Why a 12-Step Program is the Best Path to Recovery

Substance Abuse Treatment


In recent years, the concept of therapy to treat addiction has broadened widely. Now, you can find several types of services that are offered to aid in the recovery process—everything from equine therapy and biofeedback over tai chi, meditation and beyond. These alternative or complementary methods can have a beneficial role in treatment, but they should only be used in conjunction with—and not as a replacement to—medically assisted detox and a 12-step program.

Often, alternative therapies are geared towards easing the symptoms of mental health disorders that can frequently co-occur with addiction. For instance, holistic therapeutic programs that focus on acupuncture, nutrition and yoga, among others, are meant to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety, to better to aid in recovery.

These programs, however, aren’t meant to be used at the beginning of treatment. The initial recovery stage is a period when you may experience intense effects from drug or alcohol withdrawl. Symptoms are wide ranging and can take a toll on your body. They include, but aren’t limited to, nausea, insomnia, muscle pain, mood change, hallucinations, fatigue, confusion and shaking throughout the body. Because of the toll that withdrawl may take on your body and mind, medically assisted detoxification is a wise way to start treatment for addiction to drugs or alcohol.

During medically assisted detox, you are supervised by health care professionals as your body weans itself from the substances you have been addicted to. This process can take place on an inpatient or outpatient basis. In general, people may find more support in a residential setting where constant care is available.

Also, in some cases, medication might be recommended to help stabilize you as you deal with the rigors of substance withdrawl. If that happens, you need experienced medical professionals who can oversee your medication management plan. Professionals ensure you are following it as needed and oversee that you are not suffering from any side effects. With the care and support offered during medically assisted detoxification, you may feel better prepared to embark on the work involved from your addiction once the initial detox period ends. Detox is certainly not the completion of treatment; it is only the entry point on the way to recovery.

It is important to choose wisely when it comes to selecting an addiction treatment program. Holistic therapies have become popular because they promote healing by addressing all facets of each client—mind, body, and spirit.  You may find that some of the therapies appeal to you personally; for instance, if you are creative, you may be drawn to art therapy. While that is valuable—you may find treatment and recovery a little easier if you are participating in an activity you enjoy—it should not be the only criteria for selecting a therapy program.

That’s because 12-step programs play a key role in the recovery process. They are adaptable for a variety of needs—you can find a group that targets your particular addiction or religious affiliation, for instance—and they may also address issues related to addiction. They are designed to become a fixture in your life not just during treatment, but in your daily life afterwards as well.

Basically, 12-step programs require participants to follow a set of guidelines or tenets to lead them through life. Support is offered through a sponsor or mentor member, as well as in fellowship with other group members. Usually, you begin attending these types of group meetings during your treatment for substance abuse addiction, and one of the wonderful things about these programs is that they are offered in many locations for free—so you can find one wherever you are, whenever you need. It promotes the accountability that can help you as you strive to live a sober life—you have a place to go where people understand you and will listen to you without judgment. These programs are tried and tested and have become an important building block in the foundation for recovery.

That’s not to say alternative or complementary programs don’t have their place. They can certainly be effective as part of a comprehensive recovery plan, helping to enhance the tools and therapy you receive in a 12-step program. However, they generally aren’t as readily available and may not offer the community of support you can count on in 12-step programs. On their own, these types of alternative programs can’t serve as a replacement for 12-step programs.

Seeking treatment for addiction recovery is a momentous decision, and selecting the right program for you can play a huge role in setting you on a course towards success in sobriety. Look for a treatment program that offers the potent combination of medically assisted detox and a recovery plan that includes a 12-step program.  This ensures you begin your recovery journey with strong support—first from the medical professionals overseeing your detoxification and then from the community of your fellow program-mates.  That kind of encouragement can make all the difference as you overcome addiction and work towards achieving sobriety.


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