What is a 12-Step Program?
Twelve-step programs came into existence in 1935 with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. The program is nonprofessional and self-supporting, and meetings can be found across the world. Members of AA share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem, provide sponsorship to those attending meetings and offer a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.
Based on the Twelve Steps, AA offers members an abstinence-based recovery support program. From AA, many other twelve-step support groups have emerged, including Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA), and Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA). When adapted by NA initially, the AA First Step terminology was changed to reflect the word “addiction” in lieu of “alcohol,” so as to reflect the disease concept of addiction.
What Are The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
Made widely available in 1939 when Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism was published, the Twelve Steps have benefited countless individuals. Many recovery programs have utilized the Twelve Steps as a framework and blueprint for recovery. As with NA, language has been changed in some programs to be more in line with their philosophies, such as “higher power” rather than “God.”
12-Step Program at Defining Wellness
The steps provide a guide for people to work through their recovery journey, by taking an honest accounting of themselves, deconstructing their preconceived ideas and then rebuilding, piece by piece. Utilizing honesty, humility, acceptance, courage, compassion, forgiveness, and self-discipline, behavioral change along with emotional and spiritual growth can occur. While originally rooted in religion, twelve-step programs now tend to supper the idea of a ‘Higher Power’ to be inclusive to all. Higher Power can mean anything – it can be God, nature, fate, the universe, etc. It’s a personal belief that is greater than oneself.
Defining Wellness Centers offers Twelve Step meetings so that our clients can develop an understanding of the support systems available to them. Twelve Step groups are not therapy, rather they are a peer-based form of fellowship, wherein one can share experiences and develop a network of support. Talking with people who have had similar experiences can be enlightening and shines a light on the fact that those fighting addictions are not alone. Used in conjunction with therapy, they can provide a needed outlet for people in recovery.
The Origins of Twelve-Step Programs
Seeking support for a substance use disorder is an important aspect of recovery. The first twelve-step program was Alcoholics Anonymous, also referred to as AA, and it was founded in 1935, in Akron, Ohio. The purpose of AA was to provide peer support to alcoholics struggling with maintaining their sobriety. Participants were able to have meetings with other alcoholics and share stories of their struggles with addiction. A part of the appeal was the ability to maintain personal anonymity within the boundaries of the group, making honest conversation possible. It was, and remains, a safe space for support at all stages of recovery. The program offers twelve-steps to maintaining sobriety that is non-denominational but states the need to surrender to a “higher power,” of which can be any form one chooses, be that God or the Universe, or another power of their choosing.
Later, the founders of AA recognized that addiction comes in many forms. AA branched out to offer twelve-step programs for a multitude of addictions, including NA (Narcotics Anonymous), GA (Gamblers Anonymous), OA (Overeaters Anonymous), and SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous). There are also other offshoots of those groups, which encompass specific issues, including anorexia and bulimia, dual diagnosis, chronic illness, as well as a variety of mental health issues. The purpose of any twelve-step program is to use the guidelines set forth, or steps, as a way to stay on the path of sobriety. It also allows one to have a sponsor, someone who has been a member for a longer period of recovery, within the group to call upon at any time, day or night, when they feel tempted to “fall off the wagon,” back into active addiction. For over 80 years, twelve-step programs have offered support and comfort to those struggling to regain control of their lives.
Twelve-step programs are also beneficial to family and friends who love someone fighting addiction. Al-Anon was created in 1951 as a gathering place for family or close friends with alcoholics in their lives to support one another and share their experiences. Children were always welcome in these meetings, yet some were not comfortable sharing their feelings in that environment, around adults or their parents. Most of the children were older and at an age when their loved one’s drinking began to hurt them in a variety of ways. To better support these children, Alateen was founded in 1957. Around their peers who also suffered from addiction in their families, Alateen became a confidential system in which children could express their hurt, confusion, anger, and sadness about the addict in their lives.
For those seeking out the availability of a twelve-step program, there are meeting times in every state, morning, afternoon, or evening, set to accommodate the daily schedule of those seeking support. For more information on treatment, you can find information here. For more information on twelve-step programs, you can find information here. For information regarding addiction and mental health, you can find facts and statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administraton (SAMHSA) here.
12-Step Support Groups
There are many forms of twelve-step based groups and we encourage everyone to explore what’s available to them. What works for one person may not work for another, and that’s okay. For that very reason, there are a variety of groups available to experience where you can determine what works for you.
Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA)
a fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships
Emotions Anonymous (EA)
an international fellowship of men and women who desire to improve their emotional well-being
Nar-Anon (for loved ones of addicts)
If you or a loved one are struggling and need support, these options are all here for you along with inpatient treatment. If you’re unsure about what your needs are, or whether you have a problem, call us at
Begin your Recovery Today
(855) 790-9303 and we can talk through it and develop a plan. We’re here for you on your wellness journey.