12-Step Model in Detox
When recovery becomes a goal, the 12-step model is typically among the first options considered. Because many meetings are closed and participation is, for lack of a better word, anonymous, it’s difficult to nail down the exact number of individuals who attend 12-step model programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and others on a yearly basis.
Still, the current numbers must be overwhelming given that in 2000, 65 years after the 12-step model Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob in 1935, an estimated 2 million people attended 100,000 different meetings held worldwide. Learn about the history of the 12-step model, its foundational 12 steps and how it’s changed over time.
The History of the 12-Step Model
The first 12-step model group was Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.). As previously mentioned, the foundations for A.A. were laid in 1935 when Bill W. realized he needed help for a drinking problem and sought out Dr. Bob in Akron, Ohio. Their mutual connection to the Oxford Group, a religious organization that focused on spiritual values in daily life, kept their relationship intact and led to their eventual meeting. It was through their connection as friends, alcoholics, and partners in recovery that the support group and its supplemental text, the Big Book, was created.
Alcoholics Anonymous had its first start in a hospital setting where Bill W. would have better access to those struggling with alcohol addiction but quickly grew to become adopted in other cities and institutions. Though A.A.’s 12-step model made a distinction between self and a higher power, it does not discriminate between denominations, cultures, languages or races. Meetings quickly began to pop up among women, minorities and in prisons.
Since the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous, new 12-step model groups have formed including Cocaine Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous, which all focus on recovery from negative patterns of behavior.
The 12 Steps Defined
The 12 steps themselves have changed over time. Originally, there were six steps that Bill W. felt were crucial to lasting recovery, but shortly after writing them he expounded upon them and concluded with twelve steps he believes were divinely inspired. The 12 steps are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- We 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.
- 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.
The steps differ slightly depending on the substance or behavior being addressed, but the main tenets are the same: an admission of powerlessness, faith in a higher power and honesty with oneself and others.
Do 12-Step Model Meetings Work?
It’s important to note that the only requirement to attend a 12-step model program is a desire to stop using. No one is required to be on any particular step, participation is voluntary and no fees are required. Many struggling with addiction are attracted to 12-step model programs because of these facts.
Research conducted on the effectiveness of 12-step model programs has shown an increased rate of lasting sobriety among participants who attended consistently and paired the program with other treatment, such as outpatient therapy or inpatient rehabilitation. Critics of 12-step model programs tend to purport that it’s not based on “science” or focuses too much on a higher power. It’s true that the 12 steps were not created based on scientific principles; rather, 12-step programs work because of the admission that help is needed and the support provided by such groups.
Do 12-step programs work for everyone? The short answer is no. Some aren’t ready to commit to a life of sobriety, some are still deeply entrenched in addiction and unable to consistently attend meetings, and some people choose not to return after a relapse. Some individuals simply need a higher level of care before consistent participation in a 12-step model program is feasible.
The key takeaway is that 12-step model programs can work as they do for many people around the world. To maintain lasting recovery, most people find success when pairing the support of 12-step model programs with other treatment options and concurrently making a positive change in their environment.
Start Your Journey to a Healthy Lifestyle
Twelve-step model programs offer great support for individuals in recovery, but they are not meant to be a stand-alone treatment option.