What Is the 12 Step Program?

The 12 Step program for addiction was first developed and utilized by Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 Step program for addiction was established for individuals in need of addiction treatment to have an approach that can be followed. It is geared to assist people in overcoming their oppression and substance abuse. 

The fundamental premise of this framework is so those struggling with drug addiction can assist each other in attaining and maintaining abstinence from substance abuse. Healing cannot materialize unless people struggling with drug addiction surrender to a higher power

Consider the 12 Step program for addiction as a mighty movement and great force for many individuals. However, some people still grapple with what they assume is a powerful religious component of the 12-Step program. Several addiction treatment programs provide 12 Steps alternatives as a 12 Step approach for individuals who prefer nonreligious drug addiction treatment programs. “One of the most well-known and commonly used types of recovery support is the 12 Step model. Just about everyone has heard of these meetings or of the organization that originated the idea.” -Alcoholics Anonymous.

The 12 Step programs remain a regularly utilized and recommended addiction treatment option. By utilizing the 12 Step model as a substance abuse and mental drug addiction treatment method, various types of addiction are healed. In 2013, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the 12 Step model was utilized occasionally by approximately 74% of addiction treatment programs.  

What Is the Purpose Of 12 Step Programs?

While each approach to the 12 Step program for addiction differs, the purpose is always the same, which is to assist individuals struggling with addiction. The process includes various goals and steps that each member sticks to and fulfills. According to the American Psychological Association, some common steps in the 12 Step process for Alcoholics Anonymous includes:

  • Admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction, compulsion, or alcoholism 
  • Being able to recognize that a higher power can supply strength 
  • Examining past mistakes with the assistance of an experienced member such as a sponsor
  • Willing to make amends for errors made 
  • Learning to live a new life incorporating a new code of behavior 
  • Assisting others who suffer from the same addictions, compulsions, or alcoholism

What Is the Origin Of The 12 Step Programs?

Alcoholics Anonymous originated the 12 Step model in 1938 when the founder Bill Wilson wrote out the ideas developed through his vision for alcoholism and his experience. In his story, the Big Book, Bill’s testimony paints a realistic picture of his alcohol addiction. By utilizing honesty, Bill was able to discover this realization, “I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost.” 

Alcoholics Anonymous and 12 Steps Are Born 

After undergoing another hospitalization for alcoholism, Bill decided to turn his life and will over to the care and understanding of God. Once Bill experienced that turning point in his life, he never drank again. He began working on the 12 Step Model for Alcoholics Anonymous instantly, discussing all of his issues and insufficiencies, creating a list of people he wronged or with who he held resentment. 

During that process, it took a strong willingness to admit his wrongs. In the Big Book lies a section called Doctor’s Bob Nightmare where Bill discusses the significance of being around like-minded individuals. From there, the story documents that Bill moved in with Dr. Bob and his wife and took his last drink on June 10, 1935. That date is regarded as the official founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1938, Bill and Dr. Bob discovered that they found “a way to help alcoholics get sober that worked.”

History of the 12-Step Model

In 1946, the twelve traditions were created in contributing to governing how groups operated and connected to each member as membership continued to grow rapidly. The traditions included utilizing the practice of anonymity by only using an individual’s first name and the “singleness of purpose” tradition. The later tradition indicated that Alcoholics Anonymous AA would have “but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who suffers.” 

Alcoholics Anonymous published its original 12 Step Model of recovery from alcoholism in the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism. Various programs have started as a byproduct of the original Alcoholics Anonymous program. Additionally, the problems that need improvement in mental health services are:

  • Depression 
  • Compulsion 
  • Drug addiction

In chapter five of the Big Book, it is known that how to do 12 step programs work are outlined, which details the 12 Step program. He wrote about one of the benefits of 12 step programs is when like-minded people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction share stories with one another. The reason the steps were developed could also be found on the historical information tab on the AA website. 

The 12 Step program was developed through a variety of synthesizing concepts from a couple of other teachers that Bill encountered, including a six-step program initiated by an organization called the Oxford Group. In its original form, the 12 Step Program for addiction was birthed through spiritual Christian inspiration that sought help from a higher power and peers struggling with similar substance abuse and mental problems. 

The Big Book was originally written as a guide for individuals who couldn’t attend AA fellowship meetings. Upon conception, it has been adopted as a 12 Step model for a large range of peer addiction treatment support programs. The 12 Step program is also utilized in mental health services because it acts as a self-help program designed to enhance behavioral change. 

What Are Similar To 12 Step Programs?

The attendance of individuals who did not suffer from substance abuse and drug and alcohol addiction resulted to benefit from similar 12 Step programs. 

  • Gamblers Anonymous (GA)
  • Heroin Anonymous (HA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
  • Al-Anon/Alateen (for families and friends of Alcoholics)
  • Co-Anon (for families and friends of addicts)

Programs Similar To 12 Step Programs

  • CoDA (Co-Dependents Anonymous) for individuals working to end relationships that are dysfunctional and instead develop healthy and functional relationships
  • Emotions Anonymous (EA) for individuals seeking mental health services and support groups
  • COSLAA (CoSex and Love Addicts Anonymous)
  • DA (Debtors Anonymous)
  • Families Anonymous (for friends and relatives of addicts)
  • Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA)
  • Heroin Anonymous (HA)
  • Gamblers Anonymous (GA)

How Do 12 Step Programs Work?

A 12 Step Program is a set of principles that helps individuals struggling with substance abuse and drug and alcohol addiction by supplying individualized action steps. In the 12 Step program’s recovery, the effects of addiction are evaluated. 

