What is a 12-Step Program?
The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous created the 12-step program. AA’s 12-step program is one of the oldest and most well-known models for nearly any type of addiction treatment. Through peer-based support groups, 12-step programs allow people to share advice, experiences, and hope. The 12-step program offers a structured and supportive environment where people can learn to overcome their addiction, avoid triggers, and develop healthy habits. With its guiding principles, the 12-step program provides a roadmap for those seeking help with addiction. In a 12-step addiction treatment program, those seeking recovery discuss and apply specific actions designed to provide a path to lasting sobriety and a substance-free lifestyle. For many members of 12-step programs, the steps become a guide toward a new way of life.
How Does a 12-Step Program Work?
The basic premise of the 12-step program is that members can help one another achieve and maintain recovery through peer-to-peer meetings where they share their experiences, strength, and hope. Participating in 12-step treatment helps develop a sense of structure that is crucial for maintaining sobriety. Founded on spiritual principles like honesty, humility, and acceptance, the 12-step treatment fosters positive behavioral changes, emotional well-being, and spiritual growth. The principles of 12-step addiction treatment provide new coping skills and reinforce feelings of support and acceptance, contributing to long-term recovery from addiction. The 12-step program is recognized as a highly effective approach to addiction treatment and recovery.
What are the 12 Steps?
The 12 Steps are a set of guiding principles for individuals seeking recovery from addiction. Created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-step treatment is commonly associated with peer-to-peer support groups and other recovery fellowships. However, the 12 steps have also been adapted and used by other organizations addressing different types of addictions. The 12 steps provide a structured approach to conquering addiction, fostering growth, and leading a fulfilling sober life. In 12-step addiction treatment, the 12 steps guide individuals through self-examination, making amends, and finding a spiritual connection to achieve sobriety. Understanding and applying the 12 steps forms the basis for enduring recovery and enriched living, one step at a time. Here are the 12 steps of AA:
Step 1: We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol/our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.
The first step of the 12-step program marks the start of the recovery process. This step emphasizes the need for self-awareness. The first step requires us to acknowledge and accept that we cannot control our addiction and admit its negative impact on our lives. This admission of powerlessness and the recognition of the need for change form the foundation of the 12-step program.
Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step two is about recognizing and acknowledging the need for a higher power or spiritual force greater than ourselves to overcome addiction. This power can be interpreted in various ways depending on an individual’s beliefs. The second step is accepting that overcoming addiction cannot be accomplished alone. Step 2 focuses on the importance of understanding our limitations and seeking external support to achieve sobriety and well-being.
Step 3: Made the decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood Him.
In the third step of the 12-step program, we consciously relinquish control of our will and life to a power greater than ourselves. Some view the third step as surrendering to a higher power, while others see it as a commitment to personal inner strength or the support of a like-minded community. The reference to God or a higher power in the third step is open to interpretation, allowing people to find a spiritual or personal connection that resonates with them. Regardless of the interpretation, the 3rd step encourages individuals to let go of self-will and embrace a new sense of guidance and purpose as they navigate the journey of recovery through the 12-step program.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
The 4th step involves deep introspection. Step four requires a thorough and honest self-inventory of our past behaviors, actions, and the underlying reasons for our addiction. The fourth step is an opportunity for self-reflection and identifying patterns that contributed to our addiction. We write down and describe our character defects and negative behaviors to identify how they have affected us and those around us. Sharing this with a mentor or sponsor provides support and guidance as we confront the reality of what we have done, take responsibility, and let go of any shame or guilt. Step 4 can be harsh, but it lays the foundation for making amends later in the 12-Step Program.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
In most 12-step programs, Step 5 focuses on honesty and self-realization. The fifth step in a 12-step treatment program involves admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to ourselves, a higher power, and another person. The exact method or practice can vary depending on the specific 12-step program and how we interpret it. This step focuses on fostering an environment where we can take ownership of our actions and disregard any form of denial or evasion.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
The sixth step in a 12-step program is about preparation for change. In step 6, we acknowledge our character flaws, develop a sincere willingness to make changes and hand our shortcomings over to a power greater than ourselves. This step prepares us for the upcoming steps in the 12-step program, where we will work on addressing these defects and making amends. It’s a continuation of self-improvement, acknowledging the need for change and growth.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Step 7 entails that we recognize our faults and deficiencies and humbly ask a power greater than ourselves for help to overcome them. The seventh step of the 12-step program emphasizes humility, acceptance, surrender, and letting go of our negative traits. Step seven involves self-reflection, willingness to change, and trusting in a power greater than ourselves to help us overcome our addiction. The seventh step in 12-step addiction treatment is an ongoing process that promotes positive change and personal growth.
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
In a 12-step program, step 8 is centered around self-accountability and making amends. Step 8 involves making a comprehensive list of anyone we have harmed due to our addiction and past behaviors. The eighth step continues beyond list-making. It requires honesty and a willingness to make amends for past actions. Recognizing how our actions have affected others is essential to the healing process, fostering empathy and acceptance of past mistakes.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when doing so would injure them or others.
