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Building Resilience in Recovery: Coping Strategies for Navigating Life’s Challenges

The 12-step treatment program model is the most widely used and established form of addiction treatment. Originally founded by Alcoholics Anonymous, this framework has since evolved to treat a wide range of substance abuse disorders.

The original 12-step treatment program was based off a philosophy designed by a man named Bill Wilson. He was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as a former alcoholic who struggled with depression and panic attacks.

Bill Wilson tried to get sober four times under the Hospital for Drug and Alcohol Addictions in New York City. There, he began to learn about addictions as more than a psychological process. It is both physical and mental, deserving equal attention to the body as well as the mind.

Eventually, as he dealt with intense cravings in his own sobriety, Wilson reached out to a church, which later introduced him to the other co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bob Smith. Both began to work with alcoholics together, and Bill Wilson came to write the 12-step approach to sobriety that is known now as the Big Book.

What is the basic premise of a 12-step treatment program?

What is a 12-step program for drug addiction? The 12-step model introduces someone with substance abuse to a series of action steps that guide treatment. The first Big Book was meant to serve as a guide for those who could not attend the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in New York City.

Today, however, the 12-step treatment program has become one of the foundational addictions treatment methods in Canada and around the world. It has gone on to help serve as the framework for a number of other support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous.

The steps to recovery from addiction can be broken down into as follows:

  1. Admit powerlessness over addiction. Someone must be willing to admit that they have a problem before they can ever be open to receiving help. The first step is often the hardest as it means fully acknowledging the fact that you cannot control your addiction and it is, in fact, controlling you.
  2. Find hope in a greater power. Spirituality plays a central part of the 12-step approach. The original model, and many today, use Christianity as the foundation of this step, but most use spirituality as a starting point for people to develop their own beliefs and thoughts.
  3. Surrender to a higher power for help. This step involves recognizing that a higher power is able to guide the recovery journey. By focusing on God’s will over your own, you are able to put faith in something greater than yourself.
  4. Take inventory of yourself. You must thoughtfully and wholly examine every part of your life, including your actions and morals, to begin making real changes. This stage is difficult as it requires total honesty in confronting who you are and who you have been, but it is essential to making the change you want.
  5. Share what you’ve learned. After you take inventory, you must share it with God and others to fully admit your wrongdoings and shortcomings. Rather than seeing this as a failure, it is an opportunity to develop strength and courage, finally freeing yourself from the shame and guilt of keeping an addiction hidden.
  6. Become ready to change. You must be ready to accept help and change for the better. This is not always easy because admitting an addiction and willingly giving it up are not one in the same. This stage centers on finding the strength necessary to relinquish control and let a higher power help you move forward.
  7. Ask God for Healing. Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, but it is also incredibly freeing. By asking God or another higher power to release you from your addiction, you are opening your heart and mind to new opportunities and positive transformation.
  8. List amends of your wrongdoings. Addiction is destructive not only to you but those around you. Making a list of these actions can help you develop deeper awareness and come to face the consequences of your behaviour.
  9. Make amends for the past. In some cases, you may not be able to physically apologise to the person, but you can still change your mindset and seek forgiveness in your own heart.
  10. Continue taking inventory. The 12-step program doesn’t end with admitting wrongdoings. It awakens and encourages you to continually examine your life and be mindful of your thoughts and actions, both toward yourself and others.
  11. Make prayer and meditation regular practices. The process of prayer and meditation are utilised throughout the world in dozens of different contexts and religions. Prayer and meditation both invite you to draw inward, focus on the present moment and connect with the universe. For some, this is a time to connect with God. For others, it is a way to put their desires, their needs and their fears out into the open and seek comfort in something bigger than themselves.
  12. Help others. A favorite aspect of treatment for many is being able to serve others as they work through their own addiction. Many people who complete 12-step programs go on to become sponsors, or mentors, to others. Even outside of this context, you can use your experience to become a more understanding, empathetic and giving person.

Do the 12-steps really work?

As with any addictions treatment, the effect of therapy is closely tied to how open someone is to treatment. Professionals favour this model in particular because it requires active engagement throughout the entire process. Rather than focusing solely on education and alternative skills, the 12-step approach requires you to wholly commit yourself to achieving your recovery goals.

Many people say that the 12-step drug program saved their lives Starting the Steps, however, may be a major obstacle for someone who is hesitant about rehab.

The best thing to do at this stage is seek out guidance and ask questions. By learning as much as possible prior to enrolling in a program, you can build confidence in seeking help.

If you are trying to help someone enter the 12 Steps, then education will help you introduce the idea to them and allow them to make the best decision for themselves.

What to expect in the 12-steps of recovery

The process of entering the 12-step drug program starts slow You first meet with professionals who introduce you to the 12-steps and go over each one with you individually.

However, you are not told to focus on achieving all of them right away or adopting the model without any doubts or skepticism. These are normal, healthy and encouraged reactions because they open the door for conversation.

By talking about your addiction, you are already one step closer toward treating it. Even in the context of doubt, you are now open to voicing your thoughts and finding answers.

Treatment will focus first on the three introductory steps: accepting powerlessness, accepting your addiction and surrendering to a higher power.

The concept of a higher power is different to everyone, and most rehabs today recognize and celebrate diversity. They allow participants to choose their own idea of a higher power, whether that’s the Christian God or the universe’s creative force as a whole.

What matters most is that you are able to accept these steps and develop an open mind toward nurturing your spirituality. This is what serves as one of the core elements of all 12-step models.

Who is most likely to benefit from the 12 steps?

Most people encounter this approach because it is so widely used. They never attended a drug or alcohol rehab before, and they enrolled in this program because it was the first one they came across.

Because of its flexibility and deeply personal application, this model has been used to help people with all levels of addiction. Whether someone has only began to drink moderately in the last few months or has wrestled with substance abuse their entire lives, the 12-Step Treatment Program for Drug Addiction can help.

One of the biggest arguments people have against the 12 Steps is the idea that they are powerless and addiction is a lifelong disease. Most rehabs in Canada today accept this as well, and they modify the 12 Steps to reflect this idea.

Rather than seeing someone as powerless against addiction, they see addiction as an obstacle unsurmountable without support. This is true. Although you are solely responsible for maintaining sobriety, the path to get there takes openness, trust and the support of others.

How long does it take to go through the 12 steps?

Most rehabs work through the 12 Steps in a 90-day program. Over the course of 90 meetings, you will learn how to apply these steps to your life, confront your emotions, fears and anxieties to reach a deeper understanding of addiction, the world and yourself.

If you are new to addiction treatment, then 90 days may seem like an unfathomable commitment. However, as you work through the 12-step drug program, you will begin to see results and find the motivation to keep going.

Drug and alcohol recovery starts in rehab, but it lasts a lifetime. Overcoming your addiction may be something you do for decades after your first round of treatment. Allow yourself to be open to the possibility of change, and embrace the doorway that rehab opens. 

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