Are 12 Step Programs Effective or Just BS?

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Are 12 step programs effective or just BS? Well, if you define BS as useless nonsense and a total waste of time, then no, 12-step programs like AA are not BS. They have value and have worked for many people. However, these programs generally have a low overall success rate of perhaps 10 percent or so. This figure is an estimated, educated guess and reflects the consensus of drug treatment professionals as a group. No one drug rehab program format is going to work for everyone. All programs have failure rates and relapse rates. However, most do better than 10 percent. Part of this higher success rate is surely due to the better structured environment of drug treatment programs, even outpatient ones. AA consists of meetings of perhaps a couple of hours, at which point the participants leave and return to their regular surroundings. Drug rehab programs provide a focus that an AA meeting simply cannot.

What if you’re not Religious?

AA doesn’t require its participants to believe in or follow a religion. Its first step requires you to simply admit that your life has become unmanageable due to your addiction. If you’re indeed addicted, this is certainly the truth. The second and third steps just basically say that you will need to surrender power over your life to a higher power. AA never uses the terms God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah or anything like that. It just says a higher power and leaves the interpretation of that concept up to the participant. However, not everyone is comfortable with these steps. They would rather become sober under their own power. There are other non-faith based programs that allow you to do just that:

  • SMART Recovery
  • Women for Sobriety
  • MM or Moderation Management
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery

Those are just a few examples. There are many others. Many rehabs offer AA alternatives, too. However, some do not and require their residents to fully participate in group AA meetings and follow its steps. If you’re not comfortable with AA, be sure the drug rehab facility of your choice doesn’t require it. There are plenty that don’t but many do.

Is AA a good choice for you? This article will now discuss the principles of AA and similar programs in more detail.

Group Meetings

AA conducts group meetings of various sizes on a regular basis. They have tons of locations and meeting times. Unless you live in a very rural area, there is likely an AA meeting near you at just about all times and days. There is no cost. The only requirement is the desire to stop substance abuse, whether it be alcohol or something else. Meetings are always anonymous in that no one signs a roster. You never give your last name. If you want to speak, you simply identify yourself by your first name: “Hello. My name is Mary, and I am an alcoholic.” The group will greet you by your name. You may then speak on your problems and struggles with addiction and how addiction has affected your life and your relationships.

You never have to speak if you don’t want to. You may simply listen, but be aware that some people reveal all kinds of sad, disturbing and shocking revelations as they speak. Since drug addiction is not a pleasant or positive subject, this is not surprising. However, if you’re upset by that kind of thing, AA may not be the best choice for you. Additionally, if you’re not comfortable with speaking about your addiction in front of a group of strangers, AA may not be the best choice for you, either. Speaking is never required, but to really get the most out of AA meetings, you need to talk about your addiction and listen to and learn from other members’ feedback.

AA and MAT

MAT, medication-assisted treatment, is not allowed in AA. If you’re using Suboxone, for example, to help you recover from opioid abuse, this will not be accepted by the AA group. This is something you need to consider before deciding to try AA. Since the 12 Steps require you to relinquish control over your life to a higher power, there is no consideration for medication. Of course, you don’t have to reveal your use of MAT, but there is little point in attending AA if it means you have to lie.

More Questions?

AA is not BS. However, it has limitations and is not for everyone. If you’d like more information to help you decide if AA is a good choice for you or not, just call us at (833) 922-2653. Our trained counselors will answer all your questions and guide you to the best treatment facility for you.

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