Supporting Sobriety With the Twelve Steps

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In the early stages of sobriety, establishing and maintaining abstinence is an individual's main focus. Contrary to what some may believe, however, ceasing substance use is only part of this battle. To effectively maintain lasting sobriety, individuals must create a stable and structured foundation for their ongoing recovery journey. For many, the 12-Step philosophy and the associated Twelve Steps can provide this much-needed structure.

Pathways Recovery Center is a mental health and addiction treatment facility that offers 12-Step support for those it suits. We understand that 12-Step support may not prove useful for every client. However, we are passionate about offering it to clients who feel they would benefit from a spiritual approach to recovery.

What Is 12-Step Support?

12-Step support provides a spiritual and structured foundation for individuals seeking personal recovery from substance abuse, addiction, and other destructive behaviors.

Individuals working with a 12-Step program or group will work through each of the Twelve Steps. These steps were originally coined by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith alongside the development of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

The 12-Step Philosophy

According to an article in Social Work and Public Health, the 12-Step philosophy is a particular perspective on the recovery process. This perspective emphasizes the importance of:

  • Accepting substance use disorder (SUD) and addiction as diseases that can be treated and managed but never completely eliminated
  • Enhancing individual maturity and spiritual growth
  • Minimizing self-centeredness
  • Providing help to other individuals in recovery

12-Step Programs

Due to their long history, 12-Step programs are often recognized as a traditional form of addiction treatment. These programs are most commonly available in residential treatment or outpatient treatment formats. There are also 12-Step community-based programs that offer readily available, mutual support at no cost. Knowing that 12-Step programs are offered through community-based support can be valuable, especially if an individual is unwilling or not yet ready to commit to a professional treatment program.

Certainly, 12-Step programs are not for everyone. However, you do not have to be religious to benefit from the Twelve Steps. Understanding what these Twelve Steps truly entail can help you decide whether a 12-Step program could benefit your recovery.

What Are the Twelve Steps?

According to AA, the Twelve Steps are as follows:

#1. Admitting powerlessness: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” 

#2. Calling on a Higher Power: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." 

#3. Fostering faith in Higher Power: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

#4. Acknowledging wrongdoings: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

#5. Admitting wrongdoings: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

#6. Connecting with Higher Power: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

#7. Calling on Higher Power for resolution: “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

#8. Seeking amends: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

#9. Making amends: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

#10. Continuing acknowledgment of wrongdoings: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

#11. Deepening relationship with Higher Power: “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. Spreading the message: “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.”

AA also provides a deeper explanation of each step and how they relate to the greater community through The Twelve Traditions

Do I Have to Believe in God to Work the Twelve Steps?

Individuals who are new to the idea of 12-Step support may experience ambivalence when pondering terms such as “Higher Power” used within the Twelve Steps. While this approach originally developed from a religious lens, it has since evolved into an openly spiritual practice.

It is important to understand that the term “Higher Power” can be replaced with any force, energy, or deity that resonates most with you. For example, the term “Higher Power” can be used synonymously with:

  • God
  • Mother nature
  • Creation
  • The Universe
  • Buddha
  • Consciousness
  • Your true self
  • Science
  • Existential freedom

Working the Twelve Steps in Community

One of the hallmarks of 12-Step programs is that they facilitate necessary social support. Meeting regularly with other peers in recovery to discuss, process, and overcome the challenges of sobriety can be paramount for facilitating long-term treatment participation and engagement.

Community support reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness. It also provides a sounding board for discovering new coping and stress management skills needed to prevent relapse.

The aforementioned article by Social Work and Public Health explains that 12-Step participation is associated with greater treatment outcomes. These include a greater likelihood of abstinence, improved psychosocial functioning, and greater self-efficacy. Like all treatment approaches, outcomes are often determined by the consistency and duration of treatment participation.

12-Step Support at Pathways

At Pathways Recovery Center, we offer 12-Step support in both treatment and aftercare formats. We have seen how the Twelve Steps have influenced greater treatment adherence in addition to longer-lasting recovery outcomes for clients in all stages of the recovery journey.

For those who are uninterested in 12-Step support, we offer a plethora of other treatment modalities and programs. This ensures that we are meeting the client where they are and providing individualized treatment that will be meaningful and effective for them. We are dedicated to helping individuals heal from addiction and mental health disorders through the use of holistic, whole-person treatment.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it is important to recognize the wide range of support services available for achieving and maintaining lasting recovery. The traditional 12-Step philosophy provides a valuable, spiritual framework through the Twelve Steps, offering step-by-step guidelines on how to overcome addictive behaviors alongside peers in recovery. Further, 12-Step support acknowledges the necessity of social support in sustaining treatment motivation and engagement throughout long-term recovery. At Pathways Recovery Center, we offer 12-Step support for individuals who may be interested in exploring its benefits. In addition, we offer several other modalities and approaches to ensure social connection throughout recovery. Call (888) 771-0966 today to learn more.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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