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What are the stages of 12 step recovery?

12 step recovery is based on a popular approach to treating alcohol and other addictions. 12 step recovery programs were originally, and perhaps most famously, used by Alcoholics Anonymous. However many organisations associated with all kinds of addictive behaviour and drug use now use a 12 step recovery program. It is based on a form of self-help.

Beating any kind of addiction takes a great deal of personal strength and determination, but it is also important that people remember that even with the most determined personality, nothing changes overnight. For many people when they first contemplate the idea of getting clean or sober, the goal can seem very far away, and this can seem daunting, and may even put people off of even trying.

It is thus beneficial in many cases for individuals to have set goals and stages they can achieve throughout their journey, to help them recognise the progress they have already made and continue to make.

Therefore the well known 12 step program can be an ideal way of helping people feel more in control and aware of their journey, as each step represents a new challenge, and while some people may find one step more difficult than another, by working through them all, and with the support of others, many people do find the strength to continue.

A Concise Overview of the 12 step process

The whole recovery process may be slightly modified depending on the type of addiction being treated and the treatment centre that you attend. Other organisations which have adopted 12 step recovery programs have often changed the wording and focus a little to remove religious language. These recovery programs still emphasise that belief in a higher power is what’s important – it doesn’t have to be in a particular God and atheists are still welcome. However, as a good guide these are the 12 steps originally published by Alcoholics Anonymous.

  1. Step one: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable. (Many believe that step one is the most important stage of 12 step recovery.)
  2. Step two: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Step three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Step four: A searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Step five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Step six: We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Step seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Step eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Step nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Step ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Step eleven: 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. Step twelve: 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.

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The 12 step recovery process

12 step recovery can be carried out through outpatient meetings or through a residential stay in a treatment centre.

A stint in a treatment centre will usually last at least a month, while outpatient meetings will usually be attended at least once a week.

For many people the 12 step program is especially rewarding when they complete it within a group setting, this may occur in either a residential setting, or maybe in a more informal group setting that someone elects to go to. But being able to share your experiences and hear those of others can be very empowering, not to mention motivating. For example, hearing the story of someone who has overcome adversity to become drug free, helps show that it can be done, and many people even find that their group offer advice on how to overcome certain challenges.

The twelve step program is a fairly standard approach to addiction treatment, with many residential treatment centres using this approach, as well as more low profile groups, and this is because it works. If applied as it should be and if the individual fully engages and desires to get well, there is a significantly improved chance of an individual overcoming their addiction and rebuilding their lives in whatever fashion they wish.