How and why do they work?
When Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, there were only two members: the founders. It now has over two million members and over 125,000 different types of groups to cater to every alcoholic and addict on the planet. Something appears to be working.
Every day, the world is embroiled in new battles with new forms of addiction. However, the truth is that it is a spiritual battle. People who enter a 12-step programme fight an internal struggle alongside comrades who will help them change their fate and begin living again. Here are some of the reasons why 12-step programmes work.
They are the first source of hope
When you enter a 12-step programme, you will most likely be introduced to a group of people who are similar to yourself and given a large book. Numerous twelve-step programmes are available, ranging from Narcotics Anonymous to Sex Anonymous. Each focuses on a specific type of addiction treatment.
In 2017, nearly 20 million American adults said they had a drug addiction or a drug use problem. That means your future friends are dealing with the same issues you are. They have a problem: they want to stop using drugs or drinking alcohol (or any other behaviours addressed by 12-step programmes), but they don’t know how.
Meeting people who are “in the same shoes” as you provides a source of comfort and hope. One person in that room will introduce themselves, take your hand in theirs, and lead you into a world of hope—where change is possible.
12-step programmes provide accountability
Have you ever attempted to quit drinking on your own? Did everything go differently than planned? We can make up any excuse for our failures when we are only accountable to ourselves. If you didn’t want to drink today but did, it’s easy to come up with a million different reasons why.
In 2017, one in every eight adults reported struggling with alcohol and drug addictions. But what about other addictions that are paired with alcohol, such as food? That is not a battle you should attempt to fight alone.
Others will watch out for you when you enrol in a 12-step programme. They’ll even tell similar stories about their multiple relapses. You’ll notice two things happening here.
First and foremost, your friends will not let you make up excuses. You relapsed; now it’s time to go through the steps again. Second, your friends will not judge you if you relapse. They’ll understand your predicament and pick you up off the ground without batting an eye.
This makes it much easier to reevaluate.
They provide opportunities for new friendships
You will form some of the most powerful, lifelong, and everlasting friendships in the rooms of 12-step programmes.
These are your relatives. Perhaps they, like you, are extremely sensitive. Perhaps they had a traumatic childhood that sent them spiralling, similar to your own. Maybe they were born into a family of addicts and are attempting to break the cycle, as you do.
You are unlikely to find these connections in the “real world.” However, when you enter a 12-step programme, you will be surrounded by potential friends. Accept people’s invitations to coffee in the afternoon.
Look into that 5 p.m. meeting with them tomorrow night. You’ll quickly realise that these are “your people,” and you’ll enjoy spending time with them.
The truth is that addiction is a highly treatable disease. It is possible to recover completely. However, your chances improve significantly if you do it in the company of a few like-minded friends.
The 12 steps are about as practical as it gets. They enable people look in the mirror logically. This is why some people drop out of the programme. They aren’t ready to look themselves in the eyes.
The program’s first step states that you have no control over your addiction. The days of saying, “I don’t have a problem,” are long gone. “It’s under control,” you can’t tell yourself anymore. Addicts must now accept that they are powerless and that their lives have become unmanageable.
The second step teaches members that they can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. They’re not entirely insane, though. They require a force greater than themselves to pull them out of the hole.
Steps can be taken once recognition has occurred. Members make amends with some of the uglier aspects of their lives in these steps, allowing them to release it and move on. They also conduct ongoing personal inventories. When resentments and other nasty fights come up, members can figure out what sets them off and take the right steps.
The awareness that accompanies a 12-step programme is critical to its success. After members have gone through the experience, they can pay it forward by sharing the message with others. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are as follows:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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.
They’ll help you pay it forward
Finally, you are not only in a position to help yourself, but you can also spread the word to others who are suffering. Take the initiative to greet newcomers and make them feel at ease. Volunteer to host monthly birthday parties for people who have received their chips through your local 12-step group.
Consider one of the many volunteer opportunities available through AA, such as the ability to deliver literature to prisons. Amazing things can happen when we get out of our heads and start focusing on others (both for them and for us).
Consider a 12-Step program right now!
Why not try it out?
Considering a 12-step programme entails simply peering through the doorway to see what stories people share. Maybe you’ll be able to relate, maybe you won’t. (We’re sure you will.) Perhaps you will make contact with a higher power beyond your comprehension.
Something that has been around for nearly 85 years, like AA, must be doing something right. It would have collapsed by now if it hadn’t already. Allow yourself time to heal. It may begin with a hard-to-do personal inventory but end with healing and a great support system.
Or call a therapist to start your recovery!
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction issues, call Freephone 0800 140 4044