Those struggling with addiction often feel like they are all alone in facing an unwinnable battle. They can feel like they are on an impossible journey without anyone 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 battling dependency on various unhealthy influences, they are still not understood by many in our society. Below is some information about these helpful programs for those who may want to know more about them.
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.
While some people may be familiar with the program, fewer know the exact steps. The idea behind this method is that those 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 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:
The basic idea behind this practice is that an individual can develop abstinence from the vice that has control of their life. Whether their issue is 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 struggle with others facing the same issues. Because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many programs support 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. A lot of research has been 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 dependency. In addition, 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.
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 that they have a good foundation with the steps. 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 that 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 with 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 are 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. Some sponsors 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.
Like with anything, the 12 Steps work best when the person is dedicated to doing the work necessary to make the changes. However, it is also important to note that the program may not be the best choice for everyone. 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.
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Last medically reviewed August 30, 2022