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Making 12-Step Recovery Work for You

While it’s true that each person’s journey through addiction and healing is unique, some trends and tendencies are more likely to ring true for you than others. Even if you have no prior experience with substance abuse, you’ve probably heard of 12-Step programs. This approach to sobriety and wellness is so well-known that it has generated dozens of spinoffs and alternatives that build on its time-tested formula for helping people overcome their innermost challenges with addiction and destructive habits, from gambling to sex addiction.

12-Step programs have been helping people move forward in recovery for decades. As you explore your options for treatment and care, make sure to consider 12-Step programs with an open mind. Even if parts of the traditional format or content don’t immediately appeal to you, the core formula has proven highly effective for thousands of people. You don’t have to incorporate every element of a 12-Step program into your personal journey to reap the benefits the system offers. Learn how to make 12-Step programs work for you.

What Makes a 12-Step Approach

A 12-Step program is, by general definition, a mutual aid program that involves no fees or payments, designed to help its members overcome a specific negative habit or psychologically-based behavior in a group setting by following a specific set of principles. Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is the first and probably best-known 12-Step program. The original 12 Steps define a process by which a person can overcome addiction and includes steps like admitting that you can’t control your addiction, placing your faith in a higher power, making amends for your wrongdoings, and learning to live a better life. 

While these steps form the groundwork for recovery, it’s important to realize that each person will carry them out differently. For some, making amends might look like rekindling old relationships that were damaged by addiction, while others might find peace in laying those relationships to rest because they weren’t healthy and, in doing so, making amends with themselves. 

Think of the 12 Steps more as guidelines that are meant to steer you in the right direction. With a commitment to the ideal of positive change, you’re likely to know best what you need when faced with the plethora of choices that become available when you attend these meetings.

12-Step and God

One element of the 12-Step approach that has the potential to scare off newcomers is the heavy use of “the ‘God’ word” and other spiritual language. In truth, the 12 Steps don’t hinge upon belief in any deity or the prescription of any specific set of religious doctrine; it’s been widely acknowledged that the “God” mentioned in the original 12-Step literature is an all-encompassing word that refers to whatever form of higher power a person wishes to accept. This can mean a monotheistic, capital-G God in the religious sense, or something more abstract, such as the realization that as human beings, we are unable to fully control the world around us and that, after a certain point, we rely upon the universe to dictate our future. You can use whatever allows you to achieve the crucial inner transformation that recovery demands. 

If you’re struggling with the concept of a higher power, you’re not alone–it’s a common sticking point for many new to the process. Voice your doubts at your meetings and discuss them with local staff. This is all part of working on yourself. As with other parts of a 12-Step program, the higher power part is meant to help you achieve lasting change, and, as such, it can be molded to meet your specific needs. You may even find a moment of enlightenment as you discuss the nature of reality with your peers and the existence (or lack thereof) of a higher power.

Customizing a 12-Step Program to Meet Your Needs

While most programs and groups that practice a 12-Step approach will offer the full range of steps, start to finish, the meetings you choose to attend are up to you. As you discuss your post-treatment recovery plan with your sponsor, therapist, or any other professional aiming to help you get well, it’s important to both communicate your needs and preferences and remain open-minded to a variety of methods that might benefit you.

Keep in mind, too, that the people who organize and run 12-Step meetings are familiar with the individual nature of recovery. They know that not everyone will make progress in the same way. Even if you’re skeptical about the approach or are simply interested in trying it out as one of many forms of aftercare, discuss your intentions with your local program leader. Chances are, they’ve already helped dozens of people in similar shoes move forward in overcoming addiction.

There’s no denying the efficacy of a consistent and disciplined group-based route to sobriety. Whether you choose a 12-Step program or another method, the most effective way to beat addiction is to tackle it head-on with an intentional plan to break negative cycles and get back on track. If you or a loved one are struggling to reform destructive habits, reach out for professional assistance from our experts at Cornerstone Healing Center. Our home-away-from-home facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, is designed to bring out the best in you and help you navigate the ups and downs of addiction, recovery, and what comes next. Receive a combination of cutting-edge medical treatment and empowering social support to transform your life and leave substance abuse behind you. Forget what ideas you may hold about 12-Step programs; if you need a change, get in touch with us to find out for yourself. Call Cornerstone Healing Center today at (800) 643-2108 to learn more.

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