An Introduction To 12-Step Programs: A Guide For Families Of Addicts
If someone you care about is beginning to find recovery in a 12-Step Program, you may find yourself with a lot of questions. Media images of 12-Step Programs are a caricature, and from the outside, we have to admit the practices look a little strange. Is this some sort of cult? Yes, you’re happy the addict is sober and getting help, but is this how it has to be?
What Are The 12 Steps All About?
The 12-Step Program was a program of recovery developed by alcoholics for alcoholics and other addicts. The program is based upon 12 steps that help the addict to come to grips with his or her condition and establish the kind of spiritual life that will be the basis of a solid recovery and sobriety. The program recognizes addiction as a disease—an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind. The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) premise is based on the understanding that if someone is addicted to a particular substance or behavior, he or she will never again be able to consume that substance or engage in that behavior in a normal or healthy way. Total abstinence is the only solution.
In most groups, members attend meetings regularly, read and study program literature, call and meet with other addicts or members in recovery and work regularly with a sponsor. Service to other addicts is of highest importance and seen as one of the keys to maintaining lasting sobriety.
Aren’t 12 Step Programs A Little Overzealous?
It would appear that way to the outsider but, quite frankly, addiction is a little overzealous. For the non-addict it may be hard to fathom the prison and the punishment of being under the lash of a life-controlling addiction. As addicts, we have been so dominated by this cruel taskmaster that when we finally hit bottom we become willing to do whatever promises to rescue us.
And that proves to be quite a lot, as we soon find out once we’re in recovery. We believe that a powerful disease requires a powerful solution. In recovery we have to work as hard as the disease was working against us. But after a few years of sobriety many addicts come to see the program as the “easier, softer way,” when compared to the tyranny of addiction. When families see the beneficial results of program membership in their addict loved one, they too often become 12 Step supporters.
What Are The Roles Of Addict’s Loved Ones?
This will, to some degree, depend upon your relationship to the addict. For some recovering addicts, recovery needs to be a personal and private journey. They may not feel comfortable bringing others into their process, at least not in the beginning when they are yet fragile and convalescing. Don’t be offended by this; it isn’t personal. Recovery requires a lot of emotional work and some of us find we can better focus in the company of our program fellows, and perhaps apart from friends and family. Giving the addict the space he or she needs to heal can help to later guarantee closer relationships all around. Patience is needed.
It is wise, however, for the family of an addict to attend Al-Anon to learn more about the disease and how to deal with it. A family member’s addiction leaves scars on everyone. In Al-Anon you will come to better understand addiction, recovery and the 12-Step approach in addition to getting the support you need in healing from the wounds of addiction.
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