A 12-Step program that provides structure and support is a valuable addiction recovery tool. To make the most of what you can gain from participation, it helps to understand how these types of groups generally work and what you can expect.
There Are 12-Step Programs for Many Conditions
While Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the foundational program, it’s not the only one, so if you’re struggling with drugs, family members with addictions, eating disorders, process addictions such as sex, shopping, or gambling—or even working too much, there’s likely a 12-Step program that can help you.
If you don’t currently have a therapist or primary care provider who can direct you to a group, here’s a comprehensive list. Individual websites will outline local resources.
It’s important to remember that these support groups aren’t medical treatment, nor are they intended to be. If you think you have a problem, attending a 12-Step group might shed some light on the details of your condition, direct you to some resources, and help you find other people who understand what you’re going through and who can share with you their stories of treatment and recovery.
The 12 Steps Provide a Roadmap
The purpose of the 12 Steps is to offer a framework by which an individual can:
- Come to terms with their condition;
- Take positive action and make amends;
- Create a support network to aid their recovery process.
Many programs help people work through the 12 Steps for this transformation. Other organizations might call them 12 promises, affirmations, or some other type of guiding principles. Some groups, like AA, have a book to follow and learn about the process, while others have other documents that detail each step. Nevertheless, the goal is the same: to provide a deliberate path of progress that forms long-lasting recovery and renewed health.
There’s not a deadline for completing a 12-Step program. In fact, you might discover that you go back over a few steps as you continue to rediscover your whole self, ensuring a deeper connection and more authentic realizations. Additionally, not every step will resonate with you in the same way, and that’s okay, too. The essential point to remember is to use this structured support to your advantage, recognizing that the chaotic life you previously experienced doesn’t serve your intentions now.
Flexible Meeting Participation
Whether in person or online, attending regular 12-Step meetings is the backbone of experiencing success with this program. This means you might be in a meeting at least once a week—or every day. It all depends on what you’re going through and how vital the program is to your recovery. The majority of 12-Step meetings are free, and you can choose any meeting time at various locations. Some might have speakers or themed conversations, while others are more unstructured based on the needs of the people at that time.
Many attendees enjoy the camaraderie of seeing familiar faces at their meetings and find this grounding an important aspect of their recovery. Others prefer to stay as anonymous as possible—and this wish is still honored in most groups. You don’t have to share your story, chat around the coffee pot, or even provide a name if you don’t want to. Each meeting is bound to provide a safe haven for all to feel welcome, regardless of how much they participate.
However, keep this in mind: it’s a support group. Being able to trust others and acknowledge your feelings and experiences will help you stay connected in the world. This lifeline can only be established with a little give and take.
Commit to Working With a Sponsor
Most 12-Step programs, especially those for addiction recovery, have a sponsorship program. This is a partnership between you and another individual who’s more than one year into recovery and familiar with the process.
Your sponsor isn’t supposed to be your new best friend as much as a guiding light through the program. You’ll most certainly experience down days or be triggered. You will at times feel resentment, pain, guilt, shame, or fear. Sometimes it will seem easier to give up than push forward. Your sponsor has navigated all this and more and will help you use the program to come out on the other side.
Having a sponsor is a vital component of program participation. Learn more from our post on effective sponsorship.
You Can Choose to Be Spiritual—or Not
The basic tenets of AA and some other 12-Step programs are rooted in spirituality. But although the steps still often refer to God or a higher power, participants are encouraged to define these references any way they choose—it doesn’t have to involve spirituality. This helps reduce barriers to the other forms of support a program might provide.
However, if you’re certain you won’t find the recovery footing you need in a more traditional 12-Step process, consider these other options:
- LifeRing Secular Recovery
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety
- SMART Recovery
- Women for Sobriety
- Yoga of 12-Step Recovery
The goal is to recognize that recovery reinforcement takes many forms. Many people not only understand what you’re going through, but are willing to find strength in vulnerability and work through the process together.
How to Move Forward at Twin Lakes
Many residential and outpatient centers for drug and alcohol addiction treatment incorporate some form of a 12-Step program. Twin Lakes is no exception: our comprehensive approach includes various types of therapy, relapse prevention planning, 12-Step meetings, and continuing care to assure individuals have a reliable circle of progressive support. If you’re ready for effective treatment, talk with a member of our admission staff today.