12 Step Program

12 step programs are very famous programs that are used to help treat people who suffer from a dysfunctional behavior, such as addiction. The very first 12 step program was developed in the 1930s by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Since then, it grew to become the best known approach in helping people not just recover from alcohol addiction, but also from a variety of other types of addictions.

History of the 12 Step Program

The AA wrote the first book to discuss the 12 step program, which they called “Alcoholics Anonymous”, but is now better known as the “Big Book”. As the 12 step program grew to incorporate other types of addictions, various other books were published on the subject, as were videos and recordings. All have been designed to provide more details about the 12 individual steps, and how these can be applied specifically in the lives of actual people.

The original 12 step program is still in place today, although there are also many variations of it. Some of these address specific dysfunctional behaviors and addictions. Others address specific cultures or beliefs. All, however, follow the format that people have to go through each step sequentially in order to rid themselves of addiction and become happy and healthy. Often, people regress to a previous step and then continue to work on their recovery again. The AA outlines this in the “Promises” or “12 Traditions”, which other groups have also adopted in some way or another.

The 12 Steps

  1. Admitting that you are powerless over your addiction, and that your life had become unmanageable
  2. Coming to believe that a greater power can help restore your life
  3. Deciding to turn over your life and will to the greater power, in the way that you understand that greater power
  4. Taking a moral inventory of yourself in a way that is both searching and fearless.
  5. Admitting to the higher power, to yourself, and to others what the nature of your wrongs is.
  6. Being ready to have the higher power remove all the problems you have experience.
  7. Humbly asking the higher power to remove your shortcomings
  8. Making a list of all the people to whom you have caused harm, and becoming ready to make amends to each of these.
  9. Making direct amends to people when and where possible, unless this would cause injury to yourself or to others.
  10. Continuing to take a personal inventory, and always admitting it when you have been wrong.
  11. Seeking, through meditation and prayer, to improve your personal contact with the higher power, praying only to get to know the will of this higher power for you, and for the power to carry out this will.
  12. Becoming spiritually awakened through the 12 steps and using this awakening to message other addicted people, practicing the 12 principles in everything that you do.

The 12 Promises

Underpinning the 12 steps are 12 promises. These are promises to the addicted people and tell them what will happen to them if they do go through the 12 steps properly. Essentially, participants are told that, before they are half way through the program, they will:

  1. Get to know a new happiness and freedom
  2. No longer regret the past, but will not shut the door to the past either
  3. Understand what “serenity” means
  4. Know peace
  5. See how their experience can be of benefit, regardless of how far down they went
  6. No longer feel self-pity or uselessness
  7. Lose interest in engaging in selfish activities, but instead gaining interest in their fellows
  8. No longer self-seek
  9. Change their entire attitude and outlook on life
  10. No longer be afraid of economic insecurity or people
  11. Intuitively know how to manage triggers and stressful situations
  12. Suddenly realize what the higher power is doing for them, and what they were unable to do for themselves

Programs Like Alcoholics Anonymous

The original 12 step program was developed specifically by and for the AA. However, different groups were quickly formed once it became clear that this program was so effective. These groups have included small variations in the 12 steps and promises, but have effectively copied it. Those groups include:

  • ACA – Adult Children of Alcoholics
  • Al-Anon/Alateen, for friends and families of alcoholics
  • CA – Cocaine Anonymous
  • CLA – Clutterers Anonymous
  • CMA – Crystal Meth Anonymous
  • Co-Anon, for friends and family of addicts
  • CoDA – Co-Dependents Anonymous, for people working to end patterns of dysfunctional relationships and develop functional and healthy relationships
  • COSA – an auxiliary group of Sex Addicts Anonymous
  • COSLAA – CoSex and Love Addicts Anonymous
  • DA – Debtors Anonymous
  • EA – Emotions Anonymous, for recovery from mental and emotional illness
  • FA – Families Anonymous, for relatives and friends of addicts
  • FA – Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous
  • FAA – Food Addicts Anonymous
  • GA – Gamblers Anonymous
  • Gam-Anon/Gam-A-Teen, for friends and family members of problem gamblers
  • HA – Heroin Anonymous
  • MA – Marijuana Anonymous
  • NA – Narcotics Anonymous
  • N/A – Neurotics Anonymous, for recovery from mental and emotional illness
  • Nar-Anon, for friends and family members of addicts
  • NicA – Nicotine Anonymous
  • OA – Overeaters Anonymous
  • OLGA – Online Gamers Anonymous
  • PA – Pills Anonymous, for recovery from prescription pill addiction.
  • SA – Sexaholics Anonymous
  • SA – Smokers Anonymous
  • SAA – Sex Addicts Anonymous
  • SCA – Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
  • SIA – Survivors of Incest Anonymous
  • SLAA – Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
  • SRA – Sexual Recovery Anonymous
  • UA – Underearners Anonymous
  • WA – Workaholics Anonymous

Then, there are programs that have used the AA program as their inspiration, but have made significant changes to it. Some, for instance, do not follow 12 steps or 12 traditions at all. These include:

  • Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-focused twelve-step program for recovery from various behaviors
  • Courage International, a Catholic ministry which ministers to homosexuals
  • GROW, a peer support and mutual aid organization for recovery from, and prevention of, serious mental illness
  • Homosexuals Anonymous, group of people using a modified version of the twelve-steps to help each other to live an ex-gay lifestyle
  • LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program, program affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that uses twelve-step principles
  • Pagans In Recovery (PIR), for neopagans recovering from various compulsive/addictive behaviors
  • Parents Anonymous (PA), for parents who have abused children
  • Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA), for people who are affected by schizophrenia

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