Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to a variety of mental and physical health issues, and it can also strain relationships with friends, family members and colleagues. Fortunately, help is available if you are ready to accept it. One of the most popular methods of overcoming alcohol addiction is the 12-step program. Let’s take a closer look at what this program is, what it aims to accomplish and if it is right for you.
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What Is the 12-Step Program?
The goal of this program is to get participants to understand that their addiction to alcohol has made their lives unmanageable. More importantly, it aims to get them to understand that they cannot travel on the road to recovery on their own. Instead, they will need the help of a medical professional, their peers or their preferred deity to achieve the goals of living a more peaceful and fulfilling life. Of course, this program also emphasizes the role of the individual and the importance of taking personal responsibility for their past, present and future actions.
What Are the 12 Steps?
The first step in the program is acknowledging that you have no power over alcohol. Essentially, you admit that sheer willpower alone isn’t going to help you beat your affliction. This is because it is a disease that you have to treat the same way you’d treat an allergy, a broken leg or any other ailment.
The next several steps involve submitting to a higher power and admitting to that power that you have erred. It’s worth noting that a higher power doesn’t necessarily have to be Jesus Christ or someone similar. Instead, it could be your doctor, your best friend or some other generic entity that you dedicate your energy to.
After submitting to this power, you then ask that the flaws in your character that led to your disease be taken away. If you have defined your higher power as a doctor or close friend, this person may recommend medication, journaling or other ways that you can overcome your perceived shortcomings.
The goal of this step is not to absolve you of the guilt, shame or other negative emotions resulting from your previous actions. Instead, it is to put you in a state where you feel worthy of seeking help and to put you in a position to receive it effectively. This will help you focus on the future and being a positive presence in the lives of those who you interact with.
At this point, you are at the eighth step of the program, which asks you to make a list of all the people who have been harmed by your actions. The ninth step asks you to actually make amends with those individuals if it is safe to do so.
Finally, you are asked to take a regular inventory of your personal shortcomings to avoid harming others in the future. This will also make it easier to develop a deeper relationship with your higher power that can be leveraged to help others overcome their own addictions.
How Long Does This Program Take to Complete?
In a way, you never truly complete this program because it asks you to continuously assess your ability to grow and change as a person. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that you never truly overcome your addiction to alcohol. Instead, you simply learn how to manage the symptoms of your disease in an effort to prevent serious breakouts.
However, you should expect to devote several weeks or months to getting through all 12 steps for the first time. This is because it can take a significant period of time before you get comfortable with the fact that you are not in control of your life and that you need help. It can also take some time to develop the relationships and personal habits that it will take to achieve long-term sobriety.
It may also take a significant amount of time to actually reach out to those who you have harmed to make amends. Ideally, you will do this in person as opposed to by phone, email or social media. However, it may be acceptable to communicate by phone or online if it is the only safe or practical way to initiate contact. The most important thing is to acknowledge to your victim that you were wrong and that you recognize the pain that your actions caused.
Even if you have completed the program in the past, you may need to start at the beginning after a relapse. It may also be necessary to repeat steps if you begin to feel tempted to drink alcohol or find yourself in situations that might lead to consuming alcohol in the future.
Is This Approach Right for Me?
It’s critical to understand that the 12-step plan is merely one way to approach the process of obtaining sobriety. However, the concepts of personal responsibility, acknowledging that you’re suffering from a disease and constantly evaluating your progress are key parts of any successful journey to recovery. Therefore, even if you don’t enroll in this plan itself, you will likely be exposed to at least a portion of it elsewhere.
Although the plan uses a lot of religious language, it is an inclusive plan designed for anyone to succeed if they are willing to put in the effort. This is generally true even if you participate in an alcohol recovery plan sponsored by a local church or other faith-based organization.
You should also understand that you don’t have to follow the steps to the letter. If past experiences have already taught you that your addiction is a disease, you can skip the first step. If you already have a relationship with your friends, medical professionals or some other higher power, you can start your journey by making amends to others.
Alternatives to This Plan
Although the 12-step plan is designed to work for a broad segment of those who are battling addiction, it isn’t for everybody. For instance, if you have just decided that you want to get help, your focus will likely be on recovering physically. This may include going through an initial detox process as well as seeking treatment for neuropathy, organ damage or other problems caused by excessive drinking.
Furthermore, you may not be ready to admit that you can’t get past your addiction without the help of a strong support network. That in itself means that you’re not ready to take part in a traditional 12-step program.
However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make progress as it relates to overcoming your alcohol issue. Your doctor may be able to suggest medications that can help you better deal with anxiety or other mental health triggers that cause you to drink excessively.
Going to regular weekly meetings gives you an opportunity to learn from the experiences of other addicts. Listening to others can help you avoid mistakes that they have made on their road to recovery and may also expose you to coping strategies that can help when you’re tempted to drink. Over time, you may also be able to help others by sharing your experiences and what you’ve learned about yourself since first seeking sobriety.
If you are ready to seek help in your quest to achieve sobriety, Long Island Interventions is ready to provide it. There are a variety of treatment options that you can choose from that are designed to assist you in a compassionate and evidence-based manner.