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12-Step Recovery Programs for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

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Psychologist talking about twelve-step program to addicted man during group support meeting

What Is Addiction Recovery?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines recovery from addiction as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential”. Although it’s common for people to associate recovery with simply abstaining from alcohol, drugs, and other harmful vices, the actual process contains four very important factors:

  • Community – Building a support system and rapport with other recovering addicts.
  • Body, mind, and soul – Taking control of one’s disease, not only physically but emotionally, financially, and spiritually.
  • Living with intention – Participating in meaningful activities, such as volunteer work, to develop a sense of pride and purpose.
  • Environment – Managing one’s surroundings and securing a safe place to thrive.

What Are Some Types of Recovery Options for Addiction?

  • Inpatient Rehabilitation – An inpatient rehab center is a wonderful choice for people who are suffering from severe addiction and for those who don’t have a reliable support system at home. Treatments vary, but most inpatient centers abide by the same regimen, which includes around-the-clock assistance from a trained medical staff during the detoxification stage, therapy sessions with behavioral specialists, and group sessions with other patients in recovery. Most inpatient treatment programs last three to six months but can last up to one year.
  • Outpatient Rehabilitation – If an unstable home environment isn’t a problem, an outpatient rehab center is a suitable alternative for addiction recovery. In most circumstances, the patient travels to a medical clinic or addiction center once or twice a week for individual counseling with a therapist and/or doctor. In some cases, both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers provide prescription medication or holistic methods to aid in the recovery process.
  • Peer Support Services – Many people find the support they need to overcome addiction through free programs organized by volunteers. These are often used in conjunction with clinical treatments, and they play a crucial role in achieving long-term recovery. Such groups include 12-step programs (like Alcoholics Anonymous), faith-based support through a local church or clergyman (like Celebrate Recovery), and peer-to-peer coaching.

What Is a 12-step Program?

The popular 12-step plan originated from Alcoholics Anonymous, but many other self-help groups derived from it, including Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous, just to name a few. They all follow the same patterns and teachings of the twelve steps, which begin with recognition of the addiction (or “disease”) and end with the resolution to turn the disease over to a “higher power”.

Anonymity is strictly upheld in every 12-step group, with members sharing their first names only and with the understanding that what’s shared during meetings is kept confidential. Many people have found that exchanging the intimate details of their recovery from addiction with others in the same situation can be a powerful instrument in maintaining abstinence from alcohol, drugs, and other dangerous vices.

Do you need the 12-step program?

Every person has to decide on their own if a 12-step program is an appropriate means to recovery. Although most members refer to God as their “higher power”, many atheists and agnostics have success with the program by substituting some other deity – or the program itself – as their “higher power”. You don’t have to be devoutly religious or spiritual to reap the benefits.

Non-12-step Programs

You don’t have to take part in a 12-step support group to beat addiction. If you have the time and the means, form your own group and hold meetings inside your home (or local church, library, or workplace) once a week. Your group doesn’t have to be official to be effective.

Support Groups for Recovery

Beating an addiction can be an arduous journey filled with many highs and lows. People often believe they can overcome it on their own, but the importance of having a support system in place cannot be denied. The added stress from handling a difficult situation alone is oftentimes overwhelming and may even lead to a relapse. Having friends and family you can rely on goes a long way in boosting your self-confidence and making recovery manageable. You can also gain valuable insight when you’re surrounded by others who are succeeding in beating their addiction.

Books, brochures, DVD’s, and other types of literature can be purchased at most 12-step in-person meetings (also known as face-to-face meetings) and online. If there isn’t a meeting close by, you can still attend one online via chat rooms, forums, or by telephone. These are a great option for people who feel self-conscious over sharing private information in a public setting.

Where to find support groups

Asking your doctor or therapist for information is one of the best ways to locate support groups in your area. Some organizations advertise their services in local newspapers and phone books or by using a wide range of social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Craigslist, and Reddit. You can also use your internet browser to search for “12-step programs” and “addiction recovery support groups”. Listed below are some of the most popular support groups to help you on your road to recovery:

Al-Anon and Nar-Anon
The consequences of addiction extend far and wide, and those closely related to addicts are sometimes overlooked, but they need support too. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon were established to give family members and friends of drug addicts and alcoholics a safe place to share their fears and frustrations, and they operate in the same fashion as 12-step programs. The first (and most important) step is to accept you can’t cure your loved one’s disease, but you can learn how to cope with it by being with others going through the same thing.

WFS (Women for Sobriety)
WFS is a recovery group catering to women that encourages members to change their self-image, since low self-esteem in women is a contributing factor to alcohol dependency. WFS encourages spirituality and meditation, but the program isn’t reliant upon the belief of a “higher power” to achieve sobriety. By incorporating positive thinking and daily positive affirmations, women gain a sense of power to overcome negative thinking and conquer their addictions.

SMART Recovery
Self-Management and Recovery Training (or SMART) is a scientifically based program using behavioral therapy. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups, SMART Recovery doesn’t view addiction as a disease but rather as a character flaw. The program discourages the use of a “higher power” and encourages members to believe in their own determination and inner strength to beat their addictions.

Celebrate Recovery
This is another type of 12-step program, but it’s based solely on Christian faith and principles. Celebrate Recovery not only caters to drug addicts and alcoholics, but it also helps people dealing with “habits and hurts”, such as sex addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, compulsive obsessive disorders, and co-dependency.

AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)
Perhaps the most well-known of all the 12-step support groups, AA focuses on deliverance from alcoholism through a person’s spiritual awakening by working through their Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. There are numerous AA meetings available worldwide, and members are advised to seek out a “sponsor” (a longtime member of AA who shares their wisdom and experience and helps them work the steps). Members are also asked to be of service to the group in various ways, like leading meetings and volunteering as a sponsor. AA is a self-supporting non-profit organization that relies solely on member contributions. For those who don’t have AA meetings nearby, online meetings and telephone meetings are also available.

Breaking bad habits
By focusing on breaking one bad habit at a time, freedom from addiction doesn’t seem as daunting. Many recovering addicts would agree that taking recovery one day at a time is the best approach. Don’t overwhelm yourself by attempting to do everything in a short amount of time. Instead, use these tips for breaking bad habits along your journey:

Recovery encompasses a lot more than just abstaining from alcohol, drugs, and other destructive habits. Are there social situations and/or people you consider bad influences? Are there certain “friends” or family members who don’t have your best interests at heart and who tempt you into making the wrong choices? Make a list of these people and places and take the necessary steps to separate them from your life.

Has your addiction kept you from achieving your goals and dreams? Write a list of your aspirations and the steps you need to take to reach them. Refer to it often to remind yourself of what lies on the other side of recovery. If you need more visual aids for inspiration, create a vision board.

Purchase a poster board or bulletin board and find pictures online and in magazines to tape to them that signify what you want most – a new job, healthy relationships, a healthy body, etc. Pinterest is another creative way to make a vision board and you can adjust the settings to make the boards private and out of the public eye. It’s also free! All you need to sign up is an email address (or social media account) and a password.