12 Step Programs

What is a 12 Step Program?

If you are living an addictive life or even if you are just thinking about quitting your use of drugs or alcohol, you may have heard of working a 12 Step Program. Around ¾ of all addiction treatment centers in the United States use a 12 Step philosophy as a foundation for their treatment programs. With this being said, you might still be wondering – what exactly is a 12 step program?

Basis of the 12 Step Program

The basis of using a 12 step program is to help someone become abstinent from a harmful substance or behavior. They are able to do this by surrendering to their Higher Power. If you struggle with alcohol or drug abuse, you can interpret the Higher Power in any way that you wish. For some people, the Higher Power is God and for others, it is the Universe. Your Higher Power can be whatever allows you to let go of your struggles and ask for help from something bigger than yourself.

Various 12 Step Programs

There are different types of 12 Step programs for those who are struggling with substance abuse or addiction.

If you struggle with alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction, you might attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. 12 Step programs for alcoholism or alcohol abuse are designed to help people abstain from drinking and are designed to help people overcome addiction and live a sober lifestyle.

If you struggle with drug abuse or drug addiction, you might attend a Narcotics Anonymous meetings. These 12 Step programs are designed to help someone get clean from drugs and live a life free from drugs.

12 Step Program History

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1938. The 12 Step model was created by Bill Wilson. He wrote down the 12 step ideas that came from his own experience with alcoholism and his vision of this disease. He wrote how positive things can happen when someone shares their story of alcoholism with other alcoholics.

Bill Wilson wrote these ideas in what turned out to the the “Big Book”. The steps that are placed into this book were created through various concepts and teachings that Wilson had personally encountered.

During the crafting of the original 12 steps, a greater or Higher Power was sought, to help people who suffered from an alcohol or drug addiction.

Since the origin of the “Big Book”, millions of people have read it and used it to help them overcome their addiction. They have used it to help them change their behaviors and attitudes toward addiction. While originally based on alcohol addiction, various other forms of 12 Step programs exist. Some of these include Gamblers Anonymous – GA, Heroin Anonymous – HA, and Narcotics Anonymous – NA.

Today, there are 12 Step programs and meetings all around the world. There are even 12 Step meetings that you can attend online, as well.

Helping Interlocking Hands

How to Take a Sponsee Through the 12 Steps – A Guide

Being a sponsor is one of the most significant responsibilities for any recovering addict or alcoholic. However, it is worth remembering that aside from providing a service to others, acting as a sponsor is also part of your recovery. As the 12th Step tells us: “we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” There is no better way to put this into practice than sponsoring an ailing addict and aiding their recovery.

By definition, the heart of a twelve-step program is the steps in question. The twelve steps are an incredibly difficult challenge to overcome, and they require the guidance and support of a sponsor. Therefore, the responsibility of a sponsor to help their sponsee through the steps is the most critical and challenging part of the sponsorship role.

The AA Principles

The 12 Spiritual Principles (Virtues) of AA & What They Mean

The 12-steps are the cornerstone of a popular approach to treating addiction, first popularized decades ago by Alcoholics Anonymous. The steps and the 12-step process more generally have a spiritual component.

However, the spiritual components of each step are not always apparent. In addition, the wording behind the steps often stresses practical concerns over spiritual ones.

Bill W., one of the two founders of AA, stressed the spiritual side of the program and wished to make that element more explicit. The 12 step program ultimately aims to replace destructive tendencies and addiction with a healthier and more sustainable way of life. Therefore, he envisioned a spiritual program that would be incorporated into all facets of day-to-day life.

12 Step Sponsorship Helping Hand

A Sponsor’s Role in 12 Step Programs

To work through any 12-step program, you will need a sponsor. It’s common for beginners to start with a temporary sponsor. That person or another individual will later become your permanent sponsor. They will become an essential part in walking you through the recovery process.

The AA literature defines the sponsor as: “An alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through A.A.” The principle is very similar in the other 12-step programs, as they all adopted this role from the mother program.

