When you become accustomed to living a particular lifestyle, it’s often hard to imagine living in another way. Someone who has been caught up in addiction for years, or even decades, can have difficulty transitioning into a sober role. 

Outside the walls of treatment lie temptation and bad intentions, which can result in a relapse. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the reality of addiction. That’s why options such as 12-step programs are crucial in helping people to move into a sober and healthier life.

Alumni programs are welcoming communities of those on the same path of abstinence, and their goal is to reduce temptation. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 40 to 60 percent of individuals who become sober will relapse at some point in their recovery.

No matter how you spin it, lifelong maintenance is required for addiction treatment. Relapse is a standard part of the recovery process, and someone who struggles with addiction will often follow a lonely path; fortunately, it does not have to be this way.

Many people seek out 12-step programs to safeguard their sobriety. The programs have helped millions of people stay on the path of sobriety. The 12-step program has been a golden standard in treatment. While methods continue to evolve, you may wonder if it’s still effective. Below, we’ll examine its relevance in our modern society and see how it’s been used for decades.

What Are 12-Step Programs?

The approach, which we refer to as 12-step, is designed to promote recovery while achieving spiritual growth through peer support. The model is replicated around Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which is the world’s largest 12-step organization for alcohol support groups.

The program includes admitting that you’ve become powerless over a substance and giving up control to a higher power. By doing this, you accept abstinence and examine your flaws and past mistakes while making amends for those mistakes. The program was designed to help overcome an addiction, which affects three realms of human existence—mental, physical, and spiritual.

This kind of program is among the most commonly used recovery methods globally, and it can also be used as a support group with additional therapy for those graduating from treatment who need more assistance to achieve sobriety.

The History of 12-Step Therapy

The roots of 12-step therapy can be traced back to Akron, Ohio, in 1935. Bill Wilson, who was a Wall Street Stockbroker, sought out help from Dr. Robert Smith to help him with his alcohol struggles.san bernardino opioid detox

Wilson lost his career as a result of his alcohol use, and soon after, he was hospitalized for the addiction while seeking help from The Oxford Group, a Christian fellowship and religious movement in Europe and the United States.

The Oxford Group felt that the root of all problems stemmed from fear and selfishness. Their solution was to surrender your life to God. With the help of a friend, Wilson found his ability to stop drinking. He began working with those who applied the group’s standard of purity, unselfishness, honesty, and love to battle alcohol addiction.

Wilson later went back to Smith to describe what he learned, and Smith was able to attain sobriety and never drank again. The two men came together at the Akron hospital to help those who were struggling with alcohol addiction. After they helped another patient see the light, they formed what is known today as AA.

How 12-Step Programs Work

The programs are designed to cover different addictions, but they all follow the original 12-step framework created by Wilson and Smith in the 1930s. The primary objective is to build spiritual well-being by connecting people to those who empathize what you’re going through. The following steps will help members achieve and maintain their sobriety.

The Steps

The big book guides you through the process of acceptance that includes a spiritual awakening. Most of the programs use similar principles. The type of addiction is often what varies between groups.

The 12-steps for Alcoholics Anonymous includes:

  1. We have become powerless to alcohol – our lives are unmanageable. 
  2. Believe that a higher power greater than ourselves can restore our sanity.
  3. Decide to turn our lives to God as we understand him.
  4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitting to ourselves, and God, and to other humans, the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We are ready to have God remove our defects of character.
  7. Humbly ask God to receive our shortcomings.
  8. Create a list of all the people we have harmed and be willing to make amends.
  9. Make direct amends to these people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10.  Admit when you are wrong.
  11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand him, praying for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry it out.
  12. Having a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps.


Meetings are imperative to any 12-step program. These sessions are where members connect and share their experiences to empathize with and encourage others in their recovery. Meetings allow participants to talk about their addiction challenges and the success they’ve enjoyed during sobriety. Some meetings are designated for members only while others are open for anyone to attend.


The most experienced 12-step members will complete all 12-steps or show progress throughout the program. To mentor others, sponsors fulfill the 11th and 12th steps by helping other members in their own recovery. When entering a 12-step program, you have the option to choose a mentor or have one recommended to you.

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