Alcoholics Anonymous is known all over the world for pioneering the 12-step programme. The said programme was replicated in rehabilitation clinics. About 74 percent of treatment centres use the 12-step programme for addiction rehab. The 12-step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous has a basic premise of people helping each other achieve and maintain abstinence and sobriety, specifically former addicts and alcoholics assisting present addicts and alcoholics towards the path of sobriety.
Religious vs Secular 12-Step Programmes
Healing cannot come until you surrender yourself into a “higher power” (God as far as the religious are concerned) or, in a secular sense, find some other positive avenue to fill in the black hole left by addiction (finding a better purpose in your life). That’s what the 12 steps toward sobriety are all about.
- This article covers both the religious and non-religious 12 step-programme that many rehab centres are following. Indeed, there are some steps to Alcoholics Anonymous that does involve religion, like putting yourself in the hands of a “higher power”. It is something that’s spiritually based but there are secular 12-step detoxification and rehab programmes available.
- Depending on your religion or belief system, you can also achieve abstinence and sobriety through a more religious programme involving faith and prayer, but outright religious rehabilitation programmes from a church or mosque is not what this article is covering. It touches upon religion in light of the 12-step programme’s origins, but it mostly concentrates on the rehab itself.
- There’s interest in a more secular programme version of the 12-step programme because some people who aren’t religious struggle with the religions and spiritual origins of the programme, thus they look for a methodology that isn’t so religion-centric. Yes, there are version of the 12 steps that don’t include so much reliance on spiritualism, a higher power, prayer, and God.
The Original 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
These 12 principles or steps were originally proposed by Bill Wilson (co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and pastor) as a way to recover from alcohol addiction in a concrete and incremental manner. These steps were first published on the book “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism.”
The book describes the 12 principles collectively as a step-by-step recovery programme of sorts. With that said, here are the original 12 steps of the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous programme that many addiction rehab centres have based their own programmes on.
1. You Should Admit That You’re Powerless Over Alcohol and Your Life Has Become Unmanageable: Loads of alcoholics have trouble admitting to themselves that they can control their alcohol intake. The first step of any 12-step programme is admitting and accepting that you’ve lost control of your life and you need help becoming sober.
The recovery process can only begin once the addict or alcoholic can accept they’re unable to stop their consumption on their own. When ordering a rehabilitative 12-step programme near you, you should look for those that follow the first step that Alcoholics Anonymous has, which involves getting over the initial denial that you have your addiction under control.
2. You Should Believe that a Power Greater Than Yourself Can Restore Your Sanity: Many secular, non-spiritual, atheistic, agnostic, or non-Christian individuals have issues with the Alcoholics Anonymous’s spiritualistic approach towards rehabilitating addicts and alcoholics. Then again, the one who came up with this is a pastor.
If you’re a Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or a believer of Abrahamic religions, then surrendering yourself to religion and God is a way to overcome addiction. Those who don’t believe in a Christian God or believe other religions can accept reality as the higher power. That your cause and effect has led you astray and there’s a way out of the addiction loop.
3. Make the Decision to Turn Your Life to the Care of a Higher Power as You Understand It: For the religious, this is all about turning yourself over to God while in addiction rehab. Surrendering yourself to him in order to release your stress and fill in the void in your life with new purpose.
For the non-religious, or those following a 12-step programme in Thailand, this is instead about turning yourself over to whomever or whatever you consider as a higher power. It can be your family. It can be finding a new purpose in your life that makes you feel worthwhile (which is akin to the role of religion for many).
4. Make a Moral Inventory of Yourself Searching for All Your Faults: Every one of many 12-step programmes out there has a step involving self-examination, whether it’s a 12-step programme for weight loss, drugs, or alcohol addiction. This can be incredibly uncomfortable, but honesty is much more important than egos.
Swallow your pride and acknowledge with complete honesty what drove you to become an addict. What hole or heartache are you filling with drinks and whatnot? It’s time to identify any areas of anger, guilt, embarrassment, or past regret.
