The Role of Twelve-Step Programs in Recovery

Woman talking in twelve step meeting

David Heitz November 5, 2020

Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are sometimes misunderstood by people who aren’t “in the program.” Rumors swirl of organizations cloaked in secrecy, operating much like cults that brainwash their followers, fueled by suspicions stemming from the emphasis on anonymity and the central role of a “higher power.”

Although members take each other’s privacy seriously, the structure of these programs, and the way they help people get sober, is not secret. In fact, the psychology and rehabilitative models that underly twelve-step recovery are fairly well-understood.

In practice, twelve-step programs are about gratitude and personal accountability. If more people were aware of how twelve-step programs work, there would be a much better understanding of addiction pervading our society.

With this in mind, let’s consider the role that twelve-step programs can play in recovery.

Emphasis On Gratitude

Many people in the world today deny themselves the joy of gratitude. But expressing joy about every little thing that is right in our lives makes us feel good.

Part of the power of gratitude is the simple acknowledgment of something gone right. It makes things a lot easier in recovery when you’re grateful to be sober.

Meetings, known among twelve-stepper as “the rooms,” serve as a place where twelve steppers can celebrate their gratitude. Many people will be serious when they discuss “gratitude” in “the rooms” of the twelve steps. Others might be more lighthearted about what makes them grateful.

Life’s easier with a smile. When alcoholics stop the “woe is me” mentality and celebrate life, recovery begins.

A System Built On Accountability

It’s liberating, isn’t it? Taking personal accountability for the mess your life has become paves the road to recovery with honesty and promise.

Maybe your drug or alcohol problem has led to financial ruin. Perhaps some relationships fell apart. It’s important that you take a personal inventory of everywhere you went wrong.

If you can’t acknowledge the bad things that happen when you drink and/or use drugs, you can’t fix them. You must admit your shortcomings and empower yourself to rise above them.

The rooms of AA and NA feature lots of people falling on their swords. When you fall on your sword, you stop blaming others. You admit your own poor decisions led to drug and/or alcohol abuse. You ask your higher power to help you remove your difficulties.

Deriving Strength From a Higher Power

Many non-Christians and non-believers fear twelve step programs would not work for them because they don’t believe in God. Today’s twelve-step facilitators don’t consider God the only higher power.

A higher power can be anything that a person in recovery leans upon. Some have argued that a doorknob could be a higher power.

People in recovery often speak of giving up their troubles to a higher power. It’s the most important part of staying sober.

A higher power usually contains a strong spiritual aspect help. This helps a person in recovery keep their head clear. 

Some argue that keeping your higher power undefined is what makes it so powerful.

What a Sponsor Is (& Isn’t)

Another part of AA that some people look upon with wonder is the sponsorship. The idea of having someone sponsor your recovery may seem intrusive, but a sponsor can offer help for which you or your loved one should be grateful.

A sponsor’s main goal is to keep the newly sober trainee on the right path. Some may use tough love on those new to AA meetings. Those who don’t take sobriety seriously won’t find support there.

Many sponsors take a compassionate approach. Many people in recovery have suffered abuse and hard lives. They drink and drug to numb the pain. A little understanding goes a long way.

It is useful for those seeking sobriety to find sponsors with whom they have common ground. Maybe you have a high-profile job that’s complicating an anonymous recovery. Other people have been there and can help you through it.

These People “Get It”

Twelve-step programs give those committed to sobriety a way to connect. People who “get it” fill the rooms. This fellowship proves a powerful way to keep people sober.

If you abuse drugs or alcohol you know how hard it is to quit. And so does everyone else in “the rooms.”

Silicon Beach Treatment Center could be a great place for you to learn about AA. Our treatment center in Los Angeles facilitates important recovery meetings every day.

In LA, sober living does not have to be lonely living. And no matter where you live or decide to get sober, twelve-step recovery meetings are everywhere nationwide.

You don’t have to enroll in rehab to go to a twelve-step meeting. Muster up the courage to try one today. Many meetings are being held virtually due to COVID-19.

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