For Some People The 12 Steps Really Do Work
The 12 steps, first established in the 1930s by Bill Wilson, have now become a powerhouse in the addiction treatment world, with millions of attendees worldwide each year in AA meetings alone. AA has also spawned a network of affiliated groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Al-Anon , and more.
Professional treatment organizations have seized on AAs popularity, particularly in the US. This led to the creation of the type of program that Steward attended, known as 12-step facilitation, which pushes people to attend AA meetings and complete the 12 steps. An AA spokesperson said that the actual AA fellowship has nothing to do with professional treatment programs, telling me that we do not operate, endorse, or comment on treatment facilities. But the programs have over the decades become one of the most popular ways to treat addiction in professional settings, with federal surveys showing that more than 70 percent of addiction treatment facilities in the US deploy it sometimes or always or often.
Years of evidence show that the 12 steps, on average, really can help treat alcohol addiction. But that comes with some major caveats.
The best research also only focuses on alcohol use disorder. So whether the 12 steps work for other kinds of addiction and whether non-AA programs like Narcotics Anonymous are effective at all remains an open question in the research.
Benefits Of Support Groups
In addition to increasing rates of abstinence from alcohol, some studies show support from peers positively influences the participants perception of stress, provides more overall support, and greater quality of life.2
A recent study reports the long-term benefits of support groups:2,3
- Reduced rate of relapse
- Increased satisfaction with the overall treatment experience
- Increased treatment retention
- Improved relationships with family, friends, and co-workers
Because one of the underlying premises of recovery is hope, seeing people who have made the journey into long-term recovery inspires others who are beginning their own journey to recovery.
There are several alternatives to the 12-Step AA approach that may work better for some individuals. Five alternatives to AA include:
Which Program Should You Choose Aa Vs Na
As you can see, both programs have very similar premises, yet there are some subtle differences to consider as well. When trying to choose AA vs NA, you might find it more appealing to call upon the help of a Higher Power and focus on alcohol as being the main issue if youre an alcoholic. Or, you might decide that you need to focus on your addiction as a whole and concentrate on yourself as an individual first. Either way, both AA and NA are excellent programs that were created to foster success for those who are struggling with addictions. The fact that they both include a support system is a great benefit to you because youll find that although it can be intimidating in the beginning, learning that there are people just like you who struggle with addictions can be very beneficial to your overall success. These are people who have been where you are, and who want to invest in you the way others have invested in them. There arent many places where you will find that kind of support.
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Whats The Difference Between Aa And Na
AA programs were designed to support alcohol addiction and recovery, while NA helps individuals suffering from addictions to any substances, including street drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol. Unlike AA, the NA approach tends to focus more on addictive behavior, rather than on the actual substance being abused.
Alcoholics Anonymous And Other 12
This review summarized research comparing the Alcoholics Anonymous and similarTwelve-Step Facilitation programs to other treatments to see if they help people with drinking problems to stay sober, or reduce alcohol consumption and drinking-related consequences. We also examined whether AA/TSF reduces healthcare costs relative to other treatments.
Alcohol use disorder is a concerning individual and public health problem worldwide. Treatment is expensive. AA is a widespread and free mutual-help fellowship that helps people to recover from alcoholism and to improve their quality of life.
The evidence is current to 2 August 2019.
We identified 27 relevant studies that had included 10,565 participants. The studies varied in design and whether treatments were delivered according to standardized procedures and whether AA/TSF was compared to a treatment that had a different theoretical basis ), or to a different type of TSF .
Study funding sources
The Included studies were funded through one or more grants from the United States National Institutes of Health , the USA Department of Veterans Affairs , and other organizations . Two studies did not report their source of funding.
Manualized AA/TSF interventions usually produced higher rates of continuous abstinence than the other established treatments investigated. Non-manualized AA/TSF performed as well as other established treatments.
Certainty of evidence
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Is It Necessary To Be Religious To Follow The 12 Steps
In short, no. While the 12-steps of AA were founded and based on a spiritual principle of religious organizations, The world and AA have come a long way since and The Steps have moved in accordance to be applicable to everyone. The word god was at one point replaced with Higher Power so as to not alienate those without religious beliefs.
