Do 12-Step Programs Really Work?

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Do 12-Step programs really work? Yes, they do seem to help a small percentage of the people who try them. However, substance abuse professionals put this number at somewhere between 8 and 12 percent.

This figure is an educated guess based on anecdotal information from patients. It’s hard to really know because 12-step programs like AA don’t keep rosters or any other kind of records. It’s all anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous has published the results of a number of surveys completed by participants, but again, it’s hard to know just how accurate their figures really are. Sometimes, they claim success rates of some 50 to 75 percent, but this is nonsense.

For one thing, success rates must be attached to some kind of timeframe in order to have any meaning. After all, just about anyone can stay sober for a few days or a week. It’s the long-term sobriety statistics that count. On the other hand, 12-step programs do have some advantages:

  • They are located in most areas
  • They are free
  • Everyone is welcome

Well, maybe not everyone is welcome. AA and similar programs don’t approve of or allow any kind of medication-assisted treatment, period. If you’re taking opioid maintenance medication, such as Suboxone or methadone, you will be judged harshly for this. It makes no sense, especially since AA sees nothing wrong with tobacco use, but it’s a fact. Of course, you can attend meetings and just not tell anyone you take maintenance medication, but this kind of defeats the purpose of these group gatherings. You are supposed to bare your soul and hold nothing back in order to get the most benefit. Y

ou will also be required to relinquish control of your addiction and your life over to your conception of a higher power. This could be God, Allah, Buddha or some animal spirit, but you will be required to turn over power to this being. You will be required to take an actual written inventory of all your faults and shortcomings and then confess the results to at least one other human being. You will have a sponsor who has already completed the 12 steps to help you, but you will have to do the work yourself.

Steps 8 and 9 require you to make a list of all the persons you have ever harmed due to your addiction, as best you can remember, and then actually go to the persons involved and ask forgiveness and offer to make amends. Unless doing so would cause more harm, you must literally seek out each and every person you ever wronged due to your addiction. There is an actual worksheet for these steps.

However, you can’t change the past. All you can do is to make the present and the future better for you and those around you. Apologizing to your spouse, parents, siblings, children, other family members and friends is one thing, but to seek out everyone else, too? This is not only impractical, it may also make things even worse. Sometimes, the past is best left where it is.

The Advantages of AA

To be fair, 12-step programs can provide a strong support system and a place to talk about your problems and struggle with alcohol and drug abuse. No one will ever judge you for anything you say regarding this. You may find hope and inspiration listening to the struggles of others and think that if they overcame their drug and alcohol addiction, so can you. If you’re okay with speaking in front of strangers about your drug and alcohol abuse and everything related to it, you may find 12-step meetings to be empowering and quite helpful. Many people have become sober and stayed that way with AA and programs like it. Your assigned sponsor will also act as a type of guardian, someone you can call when you feel defeated and tempted to use drugs or alcohol to cope.

AA prefers that all sponsors be of the same sex as the participant they are sponsoring. Now that you know a little more about how 12-step programs work, it will be easier to determine if you think they would be helpful for you or not. In your struggle for sobriety, you will need all the help you can get. You can combine 12-step meetings with other types of therapy like counseling. The 12-step meetings may work well as part of your aftercare strategy after you’re discharged from rehab recovery, too.

In any event, it couldn’t hurt to try a meeting or two. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back. Call us for More Information We’re a trained group of drug counselors always available to help you in times of crisis. You can call us anytime at (833) 922-2653 for referrals for the best type of drug or alcohol treatment tailored for your needs. We can also help you find 12-step programs near you. We look forward to your call.

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