5. Admit to Yourself, to Others, and to Your Higher Power the Exact Nature of Your Trespasses: After identifying your wrongdoings, it’s relieving to confess to God, a priest, or your fellow patients the exact nature of your wrongs. Admit your past poor behaviour and tell someone about it.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, this usually involves sharing what they wrote down in Step 4 with their sponsor or fellow addicts as well as any proctors, nurses, caretakers, or therapists. Confessing your trespasses can be quite liberating to the addict.
6. Brace Yourself to Have a Higher Power Remove These Defects of Character: An alcoholic or drug addict is now ready to submit themselves to a higher power like God in order to remove the wrongs they’ve listed in Step 4 right after confessing to them in Step 5. Something Christians readily do on the confession box
As for agnostics, atheists, and the non-religious, this is their opportunity to pay attention to the shortlist of their defects that most need attention and striving to be better people in light of that shortlist. For the secular, this is like a New Year’s Resolution to be better, but this time around it’s less half-hearted and more determined.
7. Humbly Ask the Higher Power to Remove Your Shortcomings and Change Your Behaviour: Everyone has defects in their character, whether it’s in the form of negativity, criticism, apathy, anger, or impatience. In order to make the 12-step programme work, the recovering alcoholic should eliminate these defects by giving in to a higher power to do it for him.
Secularly speaking, rather than depending on God to remove your shortcomings, you can also make it a project to minimise one or more of your faults in order to improve your behaviour now that you’re aware of them. Get assistance with an addiction rehab therapist to start changing yourself.
8. Make a List of All the People You’ve Harmed and Become Willing to Make Amends with them All: In Alcoholics Anonymous, you should write down the names of all the people you’ve wronged and what you did to them in order to attempt to make amends with them and some such. These could be small sins or huge sins.
It can involve buying more alcohol by stealing from them or lying all the time about where you were. You can also talk to them about how you talk negatively behind their backs or not being a good friend to them as they were to you. In order to turn a new leaf, you need to acknowledge these wrongdoings and make those you’ve wronged learn that you’re sorry (even if only a few would forgive you for them).
9. Make Direct Amends to People You’ve Sinned Against Wherever Possible, Except When Doing So Would Injure Them or Others: Aside from saying sorry, you should also show that you’re sorry by asking those you’ve sinned against how you could make things up to them. Take a personal inventory when you’re wrong, admit it, ask for forgiveness, and offer (fair) amends (usually involving sitting down with them or writing a letter to them).
The same step where you go “outside” of yourself and realise how your actions can affect others have been helpful for other programmes like the 12-step programme for depression and the like because it presents an opportunity to you to look outward into the world rather than just inward with self-loathing and self-pity. If the person you have wronged insists that no amends are necessary, that’s okay too.
10. Continue to Take Personal Inventory and When You’re Wrong, Promptly Admit It: Instead of thinking that confessing your sins one time is enough to get you off the hook, you should start changing your bad behaviour and habits by putting up an inventory of when you’re wrong.
This is the step where you’ll commit yourself to monitor your personal issues and flaws, particularly those related to your alcohol or drug addiction. The more self-aware you are, the more you’ll avoid doing things that will embarrass you or destroy your relationships. Discipline is the key to success here.
11. Seek Through Prayer (or Meditation and Inward Self-Assessment) the Improvement of Your Way of Life: For the religious, this involves improving your contact and relationship with God or the Higher Power. You’ll be praying to Him for his knowledge of His will for you as well as asking Him to give you the power to carry out His plans for you.
As for the secular context, this step involves going further than admitting your wrong behaviours and monitoring whenever you make a misstep. This instead involves changing your way of life to something more charitable, better, and inspiring. Do something positive with your life on this penultimate step of the 12-step programme.
12. Have a Spiritual Awakening or a Rebirth in the World of Sobriety as a Result of Following These Steps: In regards to the traditional 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous that has a spiritual and religious bent to them, you as an alcoholic can get over your alcohol addiction by replacing it with spiritualism and faith in God.
