Addiction can be incredibly difficult to overcome. It has psychological, physical, and spiritual components, and every individual experience it differently. Also, there are so many different types of addictions that can shatter the lives of those suffering.
There are a plethora of substances to which one can develop an addiction, from alcoholAn organic compound used in many products, most notably intoxicating drinks. Alcohol addiction is known as alcoholism. The first 12-step program was devised to deal with that malady. More to organic plants, through narcotics, not to mention nicotineA stimulant naturally produced and present in tobacco. It is highly addictive and therefore one of the most problematic elements associated with smoking. It can be used in gum and patches to aid addicts in withdrawal from smoking. Read more about the 12 step program for nicotine addiction called Nic... More, and even readily available cleaning products and bath salts. Meanwhile, behavioral addictions12-step programs were originally designed to aid with substance abuse. However, many also find it useful to deal with behavior disorders. This can apply to any behavior which is destructive to the individual engaging in it, but which they are unable to control. More can turn out to be just as debilitating. People report addictions to gambling, overeating, sex, and compulsive behavior such as hoarding.
Finally, every individual addictAn individual with an unhealthy dependence on a substance or behavior. An individual remains an addict even years into recovery and must therefore remain active in recovery. Read more about drug & alcohol addiction & withdrawal at Withdrawal Info. More has a different genetic and psychological makeup. For some, addiction has a strong genetic component, passed on from generation to generation. For others, it can be a specific traumatic event or process they underwent earlier in life which sparked addiction. Meanwhile, for some, the cause is mostly physical. For them, addiction may be the result of a desire to numb significant physical pain.
Therefore, there is no one size fits all solution to addiction and no magic bullet which can cure every type of dependence.
The 12-Step Solution
Although it cannot offer the answer for every addictive tendency, the 12-step approach offers a strong and proven approach to recoveryThe process by which addicts attempt to break the hold a certain substance or behavior has on their lives. This can refer to participation in a wide variety of methods. What they all have in common, is a sense that life is improving and the addict is regaining control. More. It has several advantages and is therefore worthy of consideration in most cases of addiction.
Although it has long attracted the curiosity of researchers, it was once quite difficult to research 12-step programs. As the name of the organizations would tend to suggest, these groups are highly committed to maintaining the anonymityAlcoholics Anonymous and all the 12 step groups modeled after it, protect the anonymity of its members. Members are forbidden from disclosing the identity of other addicts to outside sources or identifying themselves with the group on any form of public media. The idea behind this is to focus on the... More of their members. Also, all groups were closed to the public until fairly recently. This meant researchers could not observe meetings or located members easily. This made it highly difficult to assess the success of 12-step programs through reliable scientific studies including control groups and the like.
However, some 12-step programs have begun to run open meetings that the public and researchers can attend. Also, as the stigmaEvery addiction carries with it a certain amount of disapproval, which can also lead to discrimination. This is known as stigma. This can vary greatly following the specific addiction. More surrounding alcoholism has abated somewhat, more members are willing to volunteer for studies. However, it is notable that there are few studies of 12-step programs aside from AA.
12 Step vs. Other Recovery Options
However, we can now state quite authoritatively that AA works very well in comparison to other forms of treatmentA blanket term for concentrated efforts to help addicts transition to a healthier life. These can include any of the following (in isolation or combination): therapy, counseling, medication, harm reduction, or moderation. More of alcoholism. One of the first authoritative studies on the topic, released in 2003, found that when an addict attended a meeting in the first three years of recovery significantly improved the odds of maintaining long-term abstinenceThe act of not partaking in the substance or activity to which a member is addicted. The length of sobriety of addicts is determined following the period of abstinence. More from alcohol by no less than 35%. A study conducted a few years later, yielded similar results while looking at outcomes over a longer period. In this study, 67% of those who attended meetings remained sober years later, while 34% of an equivalent control group did the same.
If so, there is no doubt that alcoholics attending AA fair better than those seeking no treatment at all. But how do they fare in comparison to addicts receiving professional cognitive addiction therapy? Quite well indeed. Addicts participating in cognitive therapy were found to maintain sobrietyIn 12-step programs, an individual is sober when they are no longer partaking in the behavior or substance to which they are addicted and living a better life following the program. Both are necessary to achieve sobriety. More at a lower rate than those who regularly attended meetings.
If so, both 12-step programs and cognitive therapy improve the chances of maintaining sobriety. While the 12-step programA 12 step program includes 12 steps of recovery to help those struggling with substance addictions or behavioral addictions. The 12 steps are also used in programs dedicated to helping loved ones of addicts. 12 step programs include 12 step meetings where members go to share their experience strengt... More may have the edge according to some studies, there is no reason to choose between the two. Therapy addresses the specific psychological mechanisms behind individual addiction, while 12-step programs help replace unhealthy tendencies with a healthier lifestyle.
It is highly advisable to seek both types of help to increase the odds of recovery.
The Secrets of 12-Step Success
Over the years, the number and variety of 12-step programs have widened and today there is an appropriate group to deal with most maladies. Some are very wide and cover many types of addiction, for example, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous cover wide and varying types of addictions. Then there are more specific ones such as Cocaine Anonymous and Clutterers Anonymous which cover narrower behavior. With the wide variety now available, most addicts are likely to find a home.
The Spiritual Foundation
12-step programs address a specific component that can enhance the life of an addict, regardless of their background and type of addiction. It helps provide a spiritual foundation to recovery, which replaces the faulty personal judgment which led to the hell of addiction with an altruistic purpose provided by a Higher Power12-step programs greatly stress surrender to and daily communication with a Higher Power. Having trust in something greater than yourself is considered essential for returning sanity in the unmanageable life of an addict. This can be a traditional deity, a spiritual entity or a social one such as th... More. Many addicts find this useful in their recovery, and a great number report that they cannot imagine life without a higher spiritual purpose.
The Social Component
Another component in the effectiveness of 12-step programs is the instant social network it provides for members. Isolation and loneliness are some of the main maladies associated with addiction. As every addict can attest, one can feel lonely even when surrounded by other people, if one does not feel understood. It is also the isolation that may lead to relapseThe act of returning to the harmful behavior associated with addiction after or during a process of recovery. This often involves a return to general destructive patterns of behavior. More. When addicts continue to surround themselves with enablers and active addicts, it greatly increases the chances of resuming destructive behavior.
The 12-step programThis refers to any official course of treatment for addiction. This could be anything from in-patient facilities, to 12-step programs to harm-reduction programs. More provides addicts with fellowshipThis refers to the members of AA and the bonds of support between them. It is this fellowship that allows addicts to share their stories and accept each other in a world that is not always understanding. More, through sharing12-step meetings are structured so that member sharing takes up most of the allotted time. It is the bread and butter of the fellowship between members. When sharing, addicts are encouraged to stay on topic and avoid interrupting by engaging in crosstalk. More and talking, and through the relationship with the sponsor. Members of groups also typically reach out to each other regularly and engage in a shared activity. Many psychologists believe that the success of 12-step programs is best explained through this social component.
If so, while 12-step programs are not a magical cure, they are one of the most effective and proven methods of dealing with addiction. There are many methods of addressing addiction, and all should be researched and considered. However, 12-step programs remain an indispensable part of the recovery toolkit.