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The Twelve Step Approach: Outdated or needed now more than ever

As new methods of treatments arise, should we completely older routes of combating addiction?

By Chris GiesenPublished 4 months ago 4 min read

This post is inspired by a few recent posts we have seen attacking Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step groups as outdated and ineffective. While the Beehive Recovery Blog does not promote one particular route to recovery as the only means to achieve sobriety, these posts prompted us to write some educational things about AA, as it has been a core part of many people’s path to happiness and freedom from drugs and alcohol (including most of our blog contributors). Everyone’s journey is different and there are many ways to achieve sobriety. Beehive Recovery Blog hopes to educate as many people as possible on the subject of addiction. This includes providing education in trends of addiction, recovery stories, treatment options and resources, as well as dispelling misconceptions.

Many treatment facilities are currently utilizing a multifaceted approach which may or may not include: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Contingency Management, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, holistic treatments, Brain Mapping, group therapy, traditional psychotherapy, SMART recovery, etc. All of these options have advantages and some are new and exciting. But most treatment centers still encourage (or at least introduce) some level of 12 step program involvement. Pharmaceutical options aimed at curbing addiction are also continuing to emerge.

In another post we’ll go over the basics of each of the aforementioned treatment methods. Addiction is complex and difficult issue. As mentioned before, there is no one exact route to a life of freedom from substances. Today’s post highlights just one method, but the twelve step method has saved the lives of countless drug addicts and alcoholics and should not be minimized or dismissed as some articles have done. I’ll use AA as the main example in this article but the information applies to almost all twelve step programs. AA is just the most established and accessible at this time.

It’s hard to do alone

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is effective for many reasons. To start with, it provides a supportive community of individuals who are all striving towards the same goal: sobriety. This sense of belonging can be a powerful motivator for those dealing with addiction. There are currently more than 123,000 active AA groups in the world. There are over 70,000 active Narcotics Anonymous groups in the world. Celebrate Recovery boasts 35,000 active programs worldwide. There are also countless Cocaine Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, and Heroin Anonymous groups active. Many of these groups are available to attend by video call also. This massive and accessible network provides those struggling with addiction an instant level of support from others who understand. These meetings are free, with an option to donate a dollar or two at the end. This provides those who may not be able to afford more expensive treatments an option to start their recovery journey.

Secondly, AA operates on a step-by-step program which allows members to gradually work their way towards recovery. This structured approach can be very helpful in managing something as complex and overwhelming as addiction. The alcoholic/addict going through these steps with a sponsor will be walked through a serious of basic (but not always easy) steps at a pace which is dependent on sponsor and sponsee. A life of sobriety is terrifying for most people at the start. It looks like a impossible mountain to climb. Having steps provided and a guide who’s already walked this path to lead you up that mountain makes the entire process less intimidating.

Thirdly, the program encourages members to confront and accept their addiction, which is a crucial step in the recovery process. Acknowledging the problem is often the first major hurdle to overcome, and sometimes the toughest. As alcoholics and addicts, it can be difficult to face such a harsh truth, but it is necessary to grow.

Lastly, AA emphasizes the importance of spiritual development and encourages members to turn to a higher power for strength and guidance. This spiritual aspect can be a source of comfort and inspiration for many individuals. This is the part that scares many people away. Religion is a hot topic often avoided in society, but it’s important to remember that spiritual growth is not the same as religion. Most 12 step programs require only the acceptance of some type of higher power, not a specific religion. People can choose their conception of this, whether it be Mother Nature, a specific God, or just the group they attend. You do not have to accept any type of higher power to attend meetings and have the support of the group either. The only actual requirement to attend 12 step groups is the desire to stop using drugs or alcohol.

In summary, AA's effectiveness lies in its ability to provide a supportive community, a structured approach to recovery, an environment for self-acknowledgment, and a spiritual foundation.

Everyone's journey is unique, and AA one of many paths to recovery. Most of the contributors to this blog got sober using some combination of therapy/holistic methods and a twelve step program. Recovery can be hard, might as well use as many tools available to combat the beast.

Find support and resources at our blog

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About the Creator

Chris Giesen

Mental Health and Addiction Advocate. Here to post addiction resources, recovery success stories, and educational materials about mental health and addiction.

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