The 12 Steps
Most addiction treatment facilities employ the 12-Step model conceived by Alcoholics Anonymous. The Steps are a “suggested program of recovery,” not hard-and-fast rules, though it’s strongly suggested that one work the Steps, in order from 1 to 12, with a sponsor who is a veteran of the process.
As described in the following articles, I had nothing but objections to the Steps when I entered rehab, particularly to the first three of them and anything having to do with God or a Higher Power. A month of treatment, however, made me change my mind.
Rehab doesn’t have time to take each patient through the Steps in detail. The rehab I attended focused primarily on the first three Steps, to get us to acknowledge we were addicted — that we’d lost control over our drug use and our lives had become unmanageable as a result — and introducing us to the spiritual solution. Before discharge, we were required to get a sponsor with whom we would work the Steps over a period of months. Until we completed all 12, they urged each patient to keep an open mind and concentrate on being willing to work them to the best of our ability.
The optimal way to learn about the 12-Step program is by: attending a variety of types of meetings regularly; reading the literature, particularly what’s commonly called The Big Book (though its official title is, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered From Alcoholism), and The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (often referred to as the “12 by 12“); and by working with a sponsor. The following articles don’t attempt to explain the Steps comprehensively, but rather to demystify them. (For more on the program, click on Tools of Sobriety.)
Ultimately, the 12-Steps are more than just a way to stay sober. They’re a blueprint for living life as a whole human being. They consist of universal spiritual principles: tell the truth; treat others as you’d want to be treated; monitor your inevitable failures, apologize for them and make things right if you can do so without hurting others. In other words, the Steps provide tools for living life.