Though some may still feel religious connotations around these words, Higher Power is meant to represent a power greater than one’s own ego as opposed to any deity or metaphysical being. It can be a concept, the universe, the world around us, fate, karma, the recovery group itself, or anything the person using the 12-steps deems to be greater than themselves. It is a very personal thing and everyone’s interpretation of the Higher Power is different.
What To Expect At An Aa Meeting
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are informal gatherings attended by people from all walks of life. Meetings are held all over the world, and most are run similarly. They usually last about an hour to an hour and a half .
All meetings begin with a short prayer . Then in most cases, the chairperson welcomes attendees, and the 12 steps of AA and other AA doctrines are read.
Beyond the initial events, AA meetings tend to vary based on the type of meeting it is.
People can choose to share their stories or not, and some receive AA chips. An AA chip or Sobriety Token is a coin commemorating the length of time a person has remained sober. Attendees are also invited to pick up A Desire to Stop Drinking Chip, also known as the 24 Hour Chip or the Surrender Chip. The chip symbolizes the commitment to remain sober for 24 hours.
Following the official AA meeting, attendees often mingle with one another. This allows them to get to know other members and exchange phone numbers with people who can provide support when its most needed. It also lets them ask any questions that didnt seem appropriate or didnt arise during the meeting.
Attendees do not need to do anything at a meeting, other than be respectful of others in attendance. Nobody is forced to share, donate money, or participate in prayers. Attendees dont even need to self-identify as alcoholics as long as they are attending an open AA meeting.
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Provincial And Territorial Health And Support Services
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What Are 12 Step Meetings
12-step meetings are typically self-supported gatherings by its members, and therefore, are housed in churches or in buildings that are rented and called clubs. Additionally, 12-step meetings can take place in treatment centers, hospitals, and jail, or even in a backyard. The meetings are run by the members of the individual groups and usually run for an hour at a time. Members attending those meetings become family to each other as they share their journey of addiction, in the hopes that talking about their struggles with others going through the same or similar situation will lighten the weight of their burden and instill support and guidance for their own recovery.
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The Latest On The Effectiveness Of Aa
A recent study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Review found that AA did, in fact, have high success rates. It showed higher rates of long-term, sustained sobriety when compared to other control measures, like cognitive behavioral therapy.
This research brings good news to people looking for a new way of living. For one, AA is free. In addition, the program builds on peer support and camaraderie. AA is about peer support. It’s not about who has the most academic expertise. Instead, it’s about who dares to share their vulnerability and help someone who is struggling.
What Are Some Alternatives To 12
If people havent found success with 12-step programs or dont want to use them, they still have a number of alternatives. People who want the fellowship and support of a sobriety group may want to join SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, or SOS .
Increasing numbers of researchers are finding that medical and mental health approaches may be more effective in treating addiction. These approaches include medications, different forms of therapy, and holistic approaches that address the physical and mental complexities of addiction.
If you or someone you know has an alcohol use disorder or lives with alcoholism, youve at least heard of Alcoholics Anonymous . Its the first thing most people think of when hearing someone has a drinking problem: Go to AA.
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If You Participate In Addiction Help
The process of treating addiction varies depending on the type of treatment that a person receives. If you are involved in your loved one’s treatment:
- Keep working on establishing trust. Try to evaluate where you are with trustbefore going to counseling with your loved one.
- Be honest about your feelings. Tell your loved one what their addiction has been like for you and be honest about what you want to happen next.
- Do not blame, criticize, or humiliate your loved one in counseling. Simply say what it has been like for you. Being confrontational generally doesn’t work and can damage your relationship.
- Be prepared for blame. Don’t be surprised if your loved one expresses some things you have done or said that are contributing to their addiction. Stay calm and truly listen to what they’re saying, keeping an open heart and mind.
If your loved one chooses to pursue treatment on their own:
- Respect their privacy in everyday life. Do not inform friends, family, or others about your loved ones treatment without their consent.
- Respect their privacy in therapy. If they dont want to talk about it, dont push for them to tell you what happened.
- Practice patience. There are many approaches to addiction treatment, but no change happens overnight.
Secular Organizations For Sobriety
Join AA, and you’ll appeal to a “higher power” to help you resist cravings. Secular Organizations for Sobriety has no such requirement. They do not believe necessarily in a âhigher powerâ but instead focus on the individualâs ability to make change in their own life.
