What is AA’s 12 – Step Program?

How does it work in a drug or alcohol residential treatment program?

Since its founding in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has provided help to millions of men and women who once drank to excess, were finally able to acknowledge they could not handle alcohol, and, through the support of AA’s Fellowship, found a new, healthier way of life that excluded drinking and drugs.

At AA and NA meetings, participants’ identities are not divulged, and only first names are used. Participants who are relatively far along in recovery and have remained abstinent for some period of time can serve as sponsors to a new members. New members who are struggling to stay sober can turn to their sponsors for support and guidance.

One of the biggest advantages of 12-step programs is they are readily available throughout the world. You can go to meetings several times a day if you need extra help. The meetings are free and organized on the local level. Some groups focus primarily on educational work and lectures, while others organize social activities, such as parties and picnics.

Therapists often recommend 12-step programs to their clients in recovery, because these groups have a solid record (more than 75 years and counting) of helping people. The AA/NA approach requires recovering individuals to work through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous:

Simply put, the AA program operates by having recovered alcoholics share the stories of their own problem drinking, describe the sobriety they have found in AA, and then invite the newcomer to join the peer-based supportive Fellowship. The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in 12-Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

Newcomers to AA are not asked to accept or follow the 12-Steps in their entirety if they feel unwilling or unable to do so. They are, however, encouraged to keep an open mind, to attend meetings at which recovered alcoholics share their personal experiences in achieving sobriety, and to read AA literature describing and interpreting the program.

AA emphasizes that all available medical evidence indicates that alcoholism is a progressive disease, that it cannot be cured in the ordinary sense of the term, but that it can be arrested through total abstinence from alcohol in any form. All of AA’s efforts, including the 12-Steps, are focused on helping its members achieve and maintain sobriety.

Aftercare Treatment and 12-Step Programs

Aftercare treatment takes place after a person leaves residential drug rehabilitation and returns home. Most people go back to their families and former jobs or schools, but they need to remain in counseling in order to remain sober and drug-free. Key components of aftercare treatment usually include individual therapy, family counseling, marital counseling, and local support meetings.

Twelve-step programs or similar support meetings are based on the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous, which was founded in 1935. Alcohol Anonymous and the newer Narcotic Anonymous offer free support meetings where people with similar problems meet and help each other by reinforcing each member’s recovery.

At AA and NA meetings, participants’ identities are not divulged, and only first names are used. Participants who are relatively far along in recovery and have remained abstinent for some period of time can serve as sponsors to a new members. New members who are struggling to stay sober can turn to their sponsors for support and guidance.

One of the biggest advantages of 12-step programs is they are readily available throughout the world. You can go to meetings several times a day if you need extra help. The meetings are free and organized on the local level. Some groups focus primarily on educational work and lectures, while others organize social activities, such as parties and picnics.

For people who do not like the idea of surrendering to a higher power or of admitting that they are powerless over drugs – or who have a problem with some other aspect of the 12-step approach – alternative recovery support groups exist. Although these groups are not as prevalent as 12-step ones such as AA or NA, you can often find one in your area, especially if you live in a large city.