For individuals struggling with substance use disorders, 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous often play a vital role in the recovery progress.
Taking the time to understand the benefits of a 12-Step approach can help you decide how to best structure your continuing care plan.
5 Key Benefits of 12-Step Programs
The 12-Steps were first published in the 1939 book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism. Since then, the 12-Steps have been adapted and used as the foundation of a number of programs helping people recover from substance abuse and process addictions alike.
Everyone’s needs are different, but the enduring popularity of the 12-Steps can be attributed to five key benefits: accessibility, open interpretation, anonymity, peer support, and inspiration.
1. The 12-Steps Provide an Accessible Path to Change
Realizing that your substance use has spiraled out of control is a painful experience, but the 12-Step program gives you an immediate plan of action. You don’t need to make an appointment or pay a fee to attend a meeting. There are meetings in every city in the country, with larger areas often having multiple meetings per day. You can go as often as you want. If you’re not ready to share, you can simply listen to what others have to say.
Making major life changes isn’t easy, but the 12-Steps offer a path that has worked for millions of people from around the world. When you don’t know where to begin, starting with the first step allows you to work towards a brighter future for yourself.
2. You Don’t Need to Follow a Specific Religion to Benefit from the 12-Steps
The 12-Steps are spiritual in nature, but not affiliated with any religion or denomination.
You can interpret your higher power however you choose. You will be welcomed with open arms, even if you don’t attend church services regularly and you’re not sure what you believe.
If you’re already a devoted Christian who regularly attends worship services, there are several online resources that explain how the 12-Steps can be paired with Bible study. For example, the 12-Step.org website provides scripture readings for each of the steps.
3. 12-Step Programs Are Anonymous
Although struggles with addiction are fairly common and nothing to be ashamed of, the unfortunate truth is that there is often a stigma surrounding substance abuse. For parents, professionals, and others who are worried about protecting their personal privacy, the anonymous nature of the 12-Step program offers comfort. You can attend a meeting, discuss what’s bothering you, and not worry that your personal issues will be the subject of gossip around town.
However, since the expectation of privacy goes both ways, remember that you must work to protect the confidentiality of what others share during meetings. Breaking the trust that is the foundation of the 12-Step approach is considered a grave offense.
4. The Program Provides a Built-in Support System
Since 12-Step groups are a form of peer support, members are encouraged to rely on each other to stay sober. Your sponsor uses his or her experience with the program to provide advice on dealing with recovery challenges, while other members provide accountability when you are struggling.
For someone who feels as though their friends and family don’t understand how hard it is to be in recovery, this support system is a tremendous asset. Knowing that you are not alone in your efforts to lead a healthier lifestyle can provide the encouragement you need to stay on the right track.
5. Seeing Others Succeed Is Inspiring
Watching members of your 12-Step group grow and become more confident in their sobriety can provide you with a steady source of inspiration for your own recovery. This is particularly important if you grew up in an environment surrounded by people who abused drugs and alcohol and feel as though you are lacking in sober role models.
Success stories can also provide you with actionable tips to apply to your own life. Knowing what worked for someone else can make you think about how to solve the problem you’re facing in a new way, whether you’re looking for a job or trying to rebuild trust with a loved one.
There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Answer
Although the 12-Steps have helped millions of people achieving lasting sobriety, this approach doesn’t resonate with everyone. If you’ve tried 12-Step support groups and found they weren’t right for you, an alternative such as SMART Recovery might be a better choice. Your counselor or therapist can help you investigate available continuing care resources to find the approach that best addresses your specific recovery concerns.