Understanding the History and Purpose of 12-Step Programs

Alcoholics Anonymous is credited with developing the first 12-step program back in the 1930s to give recovering addicts a sense of accomplishment and a way to measure their progress. While not everyone is convinced that these types of programs are as effective as program directors claim, AA has grown to include over 115,000 official meetings that serve the needs of over 2 million members. Clearly, there is a power to this strategy.

The How-To of Effective 12-Step Programs

At the core of any 12-step program are certain beliefs about the nature of addiction. For instance, one of the first program steps is admitting that individual willpower alone is not enough to achieve sobriety. An addict needs support from other people, and their recovery will require some sort of spiritual rejuvenation as well.

There are also two main goals to every program, which are defined as follows. First, for the 12 steps to work, the addict must accept the need for them to abstain from the addictive behavior with which they currently struggle. Second, they must give up their belief that they can stay sober without the support of a group.

It's important to note that these programs are not a method of treatment; they are support groups for those who are in the process of recovery. They do not take the place of professional therapy. Even when used properly though, these groups are not for everyone. While many members believe that their support group is directly responsible for their ability to remain sober after treatment, others find that the programs are just not a good fit, and look elsewhere for the support they need. This is perfectly acceptable, and the Rehab-Finder.Org counselors encourage you to be honest about what does and does not work for you.

By guiding members through a process of self-evaluation, program participants own their responsibility for staying sober in the future, and learn how to heal the relationships that have become strained or even broken because of substance abuse.

The steps are also a map that leads the recovering addict through several different changes. The first and most important are changes in thinking and emotional responses, which lay the foundation for healthier behavior choices. No less important though is the influence that a 12-step program has on a recovering abuser’s social situation. Now, instead of spending time exclusively with the people who only knew you as an addict, you have a support group of peers who see you as you can be. Perhaps most importantly though, the program helps you develop the one thing that arguably all recovering addicts need most: hope.

12-step programs are a powerful way to treat drug and alcohol addiction

The 12 Steps on Your Road to Recovery

While the specific steps can be modified to fit the need of the particular addiction, they generally follow the 12 steps outlined by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. I admit that I am powerless over my addiction, and that my life has become unmanageable.
  2. I believe that only a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity.
  3. I have made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, however I define that term.
  4. I have made and will continue to make a fearless inventory of myself.
  5. I admit to my God, myself, and to those I trust the exact nature of my wrongs.
  6. I am prepared for the assistance of my God in removing my defects in character.
  7. I’ve asked my God to remove my shortcomings.
  8. I will maintain a list of all the people I have harmed through my addiction, and be willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Unless it would bring harm to them or others, I will make direct amends to anyone I have harmed because of my addictive behavior.
  10. I continue to take personal inventory and immediately admit to any wrongdoing when it occurs.
  11. I seek to improve my conscious contact to my God through prayer and meditation, asking for knowledge and power to lead my life well.
  12. I share these steps and the spiritual awakening I have gained through them with other addicts, and continue to practice these principles in my daily life.


Rehab-Finder.Org counselors want to point out that while some 12-step programs do have a religious affiliation, the use of the word “God” is not meant to imply that you must convert to any religion for the steps to work. Even those meetings sponsored by a church promote open-minded acceptance and allow their members to define a higher power in whatever way makes the most sense to them.

Drug Profiles

Learn more about the symptoms, risks, and treatment methods of specific drugs:

The Importance of a Sponsor to the Success of Your Recovery

When you head into new and unexplored territory, it’s always best to have a guide. This is exactly what a sponsor will be for you as you take part in a 12-step program: the voice of experience and reason as you navigate sober living.

When you choose to work with Rehab-Finder.Org for your therapy needs, we will also help you determine the best sponsor. Here’s what you should know about someone before allowing them to sponsor you:

  • A qualified sponsor will have been clean for at least a year.
  • If they have sponsored other recovering addicts, you should find out how it went.
  • They should be active members in the same 12-step program of which you’re a part.
  • They should be someone you would not consider as a potential sex partner.
    If they are already sponsoring someone, make sure they’ll have enough time for you as well.

Which 12-Step Program Is for You?

The answer to this question will depend greatly on your immediate needs. If you’re in danger of a relapse, then whatever group is closest. Even if you don’t share the exact same addiction, group members will understand your fear and frustration. If you are not in a crisis though, then consider finding a meeting designed specifically for you, such as:

  • Gamblers Anonymous
  • Heroin Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Spenders Anonymous (for those who deal with shopping addictions)
  • Food Addicts Anonymous

Prepare to Join a 12-Step Program Before You Leave Treatment

Since 12-step programs are globally recognized as an effective way to help recovering addicts stay sober, many treatment facilities will hold meetings to help their patients become familiar with them. You will learn the way meetings run, become comfortable with the idea of speaking to others about your addiction, and begin to appreciate the value of the group.

If you’ve decided to seek help in dealing with your addiction, Rehab-Finder.Org is here to help. We connect you with the top treatment facilities in the country, and work with your insurance company to get as much of your treatment covered as possible. Recovering is hard enough; don’t make it harder by trying to do everything yourself.

Call us today at 877-251-4813 for help finding the right 12-step program for you.

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