While talking about drug and alcohol abuse recovery programs, we use the phrase “12-step Support Groups” quite often. As long as you mostly hear about 12-step support groups in the context of rehabilitation and treatment, there is sure to be a lot of mystery and misconception over them. So in this article, with West Valley Detox we are going to learn more about what are those groups for, what happens in those support groups, what are their purpose and of course, how they can help in recovery?
However, note: the privacy and confidentiality are key to the proper functioning of any 12-support group activity, yet, no secrecy should be there about the roles and activities of them.
12-step support groups or 12-step programs are such groups that are intended to provide recovering addicts with structure, direction, and also solidarity as long as they make their way through life with their newfound sobriety.
Speaking about the basic foundation of 12-Step programs is to get the addict to acknowledge that they are not strong enough to overcome their weaknesses by themselves and that they get the strength to do so from a higher power. Participants or the members examine the mistakes that they have made as a result of their addiction and then make amends for those mistakes, learning to live out their lives with the fresh perspective of sobriety and helping others who are making their own journey through the process of recovery.
12-Step Support Groups’ Purpose
12-step support groups have a number of purposes. One of the main ones is to encourage individuals to make a sincere accounting of themselves. The steps are created to serve as a basis for self-change, and a recovering addict can not make meaningful and important life changes if he or she is not able to acknowledge that they have a problem to a group of similar-minded people, with similar experiences, who are in similar places on their journey – hence the strong focus on accepting personal weakness, accepting the guidance of a higher power (or a higher sense of self), taking responsibility for mistakes and wrongs committed in the past, etc.
The 12 Steps were created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous to establish guidelines for the best way to overcome an addiction to alcohol. The program gained enough success in its early years for other addiction support groups to adapt the steps to their own needs.
Although the 12 Steps are based on spiritual principles, many non-religious people have found the program immensely helpful. The language emphasizes the presence of God as each participant understands him, allowing for different interpretations and religious beliefs.
Every single movement through the 12-step program is created to break down one facet of the addiction spectrum. For instance, accepting the inability to overcome the addiction on one’s own fosters a greater sense of trust in the group and the higher power, but it also prevents the recovering addict from thinking that they can go it alone. Addiction to something mostly is a very lonely experience, which can drive away friends and family, and also other addicts. If someone who used to be an addict is tempted to start using again, it is much easier to resist the temptation with the help and support of other people who have been in their place once, than it is to attempt to do so on their own. So, realizing that you are not strong enough to deal with the problem by yourself is a way of getting you to accept the help that is on offer and not run the risk of trying to do it on your own.
After acceptance comes surrender. Surrendering to a higher power is intended to replace the void that the former addict thought they could fill with drugs, alcohol, or other compulsive behaviors for example gambling, overeating, and so on. While it is merely nominal to accept the inability to solve problems on your own, actually turning your recovery over to someone, a sponsor, or a therapist (and also God) is the first active step of the 12 Steps. Giving up control puts confidence in a tried-and-true process, not in your own fallible hands.
Awareness Factor of the 12-Step Program
This is in contrast to the blindness of an addiction, where you are oblivious or uncaring of the harmful effects of your substance abuse or compulsive behavior. The awareness factor of the 12-Step program looks to make you realize that what you do – positive and negative – affects other people.
If you have harmed people in the past as a result of your addiction and bad habits, the program asks you to take inventory of who you are and what you have done, as well as how you can make up for the damage that you have done. There is a reason the creed of the 12-Step program calls this a “searching and fearless” inventory because you will have to identify patterns of broken and flawed emotions and behavior in your life. Simply put, what were you doing wrong? What were the mistakes you kept making? And why did you do those wrong things? Why did you keep making those mistakes? For example, this might mean realizing, acknowledging, and confronting childhood abuse as the reason behind an addict’s abusive behavior towards others and his abusive behavior toward himself.
After taking this inventory comes one of the most challenging parts of the 12-Step program is to admit wrongdoing. The actual text of the relevant step is “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Regardless of your belief in God, the action of declaring what you’ve done wrong repairs your self-esteem, which is very important after the rock bottom you may have had to hit to make it to therapy. This is by no means an easy or instant step of the program, but it is the bedrock of settling accounts from your previous life of addiction and wiping the slate clean so you can start living sober.
This step also establishes the idea of empathy for others. No longer is the addict isolated by their substance abuse or compulsive behavior; taking stock of the things they have done wrong, the people they have hurt, and the relationships they have damaged teaches the value of humility and compassion, traits not associated with addiction, but strongly associated with a clean and healthy lifestyle.
Different Types of 12-Step Programs
In general, there are over 54 different types of 12-Step programs, for almost every conceivable form of addiction and behavioral disorder. For every type of addiction and compulsive behavior, there are at least two or three 12-Step support groups. For example alcoholism: AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is the obvious leader of the pack, but you can also find ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics), and Al-Anon/Alateen (for friends and family members of alcoholics who may not realize that they have a drinking problem).
Then there’s the larger umbrella of drug addiction, for which you have groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous, among many others. Like Al-Anon/Alateen, there are groups for friends and family members of addicts who refuse to seek treatment, called Co-Anon and Nar-Anon.
Gambling addiction is a real problem, and support programs exist to help people overcome the temptation to gamble and to help them make amends for all the wrong they did while addicted: Gamblers Anonymous is the largest of the groups, while OGA (Online Gamblers Anonymous) caters to the more recent trend of digital problem gambling.