How to Make the Most of 12-Step Programs

Woman making the most of 12-Step Programs for recovery12-Step programs have been around for many, many years now as Bill W. and Dr. Bob started Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the first 12-Step fellowship, back in 1935. Since then, the program has expanded to over 2 million participants worldwide – and for many people, 12-Step programs serve as a strong foundation for living a life of sobriety. A 2015 article published by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) emphasizes that 12-Step programs are much more than merely “advising a person to go to AA”, but rather encourages attendance and participation, explains the potential benefits of working with a sponsor, explores problems and psychological resistance to attending meetings, guides people in “working the steps”, opens the door to 12-Step related activities (such as social events, retreats and conventions) and more. 12-Step programs provide many opportunities for a person to grow, but how can they truly harness this potential?

If you’re ready to make the most of your 12-Step program, remember that you’re going to get out of it exactly what you put in. For example, if you only attend a few meetings a year, you’re not going to get much – because you’re not able to immerse yourself in the culture, and little time will have been spent understanding the true dynamics of these types of programs. You can, however, get much more out of these programs by doing the following:

Engage in Meetings

In 2016, a person shared their experience with 12-Step meetings via Straight Up, a website that engages young people on advocacy and education related to social change. They stated,

“…The meetings I attended this time had a larger turnout and more people shared, so it was more interesting to sit in, and I learned a lot. I got to learn about people and their experiences and struggles with sobriety and recovery.”

The only way we can grow is to practice being vulnerable around others, to share our troubles and success as well as gain insight from people’s stories. To get the most from 12-Step programs, you need to not only be present – but to participate fully.

Connect with a Sponsor

Sponsorships do take a lot of work on both ends – and the most conducive relationships are those who both work to make the relationship meaningful. The Fix offers several suggestions for sponsorship, such as:

  1. Determining what type of sponsor would fit your needs most
  2. Taking time to meet with someone and get to know them before officially asking them to be your sponsor
  3. Learning about your potential sponsor’s story and what they’ve gone through to get to sobriety
  4. Asking your sponsor about the expectations they have for you
  5. Making it clear to your sponsor what you hope to get out of the relationship

Apply the 12-Steps to Your Daily Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated that one of life’s biggest compensations is that nobody can truly help others until they’ve helped themselves. By applying what we’ve learned about the 12-Steps, we are helping ourselves to become stronger and more resilient in recovery – especially by releasing some of the ideals we’ve previously held about ourselves and the world.

Attending the meetings and reading through the Big Book can only get you so far – you have to be committed to working through the 12-Steps in every aspect of your life. By applying the principles learned to your life outside of 12-Step meetings, you’ll be much more invested in your own recovery – and you’ll be able to ask your fellow peers and sponsor for advice when something doesn’t go as planned. The ASAM notes that the 12-Steps are meant to take people on a personal journey where they can learn and grow – and if you don’t actively apply them, you miss out on this opportunity.

Provide Service to Others

In Part III of the Big Book, a person shared their story of 12-Step success and how much service played a role in their recovery. They stated,

“…I have become increasingly more devoted to this program that saved not only my life, but my wife’s also. Eventually I became involved in A.A. service and helped get a central office started for our groups. We both became active in general service…What a joy we found in this!”

When you apply yourself to the program, you’re much better able to become a part of something much larger – much more meaningful – than you ever thought possible. In fact, it’s through service that many people find their purpose and passion in life.

Live with Passion

Recovery is a beautiful chance to start living with more vitality, more energy, more purpose than ever before – and if you’re ready to transform your life, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today to get started. It’s never too late to find healing and restoration through 12-Step programs, along with many other effective components of treatment.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.