To the non-religious, the message of sobriety instead involves piety to a more productive and purpose-driven life. It’s also in the final step of the 12-step addiction rehab programme that you’re encouraged to help others in their recovery. Show them that they can achieve what you’ve achieved by sharing your difficulties, experiences, and pitfalls towards becoming a sober and fully functioning adult.
Many members of Alcoholics Anonymous become sponsors themselves to addicts who wish to become sober as well. Instead of losing yourself analysing or creating 12 steps of recovery worksheets, it’s essential for you to understand the content and the meaning of every one of the 12 steps in order to make them work for you
Even the act of finding a goal to help you towards self-improvement because you haven’t figured out the direction of your life yet (and you don’t think religion is the answer) can fill the psychological cravings for sensation that drug addiction, substance abuse, and alcohol addiction used to fill (as your affordable luxury rehab service will readily point out to you).
Sponsorship in the 12-Step Programme
Your “spiritual awakening” can be religious in nature like Pastor Bill Wilson intended or more about aspiring for loftier goals and self-improvement as you lead others to the same place of sobriety that you’ve achieved by the end of the 12-step programme for addiction rehab. Regardless, you won’t get far unless you’re in the hands of a sponsor, which usually is a former member of the programme who’s now volunteering to help out other addicts like him as part of his rehabilitation.
A sponsor in the context of 12-step programmes like Alcoholics Anonymous is a person under the recovery programme who guides the less-experienced aspirants or “sponsee” through the programme’s multiple steps. Many affordable luxury rehab centres follow the same 12-step modus operandi of using “graduates” of the system as new sponsors for incoming “students”. New members are encouraged to develop relationships with experienced members as part of the programme.
Birds of a Feather Help Each Other
Instead of merely relying on a healthcare worker to detoxify you then assist you in reintegrating into society without relapsing back into bad habits and substance abuse, you can use the experiences of those who’ve treaded the same path as you have. These recovering addicts can teach you how to handle temptations and relapse because they’ve been there and done that. To wit:
- Healing from behavioural problems, compulsion, addiction, and substance abuse is all about changing brain structures (since the root cause of the addiction varies based on the individual) that led to addiction in the first place.
- Your substance abuse problems might be psychological and it might be physical. Or both.
- The physical aspect of addiction is typically covered by detoxification and medication-assisted treatment from rehab clinics.
- Psychologists deal with the psychological aspects of addiction while fellow recovering addicts provide peer support and share how they personally overcame their substance abuse tendencies.
- The beauty of the programme roots from its community-based or socially based methods of letting those who’ve endured and beaten addiction show the path towards sobriety to addicts in treatment who wish to get over their illness.
- Some 12-step programmes even include family therapy and counselling in case the family environment itself has driven you to drinking and whatnot.
- The inclusion of 12 steps also allows the addict to keep track of where he is at the rehab, whether it’s Step 1 or Step 11.
- The 12-step programme and movement is a force of good for many people because it condenses and simplifies rehabilitation in a way that’s easily understood by the addict at a glance.
Praise and Criticism of the 12-Step Programme
The 12-step spiritual recovery system of Alcoholics Anonymous is so successful and ubiquitous that secular versions of the same programme have been developed to make it more universal. According to studies, over 5 million addicts suffering from various addictions and psychological disorders have checked into many affordable luxury rehab centres that include the 12-step programme format all-in-all.
Alcoholics Anonymous itself has 60,000 groups and all maintain they’re a spiritual programme “not allied with any institution, organisation, politics, denomination, or sect”, including religion. However, despite its effectiveness, criticism has been levelled by other affordable luxury rehab services in regards to how scientifically sound or effective the 12-step programme truly is. They particularly question its overly religious tones, its non-medical approach towards recovery, and the “bad science” of surrendering yourself to God or a “higher power” in “blind faith”.
According to studies on Alcoholics Anonymous, there’s a 5 to 10 percent newcomer success rate of the programme. In contrast, Alcoholics Anonymous reports a 68 percent of members became sober for more than a year without relapse. Back in 1951, the American Public Health Association offered Alcoholics Anonymous for its 12-step programme addiction rehab even though it lacks any scientific evidence to prove its success.
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