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Why 12 Step Programs Are Successful



When people think about drug and alcohol rehabilitation, one of the first thoughts that pop up is usually a 12-step program. Though Alcoholics Anonymous has published no official statistics about the success of its programs, the fact remains that the 12-step program is the most notable tool used for rehab in America. The reasons for the success of the 12-step program can be found in the history and the breadth of those 12 steps.


The first 12-step program was created in 1935, which seems ancient in modern times. However, the program has only received minor tweaks over time, giving credence to the effectiveness of the original 12 steps that were conceived nearly 80 years ago. Any program must change to meet with the times, but this has largely not been necessary with the 12-step program; given the increasingly complex world in which we live, the consistency of the 12-step program from 1935 to 2012 is borderline miraculous.

Because the program has lasted so long without any drastic overhauls, people place a tremendous amount of faith in the effectiveness of the program. Without the historical context, the same 12 steps may not be as effective. However, the very fact that the program has lasted so long has given it a great deal of credibility, which recovering addicts use as a source of strength every day.


One of the best things about the 12-step program is that it can be applied to virtually any situation. While the program began with an Alcoholics Anonymous program, the time has seen the 12-step program applied to drug addiction, gambling problems, eating disorders, and emotional issues. The program itself doesn’t vary much between disorders, again showing the quality of the program as it was originally written. This also speaks very highly of the effectiveness of the 12 steps, especially since most physical and psychological treatment programs are different for each individual.


The 12-step program is successful specifically because it doesn’t just deal with the matter at hand. Those who submit to the 12 steps find that they aren’t just treating their disorders — they are treating all of their disorders. The program recognizes that the disorder is caused by all of the other factors that are not right in an individual’s life. It is only through making amends, taking inventory, and surrendering to the program (and to a higher power) that people can truly move on from their addictions and find true peace.


Very few people can conquer something as powerful as addiction alone. Communication and support are inherent in the 12 steps, and people who attend meetings are often blown away by their power and intensity. Those who go to meetings realize that they aren’t alone in their struggles, and the ability of these people to bring outsiders to meetings helps them to feel even better about their ongoing recovery. Furthermore, seeing so many people impacted by the program help those struggling with addiction to believe in the program even more, which will help them to stay strong in the face of temptation.