When it comes to finding lasting recovery from substance abuse and addiction, you have choices. Recovery begins with talking with professionals and taking a look at your individual needs. Once you know more about where you are in addiction and where you want to be in recovery, you can make the right choice for moving forward. This choice may involve taking a 12-step approach towards your health and wellness.

A Brief History of the 12-Step Approach

So when, where and how did the ideas behind 12-step recovery begin? It all started in the 1930s. Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith had both struggled with substance use problems for years. They had tried to recover using the standard treatment models available at the time, but they couldn’t seem to make changes that would stick. The two started meeting to talk about their challenges and support each other’s recovery efforts. Soon more people joined their meetings. Bill, Bob and their small community began to see success. The two men decided to put together the steps they found most helpful in fighting against addiction.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous represent the lessons people found be the most life changing. The steps suggest actions you can take to get and stay free from substance use.  The 12 steps used by Alcoholics Anonymous include the following:

  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.1

So now that you know the steps, how you do you make them a part of your recovery? How do you make them work for you?

Making the Steps a Part of Your Recovery

Small recovery groupIf you find the steps confusing or their language difficult, don’t worry! You will come to understand the steps and how you can make them part of your recovery. You can fit the goals and messages of the steps into many different therapy and treatment settings. When you take a 12-step approach to treatment, the format doesn’t matter as much as getting deeply involved in your own recovery.

Drug and Alcohol Dependence shares a study that found, “Active 12-step participation by cocaine-dependent patients is more important than meeting attendance, and that a combination of Individual Drug Counseling and active 12-step participation is effective.”2 The 12 steps are about more than just going to one or two meetings a week. Recovering from addiction involves learning how to apply these steps in your day-to-day life. Members call this working the steps. Working the steps often involves the help and guidance of treatment professionals, peers and mentors. These individuals can help you understand what sobriety looks like and how you can achieve it. They provide understanding and support during rough patches, and they are there to help you celebrate victories during good times.

Making the 12 Steps Work for You

The 12-steps are about more than going it alone or limiting yourself to one source of support and guidance. As mentioned above, a 12-step approach works best when it is part of a comprehensive, integrated treatment program. The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment supports this, explaining that when it comes to combining the 12-steps with formal treatment, “There is an additive effect of these recovery activities in that those who participated concurrently in both drug treatment and 12-step programs had higher rates of abstinence than those who participated only in treatment or in 12-step programs.”3 Give yourself and your recovery every boost you can!

You may also benefit from making any or all of the following part of your recovery plan:

Don’t be afraid to try different or several approaches to recovery. Consider choosing Black Bear Lodge as your best way to do so. We incorporate the 12 steps into our treatment model while offering a wide array of specific therapy and treatment options. We encourage you to participate in 12-step group meetings on campus. We can help you use and understand the steps. We can help you use them and the framework they provide to build and support your sobriety. The steps can be a vital component of your recovery, and we do all we can to help you take advantage of this powerful approach to treatment. Learn more about your options and how you can get started. Call us today.


1The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.” Alcoholics Anonymous. Aug. 2016.

2 Weiss, Roger, et. al. “The Effect of 12-Step Self-Help Group Attendance and Participation on Drug Use Outcomes Among Cocaine-Dependent Patients.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 14 Feb. 2005.

3 Fiorentine, Robert and Hillhouse, Maureen. “Drug Treatment and 12-Step Program Participation.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. Jan. 2000.