12 step program features

12 step program features

The meetings that are inherent in 12-step recovery programs can be tremendously helpful to participants. It's critical that during the first few years of a person's recovery that they have a support group that exists for the sole purpose of talking about addiction and acting out behavior. This is the case for whatever addiction is troubling that person, whether it be addiction to alcohol, excessive eating, inappropriate sex, or something else altogether. Twelve-step recovery offers such groups in the form of its regular program meetings.

I'm reminded of a couple of activities that I participated in very vigorously when I was younger—specifically, skydiving and muay thai boxing. If you are a boxer, then part of the process of training involves your being involved in a community of people talking about the nuances of the sport—things such as how to lose weight and how to determine your opponent’s moves. If you're a skydiver, you spend a great deal of time with people who continuously talk about skydiving. People who are successful at those pursuits can attribute their success to what they do becoming a way of life for them. And spending a lot of time talking with like-minded others is part of their doing so. It's much the same with addiction recovery. Those who recover successfully and stay clean and sober participate in activities that make their recovery in itself part and parcel to their very being.

A number of things were particularly valuable to me in 12-step recovery. One was the use of simple but very profound slogans. If I were to list some of them here on the page they likely wouldn't have much of an impact on you. But when you're in 12-step rooms and at a place emotionally where you really need guidance and support, then they are incredibly timely and powerful.

Another way in which 12-step programs really shine is in facilitating good interactions with people. Success in recovery is contingent on tenacious participation in a chosen program, and particularly on getting to the right meetings and connecting with the right people. Admittedly, “getting to the right meetings and connecting with the right people” are subjective concepts. But those things must be done, and it will require persistence and a willingness to learn from mistakes for any recovering addict to determine the right places to be and the right people to be with.

Twelve-step recovery offers various features that aren't available anywhere else. I personally believe that they are most effective for certain types of addictions, and perhaps not as much so for some others. My opinion is that 12-step programs are best suited for addressing the types of addictions that people have to surrender completely to overcome. For example, an alcoholic must completely abstain from alcohol to successfully recover, and someone addicted to an illicit drug must completely cease using it. But some people are addicted to things that can only be monitored rather than completely surrendered.

Eating disorders and addictive spending are examples of addictions that can only be monitored. Some people have eating disorders, but they cannot completely stop eating food. Some people are addicted to reckless spending, but they cannot completely cease spending money. And it's my opinion that 12-step programs are not as effective at addressing those types of behavior problems as they are at addressing addictions that need to be abstained from completely.

It's very highly recommended that a person trying to overcome an addiction participate in therapy in addition to being in 12-step recovery. Contrary to the belief of some, therapy can be very affordable. Some private therapists will work on sliding scales, and group therapy is considerably less expensive than sessions with private therapists.

I personally think that group therapy is often more effective than private sessions. That's the case for a few reasons, one of them being that members of groups can legitimately tell you that you're full of crap when a private therapist might not be able to do so for fear of breaching professional conduct.

When you're in a room full of people complaining, airing their grief, and expressing their feelings of anger, contempt, frustration, and boredom, it can be of value to you. That might not seem to make sense on the surface. Granted, it's unpleasant to listen to a lot of negativity. But when such negativity is expressed, it can make another person who's bottling up their feelings become more willing to express them. And expressing and subsequently dealing with feelings is vitally important for a recovering addict to do.

I think very highly of 12-step recovery. Whether or not it works for an individual depends on a great number of variables. First and foremost, it depends on the individual’s willingness to give their all to the process of becoming clean and sober. And the interaction with people that occurs in 12-step meetings is incredibly important as well.

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