Addiction is the compulsive substance-seeking behavior or an intense desire to use a substance despite the negative consequences. Addiction goes much further than use or abuse in the fact that those who suffer from addiction have lost the ability to control their urges and are victims to their addictions. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process that requires extensive work to find and maintain sobriety. There are many avenues of approach to overcoming an addiction of any kind — drugs, alcohol, gambling — but none more popular than the 12-step program. The 12-step program was developed in 1935 by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and is still the most widely used on-going addiction recovery program.

12 Steps to Addiction Recovery

The 12-step program requires that addicts submit to their addictions and accept that the abused substance is controlling their lives. The steps are heavily grounded in the belief in a spiritual higher power, however, even in the absence of religion, many subscribers have found healing through the 12 step program without becoming religious. Addiction recovery is a spiritual journey that requires one to take an honest look inward and believe that there is something bigger than themselves, regardless of what that something is. Then, follow the steps:

1. Admitting powerlessness over [enter substance of choice].

The first step requires an addict to recognize and admit that they are not in control of their lives or actions. The purpose is not to place blame elsewhere, but to acknowledge that the addiction has surpassed use and has taken over their lives and made their life unmanageable. Prior to surrender, many addicts falsely believe that they are in control and can quit at any time without realizing the negative effects the addiction has had on health, relationships, emotions, and legal problems. This denial is a hindrance to recovery and is the first obstacle that must be overcome.

2. Believing that [enter deity of choice] can help.

Step two requires that the addict believes that there is something, or someone, greater than themselves who can help lead them on a journey to sobriety. Acknowledging a higher power allows an addict to lay their egos aside and accept that they need guidance and assistance. This offers a form of support when things get tough, and in the process of addiction recovery, things will get tough. Having a higher power to rely on dramatically improves the chances of continuing on a sober path. Even greater than a higher power, the second step is about hope. Hope that recovery is possible and a sober life is attainable.

3. Deciding to submit and turn control over to chosen deity.

Surrender is key to successful recovery. This is a critical step because it ensures that the addict knows that their addiction is bigger than them and they need help to take control of their lives back from the addiction. Unlike the first two steps, which focused on reflection and acceptance, step three is about taking action — making a decision and executing it.

4. Taking a personal inventory.

An honest personal inventory is important to addiction recovery because it allows an addict to evaluate how they may have stumbled onto the path of addiction and how the addiction has affected their lives and those who are in it. A searching and fearless moral inventory requires a recovering addict to take a good hard look at themselves and the choices they have made, and whether or not they are congruent with the beliefs they hold and the person they want to be. This step is important because before one can make changes, they have to understand what needs to be changed.

5. Admitting to deity, self, and others of wrongs done.

This is an important step to help the addict and their loved ones to recognize the grip that the addiction had on their life and the harmful side effects that they may not have been fully aware of. This account can later serve as motivation for resisting relapse — fully understanding the consequences and making a determination about whether it is worth it or not. Making a confession to a higher power, self, and another living person can lift a great burden and start to resolve feelings of guilt or shame that may otherwise lead an addict back down a dark path.

6. Allowing deity to correct shortcomings in character.

Part of acknowledging the consequences of addiction is recognizing the personal contributions an addict made to the situation. Allowing a higher power to help make corrections regarding those shortcomings allows an addict to let go of them. This is not always easy to do as these behaviors and shortcomings have likely been a trusted coping mechanism for a long time.

7. Asking the deity to remove shortcomings.

This step is about realizing oneself as we truly are and finding humility. Much like step three, this step is the action step following the realization of shortcomings.

8. Making a list of wrongs done and being willing to make amends for those wrongs.

Step eight is a form of personal housekeeping. When a list is made of all the specific ways that addiction has hurt both the addict and the ones they love, it helps to recognize the damage that has been done. A thorough, honest list, allows an addict to realize what addiction has done to their lives and the ones they love. This step is meant to be an honest account of how addiction has negatively impacted the addict’s life and allows for willingness to repair the damage.

9. Contacting those who have been hurt by the addiction or wrongdoings and make amends.

Step nine is another action step. Once wrongdoings have been identified, admitting they happened to make amends is making forward progress. Admitting wrongdoing and offering an apology lifts an incredible amount of guilt and a burden that an addict may not even be aware they have been carrying. It also allows those they have hurt the opportunity to forgive them and return to their lives. Forgiveness is incredibly powerful for both the offender and the one who was offended against. However, it is important to note that if contacting someone to make amends will cause more hurt to the person, it should only be done in a letter that is unsent. Admitting to wrongdoings and asking for forgiveness allows an addict to move forward with a clear conscious. It is important to note that not all people will offer forgiveness, and that is okay, a sincere apology acknowledges that you understand that it was wrong and regret it.

10. Continuing to take personal inventory and admitting wrongs.

This step is about continuing growth and preventing a backslide. Once a list is made, it is not enough to tuck it in a drawer and leave it be. As humans, mistakes will be made continually, but it is vigilance that allows us to stay on track and continue growing.

11. Seeking enlightenment and connection with deity through prayer and/or meditation.

This step is all about continuous improvement and making an effort to remain on a clean or sober path. This step acknowledges that recovery is a continuous process and something that is never really “done.” By the time the eleventh step is reached, many addicts have found a deep spiritual path that will be the guiding way for the rest of their lives. Prayer and meditation is the reflective conversation with a higher power that helps one find enlightenment. Prayer is speaking to the higher power while meditation is listening.

12. Spreading the message of the 12 steps to others who are suffering.

Once an addict has successfully completed the program and found freedom from their addiction, the final step is to help others achieve the same thing. Once the 12-steps are completed, an addict has the tools and skills necessary to help successfully guide another addict on their path to recovery. This step is important because the best people to help others are those who have been there themselves. It also helps to maintain accountability and inspiration to another person or people, which can provide the strength necessary to stay sober.

It is important to understand that addiction is not “cured” once the 12 steps are completed and recovery will be a lifelong process. Additionally, addicts often have to repeat all or some of the steps because there may have been issues that were not realized or worked through the first time. This is okay and encouraged.

While there are many successful addiction recovery options, the 12-step program is one that has been tried and true and can supplement most other recovery programs. For more information about addiction recovery or to enroll in a program, contact us at Metro Rehab today. We are Oak Park’s premier drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation clinic, offering a variety of services. Start your journey toward a sober life today!