Do 12-Step Programs Work?
The 12 Steps have long been a key element of addiction treatment and recovery. For decades, the majority of treatment programs have used the 12 Steps, while addicts in recovery have attended AA and other 12-Step meetings in order to maintain sobriety. These programs have come under a great deal of scrutiny with some people singing their praises and others discounting them and even calling them dangerous. If you are facing addiction and want to get or stay sober, should you consider joining a 12-Step support group? Do they actually work?
Criticism Of The 12 Steps
There are many who criticize these kinds of programs, including AA, but also any organization that uses the 12-Step philosophy. Addiction experts don’t all agree, but those who do not like the 12-Step philosophy have several arguments. One is that it requires you to admit to being powerless in the face of your addiction. Some would say that the statement is not only false, but also counter-productive. If you are helpless and can’t exert power over your addiction, how can you possibly get better? Others claim that the statistics simply show 12-Step programs don’t work for most people. Success rates have been measured as low as 10 percent.
More serious criticisms come from members who have had bad experiences. Some claim that these support groups are gathering grounds for people with violent tendencies or for predators looking for weak victims. There certainly have been terrible incidents involving addiction support groups. One reason for this is that criminal offenders are often forced to attend meetings as a part of sentencing.
How The 12 Steps Can Help
While there are critics, there are also supporters of 12-Step programs and those who praise the effectiveness of such groups. In fact, recent research has shown that recovering addicts who are deeply involved in a 12-Step group are more likely to avoid relapsing. The study compared recovering addicts leaving treatment and going into a sober living house, a 12-Step program, or simply going home. Those who went to a 12-Step group and really got involved in it were nearly three times more likely to abstain than those who did not. Participants in sober living were the most successful.
One of the most important aspects of the findings is the comparison between the different levels of participation in a 12-Step group. The researchers looked at those who met all criteria for active involvement as well as those who did not. The former were people who engaged in service work, made use of a sponsor, read group literature and called other group members for support. These people were more successful at abstaining than those who simply attended meetings, but didn’t get more involved. The study extended two years beyond treatment and found the same results throughout the two-year period.
The results of the study clearly show that a 12-Step program can help you stay sober if you take the right steps. First, you need to have already completed an addiction treatment program. Simply relying on a 12-Step group to get you sober is not enough. Once you have completed treatment, a 12-Step program can help you stay sober, but only if you get involved. Throw yourself headlong into the support, reach out to others, help others and you can reap the benefits of this decades-long philosophy of sobriety. Join half-heartedly and you may not get all the benefits. The 12-Steps can help you, but you have to do it right.
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