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12-step meetings
July 13, 2020

What to Expect in a 12-Step Meeting

If you’ve set a goal of reclaiming your life from a substance abuse problem, you might be considering attending 12-step meetings. However, most people’s only experience with the 12 steps comes through media depictions that may not necessarily be accurate, leaving you unsure about the value of these programs and whether the 12-step approach to addiction recovery is right for you.

It’s understandable to be nervous about walking into an unfamiliar environment for the first time. Perhaps you’re worried that the other members of the group will pressure you into talking about things you’d prefer to keep private, or maybe you’re reluctant to participate because you’ve heard the 12 steps are faith-based. The truth is that 12-step meetings can be a valuable adjunct to evidence-based addiction treatment approaches.

What Are 12-Step Meetings Like?

The 12 steps form the backbone of Alcoholics Anonymous, a group that has been aiding people in recovery for more than 80 years. There are now robust offshoots of Alcoholics Anonymous, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous. These groups all share the same objectives of helping people break free from their self-destructive behaviors and learn to live their best lives. Twelve-step groups are free to attend and open to the public, which makes them an accessible way for people to get help when they aren’t sure where else to turn.

Though there will be common elements of 12-step meetings – such as reciting the Serenity Prayer and periods during which group members can share their experiences – no two groups are identical. If you attend a 12-step meeting that doesn’t feel like a good fit to you, that doesn’t mean you can’t find healing in the 12 steps. You might need to experiment with a couple of different groups until you find one that seems right. 

How Can 12-Step Meetings Help in Your Recovery?

It’s essential to note that 12-step meetings are not a substitute for therapeutic approaches to addiction treatment, such as dialectical behavioral therapy or residential treatment programs at accredited centers. Instead, they play the vital role of providing peer support and accountability.

The 12-step model predominantly focuses on three central concepts.

  • Acceptance: Admitting that addiction is a chronic disease, that you have no control over it and that willpower alone is not sufficient to overcome substance abuse.
  • Surrender: Giving control to a higher power and accepting help and support from treatment professionals and other individuals in recovery.
  • Participation:Regularly attending 12-step meetings and committing to the teachings of the program.

The goal of attending 12-step meetings while you are actively pursuing an inpatient treatment program is to supplement what you learn in evidence-based therapy. At Beach House, we host 12-step meetings on campus, and we encourage you to remain actively involved in Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar recovery group after your discharge from inpatient rehab. Your sober supporters can play a crucial role in giving you structure and helping you remain committed to your recovery.

Surrendering to a Higher Power

If you’re not a religious person, you may be unsure about the concept of granting control to a higher power in addiction recovery. To keep this from becoming a sticking point for you, it may help you to know that your higher power does not have to be a god or any other supernatural being. Twelve-step meetings are welcoming to people of all spiritual backgrounds.

Agnostics, atheists or people who have never been devout can still reap the rewards of participating in 12-step meetings. For example, instead of a deity, you can choose the laws of nature as your higher power in addiction recovery, or you can pick something that brings you infinite joy, such as music, art or love.  

How Successful Are 12-Step Meetings?

As you weigh the pros and cons of different approaches to recovery, you might find yourself wondering how effective 12-step meetings are. When combined with evidence-based therapies, they can be a useful supplement in helping you maintain your long-term sobriety. 

As with other things in life, you must put in the work if you hope to get to the reward. In other words, the 12-step model can be valuable if you’re motivated to fully participate in your group, maintain regular attendance and stay involved in the program on a long-term basis. In particular, planning to incorporate the 12 steps into your aftercare program can help reinforce the lessons you learned in rehab long after your initial treatment ends.

Beach House Is Always Here for You

If you’re ready to find a lifetime of freedom from the burdens of your drug or alcohol addiction, Beach House is ready to help. Hundreds of clients have benefited from our loving culture and our clinical excellence practices. Please contact us anytime, 24/7, to speak with one of our compassionate admissions counselors.

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