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For those people struggling with addiction, it can often feel like they are all alone to face an unwinnable battle. They can feel like they are an impossible journey without anyone around to guide or support them. Luckily, there is assistance out there for those fighting this disease. 12 Step programs have been assisting folks in their recovery for many years. Despite their prevalence in assisting those who are battling dependency to a variety of unhealthy influences, they are still not understood by a number of people in our society. Below is some information about these helpful programs for those who may want to know more about them.

The History of Battling Addiction

When it comes to overcoming a dependency on drugs and alcohol, there have been many different methods developed to assist people. 12 Step Programs were developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous as a way to assist people in beating their reliance on alcohol. Bill Wilson, one of the founders, developed these steps in 1938. Over the course of many years, it became successful enough for other groups to customize the steps to help their own members.

The steps were created with a basis in spirituality. While the religious nature of this program is clear, it has also assisted many people with no religious affiliation in conquering their dependency. Much of this is achieved because there is an acknowledgement in the steps that God means something different for every individual. This allows the program to be accessible to everyone, regardless of how religious, or non-religious, they happen to be.

What Are the 12 Steps?

While some people may have some familiarity with the program, there are fewer who know the exact steps. The idea behind this method is that those who are seeking treatment may have to visit a step more than once. In fact, it is expected. The approach to the program is that it is non-linear in a sense and a constant, “work in progress.” People who are working the steps are told that the first three steps of the program are essentially the building blocks of all the others. Some people who are working the steps are often working several of them at one time.

The 12 steps are as follows:

  • Admitting that one has no power over your dependency and that their life is out of control because of it.
  • A greater power than ourselves is the path toward recovery
  • Giving up one’s life and will to God, as the individual understands it.
  • Conduct a probing, honest search of one’s morals
  • Admitting to one’s self, God, and others all our wrongdoings
  • Be ready to have God remove the shortcomings in our character
  • Ask God to remove these failings
  • The individual will make a list of everyone they have harmed and be ready to make peace with them.
  • Make peace with those they have wronged, except in the cases where doing so would harm them or other people
  • Individuals continue to assess themselves and admit any wrongdoing.
  • Continue to develop a connection with God, as understood by the individual, through prayer and meditation. These prayers are only to ask to know the will of God and for the power to carry it out.
  • Achieve a spiritual awakening, constantly practice the steps, and deliver the message to all those who are in need.

How Does it Work?

The basic idea behind this practice is that an individual can develop an abstinence from the vice that has control of their life. Whether their issue be with gambling, alcohol, narcotics, or sex, the hope is that the program can be a place where people can share their experiences and act as a support system for each other. This support is often done through meetings where individuals share their stories and struggles with other people who are facing the same issues. Because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many of these programs are supporting members with virtual meetings.

This support system that is fostered by this practice is designed to assist members in having the strength, resolve, and mental health to continue abstaining from the substances that have harmed them. There has been a lot of research done that shows those individuals who completely give up their dependencies report a much better mental state than those who still dabble.

Long-term, the hope is that the steps change the behaviors that have led the addict to their dependency. By providing support and structure, this program hopes that members will be able to make more healthy choices when it comes to the vice with which they struggle.

The Relationship Between a Sponsor and Their Charge


When an individual embarks on their journey through the 12 steps, they are not expected to navigate that road alone. While this program doesn’t believe in a hierarchal system, the sponsor is often someone who has been involved with the steps for a long enough time where they have a good foundation with the steps. It is true that the entire group is dedicated to helping members stay on the path away from their dependency, a sponsor can be an extra resource or support system for someone who needs it.

Often, the role of the sponsor will be to do things encourage their charge to participate in the meetings and interact with other folks in the group socially. They are also often expected to give and discuss information about the program to the person they are sponsoring. Sponsors are also expected to be there to answer questions, share their past experiences with their dependency, and assist the person they are sponsoring in making difficult decisions.

Since there is no hierarchal structure in many of these programs that work the steps, the relationships between sponsors and those they are sponsoring is often very informal. Some sponsors and their charges speak every day, while others find that speaking once a week is perfectly fine. Sponsors are completely free to set their own boundaries. There are sponsors who make themselves available to those they sponsor at any time. In other arrangements, the sponsor sets up “office hours” when they can be contacted for questions, concerns, or support. It is important to remember that the sponsor is also in recovery, so they must take care of their own needs.

Getting Help with the 12 Steps

Like with anything, the 12 Steps work best when the person is dedicated to doing the work necessary to make the changes. It is also important to not that the program may not be the best choice for every individual. There are several other options for those seeking treatment for their dependencies. Residential rehabilitation and Outpatient rehabilitation are two of the approaches that are also popular among those seeking help with their issue.

In the end, the individual must decide where they will be most successful when it comes to overcoming their addiction. Working the 12 Steps has been a time-tested method for almost 100 years and continues to provide support to many people all over the world. With hundreds of thousands of 12 Step groups set up to assist addicts, it is easier than ever to find assistance for the battle you are waging with your dependency.  But the first step to regaining your life is admitting the problem, then seeking help. Detox comes next. Ascendant New York can help you begin your journey. Call our 24-hour admissions line today for a free consultation and no-obligation insurance verification.
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