Finding Success in 12-Step Programs: Everything You Need to Know

12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) continue to show high success rates for those who work the program – and if you’re ready to take your recovery to new heights, 12-Step programs may give you just the push you need.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 40-41

Although there are so many people who’ve shared their success stories with 12-Step programs, there continues to be debate surrounding the efficacy of it all. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Health and Human Service Administration found that after a 1-year follow up, those who’d participated in a 12-Step program throughout formal treatment were less likely to relapse than those who didn’t participate in such a program; 12-Step programs offer a form of support that therapy alone cannot provide.

In addition to research that’s backed up the success rates of 12-Step programs, there are many people who’ve shared their own personal experiences – and by sharing their own testimony, we know that 12-Step programs themselves provide the most success to individuals who work hard for it.

Finding Success In 12-Step Programs

12-Step programs have a set of guiding principles that outline a course of recovery for those struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction and much more. Although everyone that attends 12-Step programs is different – and while each group may have its own unique dynamic – the path of recovery remains grounded in the 12-Steps of the program. In 2016, writer Tori Utley explained what 12-Step programs are about by stating,

“Alcoholics Anonymous is not a program where those struggling with addiction come to a room, listen, and leave.”

She makes an excellent point by emphasizing that nobody can merely attend a meeting and recover on their own; in fact, a person has to become fully immersed in the program in order to reap the most benefits. To find the most success, a person may need to become involved in many things, such as:

  •    Attending meetings (and participating in them)
  •    Working the steps
  •    Connecting with a sponsor
  •    Completing the program
  •    Helping others
  •    Maintaining active recovery and participation

A metaphor:

Consider your journey to recovery much like a marathon. In order to prepare for this marathon, you have to work on improving your mental, physical, and spiritual energy – and you can do this through not only improving your diet, but by taking many other actions as well. You could establish a weekly workout routine so that your body becomes stronger and more capable of handling long distances. You could ensure that you start going to bed at a decent, consistent time every night so that your mind and body function at their best.

Recovery is a lot like this – and just as a person who doesn’t eat nutritiously and doesn’t workout could not expect themselves to successfully complete a major marathon, a person who doesn’t actively participate in their 12-Step program and other recovery-related activities should not expect themselves to be able to make major strides towards healing and restoration.

Advice From Those Who’ve Been There

In 2018, Vox, a website that publishes news and opinions on a variety of topics, covered the success of 12-Step programs with one person explaining that while they didn’t think the 12-Steps were going to work for them at first, they learned that if they applied the steps and worked hard in the program, they were able to turn their entire life around. Spirituality is a major component of 12-Step programs, which are based on the premises that humans alone cannot manage their addiction – they must surrender to God as they understand Him, or a Higher Power, in order to move forward with their lives. This type of approach can greatly help those in recovery find hope and faith towards living happier and healthier – and for many, they do.

For those who don’t connect as much with the spiritual component of 12-Step programs, there are still many benefits to gain from the program’s foundation overall. One individual told Vox,

“It did not provide a…spiritual experience that changed my life. But it did put me in contact with other people that were sober or trying to be sober. That helped me make some connections and make some friends.”

Ultimately, success in 12-Step programs are about not only what you’re wanting out of it, but also what you’re willing to put into it. The more of your heart you invest in the program, the more fulfillment you’ll find in working the 12-Steps and getting to know others who attend.

If you’re ready to jump-start your journey to recovery, speak with a professional from Burning Tree today. It’s never too late to turn your life around.

Burning Tree provides programs specializing in long-term residential treatment for clients with a history of drug and alcohol relapse. Our long-term approach and extensive aftercare programs help clients break the cycle of relapse and transition to healthier, more fulfilling lives. Contact us for more information or visit the websites of our two locations: Renewal Lodge by Burning Tree, which offers a 30-60 day treatment program, Burning Tree Ranch, which offers year-long treatment.


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