How 12-Step Programs Contribute to Long-Term Recovery from Substance Abuse

Long-term recovery from substance abuse is a journey no one should take alone. Attending addiction rehab is just the first leg. Next comes adjustment back into society – a process that depends on building up a supportive community.

Studies of both long-term and short-term addiction recovery have identified three key factors to success.

  • Support from social and community groups
  • Connections to a 12-step group
  • Negative consequences of substance use

Two of the three factors depend on having a support group. Involvement in a 12-Step program offers the type of support needed to achieve long-term addiction recovery.

How 12-Step Programs Work

In 1938, Bill Wilson wrote a 12-step guide for overcoming addiction for Alcoholics Anonymous. The original steps came from a Christian viewpoint but have adapted over time to meet society’s needs.

Both Christian and secular groups now use the steps but have adjusted the wording to be more inclusive. For example, some groups change “God” to “higher power.” The steps’ focus is on long-term addiction recovery rather than a specific religious or lifestyle belief system.

This guide became the founding document of programs offering support and tools to aid people through the recovery process.

The 12 steps center around a few general principles that lead to lifelong recovery.

  • Handing over control to a higher power
  • Recognizing mistakes and making amends
  • Creating a personal lifestyle changes
  • Reaching out to others in need

While these principles were initially written for alcohol addiction, they are relevant for all types of addiction.

The Purpose of 12-Step Programs

Community is at the core of the 12-Step program. In these programs, people gather to uplift and support one another through the good and bad of long-term recovery.

The purpose of attending 12-Step programs is to:

  • Receive actionable steps for long-term recovery
  • Encouragement in success
  • Support during difficult times

The steps focus on maturing oneself mentally, physically, and spiritually to gain power over addiction.

Almost 75% of treatment centers use a form of the 12-step program in their recovery approach. Most people in recovery have found the program helpful, with the average attendance being 12 years for Alcoholics Anonymous and 6 years for Narcotics Anonymous. Of the attendees, 90% consider the program an essential part of their lives.

Today programs are available offering support for all types of addiction, from drugs and alcohol to mental and financial struggles.

Engaging in 12-Step Communities

A community is a group that comes together over a similarity. Communities build themselves around beliefs, experiences, connections, and struggles.

For 12-Step communities, people gather because of their shared experiences and struggles with addiction and a common goal of long-term recovery.

Unfortunately, not many people are willing to make the first move to reach out. But just because someone else doesn’t reach out first doesn’t mean they don’t want to connect.

Many people hold back out of fear of rejection or inconveniencing others. However, those willing to risk feeling vulnerable to ask for help, support, and friendship are more likely to find a community.

Why Community is Important

Loneliness is a person’s worst enemy in addiction recovery. On the other hand, a community can be a person’s greatest weapon when fighting for long-term recovery.

Achieving a sense of community is more than connecting to many people. Community is an internal feeling of togetherness. Studies found that sharing, serving, and supporting others are effective ways to develop a sense of community.

Belonging to a community is important because:

  • Community and social ties result in longer, more fulfilling lives. Humans shouldn’t live alone. Instead, developing a strong social circle boosts the immune system, lengthens a person’s life, and aids in recovery. If someone doesn’t have a strong social circle, they are more vulnerable to disease and addiction.
  • Those who are involved in a strong community have less depression and anxiety. In addition, people experience fewer negative emotions and more feelings of positivity and hope in a close social group. Yet almost 25% of people say they don’t have a close confidant or friend.

However, stress is a top inhibitor for connecting to a community. When a person experiences stress, they are more focused on themselves than those around them. This self-focus often leads to pushing others away instead of welcoming them. By focusing on self-care and relaxation, people become more open to outside connections.

How 12-Step Programs Use Community

12-Step programs are available nationwide, and they want to make that community connection with those who need it. However, people also need to be willing to take that first step and ask for help from the programs. When someone does reach out, they will find themselves welcomed into a strong and supportive community of like-minded individuals.

Through 12-Step programs, a person receives the benefits of a community. These benefits include:

  • Developing friends who understand the journey of addiction
  • Receiving accountability through group meetings
  • Finding support during vulnerable moments
  • Pushing towards continual growth and maturity
  • Celebrating successes to encourage future positive habits
  • Serving others for a feeling of fulfillment and purpose

There are two main ways that people receive this support:

Group Meetings

Groups are accessible all over the country and vary in number. They allow for a time of sharing, growth, and support.

Sponsorship Program

Sponsors have been through the addiction and recovery journey. They offer their insights, support, and knowledge to those just starting on the path to recovery.

Achieving Long-Term Recovery from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is possible with the right community. Completing rehab is a huge success and should be celebrated. But rehab isn’t a permanent cure. It is simply the first step.

The second step happens when a person finds a community, like 12-Step programs, that offer continuing support long after rehab ends. The countless success stories from 12-Step programs back up the claim that 12-Step programs work.

Taking that next step to long-term recovery starts today.

Contact Ethos Recovery to get plugged in with a local 12-Step program and continue the journey to addiction-free living.