The 12-Step Approach to Addiction Treatment

The 12-Step Approach to Addiction Treatment

Howard B. New Life House manager discusses his take on a 12-Step approach to addiction treatment – a permanent solution vs. a temporary fix!

I believe the 12-Step approach to addiction treatment is ultimately the most effective and well-rounded tool we have available when it comes to dealing with drug addiction and alcohol abuse.  This is especially accurate when working with teens and young adults.  There are a few different reasons for this:  the active interaction with a sponsor, the spiritual component of the 12-Steps, and the community development that is integrated into 12-Step fellowships.

no-alcoholYoung adulthood can be an emotionally turbulent period in anyone’s life, regardless of whether they are or aren’t an alcoholic.  One of the challenges facing young men 18 to 25 is the absence of a positive peer group or role model to help guide them through this process. Parents are always available, but the reality is that most guys in this age group spend far more time with their friends on a daily basis than with their family members.  One of the ways that the 12-Step treatment approach addresses this issue is through the use of a sponsor.

A sponsor is another individual in recovery that has already completed the steps, has more time sober and that works with someone closely one-to-one, teaching them about working the 12-Steps as well as giving them life guidance.  Working with a sponsor allows an individual not only develop this healthy relationship; it provides them with a role model who has experienced and made it through the same struggles that they are currently dealing with.  This also adds a level of accountability that keeps an individual current and active in their recovery.

Another key feature of the 12-Step approach to addiction treatment is its holistic nature.  Many young addicts and alcoholics can come into treatment with problems other than just their drinking and using.  Self-esteem issues, behavioral problems, unmanageability, lack of integrity, low motivation and overall unhealthy living are all some of the different things that men and women come into treatment struggling with.  The 12-Steps are so effective because they address the underlying beliefs and conditions that lead to all of their core behaviors.  Through working the steps, new behaviors are learned which build self-esteem and teach manageability. Individuals begin to value integrity and as a result, begin to feel good, gaining motivation and developing a new interest in taking care of themselves.

One of the most rewarding things about working in recovery is getting to watch the transformation that occurs with this process.  Someone will begin working the 12-Steps to just stop drinking and using, but along the way so much more takes place.  Ultimately the drug and alcohol abuse becomes a small part of the bigger picture of character development and personal growth that the 12-Step process facilitates; leading to the resolution of many other problems that the young addict or alcoholic comes into treatment with.


The community that the 12-Step fellowships provides is something that lasts long after primary treatment or sober living has been completed.  One facet of the 12-Step approach are the meetings that recovering alcoholics and addicts attend.  This gives young people in recovery an opportunity to connect with a group of like-minded individuals who all share in a positive and healthy lifestyle.  A common problem with trying to get sober young is the lack of community.  The friends that someone associated with while using or drinking are often doing the same thing, which can make early recovery seem like a lonely process.  By getting involved in the 12-Step fellowship, members find a whole new group to surround themselves with.  12-Step recovery fosters a sense of unity and helps create bonds that can last a lifetime.

Overall, the 12-Step approach sets the foundation for a lifetime of recovery, giving young people getting sober a permanent solution, rather than a temporary fix.

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  • Patrick Stone
    Posted at 10:34h, 22 April Reply

    “Through working the steps, new behaviors are learned which build self-esteem and teach manageability. Individuals begin to value integrity and as a result, begin to feel good, gaining motivation and developing a new interest in taking care of themselves.”

    I completely agree and believe in this quote. Through repetition of new behavioral patterns I was able to break my usual routine of destroying my life and everyone else’s around me. Before I was introduced to the steps and the house, it seemed as if I had no chance of making it, I ruined all relationships, had no integrity, and had no love or compassion for myself or others. The Higher Power of my own understanding, put 3 very instrumental people into my life. They showed me through example how to trust in the process and become a better person. By following their example, I was able to emerge from the dark hole I created from drinking and using to create a life worth living and to be proud of.

  • Avi Satz
    Posted at 12:03h, 22 April Reply

    I agree with the article and with Patrick’s comment. For those who choose to participate in a 12-Step fellowship, they do receive a community that supports their recovery. The 12-Steps do layout a spiritual based LIFESTYLE! I believe that IS the permanent solution, a lifestyle change!

  • F.B.
    Posted at 13:26h, 22 April Reply

    Before I found AA and worked the 12 steps, I tried using DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) to get sober. A lot of the counseling was geared towards trigger awareness and relapse prevention, as well as learning to deal with emotions in a more healthy way. The problem was, as an alcoholic, simply waking up in the morning is a trigger – meaning I needed a solution that addressed the bigger picture. AA did this for me because it offered a whole design for living. I am sure that other psychological techniques have their application, but for me they were not enough to keep me sober and content with life.

  • Jason Kier
    Posted at 21:15h, 27 April Reply

    Great article! I was addicted to drugs at a very young age. I found myself in and out of rehabs from ages 16-19. Then I went to New Life House and everything changed. I had tried almost everything else and I was losing hope. They showed me the importance of getting a sponsor and working the 12 steps and it worked! My life was forever changed, a serious transformation that I didn’t even think was possible. I am proud of the man I am today and it is all thanks to New Life House and the 12 steps.
    Jason Kier
    Sobriety Date 6-12-06

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