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12 Step Rehab

12 step rehabs follow the 12 step philosophy that originated from AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Today, close to 74% of all treatment centers use this philosophy, the premise of which is that recovering addicts can help each other achieve sobriety and remain abstinence from the different intoxicating and mind altering substances. This philosophy also believes that no one can achieve full recovery and healing unless they give up the struggle to a higher power.

Today, 12 step rehabs serve a great number of people - even though some found it difficult to follow the program because of its strong religious foundation. As such, some addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs provide alternatives to the 12 step philosophy for addicts so that addicts who are opposed to this premise of a higher power can find recovery.

That said, these programs have helped millions of addicts recover, regain sobriety, and end up leading fulfilling and productive lives after struggling with substance abuse and addiction and chemical dependency.

Additionally, even with the lack of solid scientific evidence, there has been growing support for 12 step rehab processes to be implemented into other clinical forms of addiction treatment - including but not limited to outpatient and inpatient programs. The common consensus is that these processes can and do enrich the addiction recovery process specifically by providing an additional layer of spirituality to treatment as well as addressing the psychological, physical, and social needs of the clients.

Understanding 12 Step Rehab

The 12 step model of addiction treatment and recovery is among the better known and most commonly used support system. In fact, most people have heard about the meetings of the organization that came up with the philosophy behind 12 step rehab - Alcoholics Anonymous.

Additionally, 12 step programs are widely used and highly recommended in a variety of treatment modalities for the different types of substance use disorders, co-occurring mental health disorders, and addiction.

In 2013, for instance, SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reported that 12 step rehab is used - at least occasionally - by close to 74% of all treatment centers in the United States.

That said, 12 step programs use 12 basic and interrelated principles to guide addicts and substance abusers as they work towards recovering from their conditions and any other disorder they might be suffering from - such as behavioral and social issues.

Today, it is estimated that over 200 self-help groups use one form of these 12 steps or another for recovery support and treatment. In almost every case, the programs are low cost or free of charge. This might be one of the reasons why these programs are so attractive to most people recovering from addiction and substance use.

People undergoing 12 step rehab are often required to attend the regularly held meetings to enable them kick-start their journey to full recovery after a period of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. By so doing, they take and complete the 12 steps to ensure full recovery in the long term.

During this time, participants often fellowship together and discuss their experiences. They also face their weaknesses and activate their strengths to enable them reorder their lives away from addictive, intoxicating, and mind altering substances.

Some of the better known recovery programs that are founded on 12 step rehab include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

Additionally, the 12 step model used by Alcoholics Anonymous was first promoted by Bill Wilson in 1935. Since then, it has served as the basis for many other programs that apply similar approaches in substance abuse and addiction treatment.

Understanding Addiction

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), addiction refers to an innate inability to stop abusing certain substances in spite of the negative consequences and adverse effects they cause. These consequences might be related to your physical health, mental health, relationships, legal status, and finances.

Since addiction is cyclic and progressive, it means that when you do not seek help it will almost always worsen over time. It is also relapsing and chronic, which means that even though you might be able to cure it fully you can still send it into remission through rehabilitation and abstinence.

Still, when you start using again even after a long period of abstinence, you might still cause your addiction to relapse - and you may be unable to stop abusing your preferred substances in spite of the renewal of negative consequences in your personal and professional life.

To overcome your addiction, therefore, the basis of 12 step rehab holds that you must abstain totally and completely. However, you will need to get help through a recovery program to ensure that you can face all challenges you encounter and overcome the barriers that are thrown at you. This way, you will be better able to ensure that you do not relapse.

Today, most 12 step rehabilitation programs provide education and support that you can rely on as you start navigating the often rocky path to full recovery and long term sobriety and abstinence.

As a participant in one of these programs, you will progress through the steps - one at a time - with each step proceeding seamlessly over to the next one.

History Of 12 Step Rehab

As we mentioned earlier, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) came up with the idea for this model of recovery after its founder - Bill Wilson - wrote the ideas he had been developing after his experience with alcoholism and vision of addiction recovery. He also wrote about the many positive effects people talked about fighting their alcoholism and sharing their stories.

Today, the foundation of 12 step rehab is in the Big Book, authored by Bill Wilson. In it, he developed the 12 steps by synthesizing concepts from many other different teachings he had come across - including but not limited to the 6 step program that originated with the Oxford Group.

Originally, however, the 12 steps were based on a spiritual and Christian foundation that required recovering addicts to seek help from a greater, higher power and from peers who were facing and battling the same struggles with addiction.

