Addiction is a complex disease, which requires more than a strong desire to stop. It is often difficult for people to understand why or how someone becomes addicted. Assumptions that drug or alcohol abusers lack morals or possess a weak will are mistaken. Drugs, including alcohol, change the way the brain functions, making quitting a complicated process.
Fortunately, there are proven treatments and programs to help people overcome addiction. Behavioral therapies and addiction treatment medications are often beneficial to starting a new life without drugs or alcohol. Some people seek assistance through 12-step programs. Often, the most effective measures include a combination of behavioral therapy, medication, and 12-step programs. With help, it is possible for individuals struggling with addiction to change.
Taking Steps Toward Recovery
The 12-step approach to recovery developed first by Alcoholics Anonymous has proven effective for many people suffering from substance abuse. The 12 steps have been adapted to fit numerous addictions besides alcohol. The original 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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.
(Alcoholics Anonymous (June 2001). “Chapter 5: How It Works.” Alcoholics Anonymous (4th ed.). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.)
Most of the 12-step programs utilize the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or a derivative of them. Though the programs are vital to many people escaping drug and alcohol addiction, sometimes the 12 steps can be more efficient and better practiced in conjunction with some form of behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapies can also be a useful tool in recovery when not paired with the 12 steps.
Cognitive behavioral therapies help patients alter their actions and intents. The therapy helps people to handle situations, such as boredom and anxiety, which previously triggered them to drink or use drugs, by replacing old behaviors with new.
Every addict requires their unique approach to recovery, and the 12 steps and behavioral therapy are not the only ways, but these methods have been useful.
The Role of Faith
As the steps mention, belief in a higher power is vital to an effective 12-step program. For some people in recovery, a faith in God is already a part of their life. Others find developing the belief in a higher power a difficult hurdle to overcome. It is important to remember that most 12-step programs do not require belief in any particular higher power, only their conception.
Some programs use variations of the 12 steps with a particular holy God in mind. For those with strong religious beliefs, programs like Celebrate Recovery or the recovery program offered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints may be more appealing.
Other treatment centers offer 12 step practices that stay more secular and avoid the inclusion of a higher power.
It is essential to find the approach that works best for you.
Inclusion in a recovery community is integral to all recovery programs. Addiction is a disease that thrives on isolation. A sense of community develops between addicts in recovery. The primary reason for 12-step meetings is to help addicts in recovery connect with those searching for recovery. The fellowship that arises from the common bond of addiction allows people to get the support they need. Surrounding yourself with people who can relate to the various struggles of recovery is a powerful tool in the healing process.
There are several types of meeting available to those looking to start a 12-step program, according to Alcoholics Anonymous:
- Discussion Meetings: where people share experience, strength, and hope about the recovery process
- Speaker Meetings: where one person shares their story of addiction and recovery
- Step Meetings: which focus discussion on one or more of the steps
- Informational Meetings: where newcomers can find out more about the 12-step program of recovery
There are also sessions that cater to specific demographics, such as LGBT meetings, men’s meetings, and women’s meetings. In most areas, 12-step communities offer young people’s meetings. Finding a group of individuals that you can relate to, share with, and be comfortable around is an amazing part of the recovery journey. Addicts often feel isolated in their various struggles. Meeting others who have known the same difficulties, and overcome them, is a powerful experience.
Beyond the 12 Steps
The problem associated with ending addiction and starting into recovery is caused by several factors. People not only become physically and psychologically addicted to substances, but they also shape their environments, friends, and routines around their addiction. Separating yourself from both the chemicals and the environment by entering an inpatient treatment center can be very helpful. Residential treatment centers vary by the amenities they offer, but they are all centered around introducing patients to the beginning elements of recovery. Many feature detox centers to separate the addict safely from the substance. Many offer group and private therapy, as well as inform people about and introduce them to 12-step programs. After leaving an inpatient treatment center, a patient should be armed with the tools needed to make a beginning in recovery.
Taking the First Step
For those stuck in the mire of addiction, recovery can seem like a long and distant dream. But as with all things in life, the decision to get better begins with the first step.
Attending a 12-step meeting or seeking a treatment facility at [number] will help set your feet firmly on the path to recovery.