How many 12 step programs are there?

There are a total of 34 official 12-step programs including programs for substance abuse, food addiction, behavioral addictions and lifestyle compulsions. In each category, there are programs specific to one area so, within the substance abuse category, there are specific programs for alcohol, pills, methamphetamine, nicotine, marijuana and cocaine. Within the food addiction category of programs there are programs that focus solely on eating too much, general food addiction issues and issues related to disorders like anorexia, binging, purging and bulimia.

What is a 12-step program?

Many 12-step programs were developed based on the basic principles of the first 12-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous. They are in place to help address the issues of individuals seeking recovery from their addiction regardless of what it may be. These programs implement twelve steps to help members recover and address all the effects of addiction including the physical, mental and emotional aspects.

What can you expect from a 12-step meeting?

While every 12-step program is different, they all have the same intentions of meeting a generalized goal – to help individuals abstain from using whatever they are addicted to, whether it be alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc. Every group meeting allows members to acknowledge their addiction, discuss their experiences with another and build a support system within the fellowship of each individual organization.

How much does a 12-step program cost?

One of the benefits of joining a 12-step program is that there is no cost or fees. While these programs are not forms of medical treatment, they are available to anyone and everyone who is willing to participate and abstain from whatever it is they are struggling with. There are no dues or fees for members of 12-step programs; these programs are usually self-supporting and are generally run by volunteers of each membership.

How do you know which program is right for you?

Because joining a 12-step program will cost you nothing, it’s okay for some trial and error. Finding the right group that addresses your addiction is going to be extremely beneficial for recovery, so it’s important to try a few meetings and see which ones best fit your needs. Every program is different and every group has members that will share their stories for you to decide if the program is the right fit. Finding similarities in stories that other members share may help in picking a program to help recover from your addiction.

How will a 12-step program help?

When Alcoholics Anonymous was started, the founders of the organization knew that the only way they could stay clean and sober was to not only abstain from drinking alcohol, but to attend meetings to discuss their struggles, experiences, strengths and hope with other people like them. Each 12-step program is a little different in its own way, but all focus on the same goal as Alcoholics Anonymous. Every program was developed with the intention to ensure its members that they are never alone and that there are people struggling with addictions just like them.

History of the 12 Steps

If you or a loved one has been around addiction, you might have heard the phrase, “Have you worked the steps?” Even if you can’t understand why or have tried everything to stop before, there is a 12 Step program for you. It’s simple, but not easy.

Any addiction can leave a person’s life unmanageable, financially bankrupt, and in detox or rehab. It doesn’t matter what the addiction is, whether it be alcohol, drugs, sex, smoking, food, sugar, gambling, or internet gaming, working a 12-step program promises a solution to your problem.

The history of the 12 Steps began over 80 years ago, when a New York business man and an Ohio doctor began a fellowship with the goal of helping fellow alcoholics regain and retain their sobriety. Over time, the group drafted a list of guiding principles intended to aid the recovery process on every level – physical, mental, emotional, and especially, spiritual. Thus, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was born along with the 12 Steps.

Originally, the 12 Steps were created from the personal experiences of recovery from alcoholism. Although AA was intended specifically for those individuals whose lives were being made unmanageable by alcohol, the philosophies of those original guiding principles – now called the 12 Steps – can be applied to every person suffering from any addiction.

Over the years, the 12 Steps have been adapted by other 12-step and addiction recovery groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, to those struggling with other forms of addiction. Additionally, many groups have changed the spiritual overtones of the original 12 Steps to reflect more agnostic philosophies.

There are no other requirements to joining a 12 Step group other than having a desire to stop using the addictive substance (alcohol for AA). Those attending a 12 Step group make a commitment to join either voluntarily, as a continuation of therapy or by court mandated rehab.

About the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions

In a 12-Step program, a person strives for an ever deeper understanding of these Steps, and seek the wisdom to apply them to their lives. Working these steps can be vital to progress in the 12-Step program. The principles they embody are universal, applicable to everyone, and absolutely inclusive.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. 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 others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The 12-step programs of recovery are based on the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Steps are the foundation for personal recovery and the Traditions help groups sustain their unity and fellowship. Essentially, the 12 Traditions are guidelines to promote harmony and growth in 12-Step groups and amongst the worldwide fellowship.

The following are the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous that serve as a guideline to define the inner workings of the 12-step programs:

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
  2. For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose: to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. A.A., as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never to be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.

The Importance of the 12 Steps in Recovery

For decades, health care professionals have argued both for and against the integration of 12-step work into addiction treatment. As with any therapeutic approach, the importance of these 12 Steps in recovery/sobriety is broken down into PROS and CONS.

CONS: Healthcare professionals have criticized these programs for several reasons:

  • Lack of Proof
  • Spirituality
  • Lack of Cooperation with Healthcare Providers

PROS: Millions of people endorse these 12 Steps for these important reasons:

  • Proven Effectiveness
  • Knowledgeable Peer Role Modeling and Feedback
  • Availability of Meetings between Treatment Sessions
  • Healthy and Support Social Environment
  • Lifetime Aftercare
  • Availability of Books, Workshops, Podcasts
  • Holistic and Inclusive Approach
  • No Cost or Time Limitations

The Significance of the 12 Steps in Recovery

At their core, the 12 Steps of any anonymous program (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, etc.) are a step-by-step outline of the journey that leads from the suffering of active addiction to the serenity of sober living. This path is open to anyone who finds themselves living an unmanageable life because they are powerless over their addiction.