Step 9 is a crucial stage within the framework of a 12-step program. After identifying people we’ve harmed in step 8, we now seek to make amends unless doing so would cause further harm or distress. In a 12-step program, the ninth step aims to repair relationships and take responsibility for past mistakes. This can involve apologizing, repaying debts, or making other forms of restitution. Though some may not be repairable, the goal of step 9 is personal growth, healing, and rebuilding relationships.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Step 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.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics/addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
What Can I Expect During a 12-Step Program?
The 12-step program is a commonly used structured approach to addiction treatment. Any 12-step program begins by admitting your powerlessness over addiction and acknowledging that the problem has become unmanageable and cannot be handled alone. Some consider this to be the most challenging step in 12-step treatment. The following steps focus on accepting and seeking guidance from a power greater than yourself, conducting a thorough and honest personal inventory, admitting your wrongdoings, and then making amends for the harm you’ve done. The 12-step program encourages continuous growth and change and emphasizes the importance of community support. Community support is the bedrock of 12-step addiction treatment. Without a safe and trusting environment for sharing your experiences and learning from the experiences of others, the 12-step program wouldn’t work. Maintaining confidentiality in the 12-step program is of the utmost importance; “anonymity provides protection” for the whole community, allowing you to seek support without fear or shame. The 12-step program is designed to help individuals overcome addictive behaviors, maintain sobriety, and improve their overall quality of life.
How Long is a 12-Step Program?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to a 12-step program. The time it takes to progress through a 12-step treatment program differs for everyone, and everyone moves at their own pace, depending on their personal journey. The focus of the 12-step program isn’t rushing through each step. It’s about the recovery journey, personal growth, and “working the steps” thoroughly to impact your life positively. Whether you’re new to recovery or have many years of sobriety, the 12-step program is designed to provide continuing recovery support. The process of 12-step treatment is ongoing, and it’s common for people to remain engaged long-term. Many people repeat or keep using the 12-step program to stay focused on sobriety.
The Amends Process of the 12-Program
The amends process is part of the 8th and 9th steps in the 12-step program. “Making amends” means fixing the harm we have caused to others. It involves apologizing and asking forgiveness from the people hurt due to our addiction, including family, friends, co-workers, and others. It’s essential to prepare mentally, be honest, humble, and sincere, and accept any reaction, whether positive or negative.
History of the 12 Steps
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded in the 1930s by Bill Wilson (Bill W.) and Dr. Bob Smith (Dr. Bob), both struggling alcoholics. June 10, 1935, known as the date of Dr. Bob’s last drink, is recognized as the founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous. The fundamental principles of AA were formed in 1934 when Bill W. had a powerful spiritual experience while in treatment at Towns Hospital. After Wilson met Dr. Bob in 1935, the pair began developing the 12-step program, published in 1939 in the first edition of the “Big Book.” The AA fellowship and 12-step program were built on the “Four Absolutes,” a moral code centered on “absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love” and sharing openly. The 12-step program emphasizes admitting powerlessness over alcohol, seeking support from a higher power, making amends, and offering help to others. Today, the AA 12-step program has gained global recognition and remains a popular method for addiction recovery.
Different Types of 12-Step Programs
The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) established the original 12-step program. The 12-step program defined by AA is based on a framework that seeks to help individuals struggling with alcohol addiction through mutual aid, sponsorship, and “working the steps.” Over time, the 12-step program has been adapted and embraced by groups seeking recovery from various addictions and compulsive behaviors. Some groups, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), follow the 12 steps exactly as they were created, while others make changes to fit their needs and cultures. There are also 12-step programs for those affected by addicts, like family and friends. Despite adaptations, the basic principles of the 12-step program have remained the same. Today, 12-step treatment is one of the most common programs employed to help people tackle addictions and other harmful behaviors. Some variations of the traditional 12-step addiction treatment include:
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- Gamblers Anonymous (GA)
- Heroin Anonymous (HA)
- Al-Anon and Alateen
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
- Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
- Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA)
- Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
- Workaholics Anonymous (WA)
- Overeaters Anonymous (OA)
These variations reflect how the 12-step program can be adapted for many issues and conditions. While these programs retain the fundamental concepts of mutual support, personal accountability, and spiritual growth that are the foundation of 12-step treatment, they may have unique guidelines and meeting formats that cater to the specific challenges of their members.
Granite Recovery Centers’ Unique Approach to the 12-Steps
Addiction treatment centers come in many shapes, sizes, and approaches. Granite Recovery Centers employs a hands-on approach to addiction treatment. R.E.S.T., or Recovery Education and Skills Training, is an action-based lecture and discussion curriculum that integrates evidence-based clinical practices and time-tested 12-step principles. Our distinctive process was developed to provide our clients with the most effective addiction treatment to form a solid foundation for achieving long-term success in recovery.
