Do 12-Step Meetings Really Help? Here at The Sanctuary, we completely understand what it’s like to feel like you tried everything possible to overcome addiction, and nothing is working. Nothing “sticks.”
Addiction can be a very hopeless place to live in. As substance abuse and seemingly uncontrollable behaviors ramp up, so do the traumatic experiences in your life. Relationships break down; your health suffers; legal trouble is a constantly looming threat. As these factors pile up, it can start to feel like there’s no way out. And all of this feels even more depressing when the programs you work ultimately don’t work for you.
One of our former clients describes his experience with the 12 Steps this way:
“(Before The Sanctuary) I had a perception of the way my disease worked, and that perception caused me to have a self-defeating attitude. It caused me to have a belief about myself that was negative. Powerlessness and all this kind of programming – I’m an alcoholic, I’m an addict – this kind of belief system didn’t serve me.”
And as a result of his numerous attempts at the traditional route to recovery, he was left with a choice:
“On the one hand, I could make a decision to go back to rehab for the fourth time and continue to do the same type of procedure: to get myself back into a sober living home after going to a 12-Step rehab and then integrating back into AA. On the other hand, I could try something completely different.”
So what’s the best way to find meaningful, lasting sobriety, and what role do 12-Step meetings play in it all? Let’s take a look at what 12-Step meetings have to offer, what some of their drawbacks are, and how you can take this all into account when looking for a path to addiction recovery that does work for you.
Benefits of 12-Step Meetings
Commonly used around the globe, the 12 Steps were the first addiction recovery approach to popularize the disease model of addiction. Members regularly attend AA, NA or other 12-Step support group meetings while working the Steps. The benefits of these may include:
- Support – Members of these groups have immediate access to a community of other sober people, and the group environment encourages active and continued participation.
- Accessibility – AA and other 12-Step groups are available virtually everywhere, and they’re free of charge.
- Mentorship – The 12 Steps encourage participants to find a sponsor, who serves as an example of someone who has had success in the program and provides a higher level of individual support.
- Predictability – Many people like the idea of a linear process that they can follow from A to Z.
- Maintenance – While studies show the 12 Steps aren’t as effective for treating addiction as more intensive therapies, 12-Step meetings can be great for maintaining sobriety and upholding recovery-focused routines.
Limitations of 12-Step Meetings
While the 12 Steps serve as a crucial recovery tool for many, they also come with some drawbacks. Some people who work the 12 Steps ultimately find them to be:
- Disempowering – The 12 Steps are based on a fundamental belief in powerlessness over addiction. For many people, this actually reinforces addictive behavior, based on the perception that they’re inherently incapable of full recovery. This can also promote a negative self-perception that worsens depression and anxiety.
- Religious – While 12-Step groups have become more secular and inclusive over time, AA’s basis in Christian worldviews is apparent in its teachings, which may feel out of alignment for who come from other spiritual frameworks.
- Outdated – New discoveries in addiction treatment science disprove some of the foundational principles of AA. Neuroplasticity, neurogenesis and epigenetics, for example, evidence our ability to influence our own brain functioning and genetic expression in a way that counteracts addiction. This challenges the view that addiction is an incurable disease, or that certain risk factors can’t be avoided.
- Narrowly focused – 12-Step meetings don’t take into account the need for physiological aspects of addiction recovery. Nutrition and body-based therapies found in holistic addiction treatment programs can help you more effectively release physically held trauma and heal from addiction on a cellular level.
- Potentially retraumatizing – The open nature of 12-Step groups means anyone can attend, regardless of how they affect the group dynamic. Unfortunately, this sometimes leaves newer members of the program exposed to predatory behaviors like the “13th Step” and the “Florida Shuffle.”
Choosing the Right Road to Recovery for You
Many of our clients have had prior experience in a 12-Step program, and while it may certainly have helped them through parts of their recovery process, it may have been unable to provide the level of progress they were seeking. Eventually, they found The Sanctuary because they were looking for something different.
While 12-Step meetings can provide valuable community and support, many people find that the reliance on an external program to indefinitely manage symptoms takes away from their ability to achieve full recovery. True recovery requires comprehensive addiction treatment that gets to the root of the issue. In fact, research shows improved outcomes in addiction treatment programs that deal with trauma.
Our Non-12-Step Addiction Treatment Center: A Different Path to Healing
The Sanctuary’s holistic, non-12-Step treatment program provides a complete roadmap to recovery. 12-Step-based programs tend to focus mainly on addressing the psychological aspects of addiction. But addiction also affects you on emotional, physical and spiritual levels, and for healing to be truly complete, treatment needs to address these, too.
Our integrated approach involves rigorous clinical therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychiatry. It also treats other, equally important aspects of the self, as well as the energetic causes of addiction, for a more thorough experience of healing.
This program guides you through four sequential stages, designed to:
- Examine your belief systems and see how they may be limiting your ability to recover.
- Delve into your subconscious to shed light on the hidden causes of your unwanted behaviors.
- Reintegrate parts of your soul and spirit that have been lost to the trauma of addiction.
- Help you get in touch with your passions and design a life for yourself that you truly desire.
People are diverse, and recovery should be, too. We offer a wealth of holistic routes to healing, and we encourage you to try what you’re curious about and see what works for you. You’re not limited to one, prescribed methodology: our experienced practitioners are here to guide you until you find a path that feels right to you. Many of our clients find that a certain treatment or healing approach resonates with them, and they continue pursuing it as an integrated part of their life long after they leave treatment.
As part of our 90-day treatment program, we offer an intensive, two-month Transition Wellness Coaching program that includes hands-on support for connecting you with local resources. You’ll begin working on your relapse prevention plan in the early stages of your treatment with us, and we’ll make sure you have a strong support network in place to promote your continued progress. 12-Step meetings may be an integral part of this, if you decide that’s what’s best for you.
Beyond Limitations: Taking a Non-12 Step Approach to Treating Addiction
Identifying as a lifelong addict sends your subconscious the message that there’s a limit on how well you can be. But The Sanctuary’s non-12-Step program is designed to empower you. Here, you don’t receive treatment, but participate in a personal growth process that’s designed to not only heal you from addiction, but to change your entire life. We guide you to shed limiting beliefs and create room in your life for new possibilities. The journey to recovery is yours, and we encourage you to own it.
Our former client says this about the changes he’s seen in himself since his healing journey with The Sanctuary:
“That (powerless belief system) has changed. Now, I believe great things about myself, and those great things are true. On a daily basis, I keep in close contact with my higher power, which I’ve developed a greater relationship with as a result of going through the process at The Sanctuary. I believe that if I hadn’t had those tools, I would have lost everything meaningful in my life.”
He decided to try a new approach to overcoming addiction – and this is what he has to say about it:
“I chose to do something completely different, and I’m living a life that’s second to none as a result of it… I am free from (addiction). I have recovered. I’m rewired; restructured; re-energized; repowered.”
At The Sanctuary, we believe that when you realize your real inner strengths, you gain the power to be happy. And when you reconnect with yourself, you open your life to love, creativity, and a passion for life that you may have thought was lost. Our integrated process was created to help you get there, by leaving imposed limitations behind and giving you the freedom to control your destiny.
Contact us today to take the first step towards a new, empowered life.
He is the Founder, Administrator, Counselor at the Sanctuary at Sedona.
He has a BA in Political Science and is currently Senior teaching staff at Four Winds Society, an international school of energy medicine. His credentials also include being an Ordained Minister; a Certified Shamanic Breathwork® Facilitator; a Founding Member Society for Shamanic Practitioners; a Member of Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology; a Member of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. [email protected]