How the 12-Step Approach Assists Substance Abuse Recovery

How did the 12-Step Recovery Method Start?

After Prohibition Bill Wilson spent time with several groups working on his own recovery, and eventually, he wanted to help many more. In 1939 he wrote the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story Of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism. AA members refer to it as “The Big Book.” Bill W.’s intent was to offer a better way to bring the message of recovery to suffering alcoholics.

What are the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous?

The twelve steps are:

  1. To admit we are powerless over alcohol — that our lives have become unmanageable.
  2. To believe that a power greater than ourselves can help us.
  3. To turn our will and our lives over to the care of a higher power as we understand it.
  4. To make an incisive and courageous moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. To admit having a higher power removes any defects of character.
  6. To humbly ask our higher power to remove our shortcomings.
  7. To make a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  8. To make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  9. To continue to take personal inventory and when wrong to promptly admit it.
  10. To improve our conscious contact with a higher power as we understand it through prayer or meditation.
  11. To carry this message to others in need and to continue to practice these principles.

How the 12-Step Approach Assists Substance Abuse Recovery

How Does The 12-Step Program Work?

Chapter 5 of the Big Book, “How it Works,” frames the 12-Step recovery program as one that worked for hundreds of men. It has continued to work for many who seek recovery, no matter what substance has been misused.

The philosophy of 12-Step Recovery emphasizes addiction as a disease that cannot be eliminated, but it can be thwarted by minimizing self-centeredness, increasing personal maturity, and spiritual growth, and offering help to others in recovery. 

12-Step Programs use the concept of fellowship with others as part of the core experience. 12-Step uses peer-to-peer support groups, that is, groups of people who are in the process of recovering from alcohol or other substance misuses. These groups also offer focus on support for other behavioral addictions and co-occurring mental health matters. While it is not for everyone, these group sessions help members learn and apply coping skills, have the support of others who are also on the journey towards sobriety and encourage and promote long-term recovery from substance abuse.

The strength of the 12-Step Program comes from both a common bond of recovery and personal anonymity. The group safeguards the identity of the members as alcoholics (or substance abusers). This privacy opens the opportunity to divulge and discuss their thoughts and problems with the group. Outside the group, the choice to publicly discuss their own issues is up to each individual.

Breaking Down the 12 Steps in Detail

  1. The first step is to be honest. Many recovery journeys start with the simple admission of POWERLESSNESS over the substance being misused. Family and friends can also admit their loved one has an addiction in this step and avoid enabling further substance misuse.
  2. Belief or FAITH in a higher power is vital. In order for a higher power to intercede and help starts with the faith that a higher power exists and can help to heal.
  3. Alone you cannot recover. You must be able to SURRENDER to a higher power in order to change self-destructive behaviors.
  4. Deep SELF-EXAMINATION gives the person in recovery clarity in how their behaviors affected others and themselves.
  5. Recovery requires integrity. The person in recovery must CONFESS to doing wrong in front of a higher power and another person.
  6. The person in recovery needs to have acceptance of character defects and the WILLINGNESS to release them, to let them go.
  7. The person in recovery must be HUMBLE and ask the higher power to help do what can’t be done alone through willpower.
  8. The person must make a list of anyone who has been harmed due to addiction and offer RESTITUTION prior to beginning recovery.
  9. They must have the SELF-DISCIPLINE to ask forgiveness of those hurt by the addiction and begin to make amends to heal past relationships.
  10. Continue admitting to doing wrong when it happens. They must maintain their STEADFASTNESS throughout recovery and continue their spiritual progress.
  11. Discover the plan for SPIRITUAL GROWTH that your higher power has in store for you and for your life.
  12. Throughout recovery it is incumbent to carry the message and offer SERVICE to others putting the program into practice every day.

The Benefits of 12-Step Recovery Programs

Data collected by Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous indicate that people in recovery who are currently attending groups have an average sobriety of five years. Roughly one-third report abstinence between one and five years.

  • Research surveys conducted within groups link better outcomes to participation in groups that use the 12-Steps program. 
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests participation in 12-Step programs may reduce relapse likelihood.
  • Attending 12-Step programs that are connected to dedicated substance abuse treatment programs (like Olympic Behavioral Health’s PHP or IOP programs) is connected with improved outcomes.

Join a 12-Step Program in West Palm Beach, Florida

The Big Book was written to help those who couldn’t attend group meetings, but it soon became the underlying structure for the whole program. While alternatives like individual professional treatment exist, today, nearly 3 in 4 programs use the 12-Step method in part or whole.

It is clear that the benefits of the 12-Step Recovery program are worthy of attention. In West Palm Beach, FL, Olympic Behavioral Health is a premier provider of 12-Step addiction recovery services. Our one-to-one staff-to-client ratio ensures our programs offer each exceptional levels of personal care.

Call (833) 826-9533 to learn more about 12-Step Addiction Treatment Recovery in West Palm Beach, Florida.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Call: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)