12-Step after Inpatient Rehab– What’s It Like?

Inpatient rehabilitation is a time for reflection and renewal.  With intense individual and group therapy, some patients often feel that they are building themselves into an entirely new person.  Issues that were stuffed into deep emotional pockets and coated with alcohol or other substances are uncovered.  Managing the mire of emotions takes time and ongoing support.

Different 12-Step Meetings

Alcoholics Anonymous developed the 12 steps that have been adopted for many different organizations over the past 60 years.  If there is an addiction or compulsion, you can find an anonymous meeting utilizing the 12 steps.  After exiting rehab, it is important to continue seeking support for the mental and emotional issues revealed in treatment.  Here is a partial list of 12-step meetings that may help support ongoing recovery:

  • AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Al-Anon (For family members affected by an alcoholic)
  • ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics)
  • CA (Cocaine Anonymous)
  • EA (Emotions Anonymous)
  • NA (Narcotics Anonymous
  • OA (Overeaters Anonymous)
  • SA (Sex Addicts Anonymous)

12-Step Meetings in Treatment

Many people are first introduced to 12-Step meetings in treatment.  AA or NA volunteers come into residential treatment facilities to carry the message to those new in recovery. Patients are sometimes transported to meetings in the community while they are still in rehab.

Often, these meetings will focus on the first three steps of recovery:  surrender, establishing belief and reliance upon help.  Generally, patients attend AA or NA meetings in the evenings after counseling and groups during the day.

12-Step Meetings after Treatment

after Inpatient Rehab

After rehab is complete, you can choose meetings where and when you want to attend them.

There are practical differences that may occur in meetings after patients exit treatment.  First, the power of choice is great.  Different meeting times are available, along with different formats.  It is important to visit many different meetings until finding one that suits a person’s individual needs.  Once a person finds a meeting that feels right, establishing a home group and committing to weekly attendance creates camaraderie and a sense of accountability.

Meeting Topics

More than likely, meeting topics will change, as well.  In the beginning, focusing solely on the first three steps builds a solid foundation of recovery.  However, after a person becomes a more seasoned member of the group, other topics arise.  Here are some common topics often discussed in 12-Step meetings:

  • Acceptance
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Forgiveness
  • Gratitude
  • Relationships
  • Resentment

Some meetings offer specific studies of the “Big Book”, Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  Beginning to view the program as a way of life rather than a series of meetings is important for deeper recovery.

Getting a Sponsor

For people who are serious about getting sober and staying sober, a sponsor is a necessary part of the equation.  For alcoholics and addicts, substance use and abuse has significantly damaged the manner in which the brain responds to stimuli.  Having a person with experience in recovery to help in the process of working the steps is invaluable.  Because addiction is rooted in denial and delusion, a sponsor can offer specific insights into decisions to help maintain sobriety.

Remember Those Steps You Worked in Rehab?  You’ll Need to Begin Again

After attending meetings outside of the protected walls of treatment, most sponsors insist on beginning the steps again from step 1.  This serves a two-fold purpose.  It reinforces a personal commitment to recovery and the process of the steps.  Also, reworking the steps allows a new sponsor to get to know their new protégé’, making it easier to offer positive feedback.  Further, the steps are designed to be worked again and again, uncovering more and more of the issues that drove addiction in the first place.


Finding a group of people who can help support ongoing recovery efforts is essential.  Along with finding a sponsor, gravitating toward a new group of friends will help add value and meaning to a new life free from the binds of alcohol and drugs.  In recovery, people discover some of the same interests and hobbies that were overshadowed by the obsession to isolate with drugs and alcohol.  12-Step groups offer a wealth of friends, adding a richness and fullness to life.

How AA Saved my Life and It Could Save Yours Too


Alcoholics Anonymous (2016). Welcome to Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved on December 28, 2016 from: http://www.aa.org/

Alcoholics Anonymous (1981).  The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved on December 29, 2016 from:  http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-121_en.pdf

Narcotics Anonymous.  (1992). An Introductory Guide to Narcotics Anonymous.  Retrieved from: http://na.org/admin/include/spaw2/uploads/pdf/litfiles/us_english/Booklet/Intro%20Guide%20to%20NA.pdf

Whelan, P., Marshall, E., Ball, D. & Humpreys, K. (2009). The role of AA sponsors:  A pilot study.  Oxford University Press. Retrieved from:  http://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/content/44/4/416

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