Since AA began in 1935, 12-step programs have helped millions of people quit drugs and alcohol. AA was far better than the alternatives of the time, which were pretty much limited to jail or being committed to a psychiatric institution. Even now, when people decide drugs or alcohol are taking too great a toll on their lives, often their first thought is to find the nearest 12-step program. Are the 12 steps really all you need to get sober for good?

As with most questions about substance use disorders, it depends on your situation. Twelve-step programs do have some clear benefits. For one, they’re free, so you can attend even if you’re completely broke and probably get a cookie and a cup of coffee too. Second, 12-step meetings are everywhere. There are more than 100,000 AA groups alone in every part of the world. There’s a good chance you’re within walking distance of 12-step meeting, which makes it easy to participate consistently. Third, the steps are a good way to examine your life and figure out what you could be doing better. This kind of introspection is often helpful. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a 12-step group can provide you with a sober network and a sense of belonging, which is one of the best predictors of a strong recovery.

That said, the 12 alone won’t work for everyone. Studies have found that between five and 10 percent of people who try to get sober using only a 12-step enjoy a long-term recovery. One study found that 81 percent of new attendees stop coming within the first month. Clearly, the program can’t work if you don’t keep showing up.

There are several reasons people may not succeed with 12-step programs. First, unless you’ve been ordered by a drug court to attend meetings, there is no real commitment. Most people who decide to get sober aren’t really sure they want to at first. Without committing to a certain length of treatment, it’s easy to drop out quickly. Second, many people are put off by the religious tone of 12-step programs and some long-time members are especially rigid in their beliefs. Some people just feel like it’s not for them.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, most people with substance use disorders require professional help. Twelve-step groups are run by members with no special training in psychology or medicine. Most people with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental health issues that have to be addressed before someone can succeed in recovery. However, 12-step programs have no way to address these issues.

Twelve-step programs can play a role in recovery. They are especially good as a means of social support following residential treatment. However, most people with substance use disorders will have needs beyond what a 12-step program alone can address.

At Alta Lama Transformational Services, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Lama uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.


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You understand your needs best. If you have found yourself at a crossroads in your treatment and feel like your program options don’t fully understand you or aspects of your recovery, it’s time to contact the specialists at Alta Loma. We will help you craft the ideal care plan and secure the support you need, quickly, to avoid unnecessary problems. At Alta Loma, that’s our mission — to provide each individual with optimum care for the wellbeing they deserve.