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12-Step Alcohol And Drug Rehab Centers

Brittany Thompson, MSMFT

Medically reviewed by

Brittany Thompson, MSMFT

February 21, 2019

Individuals suffering from addiction understand how deeply drugs or alcohol have changed the way they view life. Because of this, it is important to know that multiple options for treatment exist, allowing people to choose the one best suited for their needs. Twelve-step programs can be a positive influence and guiding light for many who strive to leave the shackles of a drug-free life behind.

Twelve-step programs owe their roots to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a peer-based and spiritually-guided approach to addiction treatment. The abstinence, spiritual reliance, social interactions, and self-help directive these programs are based upon can be a positive force during rehab. As an individual progresses through each of the steps they move closer to, and strengthen, their pursuit of a drug-free life. When paired with other evidenced-based treatment modalities and relapse prevention training, 12-Step programs can have an even greater benefit within treatment.

Substance Abuse And Rehabilitation Can Be A Challenge Without A Structured Program And Set Goals

Working to overcome an alcohol or drug addiction can be a very challenging process. The tremendous improvement in the quality of life that treatment offers may seem out of reach when rehab begins, due to its sometimes overwhelming nature. Because of this, it’s important to have a plan in place.

Twelve-step programs direct and support clients as they set and achieve attainable goals and recovery milestones. All of these smaller goals build upon each other to move the individual toward their ultimate goal of sobriety.

These programs are especially beneficial to those who have instability of any sort and/or negative social influences within their lives. In place of these emotionally strenuous influences, a 12-step program will work to instill a greater sense of self-confidence, self-awareness, and positive goal setting.

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How Is Peer Support Beneficial To Your Recovery?

The peer-based nature of twelve-step programs will give you an opportunity to learn from other individuals who understand your journey. As you share your story in a safe space you’ll be presented with an opportunity to grow and heal. You’ll hear other’s struggles with and triumphs over drugs or alcohol. These tellings will inspire you and strengthen your resolve for personal change and growth.

Addiction can tear down relationships and the way you view yourself in regard to the people you love. To overcome this in a healthy manner, these profound peer interactions will teach you:

  • Enhanced interpersonal skills
  • Effective ways to communicate
  • How to establish and maintain healthy boundaries
  • How to resolve and heal after conflicts
  • How to forgive and be forgiven

The peer relationships you form during these sessions will help you to establish and nurture a workable skill set of coping and relapse prevention skills. Additionally, you will have ongoing opportunities for accountability and encouragement, two things which are very important during recovery from drugs and/or alcohol.

How Are Twelve-Step Programs Using During Rehab?

Many treatment facilities who successfully help people overcome addiction have adopted AA or similar programs which implement small, achievable steps leading toward a primary goal of a drug-free life. In fact, the 2016 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services found that 73 percent of facilities used 12-step facilitation “at least sometimes.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse considers 12-step facilitation therapy an evidenced-based approach to drug addiction treatment. They write that it “is an active engagement strategy designed to increase the likelihood of a substance abuser becoming affiliated with and actively involved in 12-step self-help groups, thereby promoting abstinence.”

Some rehabs rely solely on the principles of AA’s The Twelve Steps and therefore integrate religion heavily into their treatment programs. Others use the steps in conjunction with research-based treatment modalities to create a holistic, integrated strategy for treating addiction. The goal of this approach is mind-body-spirit wellness which informs and protects a person’s recovery journey.

In each, therapy and counseling, both on an individual and group basis, will likely form the foundation of your treatment. Within rehab, you will typically be required to go to meetings on a frequent, regular basis. Whichever approach you choose, these steps can bring structure and hope to you, a welcome change after the uncertainty and fear of an addictive lifestyle.

How Do The Twelve Steps Shape Recovery?

Nearly all twelve-step programs begin with an admission from the individual that he or she cannot control the compulsion to drink or use drugs. Without taking this first step, it’s going to be very difficult for the participant in the treatment to achieve deep-reaching success.

Once you’ve acknowledged the scope of your substance abuse, it’s time to begin recognizing the problems the addiction has caused. Your behaviors and sometimes uncontrollable negative emotions will likely have hurt friends, family members, and significant others. For these reasons, such an admission is a key step in recovery.

After recognizing this damage and the feelings attached to it, the steps move you towards making amends for these past hurts. Often times this stage can be the most difficult, as facing the people you wronged is a very emotional process. Despite this, it can be one of the most profound and healing experiences the steps offer.

What Are The Twelve Steps?

