12- Step Program
What to Expect
Founded in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is widely considered to be the gold standard among 12-step programs – and one that has spawned an array of organizations that also apply and champion the community-based model. Today AA has more than 115,000 groups around the world, offering regular meetings to those in recovery.
Programs focus on building a community of support, breaking the intimidating process of recovery into a series of attainable steps, and surrounding yourself with others going through similar situations so individuals who are fighting addiction feel less isolated in their struggles. Many participants join of their own volition, while others attend to continue work they started in a formalized rehabilitation center, and others are invited by those already in the program. All 12-step programs focus on some variation of the following 12 tenets.
The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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.
The framework associated with various 12-step groups and meetings can be similar, but no two are identical. The best way to identify one that will work for you is to familiarize yourself with the options before attending (and then sit in on those that made your “shortlist” to determine which feels like a fit).
Find a group that suits your specific needs.
There is no shortage of 12-step programs in Boulder, Denver or your local city available to those interested in attending. Focus on the group characteristics that will make you most likely to participate, whether that means finding one that’s all men or women, one that you can get to over your work lunch hour or convenient to your daily commute, or one that’s open to the public versus closed to new members. Aside from demographic information and/or the convenience factors, also keep in mind that each group will typically have its own personality and finding your best fit might require you to drop in on a few.
Choose the type of meeting you’d like to attend.
No two meetings are the same, but within AA there are a variety of meetings held regularly:
- Speaker meetings allow one or more individuals to share their story.
- Topic meetings (sometimes referred to as “discussion meetings”) involve the facilitator choosing and topic and everyone contributing their thoughts.
- Newcomer meetings let those who are new to the group ask questions such as “Do I really need to attend a meeting every day?” and “Do I have to have a sponsor?”
- Big Book meetings focus on readings of the Alcoholics Anonymous
- Literature meetings also focus on books related to treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, just not necessarily the AA book.
- Meditation meetings help attendees learn to meditate and focus on the benefits of mindfulness.
- Open/closed meetings reflect access; some are open to the public and new members, others are not or are restricted to certain genders.
Programs aren’t limited to individuals struggling with addiction.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the best-known among the 12-step programs, but other groups focus on specific substances as well as other unhealthy behaviors or addictions: opiates, crystal meth, heroin, marijuana, narcotics, gambling, overeating, sex addiction, eating disorders, etc. Fortunately, there are also programs designed to help friends and family members of those who are struggling with addiction. Al-Anon assists friends or loved ones, Families Anonymous focuses on helping family members cope, Alateen helps children of alcoholics and other addicts sort through their feelings, and Adult Children of Alcoholics offers insight and support to those whose childhood was spent with an alcoholic parent or guardian.
Whatever type of group or meeting you join, understand that the first step is often the hardest one to take – but the most important. If you or a loved one needs help starting (or getting back on) the path to sobriety, feel free to reach out to us at Choice House.