While the sponsor does not have to be to an individual who has completed all 12-steps, they should be significantly ahead of the sponsee so that they possess the wisdom of experience to help traverse the earlier stages of recovery.

Hand reaching out helping other person

What is a Sponsor and What to Look for in a 12-Step Sponsor

The official AA literature defines a sponsor as “an alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through AA.” Sponsors serve an identical role in other 12-step fellowships.

The official definition significantly underrates the role of the sponsor. If you choose correctly, they will be an integral part of recovery. They will help keep you on the straight and narrow and avoid relapse. It is deeply inadvisable to attempt to work the steps without the guidance and advice of your sponsor on every single step. At first, you can select a temporary sponsor and begin work with them. But ultimately, finding the right permanent sponsor will be a crucial element in determining the success of your recovery. Therefore, it is very important to make the right choice in this regard.

Remember that performing service for the fellowship and its members is an important part of recovery. Therefore, in a very real way, you and your sponsor are helping each other through recovery. The sponsor and sponsee relationship are one of the best examples of the kind of mutual fellowship which helps 12-step participants remain sober in the long-term.

When looking for a sponsor, do not settle for the first member you make a connection with. Look for these important attributes:

The Preamble

The AA Preamble – What it is, History & What it Means

For as long as Alcoholics Anonymous has been around, it can still be a new program for those seeking out sobriety. The fellowship began in the early 1930’s by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S., who were individuals meeting with each other to try and stay sober. During their meetings, they realized that talking about their alcoholism with one another was what helped them stay sober. After developing the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, they moved forward to try and help other alcoholics obtain and maintain sobriety by attending meetings and working the program offered in the fellowship of AA.

The AA Preamble:

AA or NA - Which One is Right for You

AA or NA: Which One is Right for You?

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are the two oldest and largest 12-step programs out there. Two alcoholics formed AA in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. The founders created it to help those who have developed an unhealthy dependence on alcohol. It remained the only 12-step program in existence until Narcotics Anonymous was founded in California 18 years later.

The two deal with a similar problem, namely the debilitating effect of substance addiction. However, the two organizations deal with distinct forms of dependence. AA focuses on alcohol, while NA is an organization dealing with controlled substances we commonly refer to as ‘drugs.’

12 Step Programs and religion

12 Step Programs & Religion

The less religious someone is, the more they notice how prevalent the focus on God and religious symbolism is in AA. The word God appears 315 times in the Big Book of AA.

What makes the 12-step conception of religion unique is that every addict can use their spiritual conception. Since there is no specific dogma that guides belief, there is an infinite variety within the membership of the groups.

The Christian Background of AA

The first 12-step program was Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and it is very much a product of its time and place. Founded in a time when the United States was a very Christian and Protestant nation.

The two founders of the organization, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, were firm believers in Christianity and many of their ideas had blossomed out of religious-oriented seminars they had participated in. Not surprisingly, the basic AA literature is strongly influenced by these beliefs. When they refer to a Higher Power, they explicitly refer to God.

Another religious element in 12-step meetings is the “serenity prayer”:

“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.”

Although it does not contain material that is strictly Christian, it was written by an important theologian of that faith. However, the wisdom behind Dr. Rheinhold Niebuhr’s prayer transcends religion and belies a deeper universal truth.

However, the founders of AA were well aware that not all of the members of the fellowship are Christian and they wanted the program to work for everyone. Therefore, the original literature does not refer specifically to Christian doctrine, even if it does use that language extensively for cultural reasons.

12 Step Serenity Prayer

What is the Serenity Prayer?

What is the Serenity Prayer?

One of the things that help alcoholics and other addicts to recover from their addiction is the Serenity Prayer. If you have an addiction to alcohol or drugs, learning the Serenity Prayer could help you throughout your recovery process.

Defining the Serenity Prayer

The basic part of the Serenity Prayer, that is used the most, is this – “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” The intention of this prayer is to bring faith, certainty, and peace into the hearts and minds of those who need support. When you say the prayer, you are asking your higher power to give you wisdom and guidance to accept what is in your life. You are also asking your higher power for the ability to manifest what is in your best interest.

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