Participation in 12-Step Programs: Building a Support System
By: Cumberland Heights
Formalized treatment often provides the structure that a person needs to restore their mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing after the ups and downs of addiction – but another major part of recovery is social support, and this is often found through recovery-related activities. Individual and group therapy serve as safe spaces for learning and growth, but there’s another component of recovery that can provide a person with a number of contacts and an additional structure for healing: 12-Step programs.
All About 12-Step Programs
12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), were founded back in the mid-1930s as a mutual self-help group. Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith and Bill Wilson started the first 12-Step fellowship in Akron, Ohio, and since then, thousands of chapters and people have engaged in it. The 12-Step program is a beautiful support program for those in addiction recovery, as the 12-Steps have led many people into forming a life of sobriety that’s all based on faith, hope, and love. A connection with a Higher Power is sought through these types of programs, and there are many principles that can be found through them:
- The belief that a Higher Power is needed in order to live a fulfilling life, and that as human beings, we simply don’t have the power nor control to carry out what’s needed
- The request of a Higher Power to remove all of our shortcomings
- The admittance that we’d become powerless over our addiction, and that a Higher Power can help us carry out His will
- And more
Over time, 12-Step programs have evolved into covering a variety of conditions such as eating disorders, gambling, nicotine addiction and more. It’s quite common for those in 12-Step programs to have a spiritual awakening, which has ultimately led people to lead a life with greater love, happiness and overall fulfillment.
In 2018, Very Well Mind, a website that publishes information related to mental health and wellness, explained that 12-Step programs have served not only as a way for people to recover from addiction but also as a form of guidance for life – and through this, connections can be made that only further endorse recovery and sobriety.
Social Support and Sobriety
It’s not uncommon for the people around us to greatly influence our attitudes, thoughts and behaviors. All too often, people fall victim to substance abuse because their social circle endorses it – and once you’re caught in the endless cycle of substance abuse, it’s incredibly difficult to get out. The American Psychological Association (APA) states that it’s this exposure to outside influencers – along with environmental factors (such as low cost and accessibility of the substances) and psychological influencers (such as stress and history of trauma) can also affect a person’s susceptibility to addiction.
Social support is about finding people who uplift your dreams, goals and plans for sobriety – it’s about surrounding yourself with individuals who help you become the person you want to be, rather than take you away from it. By forming a strong support network through a 12-Step program, you can enjoy numerous benefits such as:
- Having people you can rely on in times of need
- Being able to surround yourself with people who positively reinforce sobriety
- Obtaining a sponsor – someone who can help guide you through recovery
- Engaging in recurring meetings that can serve as a constant in an otherwise seemingly chaotic world
- Gaining confidence in recovery-related efforts by no longer feeling alone
- And others
Of course, social support systems only become stronger with greater involvement – and it’s crucial that you fully participate in 12-Step meetings and other recovery-related activities in order to get the most benefit. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that 12-Step programs can,
“…Offer an added layer of community-level social support to help people in recovery with abstinence and other healthy lifestyle goals.”
Building a Community
An unfortunate belief by many who’ve struggled with addiction is that they’re all alone – but the reality is that there are many more people who are also suffering, and who are in need of support. 12-Step programs offer a new chance at a fulfilling life – and that’s not only through the connection of a Higher Power but through the connection of others who want to build one another up. In 2015, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) described the 12-Step program as a “tried-and-true proven approach” that involves far more than simply advising someone – but also fosters community relationships and sponsor-sponsee connections that can enhance someone’s life.
Part of building a social support network is becoming vulnerable and opening up about the challenges we go through, as well as serving as a listening ear to those who need it as well. Holistically, support is a process of give and take – and, over time, we may find that we make connections that serve as lifelong friendships. Furthermore, the building of a relationship with a Higher Power means that we no longer have to feel alone in our pursuits – there is someone else watching over us, and we can rely on Him to help us lead a more fulfilling life.
Jean Venier once stated,
“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.”
If you’re ready to take steps towards building a lifelong support system, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today. It’s never too late to ask for help – and in doing so, a number of opportunities become open.
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 two 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. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.