12 Step Recovery

The 12 step program has a place in addiction recovery but by no means can or should it be considered a full-service treatment program

Addicts seeking treatment exhibit behaviors that are fundamentally similar in the abstract but can not be adequately regarded as a unit because addiction is a multifaceted disease, one that is best addressed with a comprehensive treatment program featuring medical, psychosocial, and nutritional aspects.

12 Step’s Ideal Role in Recovery

The role of 12 step within that broad, three-pronged treatment modality should be one of only a handful of psychosocial treatments, such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)
  • Behavioral therapies (community reinforcement, contingency management)
  • Psychodynamic or interpersonal therapy (IPT)
  • Self-help books and manuals

12 Step’s Actual Role in Recovery

Three Dimensions

12 step groups assume an active role in the process of recovery. To that end, the program symbolically represents human structure in three dimensions: Physical, mental, and spiritual. This last one is the most important; the illness or affliction of the spiritual dimension, that is meant to be treated by the 12 steps, is self-centeredness. It begins with the self-admission in the first step, identifying one’s self as an alcoholic, addict, etc. The ultimate goal in finishing the steps is to replace that self-centered mentality with “moral consciousness and a willingness for self-sacrifice and unselfish constructive action.”

Bridging the Gap

Sometimes that active role (for AA) begins with a concept called “bridging the gap”:

“[AA Volunteers] bridge the critical gap between treatment and A.A.[by] accompanying just discharged alcoholics to their first outside meetings, introducing them to potential sponsors and sharing their personal experience in recovery. The concept of these temporary contact or “Bridging the Gap” programs is as old as A.A. itself- one drunk talking to another, each reinforcing the other’s understanding that they can find the power to face life sober, and without gut wrenching fear and loneliness. Many temporary contact programs, coordinated by a treatment facilities or related committee, use the local central or inter-group office as a contact point. Committees in almost every state and province maintain lists of A.A. members willing to be temporary contacts; and they share and coordinate their efforts when it is important to obtain A.A. contacts in other parts of the U.S. or Canada.”

Twelfth Step Call & Sponsoring

According to the Big Book, “Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery.” The twelfth step call advises those having worked the 12 steps to go out and help others, and sponsorship is one of the ways in which this is done.

Sponsors are those people who become mentors of sorts to new arrivals to 12 step meetings and help them on an individual basis in part by describing their own experiences. It is not required to have a sponsor, nor is it required to become one. For a detailed description of what is expected of a sponsor, see AA’s questions and answers on Sponsorships.