What Does R.E.S.T. Stand For?
At Granite Recovery Centers, we utilize a program called R.E.S.T., or Recovery Education and Skills Training. R.E.S.T. is a comprehensive lecture, discussion, and action-based curriculum developed by integrating time-tested 12-step principles with evidence-based clinical practices and the personal experiences of men and women in recovery from Substance Use Disorder. Since studies suggest that continued participation in 12-step programs post-treatment increases the likelihood of long-term recovery, R.E.S.T. endeavors to effectively guide clients through as much 12-step work as possible while they are in our care.
“Far from admitting he was an alcoholic (addict), he told himself he came to the hospital (GRC) to REST his nerves.”
–Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 39
It is of vital importance that clients be exposed to certain concepts at the very beginning of their treatment process. As they progress through our continuum of care, they will have the opportunity to participate in discussions that dive more deeply into the material.
The Structure of R.E.S.T.
Our program is structured so that R.E.S.T. II, III, IV, & V build upon the principles established in R.E.S.T. I. Upon completion of R.E.S.T. I, clients will have completed steps 1-3 and will have begun the writing of a 4th step.
The following topics are addressed throughout the R.E.S.T. curriculum:
- Powerlessness, unmanageability, and the physical craving to use substances.
- Explores the different types of substance users, dislocation theory, and the change of perception necessary for recovery.
- Cognitive distortions, affect regulation, and relapse prevention.
- Open-mindedness, willingness, and the setting aside of prejudgments in order to have a new experience with recovery.
- Acceptance, commitment, and the decision to change.
Although the 12 12-step recovery literature utilized in R.E.S.T. is, for the most part, taken entirely from the book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the concepts and principles presented by R.E.S.T. facilitators go far beyond the pages of a single book.
The Format of R.E.S.T.
The format of R.E.S.T. as clients progress further along presents less lecture and more discussion–based material, allowing them to not only inwardly identify with the material being presented but also verbally express that identification along with any questions, comments, and concerns they may have. Skilled R.E.S.T. facilitators will utilize motivational interviewing to elicit buy-in from clients as they interact with one another in a group setting. By integrating very specific 12-step literature with the shared experiences of the group, clients are more likely to become engaged with the treatment process as a whole.
As clients advance through our program, topics addressed will include:
- Recovery Experiences
- Hope for the Future
- The Progression of Addiction
- Honesty with Self and Others
- Personal Inventory
- Maladaptive Behaviors
Clients will eventually be given the opportunity for self-examination through an individualized therapeutic writing process. Although clients are somewhat limited in the recovery “actions” that they can take while in treatment, R.E.S.T. does allow clients to “work” on themselves through a series of personal writing assignments. Moving forward, clients are encouraged to be rigorously honest and thorough as they dig into the depths of their own psyche.
The final portion of the R.E.S.T. curriculum focuses on past and present resentments and other unresolved feelings of that have contributed to their substance use. The final stages often prove to be profoundly transformative for those who see it through to the end.
To learn more about the R.E.S.T. program, please give us a call today. Our Admissions Specialists are available 24/7 and are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Three Basic Approaches to 12-Step Treatment
There are essentially three toolsets that treatment professionals can leverage in helping addicts achieve and maintain long-term sobriety:
- Psychotherapy, including CBT, DBT, Grief, Trauma, etc.
- 12 Step work
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
The first approach most often focuses on identifying of root use causes and triggers of addiction. The key here is to learn behavioral modification techniques addicts can use to stay sober. The second involves working through the 12 Steps of A.A. within our structured R.E.S.T. curriculum. MAT is a treatment approach through which addiction is addressed with the use of modern pharmaceuticals. It includes opioid treatment programs (OTPs) and often combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders. It is an emerging approach to treatment and appropriate for some addicts who may wish to pursue it. At Granite Recovery Centers, we draw from all of the above approaches to create a treatment program that covers your needs.
Granite Recovery Centers Integrated 12-Step Approach to Addiction Recovery
REST is a comprehensive lecture, discussion, and action-based curriculum developed by integrating time-tested 12-step principles with evidence-based clinical practices and the personal experiences of men and women in recovery from Substance Use Disorder. Since studies suggest that continued participation in 12-step programs post-treatment increases the likelihood of long-term recovery, R.E.S.T. endeavors to effectively guide clients through as much 12-step work as possible.
The approach that we employ with great success here at Granite Recovery Centers is so much more than just a drug rehab program; it combines a comprehensive 12-step curriculum integrated with individual and group clinical psychotherapies. In this integrated environment, addicts work through the 12-step program and learn how each step affects their past, present, and future in sobriety. As an example, Step 4’s “making a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves” is useful and important. But in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy, the emotional pain unearthed by a trained 12-step facilitator can be properly processed with the help of a licensed clinician, and real healing can take place.
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