The 12 Steps are meant to provide a clear, workable, and realistic guideline for changing patterns of behavior and helping to alter the fundamental modes of thinking that have fueled an addict’s “substance” abuse for so long. For example, in AA people say that beneath a person’s “drinking problem” lies a deeper “thinking problem” that needs to be overhauled.

Each of the 12 Steps help addicts of every kind move closer towards fully realizing the extent of their addiction while attempting to fix the harm that their substance abuse has caused themselves and others. These 12 step meetings help to keep recovering addicts from returning to destructive behaviors and create a new purposeful sober life.

These 12 Steps are also meant to connect individuals going through similar hardships so that the support and guidance of a like-minded community can help reinforce long-term sobriety and provide the motivation that’s essential for permanent recovery.

In theory, taking the actions for each Step as outlined in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) allows two things to occur, simultaneously:

1. The first thing is that the ego is deflated and the personality is changed; the inner addict is suppressed by taking actions that level one’s pride, confess their shortcomings, and require self-searching.

2. The second thing is that the inner good of a person is nourished, the spirit – the healthy part always connected to a Higher Power – by ensuring that one makes an honest, authentic connection with themselves, others and/or a Higher Power in each Step.

Once one has worked the 12 Steps, they have new skills to cope with life when things get hard, skills they now have to practice daily to live happily in recovery. Living in the solution of these steps, one can no longer point fingers or blame others for their emotional outbursts or impulsive decisions. When one is disturbed, they must search within themselves for the cause. Whatever happens in life, this “design for living” allows any addict to have peace of mind by working these spiritual principles.

According to a person in recovery who has worked the 12 Steps, “I am responsible for my own happiness. So today when I’m off-center, I have a set of tools to inventory what’s going on in me, identify what I need to do to come back into balance, and, if I find myself not using the tool, I can call on others who understand these principles and pray to a higher power to help me use them promptly and properly.”

12-Step Program FAQ’s

What are the 12 steps?

The 12 steps vary from program to program. While Alcoholics Anonymous was the creator of the first set of 12 steps, each program has found a way to implement a specific addiction into its steps. The wording may be a bit different from program to program, but the basis of each membership is to admit powerlessness over your addiction and accept that a higher power can help guide you to recovery.

Is being religious a requirement for 12-step programs?

There are no religious requirements for any 12-step programs. Although a higher power is mentioned in the 12 steps, members are not required to believe in God or have any religious preferences at all. The step regarding a higher power was put in place to help members find a power greater than themselves in their own, individualistic way.

How often should you attend 12-step meetings?

Every member can choose to attend meetings as often or as little as they’d like. It’s important to find meeting times that are nearby so that attendance is never an issue. For many new members, attending more meetings can be helpful in getting through the difficult times of recovery. Once members have found what meetings they like and what times are convenient for them, they can set a routine to regularly make it to their “home” meetings.

How effective are 12-step programs?

While 12-step programs never guarantee recovery for anyone, studies have shown that they are effective in treating addictive and compulsive behaviors. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have both conducted surveys that can display recovery rates, as well as many other 12-step programs. These programs work for individuals who choose to work their way through the program. Many 12-step programs have been around for decades simply because they provide members with success at recovering from their addiction and living healthy and successful lives.

What are the 12 steps in Alcoholics Anonymous?

Because Alcoholics Anonymous was the first 12-step program ever developed, many of these programs follow the same basic principles and steps that were created in Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 steps in Alcoholics Anonymous are as follows:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitting to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. 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 and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

How do you find a 12-step meeting or program?

Regardless of what program is needed to help an addict in recovery, a search on Google can help individuals narrow down what program they are searching for and where they can find one in their area. Every 12-step program’s website should be able to guide newcomers and current members to find a meeting local to them so that they can begin their journey to recovery.

References

The 12 Steps Of AA | Alcoholics Anonymous Program. Alcohol.org. https://www.alcohol.org/alcoholics-anonymous/. Published 2020. Accessed October 6, 2020.

Northpoint Staff. The Science behind the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous. Northpoint Recovery’s Blog. https://www.northpointrecovery.com/blog/science-behind-12-stepsnarcotics-anonymous/. Published November 15, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2020.

Kaskutas LA. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Alcoholics Anonymous Effectiveness: Faith Meets Science. Journal of addictive diseases, 2009:28(2), 145–157.

Europe PMC. Europe PMC. Europepmc.org. https://europepmc.org/article/med/8464933. Published 2019. Accessed October 4, 2020.

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered From Alcoholism. Published 2001.

APA PsycNet. Apa.org. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0029268. Published 2020. Accessed October 4, 2020.

Steps, Traditions and Concepts | Alaska Al-Anon Family Groups. Al-anon-ak.org. https://al-anon-ak.org/steps-traditions-and-concepts-page/. Published 2019. Accessed October 5, 2020.

Wilson, B. Alcoholics Anonymous : Read the Big Book and 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. Aa.org. https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/read-the-big-book-and-12-steps-and-12-traditions. Published 2020. Accessed October 5, 2020.

Finley, JR. Integrating the 12 Steps into Addiction Therapy. Google Books. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=by9aH1yarQC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=12+steps+12+traditions+recovery&ots=9o7NFSquAI&sig=T0OvZ5kUo0XCpfg84F0OaSXqkis#v=onepage&q=12%20steps%2012%20traditions%20recovery&f=true. Published 2010. Accessed October 4, 2020.

Living the 12 Steps. Hazeldenbettyford.org. https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/campbell-rice/living-the-12-steps. Published 2016. Accessed October 5, 2020.