Addiction Treatment
Addiction Treatment

12 Step Alcohol Addiction Treatment

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Medically reviewed: 09/07/2018
Last updated: 05/13/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 6 minutes

The 12-step process used in alcohol addiction treatment programs can provide alcohol help to people who suffer from alcohol use disorder build new, healthier lifestyles. The 12-step process was developed by Alcoholics Anonymous in the early 1930s and has helped many people gain strength and hope while working toward achieving long-term abstinence from alcohol. The 12-steps that make up the program provide participants with a pathway to recovery and staying sober.

The 12-step AA process does not work overnight. However, there are 3, 4, 5, and 6-month programs for people who are ready to recover from alcohol addiction. An estimated 60% of those who join Alcoholics Anonymous attend meetings on a regular basis, while many of the remaining 40% eventually resume attendance at future dates.

Anyone who decides to break free of alcohol addiction can benefit greatly from the guidance and support offered through 12-step programs. Attending AA meetings regularly can help people learn how to cope without the need for alcohol in everyday life efficiently.

When Should People Begin 12-step Programs?

Anyone who has been abstinent from alcohol for 24 hours can begin a 12-step program like AA. However, some programs welcome those who have been abstinent for less than 24 hours if they’re ready to begin the recovery process.

In order to properly work through the 12-steps, the person recovering from alcohol addiction should find an AA Sponsor who can help them write and understand each step. However, finding a Sponsor can take time, in which case the person can work on breaking down their denial and accepting they have a drinking problem. Some addiction treatment centers introduce the concept of the 12-step program as early on as possible to prepare patients for joining the program when they’re ready.

How Do 12-step Programs Benefit Those in Recovery?

12-step programs and support groups can be extremely beneficial to those recovering from addiction. Many addiction recovery centers combine the 12-steps with support-group attendance and follow-up psychotherapy to encourage the highest success level of long-term recovery.

As participants work through the steps, they create new lifestyles that don’t rely on alcohol as a coping tool. In effect, 12-step programs encourage each member to take an honest look at themselves and take the necessary steps to become the people they want to be.

Every step in the program targets a different area of a person’s life. As participants progress through the steps, they gradually uncover the thinking and behavioral patterns that led to drinking. The first step in the program covers how each step can target specific areas. Admitting a drinking problem exists requires a fundamental change in perspective on behalf of the person recovering from addiction. The following 11 steps go on to address the personal and spiritual aspects of drinking and the desire to get well.

Step 1: Honesty

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Honesty about your addiction is the first step to a successful recovery. Even though your family and friends may already be well aware of your alcohol addiction, admitting you have a problem can bring relief to you and your loved ones, and launch the healing process.

Step 2: Faith

“We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Faith is a very important step in the 12-step alcohol addiction treatment program. Once you have faith in yourself that you can recover from this addiction, higher power can continue the process.

Step 3: Surrender

“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

After you have gained faith in yourself, you will need to make the decision to surrender and turn all of your problems over to your higher power.  will allow you to make changes that can last forever.

Step 4: Soul Searching

“We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

The 12-step alcohol addiction treatment program is a process. It’s important to take the time to soul search and find what it is you want in life, then make efforts to obtain it.

Step 5: Integrity

“We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

This step requires you to take time to admit your wrongs. You need to admit your wrongs not only to yourself but to others and the higher power. Many people say this is one of the most difficult steps to overcome.

Step 6: Acceptance

“We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Once you have admitted your addictions and wrongs, it is time to accept and release them. You may have become comfortable with many of the wrongs in your life. Learning to accept and release these wrongs will help you move on and experience a successful recovery.

Step 7: Humility

“We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

Sometimes self-will and determination aren’t enough to overcome alcohol addiction. Sometimes, asking your higher power to remove your shortcomings can be the ticket you need to overcome the addiction and character traits you have held onto for so long.

Step 8: Willingness

“We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

Having the willingness to make a list of people you may have harmed before coming into recovery is a very important step in alcohol addiction treatment. This step can be very difficult for some and may take time. But with encouragement and support, this step is very obtainable.

Step 9: Forgiveness

“We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Making amends with people who were harmed directly by your addiction and accepting their forgiveness is a must in a successful recovery. However, this step may not be done with everyone and should only be done if it won’t cause injury to you or others.

Step 10: Maintenance

“We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”

During the 12-steps of alcohol addiction treatment, you will be asked to take a personal inventory of your wrongs. It is important in the recovery process to promptly admit to your wrongs.

Step 11: Making Contact

“We 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.”

When making contact with God, you will be able to discover his plan for you. This step can be done in multiple different ways, including through prayer and meditation.

Step 12: Service

“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.”

The service you take on is simply the “how it works” guide in the alcohol addiction treatment program. Once you experience a spiritual awakening, you will be able to carry this message to other alcoholics and help them practice and recover from their addiction.

Alternatives to 12-Step Programs

Some people seek alternative treatments to AA under the belief that AA is religious since the AA philosophy places heavy emphasis on relinquishing control to God or a Higher Power. However, the 12-step program is purely spiritual, and designed to help re-establish values and morals that may have been lost, damaged, and overwhelmed by an addictive lifestyle. Any religious faith or belief system can be worked into AA, but the steps can be just as easily worked without these components.

Any references to God or a Higher Power are concepts meant to be conceived individually and involve a source of help the person can trust. The purpose of these references is to help those in recovery know that they’re not alone, and that help is available.

SMART Recovery and LifeRing Recovery are just some alcohol addiction recovery programs that don’t use 12-step support structures. The SMART Recovery approach places great emphasis on positivity and uses tools and techniques applied in business management practices to help people in recovery achieve and maintain abstinence. LifeRing Recovery uses a positive social reinforcement approach that requires participants to develop individual steps and goals that structure or map out their recovery paths.

When researching alcohol addiction treatment centers, ask about the availability of 12-step programs. Many inpatient and outpatient rehab centers offer 12-step programs to support those in recovery.