Thus, Wilson wrote the Big Book primarily as a guide for anyone who was unable to attend the fellowship meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. However, the book soon became the primary model used in most 12 step programs.

Since then, it has been adopted as the premise for many other self-help and addiction peer support programs looking to encourage and enforce behavioral change. Apart from AA, therefore, many other 12 step rehab offshoots exist today - including but not limited to Heroin Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

Historically speaking, however, 12 step recovery programs are relatively new and they differ greatly from most of the earliest perceptions of substance abuse and addiction. In the past, for instance, drug and alcohol abuse were not considered to be serious enough to warrant further scientific study, rehabilitation, and treatment. At the time, the general consensus was that substance users and addicts were responsible for their conditions and could not be suffering from any disease or the addictive and mind altering potential of most substances.

Many people also believed that anyone who abused these substances as a habit and norm decided not to control themselves and had to be punished. As a direct result, additional people continued believing that alcohol abuse was not dangerous and chronic substance abuse could be taken as someone sinning and erring by their own fault.

An alcoholic and former banker on Wall Street, Bill Wilson started making rounds at different rehabilitation centers and groups - including but not limited to the Oxford Group. During these rounds, he discovered that certain aspects of the methodology used by the Oxford Group were highly effective. However, he also observed that most of the ineffectiveness of the other aspects made the group less valuable to an addict. As a direct result, he decided to come up with his own addiction treatment and recovery ideology and hold meetings.

At the start, his aim was to help himself and Dr. Bob Smith - a colleague - overcome their alcoholism using the new method he was building. He also envisioned the method to be based on spiritual healing and not just on the overtly religious. Additionally, Wilson wanted to make accounts for the perspective of the disease that had been the most compelling and popular understanding of substance abuse and addiction at the time.

After forming a new support group - Alcoholics Anonymous - and breaking his new method down into 12 steps, Wilson ensured that the teachings would gain rapid momentum all through the United States.

Since then, these 12 steps have virtually remaining unaltered. They have also been applied to a wide range of other conditions - including but not limited to cocaine addiction, and narcotics addiction. Additionally, they have been applied in programs designed to act as support groups for the friends and families of addicts.

Since the popularity and longevity of most treatment methods can largely be attributed to their versatility, effectiveness, and success rates, it is clear why 12 step rehab is so widespread today. Even though it was first conceived as a basic blueprint to enforce spiritual recovery, the 12 step method is now accessible to people from almost all faiths - including but not limited to agnostics and atheists.

How 12 Step Rehab Works

As we mentioned earlier, the main premise of 12 step rehab is that recovering addicts can help each other achieve abstinence and sobriety after a period of intensive substance abuse and addiction - as well as maintain the gains they have made. They achieve these feats by attending meetings where they get to talk about their shared experiences with addiction recovery as well as support one another in their efforts to maintain full abstinence.

According to recent research from the Addiction Research and Theory journal, these practices of abstinence as espoused through 12 step rehab account for higher levels of flourishing and successful recovery in the long term.

Studies have also shown that people who are able to remain abstinent from their favorite substances of abuse have a higher likelihood of flourishing and succeeding in the long run. In fact, about 40.7% of all participants were found to have flourished within 12 months - in stark comparison to the 12.4% who end up languishing.

From this study, people who abstain completely and irrevocability - as espoused and promoted through 12 step rehab - experience better outcomes related to their mental health in comparison to those who are unable to abstain.

That said, 12 step rehabilitation programs give participants a solid framework that they can use to surrender to a higher power, give up their substance abuse and addiction, process and understand their experiences, and start living a new lifestyle free of these intoxicating and mind altering patterns but filled with new habits and patterns.

A recent article published in Psych Central titled Recovery Using the 12 Steps also shows that following 12 step rehab can help you build various transformative tools and practices related to your emotional and mental health and wellness. These include but are not limited to:

  • Achieving self-acceptance and understanding that you are able to change your habits and behavior
  • Every tool that can make the recovery process a daily, continuous, and never ending practice all through your life
  • Feeling compassion for anyone who has been affected by addiction as well as for people who are struggling with a similar addiction
  • Observing yourself and being aware of all the behaviors that formed a part of or emanated from your substance use and addiction, as well other habits that can help promote your self-reliance
  • Opportunities to practice self-restraint and improve your self-esteem in your natural positive capabilities
  • Surrendering to the truth that you are addicted and making conscious decision to look for greater control over your life through external help and guidance
  • The natural ability to recognize that you have a problem with addiction and admit to the problem

To this end, the 12 step rehab model provides these tools and experiences to ensure that you are able to change any behavior related to your substance abuse and addiction. It can also help you overcome your addiction and get started on the road to full recovery and abstinence in the long term.