  • Emotional
  • Physical 
  • Mental  

The fundamental premise of the 12 Step model is that individuals can help one another attain and maintain abstinence from substance abuse struggles. The 12 Step Programs work through meetings in which like-minded individuals share their experiences and support one another in the continuing effort of abstinence being maintained. As seen in research in a recent article from the Journal Addiction Research and Theory, abstinence practices can account for higher levels of what experts refer to as flourishing. 

Flourishing occurs when mental health is positive and can ultimately contribute to long-term recovery. In the study, the individuals who maintained abstinence were more likely to experience flourishing in a long-term realm. About 40.7% of the individuals flourished after three months as compared to 9.3% who experienced languishing. Nearly 40% of individuals experienced flourishing after about 12 months compared to 12.4% percent languishing. 

Abstaining From Substances With the 12-Step Model

Based on the study, individuals who abstain from substance abuse, as counseled by the 12 Step Model, experience less substance abuse, and mental health intensifies. The 12 Step model provides individuals struggling with a framework that is aimed towards the following: 

As described in a Psych Central article called Recovery Using the 12 Steps, following the 12 Step Model helps individuals by building the following substance abuse and mental health services as transformational tools and practices:

  • The ability for individuals to acknowledge and admit that oneself is undergoing substance abuse and drug addiction 
  • Surrendering to the fact that drug addiction exists and makes the decision to seek control through an external guide
  • Self-awareness and self-observation of substance abuse and drug addiction behaviors that were a part of and surfaced as from addiction
  • Assist in promoting self-restraint 
  • An opportunity to practice building up self-esteem in one’s positive capabilities and practice self-restraint
  • Utilizing the ability to alter behaviors and achieving self-acceptance
  • Having compassion for individuals affected by substance abuse and drug addiction
  • Utilizing the tools needed to make processes a constant practice throughout the individual’s life

By offering the correct tools and practices, the 12 Step Model can serve as an effective method that can be used to change a variety of different behaviors. In turn, individuals who wish to overcome substance abuse and drug addiction can find their path to recovery.

By responding with particular actions, there are two distinctive features of the 12 Step Program:

A Group Setting 

 The 12 Steps of recovery are applied and discussed in a recovery group setting. Primarily, members, a part of this group, emphasize the self-admission of the situation they are recovering from. 


A sponsor can be considered a more recovering individual who has also undergone substance abuse and drug and alcohol addiction. The primary objective of applying a sponsor into the 12 Step program is to utilize them as a guide for the new members of the group and act much like a mentor to them. According to the associated 12 Step Program of Narcotics Anonymous, “A sponsor is simply another addict in recovery who is willing to share his or her journey through the Twelve Steps.”

What Are The Steps in the Program?

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Decided to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What Are The Benefits Of The 12 Step Programs?

Most experts believe that incorporating residential and research-based treatment programs that are customized to each specific individual’s needs is the most effective method to achieve and maintain abstinence. Whether this program includes the 12 Step Program or an alternative to the original substance abuse and drug addiction treatment programs, it’s vital to customize the care to that specific individual. 

The 12 Step Programs Provide Sober Communities

One of the biggest benefits of utilizing the 12 Step Model is the sober communities provided. When a strong and sober network is presented, it ranks as one of the most effective approaches utilized to attain a successful recovery. Engaging in a sober community which is unlike what the individual struggling is used to, presents a huge challenge that takes some getting used to. 

The reason individuals have presented a challenge in engaging in sober communities is that typically their friends are still engaging in substance abuse and drug addiction use. It’s often difficult to meet new friends. By attending 12 Step Meetings, social contact with like-minded individuals will be shared, presenting similar sobriety goals. Another plus side is the similar individuals in the 12 Step programs allow newcomers to feel less enticed and less stressed.

12 Step Programs Are Found Typically Everywhere 

Nearly every city and town have about one 12 Step Meeting. This perk makes it exceptionally suitable to participate in a 12 Step Program. The plus side is it’s located in various cities. There is normally a meeting within walking distance. Therefore making it easier to incorporate a meeting into their day. 

The 12 Step Programs Stay Committed To Long-Lasting Recovery 

By engaging in meetings regularly, it’ll present a great way to continually renew commitment to recovery. Similarly, as individuals attend church every week to receive encouragement regarding beliefs and values, attending 12 Step Meetings reminds individuals struggling with substance abuse and drug and alcohol addiction of all the lessons learned in recovery. By utilizing all benefits of 12 Step Programs, individuals will be reminded of why continuing to work diligently towards a goal of staying sober is so vital. 

The 12 Step Programs Offer Structure 

It is not ideal for an individual struggling with substance abuse and drug addiction to have unstructured time on their hands. When isolation or boredom strikes in an individual’s life, cravings can often occur. By incorporating a healthy schedule surrounded by supportive and like-minded individuals, it’ll most likely keep the person grounded. 

The 12 Step Programs Provide An Opportunity To Help Others 

It’s ideal to think of 12 Step Programs as a great opportunity for people to be of service to others. By the individual volunteering, even in a minor way, can greatly benefit and improve their sense of gratitude and self-esteem. It greatly helps in having the person escape the realities of their head, forget their issues, and instead focus on helping other people instead. 

The Path To Recovery Awaits At BRC Healthcare Today 

Here at BRC Healthcare, we understand that the 12 Step Programs of Alcoholics Anonymous AA are a powerful tool aimed to assist individuals to get their life back on track. We specialize in helping those battling substance abuse and alcohol and drug addiction. Call today!