Adding the 12 Steps of AA to Your Treatment. Roughly 88 years ago, two men from Vermont – one a bankrupt Wall Street broker and the other an ailing physician – got together in Akron, Ohio, and concocted a plan for recovery from alcoholism. These two men were Bill Willson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, more commonly known as Bill W. and Dr. Bob. The program they established came to be known as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and it is now estimated to have helped millions of individuals and their families recover from alcoholism. Moreover, it is built on the foundation of the Twelve Steps.
Recovery From Alcoholism: Understanding 12-Step Programs
People who have been around AA for a while are respectfully and lovingly referred to as “old-timers.” It is these old-timers that are responsible for many of the phrases that are utilized by 12-Step programs to this day. These include phrases like “One day at a time,” “Live and let live,” “Easy does it, but do it,” and “First things first.”
It is also these old-timers who once described the 12 of AA as “A simple set of rules for complicated people.” This is what many people don’t understand about the Twelve Steps of recovery; they are straightforward. It is the people doing them that tend to complicate them.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the Twelve Steps don’t take a lot of work; they certainly do. The Twelve Steps represent a program of action. It just so happens that they are set up in such a way that, when followed directly, they have been proven to work.
What Are the Twelve Steps?
The Twelve Steps are a set of rules by which to live a recovered way of life. It is as simple as that. While they are broken down into 12 specific steps, they can be segmented into a few distinct chunks.
The first three steps involve admitting that there is a problem, realizing that it can’t be solved alone, and being willing to accept help. Steps four through nine are about “cleaning house,” “taking action,” and “cleaning up the wreckage of the past.” This means admitting the nature of what one has done wrong and then making “amends” to right those wrongs to the people whom they may have harmed in their process of substance use.
The final three steps are known as the “maintenance steps.” As the old-timers would say, to have a healthy recovery, “We must live in steps ten, eleven, and twelve.” These are the steps where one meditates and prays about doing the next right thing, and then helps other people with their recovery. Again, according to the old-timers, “You have to give it away to keep it.”
The Benefits of Joining a 12-Step Program
Ultimately, the benefits of joining a 12-Step program are hard to measure. The primary benefit is that, for those it works for, the Twelve Steps can save their lives from a slow, lonely, and often painful alcoholic demise. However, some benefits are more quantifiable.
For example, 12-Step programs can help connect people who are struggling with the same issues. It is this concept of “shared experience” and reliability that can make recovery feel like less of a lonely road. Also, it offers the opportunity to create a healthy and expansive sober network that one can rely upon when they are “triggered” to relapse.
A 12-Step program can also help someone maintain long-term sobriety because it is a program that one has to remain connected to for it to work. Staying engaged in recovery is key, and the Twelve Steps of AA help make that happen.
Recovery From Alcoholism: Alternatives to 12-Step Recovery
It is important to note that the Twelve Steps don’t work for everyone. That is okay. In fact, Bill W. and Dr. Bob made it clear that they were open to people recovering in any way that works best for them. To paraphrase, “AA holds no monopoly over recovery.”
Some alternatives to 12-Step recovery include SMART Recovery and Recovery Dharma. These are programs that take different approaches to recovery. For example, SMART recovery stays away from the concept of a Higher Power, and Recovery Dharma utilizes Buddhist principles for recovery. It should also be noted that some people recover without joining a recovery community and may just use therapy or other means that suit them. Again, it is whatever works best for the individual.