Components Of 12 Step Rehab

12 step rehab is comprised of a comprehensive list of 12 basic steps. These steps include:

Step 1: Admitting that you are powerless over addictive, intoxicating, and mind altering substances and that your life has become unmanageable since you started abusing these substances

Step 2: Believing that there is a greater and higher power that you can count on to restore your sanity and normalcy

Step 3: Making a conscious decision to turn your will and life over to God's care as you understand God to be

Step 4: Searching yourself and making a fearless, truthful, and moral inventory of yourself

Step 5: Admitting to God, to yourself, and to other human beings the true, exact, and unaltered nature of all your wrongs

Step 6: Being ready to get God to remove all your defects of character and wrongs

Step 7: Asking God humbly to remove all your shortcomings

Step 8: Making a list of everyone you have hurt and harmed and developing a honest willingness to start making amends to every one of them

Step 9: Making direct amends to the people you listed in step 8 above as far as you possibly can except where doing so might injure them (or others)

Step 10: Continuing to take your own personal inventory and promptly admitting it when you are wrong

Step 11: Seeking through meditation and prayer to improve your conscious contact and relationship with God - as you understand Him to be - while praying to know more of His will for you and for the power to make this will become true

Step 12: Having experienced spiritual awakening due to the 12 steps, you try to carry the same message to other substance abusers and addicts and continue practicing all these new principles in all your future affairs

Variations Of 12 Step Rehab

After its origins with Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 step rehab has been widely adopted by many other groups and altered to fit in with their addiction treatment and recovery programs. Today, many other groups - such as Narcotics Anonymous - count on this form of recovery in the exact way they were conceived through AA. However, others have changed the steps so that they can fit better into their own culture, needs, and programs.

For instance, one group of recovering addicts of Native American origins combined the 12 step path of recovery with the Native American Medicine Wheel. In the process, they created a new program that is specifically designed to assist indigenous Americans struggling with drug addiction and alcoholism. This new program is now known as the Medicine Wheel and 12 Steps addiction treatment program.

Other groups have also create similar ideas while integrating the basic ideas from 12 step rehab into cultural frameworks that make greater sense for their members and - as a direct result - most of the members can relate with.

Today, some recovering addicts are extremely uncomfortable with the notion of religion and a higher supreme being as espoused through 12 step rehab. This is because the 12 step approach to addiction treatment originated from a largely Christian and religious point of view and background.

Therefore, people who are not from the Christian religion have also modified these 12 steps to ensure that they can still connect with the basic structure and premise of 12 step rehab while still referring to their particular spiritual or religious practice.

Additionally, many different non-religious 12 step recovery groups have completely modified the original steps to ensure that they can fit with a more secular view and model. These groups mostly cater to people who are atheistic or agnostic and ensure that they can still practice the program and its teachings without necessarily being compelled to adhere to religious beliefs that they do not necessarily hold.

Combining 12 Step Rehab With Other Treatments

According to a recent publication by NIDA, many short term inpatient treatment programs have developing their own ideas by using modified approaches to the 12 step program so that their patients can follow through the 12 step fellowship and model of recovery. By so doing, they are able to provide their clients with the all-too important structure that they can follow post-treatment to ensure that they maintain the gains they made and continue on the road to long term recovery and abstinence.

Additionally, many other programs use these 12 steps. They do so by encouraging their patients to attend 12 step group and support meetings and incorporate the basic tenets of these steps in their addiction treatment and recovery practices.

However, even though 12 step facilitation programs might not follow all the original steps, they generally advise and encourage recovering addicts to use the 12 step methodology to find respite from their addiction, substance use disorders, and any co-occurring mental health disorders. They do so hoping that their clients will eventually transition to full blow 12 step programs after they check out of the rehabilitation and treatment facility if only to be able to maintain their newfound sobriety.

In the same way, some treatment centers have completely based their entire model of service around the main ideas espoused through 12 step rehab. These centers, however, might also provide research based and evidence based services and also promote scientific understanding of the treatment of substance abuse and addiction.

Still, they are able to incorporate the basic practical, psychological, and spiritual practices promoted through the 12 steps model of addiction recovery. As a direct result, clients in these programs benefit from an all-encompassing form of care that is designed to support them through the rehabilitation process. They also receive the tools that they might be able to use later to ensure that they maintain long term recovery even after checking out of the treatment facility.

