What Is a 12 Step Program

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A 12 Step Program is a model, derived from Alcoholics Anonymous, that has shown benefits for helping variety of addictions. The steps follow a similar pattern, with sleight modifications, no matter what the addictive behavior is. This is because the problem is seen as the same, no matter what the particulars are.

12 step programs concern themselves with repairing a spiritual disease. It is this which is thought to underlie whatever the specific addiction may be.

The first three steps are situational -- recognizing an addiction exists and understanding it is beyond individual control. They finish with a commitment to turn over the problem to a higher power.

The next four involve coming to grips with the practical nature of the problem. They include a moral inventory and discovery of character flaws, a confession of wrongs and asking the higher power to help remove those flaws.

The next two have to do with making amends to those wronged -- the consequences of most addictions. These are followed by two which continue the steps before in a more thorough fashion.

The last of the 12 steps is an imprecation to pass it along to others.

When someone is "working the steps" they are using them as a guide. There is much more detail in each step than listed here and many people work on more than one at a time. The benefit is a clear plan of action that directly addresses the addiction -- the thinking is that those who participate, once they recognize the problem, need a structure that will lead them to recovery.

12 step programs are not touted as "cures." They are meant to manage what is seen as a lifelong disease. For this reason, no one truly completes the steps. They continue to work the program and maintain their health.

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