The 12 step program approach to alcohol and drug treatment has been in use since the early 1930s. The 12 steps that make up the program provide participants with a pathway to recovery and staying sober.
A 2006 study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows 60 percent of those who join Alcoholics Anonymous attend meetings on a regular basis while many of the remaining 40 percent eventually resume attendance at a future date.
Anyone who’s made a firm decision to break alcohol’s grip on their life can benefit from the guidance and support offered through 12 step programs. Regular attendance at meetings offers those struggling with addictions a place to learn how to cope without the need for alcohol in everyday life.
The 12 Step Program Approach
A key component of 12 step programs is a willingness and desire on the part of each member to create lasting change in their lives. With a clear resolution in mind, 12 step programs offer a step-by-step approach to dealing with whatever issues drive a person to drink and instilling healthy ways of coping with everyday life.
Each 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 lead to drinking. A prime example of how each step targets specific areas is the first step in the program. Admitting a drinking problem exists requires a fundamental change in perspective on the part of the alcoholic. The following 11 steps go on to address the personal and spiritual aspects of drinking and the desire to get well.
Once a person decides to stop drinking, steps must be taken to deal with the daily stressors and environments that trigger drinking behaviors. With 12 step programs, participants learn to develop the types of coping skills needed to maintain sobriety. Areas dealt with include:
- How to handle friends and relatives who remain unsupportive
- How to handle cravings
- Identifying destructive thinking patterns and replacing them with positive thoughts and actions
- Developing a positive self-image
As participants work through the steps, they create a new lifestyle that doesn’t rely on alcohol as a coping tool. In effect, 12 step programs encourage each member to take an honest look at them self and take the necessary steps to become the person they want to be.
The alcohol addiction recovery process relies heavily on the support and guidance of people who understand the issues and challenges an addict faces. Participants in 12 step programs are in their own individual stages of recovery with many members having maintained sobriety for long periods of time. This bodes well for newcomers who may still be experiencing strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Long-time participants understand exactly what newcomers go through, which makes them particularly adept at helping new members feel comfortable as part of the group.
As sharing personal experiences is a big part of 12 step programs, many participants hear their own life stories recounted by other group members. These types of interactions offer the strength, supports and courage needed to work the steps and overcome an alcohol addiction.