No matter what kind of 12-Step treatment program you choose, the steps you engage in are very similar. Each step builds upon the last, in a way which strengthens your abstinence goals and grounds your recovery. To give you a better impression of the goals and transformation a person progresses through as they work the steps, we’ll use AA’s steps as an example:

  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 alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

One thing that makes twelve-step programs dynamic is the ability for a person to jump back to a previous step, should they feel the desire to brush up on important recovery principles. This especially holds true if a person’s fighting temptation to use again, or if they’re actually relapsed.

What Is The Role Of Spirituality Within Twelve-Step Programs?

After looking over the steps, you might wonder this very thing. This question is one which stops many people in their tracks when considering a twelve-step program. Do you have to believe in God or a specific higher power to succeed? Do I have to profess a certain faith or go to church?

The answer to all of these questions is no, however, the basic tenets of AA and similar programs do urge people to profess their faith in a higher power as a way of divining greater purpose within their life, and subsequently freedom from addiction. Faith is, without a doubt, a guiding force for many who make their way through the steps, but there are no restrictions on participation based on religion. Spirituality can be interpreted broadly, in a way which serves each person’s personal and spiritual development.

A fair amount of individuals who do not profess to believe in a higher power may also glean benefit from these programs. This is due to the structure, inspiration, accountability, and the peer support they impart into participant’s lives.

But certain people who don’t ascribe to a particular faith or believe in a higher power do struggle with these components of the steps. Because of this, it’s important to consider if it’s in a way which could prevent you from receiving the full benefit of treatment.

Are There Other Twelve-Step Programs?

Though it’s the most well-known 12-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous is only one of several options for individuals interested in pursuing the twelve-step format, either during or after treatment.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is another well-established twelve-step program. Virtually every aspect of it is similar to AA, except for the fact it was developed to address other addictions aside from alcohol (though alcohol addiction can still be addressed in NA). Individuals struggling with addiction to cocaine, heroin, prescription medications (opioid painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants), or any other drug of abuse are welcome to attend.

Inspired by AA’s format and success, the following programs offer a twelve-step approach:

  • All Addictions Anonymous
  • Chemically Dependent Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous
  • Marijuana Anonymous
  • Methadone Anonymous Support
  • Pills Anonymous
  • Recoveries Anonymous

Mental illnesses, like anxiety and depression, often contribute to or even cause, substance abuse and addiction. This is referred to as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis.

Individuals who grapple with these or other mental illnesses require substance abuse treatment which goes beyond only treating the addiction. By treating the mental illness alongside the addiction, the negativity and triggers which these illnesses foster are removed and/or a person learn to cope with them more effectively. Here are twelve-step groups which could help you address these concerns:

The 12-Steps Can Keep Your Recovery Strong

The structure these programs lend to your life also provides much-needed aftercare support. For this reason, after treatment ends, we recommend integrating a 12-step or other peer-based support program into your recovery.

Some may feel the need to go to a meeting daily, or even multiple times a day, whereas others, over time, may only need to go on a weekly basis. However you choose to integrate this peer support into your recovery, it’s a great opportunity to keep your relapse prevention skills sharp and at the ready, should temptation arise.

Is Sobriety Based Only On Willpower And Faith Then?

While addiction can surely impact a person on a spiritual level, it deeply affects a person on a mental and physical one as well. Addiction is a disease of the brain and a wealth of research supports that it should be treated as such.

Not being able to quit drinking or using or moderating the amounts you’re ingesting is a qualifying factor of addiction. But this isn’t a matter of willpower, a moral failing or something which is only due to a spiritual void. Effective treatment targets both the physical and mental addiction, in addition to helping people heal spiritually, socially, emotionally, and within their families.

Are There Alternatives To 12-Step Programs?

A substantial number of people are deterred by the faith-based elements of 12-step programs, and this is okay. These individuals may desire treatment which is more heavily based on science and behavioral health. Regardless of what you choose, good treatment should be individualized in nature and geared toward a person’s unique journey.

A variety of other programs exist today which don’t rely on religion or spirituality as a part of healing from addiction. If you’re still interested in peer support, either during or after treatment, SMART Recovery and other groups may fulfill these needs. Many programs rely on research-based behavioral therapies to undo the damage caused by addiction. We can direct you to a program, treatment modality, or aftercare support which speaks more fully to your specific concerns.

Take The First Step Today

For more information on how to treat addiction, or for a confidential consultation on the best 12-Step treatment program for you, reach out to today. Take the first step towards a successful recovery and sobriety, contact us now.

Alcoholics Anonymous - The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous - Information about NA

NIDA - 12-Step Facilitation Therapy (Alcohol, Stimulants, Opiates)

SAMHSA - National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS): 2016

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