Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
12-step misconceptions
November 20, 2020

Debunking Common Myths About 12-Step Programs

While you’ve likely heard about the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and are aware that 12-step programs have helped thousands of people around the world recover from addiction, you may not understand how they work. It’s likely you even have some misconceptions about what 12-step programs are – and what they’re not. Here’s a closer look at the reality behind some of the most prevalent myths surrounding the 12-step approach to recovery.

1. 12-Step Programs Only Work for Religious People

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were devout Christians, and used that faith as the bedrock of the program they created. This faith-based foundation might make you feel nervous about going to 12-step meetings if you aren’t religious. You might worry that you’ll need to pass some “purity test” to be welcome in the group, or fear you won’t have anything in common with the other members. You’ll be glad to know that the 12 steps can still benefit you, even if you’re an atheist, agnostic or follower of a different faith.

While the 12 steps do specifically require you to surrender to a higher power, that doesn’t have to be a deity. For example, many non-religious people choose to interpret this concept as the universe, love, science or nature. You could even use the camaraderie you find in your recovery group as your higher power.

2. Your 12-Step Group Will Force You to Reveal All Your Secrets

Though sharing your story is an essential part of succeeding in 12-step programs, nobody will make you talk about topics you’re uncomfortable with. You might only want to sit and listen for your first several meetings, and that’s OK. The group should eventually come to feel like a safe space where you can open up to others, but the other members won’t expect you to discuss confidential information.

3. 12-Step Programs Expect You to Change Everything About Your Life

Some people are reluctant to explore 12-step programs because they believe they’re too restrictive. The truth is that the only requirement for following 12-step principles is a sincere desire to break the cycle of substance abuse. The overarching goal of 12-step programs is to encourage you to take personal responsibility to change your lifestyle for the better, but that doesn’t mean anyone from the group will be monitoring your behavior.

4. 12-Step Meetings Are Dull

You never know when someone’s story will resonate with you or make you see the world differently. Be patient and accept that it might take some trial and error to find a 12-step group that feels like a good fit for your needs. There’s also no rule that says you must stick with the same group the whole time. If you find the meetings you’ve been attending no longer challenge or inspire you, shake things up and try a different group. 

5. Hearing Other People’s Stories Will Make Me Vulnerable to a Relapse

You might fear that being around other recovering addicts will trigger a return to substance abuse, but most people who attend 12-step meetings are focusing on the possibilities of their future, not the challenges they’ve put behind them. As a result, it’s unlikely many attendees will want to reminisce about their active addiction and all the problems that came with it.  

Instead, you can expect to hear uplifting stories of how they’ve overcome struggles, made strides in their emotional well-being and succeeded with their goals of making amends to people they’ve hurt. 

6. 12-Step Programs Reinforce Helplessness

The first step requires admitting that you are “powerless” to change your self-destructive behavior on your own. Some people misinterpret this to mean that accepting help for an addiction is a weakness. Instead, the founders of AA knew that alcohol use had taken over their lives, and the fact that they continued to drink despite all the negative consequences meant they’d lost control. Like diabetes and cancer, addiction is a chronic disease. Seeking help through a 12-step program doesn’t mean you’re weak; it means you are humble and realistic.

Clinically Excellent Addiction Treatment

At Beach House, our addiction specialists integrate 12-step programming into our other therapeutic approaches by offering daily 12-step meetings and encouraging our clients to continue attending AA or NA gatherings after they leave our facility. To learn more about our evidence-based addiction treatment and other factors that have made us a leading drug and alcohol rehab provider, please connect with us today.