Considering a 12-Step Program? We Can Help

12-Step Program

How the 12-Step Program Began

It is the best known and most popular substance abuse treatment approach available. It is best described as a mutual aid fellowship. The concept of the 12-Step program began with the book Alcoholic Anonymous, otherwise known as the Big Book and published in the 1939. Co-written by AA co-founder Bill Wilson, it is the foundation for the organization of AA. The mission of AA is to both keep the recovering alcoholic sober and to offer strength and support through fellowship. Many who use the 12 Step approach do so with a sponsor. A sponsor is a person who is further along in the program and acts as a guide to help newer members work through the steps. A sponsor also provides individual care and support throughout recovery, this includes making themselves available outside of meetings by phone. According to a study, working with a sponsor has been associated with longer lasting abstinence.

How the Program Works

The 12-Step approach can be conducted individually or in groups. It usually covers 12-15 sessions. Twelve step programs are readily available just about anywhere – they are held in every country, every city, even cruise ships (just ask for “Friends of Bill W.”) has a 12 step group. The concept behind the 12-Step group is that one feels stronger when they belong to a group of people who are going through the same experience.

The Goals of 12-Step Programs

Twelve-Step programs have two main goals: Getting the person in recovery to accept the need for abstinence, and recognize the need for lasting sobriety by being actively engaged in the program. By entering a 12-Step program and attending meetings you will hear other people’s stories and decide if their stories are helpful to you. By meeting people who are going through the same thing you involve yourself in the process of overcoming some of the denial of your own addiction. You can learn from other people’s techniques and you learn to believe that recovery is possible. Twelve-Step meetings become a resource you can use. You develop the confidence in knowing that you can change your life.

Fighting the Urge to Use

As you move along the path of your own recovery, you will find yourself at times having what may feel like an overwhelming urge to use. In the program you will discover others who’ve also gone through the same thing. You will be able to talk about these feelings and urges with others who have not only been through the same thing before, but also they are people who won’t judge you for feeling it. You will find that most addicts have struggled with control in their recovery. The 12-Step meetings will give you a chance to hear about the struggles of others to fight for control and even those who came back from relapse. The atmosphere is one without judgement.

Not Listening to the Voice of Addiction

This is a common story: You’ve enjoyed your sobriety for 6 or 12 months and you’ve felt stronger than you have in years. You may believe that now that you’ve maintained your sobriety successfully you can now control your use. You now have strength that you didn’t have before. This is the voice of addiction talking. But this is a lie. It’s been said that booze make users liars and the lies you tell yourself are the biggest. When you speak to others in recovery you will find that the experience is common. This is why 12-Step programs insist on complete abstinence. If you could control your use you would’ve done it before now.

Become active in your meetings. Recovery doesn’t happen when you sit passively and listen to other people. Recovery requires honestly – sometimes naked honesty. You need to share what’s going on inside of you. There are two types of 12-Step meetings – there are open or speaker meetings and closed or discussion meetings. Speaker meetings are arranged around a speaker who stands up and tells the story of their addiction and recovery. Everyone else listens. You’re not expected to say anything. They are a non-threatening way to get started if you’re a newcomer. You’re not expected to do any work. Discussion groups, on the other hand, allow you to become active. (You can choose not to participate if you’d prefer.) You can talk about your recovery and what’s going on inside you. Though, it’s normal if you choose to just observe and listen in your first few meetings. But without a doubt, the meetings are most effective when you participate.

How Often Should You Go to Group?

The answer depends – everyone has different needs. In the beginning most people go twice a week. For some, going to a meeting every day is their best defense for dealing with the urge to use. Many experts believe that going to one meeting a week is not enough. If you miss a meeting and wait two weeks before your next meeting you are left to deal with your urges for that time on your own – not a wise move. It is recommended that you go to meetings on the days that you used the most, say Friday evenings as an example, for that’s when you urge to use will be strongest. Once you’ve been in recovery for a period of time, say five after years, then your urge to use will be greatly reduced. By this time you may be able to suffice with one meeting a month though this is not often enough for many. After you’ve been in recovery for a time you become experienced. This is a good time to go to meetings to help others and give back.

When you’re early in your recovery, the best thing to do is to find a group that is right for you and to go often. Use the help that is being offered to you by others. Twelve-Step meetings can be a generous and giving environment. People can be an excellent resource and are able to help in many ways. You will find that they will be integral to your recovery. You may even meet people who will give you their phone number in case you need to speak to someone. They have been through it before themselves and they know the kind of hard work that recovery can be.

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