A Brief Look At 12 Step Programs

One does not have to read far into the literature concerning substance abuse recovery before discovering mention of a 12 step program. These programs have endured almost 80 years. While originally designed to help alcoholics in their battle for sobriety, today, there are twelve step programs and support groups for all types of addiction.

Alcoholics Anonymous or AA began in the early 1930s as a support group for individuals struggling with alcoholism. At this time there were few choices in treatment for alcoholism, but there were a few hospitals that offered a drying out facility, that today would be known as detox centers. At the time of the founding of AA, the twelve steps did not exist, but they were developed over the next few years.

These steps were first published in Bill Wilson’s Big Book. The original publication date of the book was 1938. While many of the steps were already being passed by word of mouth, Wilson was the first to codify them. His work brought together principles that has been used for many years to bring individuals to sobriety.

Wilson wrote out these steps that have become a valuable tool for AA in about 20-30 minutes. It was only after he completed the writing that he counted the steps and found them to number twelve. When the list was complete, Wilson did little editing before they were sent directly to the publisher in the Big Book.

Although the original steps featured the use of the word God several times, Wilson later edited the steps to reduce this to a minimum. Later, the phrase as we understood Him was added after each mention of God. Today, many groups replace the use of the word God with a higher power.

Many of the principles recorded in the twelve steps are tractable to the Oxford Group. This was a Christian organization started by a Lutheran minister that became very active in the 1900s. Wilson claims they were responsible for some of the spiritual principles but that they also had attitudes incompatible with AA that were discarded.

Although many rehab centers continue to base their work on the twelve step program, it has come under fire by psychology today. Some claim that an alcoholic and his or her spouse meeting with a counselor can provide the same results as attending weekly AA meetings. In addition, there are some who continue to disagree with the principles due to their dependence on god or a higher power. Even Christian groups sometimes attack the steps believing the first step eliminates moral depravity of man.

For three-quarters of a century, individuals struggling with alcohol abuse have turned to AA for help. The 12 steps that form the basis for this support group have also been adopted by many other organizations to provide help for all types of substance abuse, emotional disorders and other situations. In general, each group makes a few slight changes to the wording of one or more of the steps to make them more appropriate for the substance being abused or the affliction that affects the members

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