Understanding the Benefits of 12-Step Programs
At Waypoint Recovery Center’s South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction treatment program, personalized treatment plans are developed as part of each individual’s continuum of care. Often, this includes participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or a similar 12-Step group.
9 Important Benefits of 12-Step Programs
The 12-Step approach offers multiple benefits for men and women in recovery. For example:
- Accessibility. For those who want to get sober but aren’t sure where to start, the 12-Step approach offers an accessible path to change. There’s no need to make an appointment or schedule time off work. There are multiple meetings per week in most locations, with larger cities often hosting several 12-Step meetings per day. All you need to do to get started is show up. If you’re not ready to actively share your story, you can simply listen to what others have to say.
- Anonymity. Although there’s no need to be ashamed of being diagnosed with a substance use disorder, addiction still carries a heavy stigma in many social circles. If you want to protect your personal privacy, the anonymity of a 12-Step group may be appealing. Members can discuss their concerns and support each other without worrying about judgment or gossip.
- Accountability. Being in recovery requires facing multiple challenges each day. This can often feel overwhelming, and it’s easy to start to rationalize getting complacent about your treatment plan. Since 12-Step meetings typically occur several times per week, they are a very effective way of holding yourself accountable for your commitment to lasting sobriety.
- Peer support. Your family may be 100% supportive of your recovery efforts, but it’s impossible for someone who has never struggled with a substance use disorder to truly understand how you are feeling. Members of a 12-Step program will empathize with your struggles because they’ve been in the same place where you are right now.
- Inspiration. When staying sober seems like an impossible task, seeing people who’ve earned their 60-day, 90-day, 6-month, or 1-year chips can inspire you to keep going. Their success stories provide hope and offer actionable tips that you can apply to your own life.
- Socialization. Being newly sober can feel lonely, especially if you’ve cut off contact with many of your previous friends because they are still actively abusing drugs or alcohol. Participating in a 12-Step group gives you a chance to meet new people who understand and appreciate your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. As you grow more confident in your sobriety, your friendship can extend beyond the 12-Step connection you share.
- Cost-effective recovery tools. It’s quite common for people in recovery to be on a strict budget. You may be struggling with debt related to your substance abuse or currently seeking new employment. When every penny counts, 12-Step groups provide a cost-effective way to stay on track with your recovery. There is no charge to attend any 12-Step group meeting, although voluntary contributions are accepted from those who are able to pay.
- The satisfaction of giving back. One of the key components of most 12-Step groups is the belief that those who are in recovery have a responsibility to give back to those who want to become sober. For individuals with at least one year of sobriety under their belt, this often involves becoming a sponsor. For those who are still building the foundation for a long-term recovery, this might mean helping to set up meeting spaces or providing transportation to a fellow member in need.
- Exploration of spirituality. AA and other 12-Step groups encourage members to rely on a higher power to stay sober, but no specific religion is endorsed. Members are free to interpret their higher power however they wish, which makes the 12-Step approach ideal for someone who is still unsure of their spiritual beliefs.
How to Make the Most of Your Experience
Participation in 12-Step groups is most beneficial when you remember a few simple tips:
- Attend meetings regularly. It’s recommended for new AA members to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. Another popular recommendation is to attend at least five 12-Step meetings per week for the first year of sobriety. Whatever approach you choose, it’s wise to keep in mind that consistency is the key to success.
- Participate fully. In the beginning, it’s fine to simply sit and listen to others. However, the 12-Step process is supposed to be interactive. If you’re not sharing your story, you’re preventing yourself from getting the maximum benefit of the program.
- Nurture relationships with other members. Don’t arrive at the last minute and rush out the door when the meeting is done. Taking the time to talk to other members outside of the scheduled meeting helps you develop a stronger sober support network.
- Keep your expectations realistic. Attending 12-Step meetings can be an important part of your recovery, but they are only part of the story. Don’t neglect the counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and holistic supports recommended by your care provider.
There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Answer
Although 12-Step programs offer many benefits for people in recovery, it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey to sobriety is unique. The 12-Step approach doesn’t work for everyone, so there’s no need to become discouraged if you tried the 12-Steps without success. Our 6 Alternatives to 12-Step Groups article outlines some alternative forms of peer support you may find useful, including the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) program that forms the basis of SMART Recovery.