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12 Step Call

How to Safely do a 12-Step Call

What is a 12 step call? A 12 step call, also referred to as a 12th step (twelfth step) call, is the act of an individual who is working the steps or has worked them, talking to a struggling addict and helping them start the road to recovery.

When Does a 12-step Call Occur?

This very often occurs when a person struggling calls a helpline or calls the headquarters of an official 12-step program and asks for help. At times, these are personal affairs and involve an addict calling a friend or relative in a 12-step program.

Other times, this looks more like an intervention. Sometimes individuals are reticent about receiving the help they deserve and need a nudge in the direction of recovery. In some cases, a friend or family member of an addict reaches out and asks for help in the name of the suffering individual.

The traditions of AA and other 12-step organizations stress the importance of addicts coming independently to the conclusion that they need help and that 12-step programs operate through the principle of attraction rather than promotion. Still, sometimes it can be useful to reach out to those in need, as long as it is not done in a heavy-handed or forceful manner.

The moment where a person reaches out for help can be a pivotal moment in their lives. Therefore, the individual taking the call shoulders a heavy responsibility and a sacred duty to guide them in the right direction.

What is the Purpose of a 12-Step Call?

The main purpose behind this type of interaction is simply to offer the individual suffering, a sympathetic and understanding ear as well as some emotional support. Just being there can be very important, because many addicts do not have anyone sober of understanding in their lives.

For the person taking the call, performing the act is part of their recovery as well. Taking part in a 12-step call is often seen as a way of fulfilling the spirit behind the final step of the program, which reads:

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.” 

As part of these calls, it is always good to share your story of recovery and how the 12-step program changed your life for the better. However, the focus is not you. The focus is on the person reaching out, and your story is only there to help them.

How to Conduct the Call Safely

When engaging in a 12-step call it is important to remember that the individual on the other side of the phone is at a delicate and possibly dangerous point in their lives. They have reached a level of desperation where it is clear to them and/or the people closest to them, that they need help. As all addicts know, this realization is a difficult one.

It is advisable to avoid the power imbalances and tensions that come with gender differences. In general, women should have these conversations with other women and men with men.

Stay Focused

Therefore, keep your finger on the pulse of the conversation. Is it going well or badly? Can you manage this situation? It is important to be aware of our limitations in these difficult situations. It is quite possible that the person you are talking to may need professional assistance and helping them goes beyond your abilities. Acknowledging that is a sign of strength and confidence, and can also be the best way to help the other person.

Remain Calm

The call should be conducted in a calm and sober atmosphere to have the most positive effect possible on all people involved. First, it is important to schedule the call promptly and avoid delay as much as possible. If a suffering individual calls you, do your best to answer the call immediately. If that is not possible, call them back as soon as you can.

Addicts may change their mood and minds quite quickly and therefore it is important to strike when the proverbial iron is hot. A delayed response may lead to an unpredictable reaction if the individual concerned is no longer interested in pursuing recovery.

Addicts need to face the consequences of their addiction with their eyes open and not when their judgment is clouded by recent use. Also, when under the influence, addicts tend to be less amenable to quit as they are enjoying the effects of the substance or behavior to which they are amenable.


In terms of safety, sober individuals are more predictable and the call is less likely to reach high emotional tones. Therefore, both sides must be sober when the call takes place.

Be as emotionally and cognitively present as possible. Do not be tempted to watch TV in the background or start texting. If a person in distress senses that you are distracted while they are in pain, they may lose all trust and become agitated. Give the person the full attention they need and deserve in this sensitive time in their lives.

Without Family & Friends Present

If possible, the suffering addict should be alone at the time of the call. The presence of family members or friends may make them hesitant to share as fully as they would otherwise. The presence of other people may also increase the levels of their agitation.

If you listen to this advice and focus on the person in need, a 12-step call can be a rewarding and life-altering experience for everyone involved. Even when done correctly, these calls are not always effective and that is no one’s fault. Recovery is a tricky business. However, when done correctly, a 12-step call can mark the beginning of the road to happiness and recovery.

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