Common 12 Step Alternatives

However, not everyone likes, is interested, or believes in the 12 step model of addiction recovery - even with all the variations we've discussed above and the organizations and facilities that promote these 12 steps.

Among these are people who do not want to base their recovery and sobriety on the premise that they are unable to control their substance abuse and addiction - especially when they can find evidence of other alternative ways of practicing the inner control required for full recovery.

The programs that are based on this new model of active control include the Moderation Management and SMART Recovery forms of addiction treatment. These programs use the typical peer-sharing and support model used by 12 step rehab. However, they do not compel their clients to surrender anything to anyone.

Instead, they promote the personal self-empowerment of individual clients to ensure that they can exercise greater control over their recovery from and treatment of substance abuse and addiction.

12 Step Rehabs Vs Non-12 Step Rehabs

12 step rehab has been found to be effective and millions of fully recovered former addicts swear by these steps. However, these programs are not the only option you have when you decide to seek treatment, recovery, and/or aftercare after a period of addition.

Today, there are many other non-12 step programs that are just as effective and popular. This means that you need to weight all your options before you make the final decision about the program you will use and rely on as you continue battling your substance abuse.

That said, many people have 12 step rehab to be beneficial for many different reasons - including but not limited to:

a) Convenience

12 step programs tend to operate on set, regular schedules. In most cases, you might also find that they are not too demanding - especially in comparison to the time you spend undergoing inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation.

In 12 step programs, therefore, you can proceed on your journey to full recovery at your own preferred pace. This is mostly because the system is highly structured so you won't have to inconvenience yourself.

b) Accessibility

In the same way, 12 step rehab is easy to locate and access. Irrespective of your location, therefore, you should be able to reach one of these programs. In fact, they have been around for such a long time and have earned such a primary place in American history and modern culture that many continue being formed on a daily basis.

Consequently, whether you are in a large city where you do not know anyone or in a small town or rural village, you can be sure that there will be a 12 step program near you.

c) Structure

Some recovering addicts have said that the non-12 step programs they have encountered are not tailored in the most effective way. However, few have said this about 12 step rehab.

Today, these 12 steps are so famous that they are used all around the world. This is primarily because the structure is easy to navigate and just about every recovering addict can use them to guide their journey to long term sobriety and abstinence.

However, 12 step rehab is like any other form of addiction recovery and treatment program in the sense that it has its own downsides and disadvantages. Consider the following:

a) Incompatibility

Some people say that the system used through 12 step rehab does not work for them. This is primarily because 12 step programs are proudly and openly religious in background, foundation, and nature.

As a direct result, if you do not value religion and faith, you might have a hard time following these programs and steps to find the meaningful and long term sobriety you are looking for.

b) Volunteerism

On the other hand, 12 step rehab uses a system based on volunteers. Although you could take this as one of the benefits of these programs, some recovering addicts might not be comfortable with the fact that the organizations are run by volunteers and highly centered on community. Among these people are those who might prefer a professional touch to their recovery treatment.

In the same way, some people find non-12 step rehabilitation programs to be more useful and beneficial to them. Some of the unique aspects of most of these programs include:

i) Non-Faith Based Approach

Religion is not always an important aspect of the personal lives of many people. Therefore, when it is added into the addiction treatment and recovery experience, it might prove to be confusing and difficult for these people.

In these cases, such people might find that non-12 step rehabilitation provides them with better chances of full recovery and sobriety in the long term.

ii) Many Options

On the other hand 12 step rehab is highly based on 12 basic steps. This means that you are highly likely to experience the same teachings and backgrounds irrespective of the program you choose.

Therefore, if you have tried these 12 steps in the past or are looking for something a bit different, you might find that non-12 step programs are better suited to your particular needs.

Still, even though these non-12 step rehabilitation programs and treatment formats provide a valuable alternatively, it does not necessarily mean that they are always better. In fact, they also come with their own downsides and disadvantages, including:

  • Different experiences do not always guarantee full recovery
  • The effectiveness of non-12 step programs is sometimes difficult to measure because most of them are new and, as a result, untested

Overall, 12 step rehab is among the most popular of all addiction treatment and recovery programs in existence today. It is mostly effective because of the fact that many people abuse alcohol and drugs because they feel so deeply unfulfilled that they think that their lives are meaningless and useless. To counter these experiencing, 12 step rehab attempts to connect such people to a higher being and a spiritual awakening - through which they can address these inner needs. They also guide clients towards looking for and finding meaning and fulfillment in their lives - which eventually motivates and causes them to change their habits related to drinking and substance abuse. In the process, 12 step rehab helps many people get sober and remain so - hence their relative popularity and success rates.