12 steps are the core intellectual and spiritual content of AA fellowship (Alcoholics Anonymous) that outlines the program. These twelve steps are in fact principles which are spiritual in nature. When these principles are accepted and new routines and behaviors flow out of them; they lead to calm the obsessions relating to drinking and drugging thereby resulting in a happy and useful life.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and its 12 steps program has been here for more than 80 years now, as a fellowship that has changed the life of multitude. Although it is not a ‘treatment’ per se and doesn’t claim itself to be, a number of studies and repeated accounts of successful recovering patients have shown that working on 12 steps results in reduced drinking and drugging leading to abstinence. The principles of AA are embodied in the 12 steps and in AA literature. Moreover, sponsors (senior recovering alcoholics/addicts who are in advanced recovery and as a part of working on 12 steps help others) play an important role as well. They are established members, enjoying sobriety for a substantial period and have applied the 12 steps to their own lives. They mentor other members, give advice and support thereby helping in completing the 12 steps. They also guide in terms of the mindset, paradigms and tasks needed to achieve this goal. Sponsors help both new and other established members of AA, but ‘newcomers’ are given special importance when it comes to support and help.
The backbone of 12 step program is that alcoholics need to find a higher power, an entity other than their own selves to help them. This is due to the mindset in active addiction that I can do anything and must do everything on my own and even when my loved ones try to help me, I must not let them come into the way of drugs. The mindset needed for recovery comes from a firm belief; those in recovery need to access a power greater and other than them in order to achieve sobriety. Although there are some recovery models that advocate reduced drinking or drinking in moderation; this is not a tenant of 12 steps program. It clearly knows and teaches that believes that alcohol and other drugs cannot be moderated in alcoholism and drugs need to be stopped altogether for good and for the recovery to take shape. It also, thereby validates the disease concept of addiction and alcoholism.
It also believes that alcoholism is never cured. Once it is there alcoholism or the inability to use the mood altering substances aka drugs can never be used safely and recovery and sobriety are the only ways of living and normal life. Many members who subscribe to this program remain in recovery for many many years and they do so by regularly working the 12 step program and attending 12 step meetings and groups.
The 12 steps program not only helps to a great extent in achieving abstinence but also helps in the challenges which come after the abstinence. Following are some examples and elaborations in such a case:
- When one makes the decision not to drink and not confine themselves to abstinence but also rebuild their personalities by repenting, reforming, and building from the wreckage of the past.
- The program blames the illness, not the alcoholic for the wreckage. It helps a great deal towards creating guilt which is a mending/ restructuring force. It also helps with dealing and healing of the shame, which is considered as the core of the addictive disease and is a binding force which doesn’t let recovery thrive.
- Helps in avoiding censure and other destructive forms of communication in early recovery.
- Reward good behavior by awarding time based honor rewards such as 30, 60, 90 day or 1 year “chips” as goals and milestones in recovery are achieved. This greatly helps in modifying the behaviors and later solidifying the desired behaviors into habits.
- The participation in 12 step meetings, groups and classes facilitate the expression of difficult inner states such as low self-esteem and that too in nondestructive ways instead of by drinking.
This program does not ask the alcoholic to get a job, be a better family member, or become more responsible. This advocates the time tested principle of recovery that Recovery and Sobriety are the goals from which other desirable routines and behaviors will emerge and not the other way around. This is how it ensures that the recovery and sobriety are to be focused rather than other things. The experiences (sharing “experiences, strength, and hope”) provided by this program are proven to be good enough to fill the vacuum that results in a recovering alcoholic’s life after abstinence.