SOS focuses specifically on alcohol as opposed to other drugs, and most resources talk exclusively about drinking. But you can use the same concepts to combat addictions to other substances, including opioids.
âSOS hosts meetings in person and online.
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Brief History Of Narcotics Anonymous
While the story of AA is about acceptance, NA was more about rebellion against AA. NA was founded in 1953 in California by Jimmy K as an alternative to AA but spiritually the same. Up until NAs founding many drug addicts had taken part in AA for recovery but noted the indifference they received from others who thought AA should only be for alcoholics.
NA found troubles establishing itself outside of California until the 1980s when the crack and cocaine epidemic caused a surge in membership. NA bases its 12 steps and 12 traditions on AAs program and has a basic text known as Narcotics Anonymous. NA nowoperates thousands of daily meetings worldwide.
What Happens At Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings
Most Alcoholics Anonymous meetings begin with a reading of the AA Preamble, followed by the Serenity Prayer. AA members may read sections of the Big Book the Alcoholics Anonymous text that outlines the 12 traditions and other information about how to recover from alcoholism. The AA chairperson may ask the group if there are any new AA members or first-time visitors, and ask that these individuals raise their hands and introduce themselves, though this is not required.
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can be either open or closed. An open AA meeting welcomes anyone who is interested in participating in alcohol recovery including those who may not have a drinking problem. A closed AA meeting is only open to AA members who have a drinking problem or who think they might have a drinking problem, and want to stop drinking. Common signs of alcohol addiction include drinking daily to relieve stress, and drinking higher amounts of alcohol to experience its effects.
Some AA meetings may revolve around allowing one guest speaker to share their story, while other meetings allow every member to share their personal stories and struggles surrounding alcohol abuse. Many times, group discussions revolve around one of the 12 steps, and conclude with the Lords Prayer. AA members may also have the opportunity to share personal tips with one for avoiding relapse and staying sober.
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The Sober Truth And The Irrationality Of Alcoholics Anonymous
American psychiatrist Lance Dodes, in The Sober Truth, says that research indicates that only five to eight percent of the people who go to one or more AA meetings achieve sobriety. Gabrielle Glaser used Dodes’ figures to state that AA has a low success rate in a 2015 article for The Atlantic.
The 58% figure put forward by Dodes is controversial other doctors say that the book uses “three separate, questionable, calculations that arrive at the 58% figure.” Addiction specialists state that the book’s conclusion that ” approaches are almost completely ineffective and even harmful in treating substance use disorders” is wrong. One review called Dodes’ reasoning against AA success a “pseudostatistical polemic.”
Dodes has not, as of March 2020, read the 2020 Cochrane review showing AA efficacy, but opposes the idea that a social network is needed to overcome substance abuse.
What Is The Success Rate Of Aa
Its difficult to determine the success rate of programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous largely because theyre anonymous. Some addiction specialists have claimed that AA has a 5 to 10 percent success rate. A study showed a 35% abstinence rate when participants continued to attend AA meetings for 2-3 years. Also, estimates say that40-60% of people relapse from sobriety within a year of treatment, similar to relapse rates from other chronic conditions, such as diabetes or asthma.
Other people credit AA with helping them find sobriety and providing the peer support they need to stay that way, indicating that sobriety is unique as the people who seek it.
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A Program Based On Alcohol Abstinence
Although AA does not require complete alcohol abstinence, it does encourage it. A general belief exists throughout the AA community that drinking and AA dont mix. This is due to several reasons.
The first is the belief that those who suffer from alcohol use disorder will never be able to control their drinking for any length of time. According to AA, no true alcoholic ever regains control of their drinking.3 While individuals may experience periods of sobriety, any return to drinking, however small, will ultimately result in a downward spiral. Touching alcohol in any form is too risky. The only safe approach, then, is complete abstinence, even if you think you can control certain concentrations or quantities of alcohol.
The 12 steps of AA also discourage the use of alcohol in any amount. According to the AA website, the 12 steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.1 Only one stepthe firstactually mentions alcohol. It states, We admitted we were powerless over alcoholthat our lives had become unmanageable.4
After the first step, the program is focused on spiritual principles designed to help members live better lives and reach their full potential. Doing so requires being free from the influence of drugs and alcohol. For many people, fully living the promises of the program first requires long-term sobriety and recovery.