Understanding the 12 Step Program Philosophy

The 12-step program has been a popular treatment for alcohol addiction since the book Alcoholics Anonymous was released in 1939. Over time, it has also been used to treat other types of substance abuse and even behavioral addictions, but many individuals do not understand the basic philosophy of the program, which can be boiled down to several points.

Addiction is a Disease

The 12-step program’s philosophy is based in the concept that addiction is a disease, from which an addicted individual can never completely recover, but that can be arrested with the correct treatments and actions. According to an overview on 12-step interventions and mutual support programs for substance use disorders, “Substance abusers must admit their powerlessness over alcohol and drugs” as part of the program. This is where the concept of giving oneself over to a higher power is necessary, and although that power can be deeply religious in nature, it does not, in fact, need to be. The program states that members can gain strength from this higher power in order to continue their daily fight against addiction.

Minimizing Self-Centeredness


Helping others and reducing selfish behaviors are important components of the 12 step program philosophy.

Another important part of the 12-step philosophy involves minimizing the idea of self-centeredness. Addiction can cause individuals to become very selfish, and the program asks that members consider their selfish actions from the past and apologize to those they have hurt. Once they do so, they can truly begin to heal, and the program emphasizes the letting go of selfish actions including the act of lying and any other dangerous acts that were often motivated by drug or alcohol abuse.

Abstinence is Necessary

The third pillar of the 12-step program’s philosophy is that, because substance abuse causes people to act selfishly and those who become addicted are powerless against their addictions, “abstinence is the only alternative” (National Institute on Drug Abuse). For those who have been abusing drugs or alcohol for a long time, this can be very difficult. But it is, however, necessary for individuals to truly live safe and productive lives without the fear of drug and alcohol use becoming unmanageable again. Abstinence takes the behavior out of the equation and allows members to focus on other coping methods that are much safer and healthier.

Helping Others

In addition, the 12-step program teaches members to reach out to other addicts, to be helpful of other members in the group, and to those who may require help but have not yet sought it. As stated by the NIDA, the group therapy model based on the 12-step philosophy “draws on the social support offered by peer discussion to help promote and sustain drug-free lifestyles” for its members. This allows the individuals in the group to help one another create better lives for themselves, making sure that no one is left out.

Do You Want to Learn More About the 12-step Philosophy?

Or even find a meeting in your area for the dangerous or addictive behavior you would like to stop? Call 888-905-9004 today, and we will help you find out more about the program as well as how you can begin utilizing the 12-step philosophy as a part of your recovery.

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