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Substance abuse is a significant problem in America today which has been made more critical by the rising number of people addicted to prescription medications. According to figures from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around one in 12 adults struggle with drug and/or alcohol abuse.

Addiction is a complex illness that impacts people in all areas of their lives; emotionally, physically, financially, legally and behaviorally. In the majority of cases, it is not just the individual abusing substances who suffers, but by extension, their families and friends are also affected. Due to the insidious nature of addiction illness for every one person struggling with substance abuse, there are several others suffering the consequences also.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are both support groups formed on the foundations of the 12-Step approach to addiction treatment. Based on religious principles, the 12-steps provide a structured path to recovery that is aided by mutual support from people with similar beliefs and attitudes towards substance abuse. 12 step recovery programs are invaluable in providing long-term support so that individuals are better motivated towards achieving long term recovery.

The 12 Steps in Layman’s Terms

Step 1: Admitting to Being Powerless over Addiction

As with all types of addiction treatment, the first step an individual has to take is admitting they have a problem. AA and NA meetings are very well-known for having the standard introduction of a new member who will state their name and that they are an alcoholic or a drug addict. In 12 step recovery programs, step one also involves an admission that the individual should seek help in order to overcome their illness.

Step 2:  Accepting a Power Greater than Oneself

The religious principles of 12 step drug rehab come into focus in the second step, which requires belief in a spiritual entity that is more powerful than the individual. This step is essentially calling upon members to draw on their faith to find a way through their battle with addiction. Although many people refer to their higher power as ‘God’, 12 step recovery programs allow people the flexibility to accept the entity of their choice. For some people without religious beliefs, this might be ‘The Universe’ and so there is room for all types of philosophies within the 12 step drug rehab model.

Step 3: Agreeing to Turn Life over to the Higher Power

This step requires people to put their faith into action and submit themselves to their higher power for help. This introduces accountability at a spiritual level for people on 12 step rehab programs and sets them on a journey towards recovery that is guided by their personal beliefs.

Step 4: Taking a Moral Inventory of Oneself

At this stage of the 12 step rehab program, members are called upon to take time for introspection. Compiling a moral inventory requires an honest look at an individual’s addictive behavior and the consequences it has had on themselves and those close to them. Writing everything down in list form is an important part of the whole 12 step drug rehab model as it can provide continued motivation as members work through the steps.

Step 5: Admitting Wrongdoing to a Higher Power, Oneself, and Others

Once the individual has confronted themselves with the consequences of addiction by compiling a moral inventory, they then have to admit everything on the list aloud. 12 step members are asked to confess their flaws and weaknesses to their higher power and ask them for forgiveness. Then the member is requested to tell another person, (usually a sponsor or therapist) of their wrongdoing resulting from addiction. This confessional step generally follows immediately after completing step 4.

Step 6: Being Ready for the Higher Power to Remove Character Defects

Before members are able to move on into recovery, they have to ask their higher power for help to prevent them from falling back into addictive behavior. Some people refer back to the list they created for step 4 to consider what changes they need to make. For example, if a person has become used to being secretive or even lying to conceal addiction, they may choose to become more honest and open in the future. Members are encouraged to write down some positive affirmations for step 6 which they can continue to use to help them sustain sobriety.

Step 7: Asking the Higher Power to Remove Shortcomings

Humility forms the basis of the seventh step of 12-step and people are asked to make themselves humble by learning how to think of themselves less than they do others. Much of the negative behavior of substance abuse is centered around denial which is often displayed as arrogance when people are confronted on their drinking or drug-taking. Admitting that the problem is with the individual themselves rather than those around them and seeking to do something about it is the first step to being truly accountable in the future.

Step 8: Continues on from Step 5’s Moral Inventory

This step continues the moral inventory, taking it further to include specific people impacted by the disease of addiction. This repeated referencing back to previous steps is an important part of the structure of 12 step rehab programs and ensures people have a realistic picture of the consequences of their substance abuse.

Step 9:  Making Direct Amends When It Is Not Harmful to Do So

Along with step 5 which is a confessional stage of the traditional recovery approach, step 6 seeks to make amends for negative behavior resulting from substance abuse. This step involves reaching out to those individuals who have been most affected. Every person on the list should be approached to apologize to face-to-face unless this would be detrimental to them.

Step 10: Prepare for a New Life in Sobriety

Steps 1 through 9 set up a strong foundation for a new way of life that is not centered on substance abuse. Step 10 takes the process one step further by introducing daily accountability for both positive and negative behaviors in recovery. This is often best achieved by maintaining a journal where people are expected to be completely honest, even if they find themselves relapsing. Taking stock of mistakes as soon as they are made makes it more possible to overcome them without falling back into addiction.

Step 11: Taking Time for Meditation and Prayer

This step is very much about creating a new routine which involves regular prayer or meditation in order to reinforce changes to a person’s lifestyle. Finding time for silence is considered by all types of addiction therapists to be beneficial as a way of ensuring long-term sobriety.

Step 12: Experiencing a Spiritual Awakening and Carrying the Message to Others

When members have worked their way through all the steps, they are very likely to have refreshed faith as a result. 12 step encourages people who have benefited from the traditional recovery model to help others who need to overcome substance abuse. This is an effective part of a person’s recovery strategy as it provides them with an extra layer of accountability for future behavior.

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