Many people have heard of the 12 Step program.
Yet many do not really know what the basic program is or how it works, what the 12 steps are, the role of a sponsor, or the importance the program has in addiction recovery.
The Beginning of the 12 Step Program
The 12 Steps were originally developed in 1935 by the two co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Four years later the steps were included in the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism. Since then many other 12 step programs have been founded including Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in 1953 and Cocaine Anonymous (CA) in 1982. Although these programs have different names, the 12 steps are their foundation as they all follow the same program and principles. The only difference in the wording of the 12 steps is the changing of the word “alcohol” to “addiction.”
The 12 Step Program: An Overview
According to the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, the “Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.” Although spirituality is an important part of the 12 step program, there is not an affiliation to any religion. Each person is encouraged to practice the program and define Higher Power in their own way. Their personal version or conception of Higher Power could be God as that person understands God to be, or it does not have to be God at all.
In a 12 Step recovery program, both the psychology and the spirituality of a person is addressed. Each individual works through the steps while exploring their own values, how they connect with other people, and their willingness to humbly ask for help and engage with others. Each individual must take personal responsibility for their own actions and accept accountability for those actions.
What are the 12 Steps?
In chapter 5 of the Big Book, the 12 steps are listed. The following are those steps and I have added, in parenthesis, the value that is associated with each one:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable. (Acceptance)
- Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. (Faith)
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. (Trust, Faith)
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. (Honesty, Acceptance)
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. (Courage)
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. (Willingness)
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. (Humility)
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. (Forgiveness)
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. (Freedom)
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. (Perseverance)
- 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. (Patience)
- 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. (Love)
The Role of a Sponsor
Questions and Answers on Sponsorship, an AA pamphlet published in 2005, defines a sponsor as “an alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program and shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through AA.”
Choosing the correct sponsor in a 12 Step program is a very important decision. A sponsor’s main responsibility and purpose in addiction recovery is to help the other individual, or sponsee, work through the 12 steps of the program. Every sponsor must have suffered from drug or alcohol addiction, worked through the 12 step program, and experienced recovery.
A sponsor will become a mentor, good friend, role model, teacher, and experienced guide as you travel down the road to recovery. Part of their role is to provide information about recovery, explain basic concepts and terminology used in the program, and introduce their sponsee to other members. A sponsor is someone a sponsee can trust, a safe person. They are available in times of crisis and listen and provide support whenever it is needed.
Additional roles of sponsors include:
- Holding their sponsee accountable by offering advice and suggestions
- Helping with building and maintaining relationships that are healthy by providing practice to their sponsee
- Providing encouragement and motivation that a person may need to work the 12 steps
- Helping to explain the 12 Steps and encouraging their sponsee to read and apply them to their life
- Encouraging their sponsee to engage in service work
A sponsor also provides valuable insight regarding their life experiences without using alcohol or drugs. They act as a living example of how to function and achieve recovery from addiction.
Addiction Treatment Centers and the 12 Steps
Finding an addiction treatment center that includes a 12 Step program in their treatment services is essential for long-term sobriety. Not every residential treatment center offers the 12 steps as part of their recovery program.
At Canyon Vista Recovery Center located in Mesa, Arizona, the 12 Step Program is part of our full continuum of care that includes our unique Extended Care Treatment Program and advanced traditional and holistic therapies.
Clients attend daily 12 step meetings and meet once a week with members of Canyon Vista’s alumni group. The alumni meetings give clients the opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals that have been in the same situation as themselves. The alumni meetings provide strength, experience, and hope from people in recovery while helping to build a strong, solid foundation for recovery and long-term sobriety.