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5 Ways 12-Step Programs Help Prevent Relapse

5 Ways 12-Step Programs Help Prevent Relapse

Relapse prevention might be the most crucial part of one’s recovery journey. Because it takes time to hone relapse prevention skills, those in recovery should make use of every resource available out there. The 12-Step programs are intended to reduce relapse rates and help people maintain their sobriety at no cost to the participant.

There are many reasons why participating in 12-Step programs helps prevent relapse. For one, its principles such as honesty, humility, and accountability provide guardrails against different types of relapses, including emotional, mental, and physical relapses. Below are five reasons getting involved with a 12-Step group can help you maintain sobriety.

Reason #1: Honesty and Self-Awareness Prevent Emotional and Mental Relapses

Relapses happen gradually and usually start with emotional relapses, which trigger mental relapses, which lead to physical relapses. Emotional relapse refers to a state of decline in emotional health. This decline may happen as a result of bottling up emotions, self-isolation, little or no socialization, and neglect of one’s own emotional health.

The 12-Step program seeks to connect recovering individuals who struggle with their emotions. Facilitators use a no-pressure approach for participants to be present and comfortable when listening to others share their emotional struggles. The principle of self-care is applied throughout the meetings.

Even though some people do not feel ready to verbalize and share their emotions in meetings, they can connect with the stories of others who do share. This connection and empathy may open them up for more active participation. Additionally, when new participants are paired with a more senior member as a sponsor, they may feel more comfortable sharing with them one-on-one, which helps with their emotional well-being.

Reason #2: Personal Accountability Helps Prevent Mental Relapse

The mental stage of relapse refers to increased cravings for substances. When this happens, one has a hard time avoiding reminiscing or thinking about people and places that relate to past addiction. Their minds begin to self-deceive, making them minimize the consequences of substance abuse and even glamorize past experiences.

Moments of mental relapse may be brief or long-lasting. Either way, mental relapses are distressing to recovering individuals. The 12-Step program reinforces the principles of honesty and accountability through its regular meetings. Participating in these conversations can pull people from mental relapse and get them back on track.

People who experience cravings may feel ashamed of themselves. However, bottling up difficult emotions and cravings only worsens the situation. 12-Step meetings provide a safe space for participants to share times when they’ve felt tempted or experienced setbacks without feeling ashamed. Others may offer empathy, encouragement, and tips for overcoming these moments of vulnerability.

Reason #3: Continued and Reinforced Commitment to Sobriety Helps Overcome Physical Relapse

Physical relapse is the last stage of substance use relapse when a person begins using drugs or alcohol again after a period of sobriety. At this point, the individual has taken significant steps backward—it does not happen right away. Even in these instances, 12-Step attendees will be met with empathy and assistance to do the work necessary to regain sobriety.

Every 12-Step meeting helps participants re-commit to sobriety and the habits that help maintain a sober lifestyle. When people receive the help they need after emotional and mental relapses, they may never come to the point of physical relapse. If physical relapses do happen, individuals are still welcome in the support group. It is never too late to restart.

Reason #4: Seeking Help Without Shame and Judgement

The 12-Step program centers around building community and support for people who struggle with maintaining their sobriety. When people are in group settings, they feel seen and more empowered to ask for help from peers and sponsors who have been in similar situations. There is no shame or judgment. 

Regular participation in 12-Step meetings also gives structure to one’s life. Participants are surrounded by people who are dedicated to maintaining a sober lifestyle. They may also gain knowledge of further treatment options. A sponsor or mentor can connect other participants with needed resources.

Reason #5: A Positive Outlook on Life Helps Maintain Sobriety

12-Step meetings involve peers and sponsors who commit to fostering a positive outlook on life in general. This form of group therapy helps participants redefine what recovery and life are. People with a history of addiction tend to fall into the trap of thinking recovery is hard work and substance use was fun. They may discount the positives during the journey of recovery.

In group meetings, participants are led to identify positives in life and express gratitude for them. When some members seem depressed or need extra support, the group may gather around that person to sprinkle encouragement and support. There is always a positive ray of sunshine when people share with this group. This is why regular participation in 12-Step meetings can be life-changing.

Do you know that people recovering from substance use disorder can find many benefits from joining a recovery support group like a 12-Step program? At Laguna Shores Recovery, our team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists can guide you through recovery with an emphasis on the importance of group support. If you want to work with recovery specialists to rebuild a healthy lifestyle and surround yourself with positive people and relationships, our residential facility is the best place to be. Finding strong bonds with people who have similar struggles as you is an essential part of the process. We have experienced mental health professionals who can coach you through recovering from addiction and managing stress. Schedule an appointment with us today to discover how we can help you. Call us at (866) 229-9923. We will be happy to talk with you about short-term and long-term recovery plans.