Understanding The 12-Step Program

It can be scary when you or a loved one acknowledges addiction but seeking help through a 12-step program is one of the best methods to obtain sobriety. Since 1935, the program and variations of the program have been helping individuals recover from alcohol and drug abuse, and the process has been woven into many recovery centers because of its effectiveness. Starting a new journey is intimidating, but we want to break down how these steps work and what you will learn.


It’s common to hear when talking about addiction that you have to admit there is a problem before you can fully accept recovery. The first step in the program expands on this idea and asks for the individual to realize they are powerless to their addiction. Sobriety isn’t obtained by “working harder,” it recognizes the unmanageable state of using drugs safely.


The second step revolves a lot around hope. Admitting there is a problem and succumbing to addiction brought you here, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line. For treatment to be effective, there will need to be faith in the process, yourself, and the person guiding the program. The individual will need to set the ego aside and give into the direction.


Most of the program begins with reflection. The third step is all about action. To boil it down simply, this step is when you decide to get out of your way. It’s here where people choose who they want to turn this power over to for example it could be the process itself, the professionals leading the program, your support system, or even God. The exact nature is entirely down to the individual, but often the “will” is supported by learning to meditate, practicing acceptance, or praying.


Looking within and asking yourself some tough questions is what step four is all about. While painful, it’s important to reflect on the behaviors and attitudes and decide what needs to change. Don’t be fooled by this step; it’s not about criticism. What you are trying to identify are your strengths and how you expand upon them to heal.


If you are truly honest with yourself in the fourth step, the fifth is crucial. When you uncover such harsh truths about your behavior, it can make you feel ashamed or guilty for mistreating yourself and others while addicted. Seeking counsel from others will help alleviate the negativity that might drive you back into old coping habits like drug use. Many people find when they can share their stories that they are not alone with their imperfections and find strength in bond.

Let Go

For some people, the sixth step can be a real challenge. Up until now, there has been a lot of reflection and turning inwards to find what attitudes weren’t working. It’s at this stage where you have to finally let go of past coping methods to discover a greater sense of self. Releasing habits is only one half the battle; the other is replacing them. It’s here where we learn to be patient with ourselves as we fumble towards enlightenment.


Once the moral inventory is completed, those who are working through the program discover humility in step seven. It’s important to recognize the severity of our actions, define our own limits, and comprehend the power of the program to transform our lives for the better.

Social Reflection

Previous steps included internal reflection, but step eight revolves around social reflection. For the program to be the most effective, you need to be willing to acknowledge the role you might have played in hurting those in your life that you care about dearly. From here, you need to be willing to make amends with these people and say sorry for the hurt and pain you might have caused them.

Making Amends

Step nine interlocks with step eight. Again, we move from a sense of contemplation to action. Now that you’ve identified what you have done and to whom, you now move towards making amends with that individual. This step can be challenging but is necessary.

Sustained Growth

After cleaning house, it’s now time to lay the foundation for sustained growth. Continued honesty about where we have gone wrong will make it easier to recognize triggers, thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs that could result in a relapse.

Higher Power

Step eleven talks a lot about “higher power” and what that means for the individual. Again, each person is different and therefore will take a different shape, but here people form a fellowship and make a conscious effort to improve their understanding of the path their lives are supposed to take.

Selflessness and Selfishness

The final stage marries the idea of selflessness and selfishness. You’ll continue to look inward to make the best decisions for you to maintain sobriety but it also asks how or if you can give back. For many, agreeing to mentor other allows you from becoming complacent, holds you accountable for your actions, and maintain the ability to trust others. It’s not advisable to complete a 12-step program on your own. Discovery Place 12-step program, walks all guests through with compassion and leadership. We employ an extensive network of volunteers with long-term sobriety to serve as mentors and usher our guests into the recovery community. To learn more about our recovery programs, contact Discovery Place today.

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