The Twelve Step Programme
Since its inception in the 1930s, people in recovery have relied on the 12-step programme to come to terms with and conquer addiction, primarily through leaning on a spiritual guide and peers for moral support. The programme addresses the psychological effects of addiction, as well as the ways addiction affects society and communities as a whole. Participants reflect on their innermost truths and character flaws, accepting them for what they are and admitting to a support group that they need help. Although many people lean on God during this process, participants are not obliged to follow a specific religion or any at all; many achieve the same results with a secular approach. (1)
What Are the 12 Steps?
The 12 steps involve:
- Admitting that you are powerless over the substance and that the substance has taken over daily life
- Finding a power that is greater than yourself that could restore sanity once embraced
- Deciding to turn your life and will over to this higher power
- Taking a fearless and moral inventory of yourself
- Admitting to all, including yourself, your wrongdoings
- Embracing the readiness to remove all defects of character
- Asking for help from a higher power to remove shortcomings
- Making a list of people you have harmed and being willing to make amends
- Attempting to make amends with those you’ve hurt, when it’s healthy and non-harmful to do so
- Continuing to take personal inventory and admitting wrongdoings as they occur
- Praying and meditating to better reach contact with a higher power
The ultimate goal and usual result of the completion of these 12 steps is a better understanding of yourself and your effect on others. You would carry the lessons of these steps with you throughout your daily life and in all actions and affairs. The positive reinforcement cycle provides the person in recovery with a sustainable pattern that improves everyday life and helps make challenges more manageable. (1)
Are the 12 steps religious?
Although many participants in a 12-step programme do lean on or embrace the presence of a higher power, utilising the programme does not require any religious adherence. Each person is unique and will feel drawn to a specific higher power as a guide and cornerstone of personal strength and surrender. The belief in a higher power has proven psychological benefits as it is believed to activate, create or reactivate pathways that may become damaged or unused during a period of addiction. (2)
12 Steps as a Holistic Programme
At Sanctuary Lodge, we utilise the framework of the 12-step programme, but as part of our holistic approach, we provide you with care which comes wholly tailored to your needs. We do not believe in the one-size-fits-all methods, so we would discuss with you if you can or cannot benefit from the 12-step model.
Though the 12-step process provides a proven, well-rounded approach, additional therapies such as acupuncture, mindfulness, meditation, music and equine therapy, yoga and dance, among others, allow you to nurture specific needs and craft a plan focused uniquely on what you need.
The 12 steps are designed for spiritual and community-driven communication. A holistic approach, however, recognises that talk therapy and self-reflection are only part of the equation. Physical challenges also play a role in opening up or creating new brain pathways for positive chemical delivery, making a big-picture approach the most successful course of action. (3)
The Benefits of the 12-Step Model
Along with potentially achieving lifelong sobriety, the 12 steps provide benefits both during and after the meetings. You will obtain through the programme:
- Increased community involvement
- A sense of belonging
- Moral support from a group of sober individuals
- New friends
- A feeling of normalisation and destigmatised emotions
- New levels of personal responsibility
- Acceptance of specific, more emotional issues
- A dependable routine you can count on and work into daily life (4)
Support Groups upon Leaving Treatment
When you are in recovery, a support group can be a priceless lifeline. Being able to connect with others who share your feelings and experiences removes most of the stigma and isolation felt during the addiction and recovery process. Many support group-based communities offer frequent meetings, often several times a week; the programmes are widespread enough that groups are available across the world. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous all use the 12-step method as a basis.
In a 12-step recovery programme, you’ll have the opportunity to form a relationship with a sponsor, who is a fellow person in recovery who has met goals set forth by the programme and feels compelled to share strength and support. A good sponsor will listen to your feelings, provide insight, speak the truth to you and help you move forward through the process. (5)
Additional support groups combine other therapies and can involve family members and friends to make the experience more comfortable and enhance the effects by including loved ones in the process.
Alternatives to the 12-step model
With structure being at the core of recovery programmes, other options to the 12-step model exist that utilise a different structure. SMART Recovery, for example, uses a science-based 4-Point Programme that frees you of labels like ‘addict’ or ‘alcoholic’ and teaches you about why you struggle with substances. It replaces unhealthy coping mechanisms with sustainable ones, and it focuses on the future instead of the past. The end goal is to find motivation, learn to cope with urges, handle thoughts and behaviours that lead to urges and create a balance in life that is healthy and positive. SMART Recovery utilises the meetings system to encourage a sense of community, much like the 12-step programme. (6)