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  • Charlene Warin

12 Step Programs at Clinic 77

If you’re here, it means you’re probably interested in 12 step programs. Maybe you want to start going to meetings, or have a loved one who you think would benefit.

This means that you or someone close to you has been through a harrowing time, and is in desperate need of help. Don’t despair. The good news is that by working through the 12 steps you can gain the introspection needed to break free from addiction and stop using substances.

At Clinic 77, we’ll take you to your first meeting and guide you through the 12 step process. But while we believe that while the steps are a great start to sobriety, they’re not the last word. In our program, we use a holistic approach to make sure our clients are not just sober but are also vibrant in their recovery.

In this article, we help you understand what 12 step programs involve, how effective they are, and also tell you a little bit about why we feel the holistic nature of the Clinic 77 program gives our clients the opportunity to recover and to thrive.

What is the basic concept of a 12-step program?

The 12-steps were thought up in Akron, Ohio, by Bill W, a stock speculator whose life had been warped by alcohol. Since they were developed over eight decades ago, the steps have helped millions of people (including our NA steps facilitator, Zhayne) get clean from drugs and alcohol through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and other fellowships.

The steps offer people recovering from substances a place to share their experiences of addiction and hear others share theirs. Members agree to follow a way of life that revolves around honesty, service, and a connection with a higher power. In return, they receive a spiritual awakening and freedom from their addictions, one day at a time.

The twelve steps

AA literature tells us that the twelve steps are a “set of principles written so simply that we can follow them in our daily lives.” Some of the steps involve establishing a connection with God with prayer, meditation, and discussing the concept of a higher power.

Other steps include helping the person in recovery deal with resentments and fears. The final step encourages members to “carry the message” to others by sharing at twelve-step meetings, sponsoring people trying to get sober, and helping those still using substances find sobriety.

The steps work by cracking open the psyche and letting the light that was obscured by addiction back in. Done sincerely, they’re a powerful tool to restore your luminescence.

Twelve step meetings

If you join “the program”, you can regularly attend meetings, free of charge. At meetings you read and discuss 12-step literature, which will help you with the keys of how to live a happy and sober life.

Member’s “shares” are funny, sad, or poignant, often within the same share. Hearing other people share earnestly about their experience of addiction can act as a catalyst to quell the shame that addiction often brings. You are likely to feel a camaraderie you have not often felt.

Going to meetings shows a commitment to working on yourself and listening to others, relinquishing self-will and giving another way of life a go.


12-step fellowship members are encouraged to get sponsors who offer life advice, support, and guidance through the 12-steps. Having a sponsor is integral to working the steps.

The sponsee-sponsor relationship helps both parties. The sponsee gains wisdom around life in sobriety from the sponsor, and the sponsor can “get out of their own way” by helping someone maintain sobriety.

How long does it take to complete a 12-step program?

The length of time that the 12-step program entails depends on the person working it, though most people finish the steps in 6 months to 2 years . Members sometimes stall on one of the steps as it brings up uncomfortable truths about themselves that they would prefer to avoid.

It is vital to keep going when these arise, as exploring and integrating these truths is profoundly freeing and allows the individual to blossom.

What are the principles behind the 12 steps?

The principles behind the 12 steps are (in order) acceptance, hope, faith, courage, honesty, patience, humility, willingness, brotherly love, integrity, self-discipline, and service.

These principles are gained by working through the steps and integrating their lessons into your life.

This sounds a little dry, but it's actually a pretty fascinating (and sometimes challenging) process. The end result is coming back to you and becoming the best version of yourself.

What is the success rate of the 12-step program?

As the 12-step programs are anonymous by nature, it isn’t easy to give an exact figure for their success rates. Numbers between 5% and 50% are often given.

Some 12-step members stress that long-term recovery from substances is more or less guaranteed by working through the steps earnestly. Countless cases demonstrate that this is not the case. You may have experienced this first hand, as you or someone you love has thrown themselves into the program but still relapsed. Here are the main reasons why this happens.

12 step programs do not help members deal with trauma

Many people who experience trauma find that the first time they feel whole again is when they take a substance. The substance numbs them from the pain of their trauma and may even help them function better, at least for a while.

Carrying on taking substances puts people in situations where more trauma occurs. While the 12-steps offer a powerful salve for some maladies of the soul, they cannot help members deal with trauma experienced before or during addiction. Going through the 12-steps without therapy can worsen trauma, as it involves digging up the past, sometimes opening old traumatic wounds.

If you have trauma and don’t address it, it can act as a trigger for relapse. The best place to address trauma is usually therapy. Completing a course of therapy is one of the most loving acts a person can do for themselves.

The reality is that this work is often challenging, as difficult experiences and painful feelings are brought up. Therapy often uncovers shame, guilt and fear that has been buried. The process will be necessarily uncomfortable at times. But it is so worth it. Going through therapy is transformational, and will assist recovery from substances while liberating you, so long as you give it your all.

12 step programs do not treat co-occurring psychiatric disorders

Another common critique of 12-step fellowships is that there is no scope to treat mental illnesses. Many people with substance abuse problems also have mental health problems, which makes treating addiction difficult or impossible without first addressing the mental issue. If someone is bipolar, they may do well in recovery until they go through an extreme high or low, causing relapse.

As with trauma, dealing with other mental issues initially involves working with someone who is professionally trained.

Lack of structure

People new to recovery often find it beneficial to have a structure that they follow. While going to 12-step meetings may take up an hour or two each day, there are still many more hours in the day. Twiddling thumbs easily leads to thoughts of drinking or using in early recovery.

This is why attending an inpatient residential treatment center is usually recommended. The programs these centers have can nurture the recently sober person, easing them into sobriety and back into the land of the living.

12-step fellowships can work as part of a holistic program

The twelve steps is a fantastic system that has helped millions stay sober. But it is not the last word in remaining free from substances. By following “the program,” it may be possible to stay sober, but there are many other facets of recovery the you can explore to achieve vibrant wellness. So, by all means, go through the steps, but do it as part of a complete program of recovery.

At Clinic 77, we understand that the most effective approach to treating addiction is a holistic one, and use Dr Bill Hettler’s model of seven dimensions to wellness: biological, physiological, psychological, social, relational, vocational, spiritual. We fully support our clients to go through the steps, but also offer a variety of evidence-based treatments.

We offer our clients the best beginning to their recovery by addressing all of these aspects.

Contact us today to find out how our program can help.


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