12-Step Recovery Fact and Fiction: What Should Newcomers Know?

12-Step Recovery Fact and Fiction: What Should Newcomers Know?

12-Step recovery can feel off-putting or exciting depending on your comfort with trying new things. Many of us who attempt the program do so because of the lows drinking or using has brought us. Desperate for solutions, many are willing to try anything. But we find being informed ahead of time can help quell anxieties about what the program asks of participants. 

Knowing what to expect and how to use the information you glean will help ensure you reap benefits from this recovery modality. Today, let’s discuss the basic concepts behind 12-step recovery by addressing common questions and myths.

12-Step Recovery Fact: The Program Is a Classic Self-Help Model

It is true that 12-Step recovery as we know it originated in the 1930s. The group now known worldwide as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) originally started with three friends and a shared problem. Each was what was known at that time as a “problem drinker.” 

The most famous founder, Bill Wilson, had exhausted the medicinal options of his era. Fortunately for Mr. Wilson, he had an acquaintance treated by the now-famous Carl Jung. By adapting Jung’s methods and establishing a fellowship, these three ultimately began America’s most famous support group. 

After several revisions, including a critical change from prescriptive “you should” language to a more descriptive approach describing the steps these founders took, the 12-Step and its literature began to form. Today, we know the core component text as “The Big Book.” From this fundamental piece of literature, the 12-step programs addressing issues beyond alcohol were derived.

Today, 12-Step recovery is used to address a plethora of chemical and process-related problems. Laguna Shores Recovery Center offers 12-Step programs for more than 10 different group focuses. Those who have never struggled with alcohol or drugs may find they do indeed have issues with shopping, eating, or relationships. Often, these problems co-occur alongside substance misuse as well. 

The beauty of the 12-step recovery model is that its principles remain the same, but it can be adapted to account for different issues and modern scientific understanding of these issues. Today’s workaholics may turn to Workaholics Anonymous for tools, including a 20-question survey to evaluate work-life balance. Support groups for family members and loved ones of all ages exist today.

12-Step Recovery Fiction: You Must Believe in God

Successful 12-Step recovery does not require a belief in any specific god or gods. As Laguna Shores Recovery Center assures clients, there is no religious requirement in order to participate. Indeed, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous was an atheist. Some fear entering the rooms because they will be ordered to worship in someone else’s fashion. Yet Step 2 tells us that we can freely accept a god of our understanding. For people of faith, have no fear that you must confine to the Judeo-Christian God or even the concepts founding members believed. 

The program has many Muslim, Hindu, and outright secular practitioners. Other options exist for a Higher Power for those who do not believe in a god. If you must functionally adopt something you can believe in, consider it an experiment you’re performing in good faith. Perhaps the thing you can trust is that your treatment team is trying to assist you. If so, count on that. Others may even select the group or its guidance to work the 12 Steps.  

12-Step recovery is not overtly religious but freely admits that it is a spiritual program. Indeed, it is premised on the concept of conversion. However, a spiritual experience does not require a religious conversion. Nobody needs to find God to get sober, as there are contingents of confirmed agnostics, atheists, and even anti-theists in the Program. Some even host secular-specific meetings. 

12-Step Recovery Fiction: The Program Is the Only Tool You Need for Sustained Sobriety

12-Step recovery is just one path and toolkit to achieve and maintain abstinence. But nowhere is it written that we must exclude other means of getting and staying sober. Another excellent thing about the program is that it is not exclusive. Some older members may insist it is all you need, but you know you better than a stranger. 

Many of us have dual diagnoses in addition to substance use disorders. In these cases, individualized therapy and psychiatric stabilization are often vital to a successful recovery. You need not listen to every individual in the program, but taking suggestions from trusted professionals often proves critical to managing multiple conditions. 

Some treatment facilities outright will not allow a person who is extremely psychiatrically unstable to admit. Even the most devout of 12-Steppers acknowledge that medication is essential for detox and that there is little point in doing step work while still drinking and using. After completing a medically-appropriate detox for your condition and history, 12-step principles can be a fantastic guide in recovery.

While sponsorship in 12-step recovery can be beneficial, you may need a larger set of social and practical tools. We know today the importance of learning healthier coping mechanisms in recovery. If the 12-Step culture feels like it is missing something specific to your life or problems, it is far from your only tool set. 

You may need the modern phrasing or evidence-based approaches advocated by SMART Recovery. Note that these are additional tools, not exclusionary ones. As with any belief system, you can mine the 12-step program for the aspects and suggestions most beneficial to you. Feel free to disregard what does not apply or help. Of course, you may incorporate as many positive tools into your recovery as you like and work a program simultaneously. 

12-Step recovery offers multiple tools, as do more modern recovery programs. But as with any tool, we must know how to use it to get the intended effect. In the modern era, we now have a wide variety of tools to apply toward healing after problematic substance use. At Laguna Shores Recovery Center, our treatment professionals are here to reveal, instruct, and guide you or your loved one through the process of developing new skills in recovery. We understand that everyone is different and use the 12-Step program to help all clients connect and heal. Learn more about how we support our clients through the recovery process by calling (866) 774-1532 today.