction problems, including drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling.

How Can the 12-Step Method Help?

Here are five ways that the 12-step method can help you recover from addiction.

  1. Confronting Your Problem

Admitting that you have a problem can be tough. People suffering from addiction can struggle with feelings of guilt and shame around their addiction, making it difficult to admit that you have a problem and begin the recovery process. The 12-step framework begins by helping you admit that you are struggling with addiction in a safe and supportive environment.

  1. Supportive Environment

People who struggle with addiction often face difficulties with family members or community life. The 12-step program offers a supportive environment that is local to you and based in your community. From your very first meeting, 12-step places you in a group of welcoming people who have all had a similar struggle with addiction. A facilitator guides discussions with reference to the 12-step framework and makes sure that everyone feels encouraged to share. With thousands of local support groups all around the country, it is easy to find one near you that is easy to attend regularly. This supportive social environment is a fantastic resource when working through the problems you face, as these people have faced the same challenges as you and have a deeper understanding of the issues you are dealing with.

  1. Spirituality

The 12-steps are based on spiritual concepts and help you connect with a higher power to give you the strength to overcome addiction. Faith is an important aspect of most Americans’ lives – from those who partake in structured religious worship to those with more private forms of spirituality, including through prayer and meditation. 

The 12-step program uses the strength of your faith or spiritual connection to help you to overcome your addiction. While the 12-steps uses the language of God, this does not mean that only people of a certain faith can follow the program. The term God is interpreted as whatever is meaningful to you spiritually. 

  1. Mentorship

The 12-steps involve getting help then going on to guide others – this is called sponsorship. It’s important that the two people in a sponsor-sponsee relationship are compatible and can relate to one another’s past experiences. 

Because of the shame surrounding addiction, it can be hard to find others who understand to turn to for support and advice. 12-step recovery sponsors are people in recovery themselves who provide advice and support to people who have more recently embarked on their recovery journey. 

They can help you by accompanying you to meetings, building your self-esteem, and offering advice on handling recovery challenges. This has proven to be a very useful support technique, from those in their early recovery steps right through to people with many years of sobriety under their belt.

  1. Long-term Support

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process. Stays in treatment centers and courses of therapy can be instrumental in helping people recover from addiction, but most are time-limited. The 12-steps encourage people recovering from addiction to keep coming to meetings. This keeps people connected to a support network that can guard against relapse and helps people maintain their recovery in the long term.

Addiction is a difficult challenge for many people. With support from programs like the 12-steps, it is possible to break free and make the journey to recovery.


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