As you transition from an existence clouded by drugs or alcohol to a life of clarity and purpose, there are many unknowns.
Dealing with them may seem daunting at first, so it’s helpful to have a good understanding of what to expect. For example, now that you’re getting back into a daily routine at home, you may be curious as to whether a 12-Step program will help you avoid relapse and find stability and direction.
There are many 12-Step programs designed to support people recovering from substance abuse disorders and other addictive behaviors. As you know, Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, deals specifically with alcoholism. Other organizations that follow the 12-Step guidelines include:
- Cocaine Anonymous: The organization states it’s open to “anyone who wants to stop using cocaine and all other mind-altering substances—including alcohol and other drugs.”
- Co-Dependent Anonymous: This group “is a fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships…we gather together to support and share with each other in a journey of self-discovery.” It’s adopted the language of AA to develop the 12 Promises.
- Crystal Meth Anonymous: Unfortunately, this dangerous drug is still a serious problem in the U.S., which makes recovery all the more challenging. Former users of meth rely on the fellowship of this community “to share their experiences, strength, and hope in how they stay clean and sober.”
- Narcotics Anonymous: The primary message of this organization is “a set of principles written so simply that we can follow them in our daily lives. There are no strings attached…we’re not connected with any political, religious, or law enforcement groups.”
- Dual-Recovery Anonymous: A more focused group with the intent to support individuals with substance abuse diagnoses as well as psychiatric diagnoses—also referred to as co-occurring conditions. Its mission is to help people “recover from both chemical dependency and emotional or psychiatric illness by focusing on relapse prevention and actively improving the quality of life.”
These are just a few programs working with some semblance of a 12-Step structure to extend accountability and community to people, as well as offer additional resources for maintaining a sober lifestyle. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a more detailed list, but you might have greater success talking with your counselor or primary care provider about which organization best serves your specific needs.
What to Expect in a 12-Step Program
The 12-Steps establish a framework by which an individual can come to terms with the nature of his or her condition; take positive action and make amends; and continue to develop a support network to aid the process of recovery.
To help you prepare for participation, here are some things to expect about a 12-Step program.
- Since many groups cater to particular illnesses and conditions, there may be some variance in the outline of the 12-Steps. For example, AA’s outline is matched by Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Step One is: AA: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” NA: “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Co-Dependents Anonymous doesn’t have 12-Steps, but 12 Promises. The first promise is: “I know a new sense of belonging. The feeling of emptiness and loneliness will disappear.”
- Often, an organization will have a book, booklet, or documents available for online download that lists all steps and the deeper principles for each of them. This information may also have the names and numbers of people who are willing to help someone in need.
- The primary foundation of a 12-Step program is a spiritual component, but most people say you can choose to incorporate this—or not. There are plenty of 12-Step group members who prefer to not release themselves to a god or higher power. There are even secular 12-Step programs that remove this component but otherwise maintain the philosophy.
- Anonymity is still an important part of the group support process. Also, a strong tenet established by AA in 1935, the most important aspects of anonymity is to make people feel safe and protected. You’re not always required to give your name, such as “Hi. My name is…and I’m a….” You can choose to engage with others or keep to yourself. You may be asked to acknowledge that you’re new to the group, but if you’d prefer not to identify yourself, you don’t have to.
- Meetings are normally held in churches, community centers, and other public spaces. Usually there’s no cost to attend and no dues for membership. You can go to any meeting, anytime, anywhere.
- Most meetings are led by a chairperson, who may or may not have a health professional affiliation. More likely, he or she is a volunteer also in recovery.
- Some meetings have a theme, a speaker, or a review of a particular Step at the center of discussion. Others may be more open-ended. In some groups, individuals who are quieter may be called upon to help create balance in the group’s conversation so that more demonstrative people aren’t doing all the sharing.
- Many people are concerned they’ll have to hug, pray, or share every last detail of their addiction experience. The most important thing to remember about the 12-Step process is that while these factors might make up a meeting, you’re not obligated in any way to participate in something you’re not comfortable with or just prefer not to do.
See if the 12-Step Process Is for You
Residential treatment and intensive outpatient services at Twin Lakes include 12-Step work in various levels of therapy and access to regular meetings. This is the perfect opportunity to take the mystery out of this process and determine if such a program will support your wellness journey.