An extremely common method of treating addiction, 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous work as a defined “set of principles, spiritual in nature, when practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.” This sounds great—but how do they actually work so well to treat addiction?
The success of the 12 Steps
First, the organization consists of an international group of individuals who have struggled with addiction at some point in their lives. It is supported and organized by its members and operates independently of any outside funding. AA is not associated with any political or religious group. This removes the chances of anyone feeling like an outsider should they not practice religion or belong to a certain political party. It also removes any judgment from other members and operators, because everyone has gone through a similar addiction problem in their own life.
Because the 12 steps are spiritual in nature, they feel similar to the basic laws of the universe. Meaning they’re straightforward — “you do this, you get that.” Part of this general understanding is the fact that people have to take responsibility for their own lives.
For example, children need to experiment with learning how things work. As an adult, we likely understand that sitting around and eating fast food all day long will cause major discomfort, and ultimately ruin our health. We don’t need to be nutritionists to know this habit would be extremely unhealthy. However, as children, it would take some experience testing this out to understand the consequences. We can take this idea and apply it to addicts, given the fact that they probably still need to learn some of these lessons. That’s not to say addicts aren’t smart, however, many of them are very intelligent. It’s just that their addiction prevents them from making the right decisions.
12 Steps to Recovery
In recovery, addicts will need to focus on learning more about how the world works in general. The 12 steps will help train adults to live their lives as if they had learned all the lessons everyone else has during their early experiences.
The only requirement to join AA is the desire to stop drinking. The organization is open to all persons regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.