by Kyle Beard on Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
There is a question that is repeatedly asked in our office: “Is 12 Step worthwhile?” Often a hint of skepticism lies in the person’s tone of voice when they ask this question. Researchers have studied 12 Step programs for years to try to discover the effectiveness of the program and have found that it is indeed successful in helping many reach sobriety from their addictions. In addition to the research, my answer regarding the question about 12 Step is greatly influenced by watching clients participate in groups. My resounding answer to the question of “is 12 Step worthwhile” is: Absolutely!
Many who struggle with addiction hesitate to go to a 12 step meeting. What I believe to be at the root of this is the powerful emotion of fear. There is fear of walking alone into a church basement or community center building. There is a fear of what others in that room will think when you walk in. There is a fear that you will recognize someone you know “in the room,” as the 12 Step lingo calls it. If you look at this fear, the common thread of pride exists within each of the example listed above. Admitting that you have a problem is the first and most difficult step of recovery. The simple act of walking into the 12 step room greatly begins to break down the fear and pride that keep people from beginning the first step.
Walking into the initial 12 step meeting taps into an additional fear that we have: what if they don’t accept me? If I am honest and show my true colors, my faults and struggles, will they love or reject me? The irony of this fear is that 12 Step programs are typically the least judgmental, most accepting place that you may ever experience. Everyone in the room admits to having an addiction, needing help, and relying upon each other for recovery. That’s the simple truth of 12 step. If you are reading this and are thinking “Yeah, right,” then I will say it again. Twelve Step programs exist to accept people as they are and care for one another.
Now that we’ve looked at the prominent fears of starting a 12 Step program, you now may be thinking: what are the meetings like? The structure is rather simple. A regular member of the group with at least 30 days of sobriety leads the meeting, and there is a different leader each week. The leader reads word for word through a program. This ensures that each meeting held begins the exact same way, no matter what city, state, or country you are located. Next, a reading out of the main literature written is passed around the group, where one can skip if so desired. The second half of the meeting is open floor where anyone can share whatever thoughts or struggles they are having, without judgment, condemnation, or comment from the other group members. To wrap up, few more lines from the program are read to end the meeting. Often, participants come early or stay late to talk to one another, but it’s not required in order to attend a meeting. The whole purpose of 12 Step programs is to create a safe space with fellow recovering addicts to talk through and face your addiction. What a blessing!
Many people have heard of friends or family members who have tried 12 Step Programs, and they did not seem to work for them. Sometimes after hearing these stories, we jump to the conclusion that all 12 Step programs do not work. Twelve Step programs admit that they are not for everyone because the journey is difficult. Many do not even attempt the journey. There is a saying in 12 step rooms about this, “It works if you work it, so work it cause you’re worth it.” This is the greatest similarity between 12 Step programs, inpatient programs, and outpatient addiction treatments centers – the program works if you put forth the effort. The 12 Steps themselves are a roadmap to look at one’s struggles, character deficits, and more, to face the underlying causes of one’s addiction. Sadly, some addicts do not believe they have a problem or want exert the energy that recovery takes. But if you put forth the time and effort through an addiction recovery program, it will work as long as you are honest with yourself and honest with others. So, the question is open to all who struggling: are you willing to work for a better life?