Even though 12-step programs have been used for decades to help people recover from addiction, many people remain curious about how the programs work. The basic premise of the 12 steps is that people can help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from addictive substances. But in order for that to happen, people grappling with addiction must surrender to a higher power. That higher power can be God, reality, love, nature, or anything else that's bigger than themselves. From there, individuals gain insight into their lives and work towards recovery by exploring 12 distinct steps.
The 12 steps were originally created in the 1930s by two people struggling with alcoholism, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, to help other people recover from alcoholism. The goal of the steps, which were Christian-focused, was to establish a mindset and foundation for life that would allow individuals to overcome alcohol abuse. Since then, the 12 steps have become less associated with any specific religion. Individuals of all belief systems grappling with any addiction can benefit from the 12 steps. Though the original 12 steps have been adapted over time, the premise of each step remains the same.
The 12 steps and the principles behind them are:
1. Honesty. Denial is a common part of addiction, but true recovery can begin the moment an individual gets honest about their situation. This includes accepting that they have lost control over their lives and admitting that they have become powerless to their substance of choice.
2. Hope. Individuals must believe that they can recover and overcome their current reality. They must believe that a power greater than themselves can help them recover.
3. Surrender. People in recovery must also recognize that they can't recover on their own. They need the help of a higher power, and they must be willing to surrender their lives to that higher power.
4. Soul-searching. In order to recover, individuals must take a personal inventory of their lives. This often looks like identifying their problems and recognizing how their behavior affected themselves and others around them.
5. Integrity. As individuals reflect, they must do so with integrity. This means that part of their healing includes admitting their wrongdoing to themselves, a higher power, and others.
6. Acceptance. Although challenging, individuals have to accept their flaws exactly as they are and be willing to let them go.
7. Humility. This step requires embracing humility and asking a power outside of themselves to help them accomplish what they cannot do on their own.
8. Willingness. Individuals must be willing to make a list of the people they've harmed and make amends with them if possible.
9. Make amends. Individuals must actually make amends as they can. Forgiving others and receiving forgiveness is a great way to heal relationships.
10. Continued inventory. Individuals must continue to take personal inventory of their lives and quickly admit when they're wrong.
11. Growth. This step is about moving toward the future. At this point, individuals should start to find greater plans and purposes for their lives.
12. Giving Back. Individuals should aim to help others. This can look like helping others understand the 12 steps, volunteering, or mentoring someone starting their recovery journey.
Individuals seriously looking to recover from addiction have to be honest with themselves and others. They also have to take ownership of their actions and work to create intentional change. 12-step programs can do this by:
Here at Meta, we believe in empowering individuals to take charge of their recovery. 12-step programs can be an important part of your recovery as they encourage honesty, humility, and an overall sense of wellbeing. These kinds of programs can also be a great way to connect with other individuals who have similar struggles and experiences. Contact us today if you're ready to recover or are in need of some additional support and encouragement.
You can find a 12-step program in the greater Boston area using our meeting locator. Our recovery experts are ready and willing to help you every step of the way.