Why 12-Step Programs Work
It doesn’t matter what direction you look in the world of addiction and recovery, you’ll be faced with the 12-step programs. From AA to NA to Al-Anon, 12-step meetings are recommended at almost every level of treatment, from inpatient rehab to group therapy. AA and similar programs are recommended by the National Institute of Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and Healthcare System.
So what it is about the 12-steps that make people so drawn to it?
Working the AA Program
There’s an old adage in The Rooms, a slang term used in AA, that says, “The Program Works When You Work the Program.” That’s why at the beginning of recovery, it’s often recommended that we do 90 meetings in 90 days. It doesn’t matter if they’re AA or NA. It doesn’t matter if they’re Big Book or Step meetings, as long as we do what is commonly called “90 in 90.” In that 90 days, we meet new people—sober people—we go to new places, and we do new things. Those three things—the new people, places, and things—help to keep us sober, replacing our old people, places, and things and incorporating us into their group.
By committing to doing 90 in 90, we commit to going when we don’t want to, those moments when we’re at our worst and the addictions eating at us and all we want to do is use. Instead, we go to a meeting. If six hours later, that beast arrives again and all we want to do is use, we don’t. We go to a meeting.
By working the program, doing 90 in 90, getting a sponsor, working the steps, we set ourselves up for accountability. We set a goal and following through with it. It builds self-confidence and healthy relationships. By working through the 12-steps, an addict is able to come to terms with what he or she has done, recognize the damage it has caused, and make amends. New coping skills are learned, as are new ways to deal with negative emotions and thoughts.
An Integrated Support System
More than anything, the 12-step programs become an instantaneous and unbreakable support system. With a fundamental principle of giving back, each and every person, from every walk of life, understands where we’re coming from when we’re in The Rooms. Each person is there to lend a hand, give a ride to a meeting, grab a cup of coffee, whatever’s needed to help keep us sober.
All we have to do for the program to work, is work the program.