18 Jan 2023

What is the 12-Step Program?

The 12-Step recovery program was originally promoted by Alcoholic Anonymous. The program is a free peer group offered nationwide at treatment centers and rehabilitation clinics. This group is a very important part of long-term addiction recovery. Attending these groups provides a sense of community, holds you accountable and refrains those in recovery from relapsing. Peer support groups like the 12-Step Program and its alternatives are most effective when combined with formal addiction treatment.

The steps include:

  1. Admitting powerlessness over alcohol and that it has made life unmanageable.
  2. Coming to believe that a higher power can restore sanity and order.
  3. Making the decision to turn over personal will to the care of that higher power, devoting life to God.
  4. Making a searching and fearless moral inventory.
  5. Confessing to a higher power, to the self, and to another person the exact nature of personal wrongs and faults.
  6. Readying the self for that higher power to remove defects of character.
  7. Asking a higher power to remove those shortcomings.
  8. Making a list of all persons harmed and becoming willing to rectify those wrongs.
  9. Offering direct amends to such people wherever possible, except if doing so would cause them injury.
  10. Continuing to take a personal inventory; prompt admitting of any wrongs.
  11. Using prayer and meditation to strengthen the connection with the higher power.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these cumulative steps, spreading the message to those in need, and practicing these principles throughout life.

Until the 1970s, 12-step groups were the only option for those in recovery, but today there are many 12-step program alternatives for those who don’t relate to a focus on a higher power. While Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was the first, it has inspired many other 12 steps like:

  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA) for those with drug addictions
  • Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA) for those with bulimia, anorexia and other eating disorders
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) for those with sex addictions
  • Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) for those struggling with unhealthy relationship patterns
  • Gambling Anonymous (GA) for those with gambling addictions

In recent years, a number of alternatives for AA and other 12-step programs have risen in popularity. They function in similar ways to the 12-step with meetings run by members without the fundamental role of spirituality and faith.

Why Select an Alternative to the 12-step Program?

Although the 12-step program has been immensely popular for several decades, there are some drawbacks that have allowed alternative groups to form and flourish. The complaints generally fall into three main categories: research questions its effectiveness; the central focus of spirituality and faith; and the possibility of coercion among those forced to attend meetings. Acceptance House Sober Living has offered some information for 5 alternatives to 12-step programs.

5 Alternatives to 12-Step Programs

SMART Recovery

Refuge Recovery

Women for Sobriety

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.)

LifeRing Secular Recovery

No matter if you stick with the traditional 12-step or select one of the alternatives above, support groups are a critical part of long-term recovery. At Acceptance House Sober Living, our mission is to provide a safe and structured environment for individuals in recovery from substance use disorder. We offer individualized treatment plans including 12-step, alternatives to 12-step, therapy, co-occurring disorders treatment and more.

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