Something momentous happened this month 85 years ago. It marks the birth of what is considered by many to be the world’s most successful form of therapy.
Certainly, it’s a therapy that has helped millions around the world with addictions and other mental health problems to be able to turn their life around. It is one we practice at Tikvah Lake Recovery with excellent results.
This therapy’s beginnings are one of remarkable synchronicity. We are talking here about the Twelve Steps recovery program, and it’s almost as if it had to happen…
How did the Twelve Steps begin?
Bill Wilson was born in Vermont, where he was abandoned by both his parents. By his teens, he was a rebellious young man who suffered from bouts of depression. His depression worsened, soon combined with panic attacks.
By his early 20s, he was drinking to pass out. After military service, he failed to graduate from law school because he was too drunk to pick up his diploma.
His drinking likewise adversely affected his working life in his chosen career as a stockbroker.
In the next few years, he ended up in hospital due to heavy drinking. He was told by doctors that he would either die from his drinking or have to be locked up permanently due to getting a “wet brain” that would likely cause loss of muscle coordination, extreme confusion and dementia.
Even with that warning, Wilson could not stop drinking excessively. He ended up in the hospital again.
At that time, alcoholics were considered hopeless cases, and many were destined to die too young, frequently after suffering physically and mentally for many years. Of course, family and friends would be badly affected as well.
Looking for a solution, Wilson started going to an American religious organization called the Oxford Group. He became especially taken by their spiritual ideals of Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness and Absolute Love.
After a while, though he stopped going to start on a mission to save others suffering from alcohol addiction. He did this by visiting local hospitals to find anyone he could help.
Not one person he tried to help stayed sober. But he realized that by trying to help others he was staying sober.
Then on a business trip in Ohio, he was tempted to throw away his sobriety. He stood in a hotel foyer, craving a drink. With increasing anxiety, he contemplated his choices: talk to another alcoholic in an attempt to stay sober or get it over with by getting drunk in the hotel bar.
He found himself standing by a phone booth there, and he made a series of phone calls that put him in touch with a physician and surgeon called Dr Bob Smith. This doctor invited him to his home – but only for 15 minutes, not a second more.
This was despite the fact that Dr Smith’s work and family life were increasingly in trouble. For 17 years his daily routine had been to force himself not to drink until the afternoon, and then to get drunk, pass out until he woke up to take sedatives that calmed his morning jitters.
However, Wilson’s understanding of alcoholism and his ability to share from his own experience meant the allotted 15 minutes stretched to six hours. Soon, Wilson moved into Smith’s home, and from there, both men made plans to take their message of recovery on the road.
But a month later Smith drank again while attending a work convention in Atlantic City. Returning to his home in Akron on June 9, he was given a few drinks by Wilson to avoid delirium tremens.
Smith drank a beer the next morning to settle his nerves so he could perform an operation. That was the last alcoholic drink he ever had. That date, June 10 in 1935, is celebrated as the anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
After a few years, three groups of recovering alcoholics – about 100 people in total – had emerged in Akron, New York and Cleveland. By this time in 1939, the burgeoning association set down its guidelines and experiences in the book called Alcoholics Anonymous, nicknamed the Big Book,that was mostly written by Wilson.
It outlined in writing for the first time the now world-renowned Twelve Steps recovery program. Yet it took almost two years to sell the initial 4,650 copies of the book’s first printing. It has now sold more than 30 million copies and been translated into 67 languages.
Who can the Twelve Steps help?
The Twelve Steps can be adapted to help virtually everyone as they are basically a suggested program of personal recovery. They are guiding principles for a course of action for recovery from addiction or other mental health problems.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the largest Twelve Steps group, with approximately two million members in 180 countries. But since AA was formed there has been the birth of dozens of other Twelve Steps groups, such as Al-Anon that helps families and friends of alcoholics, formed in 1951.
That was followed by (some of the other largest Twelve Steps groups):
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in 1953.
Gamblers Anonymous (1957).
Overeaters Anonymous (1960).
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (1976).
Workaholics Anonymous (1983).
Co-Dependents Anonymous/CoDA (1986).
Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous (2009).
How does Tikvah Lake Recovery include the Twelve Steps?
As part of our 10-30-90 Day Personalized Treatment Programs we incorporate the Twelve Steps. The first phase provides a lengthy overview of healthy living requirements, a look at the consequences of drink and/or drug use, dependence and abuse.
We also address co-occurring issues relating to the mental health of our guests. We work through Step One of the Twelve Steps.
This program’s ultimate phase is to get our guests ready for an alternative living facility to assist with moving back into society. We make great efforts to have family involvement to help achieve those aims. We also complete Step Three of the Twelve Steps.
Our main goal is to ensure our guests have the belief and understanding that they can live lives free from drugs or alcohol. Everyone will learn how to have and maintain a lifestyle that is physically and emotionally healthy in every way.
For more information on how Tikvah Lake Recovery can help guide you through the process of overcoming addiction, contact our admissions team today.
At Tikvah Lake Recovery, we believe that rehabilitation is a personal journey, and different types of therapy options appeal to different types of patients. One-to-one therapy options, for example, don’t work for everyone. And nor does the twelve-step program.
While effective for many, there’s a long-standing debate about the effectiveness of the twelve-step program. Does it truly help people? Is it only related to alcohol abuse? Is it a strictly religious treatment option?
Not always, but there are some truths to those questions. Here’s what you need to know.
What do the twelve steps look like?
Of course, anyone who’s ever heard of the twelve-step program knows that it’s designed to be much more than a list of hurdles you’ll need to jump over in order to reach sobriety. It’s one of the most commonly used types of recovery support, and it’s intended to be a group effort in which people struggling with addiction can get together. This way, addicts can experience the positive effects of sharing their stories with one another.
Working together, you’ll walk through the twelve steps, which are listed here:
Step 1: Honesty
Admitting that our lives have become unmanageable and that we’re powerless over our addiction.
Step 2: Faith
Coming to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us.
Step 3: Surrender
Making a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.
Step 4: Soul Searching
Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 5: Integrity
Admitting to God, ourselves, and to everyone else our mistakes.
Step 6: Acceptance
Readying ourselves to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7: Humility
Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
Step 8: Willingness
Making a list of all people we have harmed and becoming willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Forgiveness
Making amends to those people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step 10: Maintenance
Continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when we were mistake.
Step 11: Making Contact
Seeking to improve contact with God through prayer and meditation.
Step 12: Service
Trying to carry this message to other addicts, and to continue practicing these principles through the remainder of our lives
Isn’t the twelve-step program just for alcoholics?
Though the twelve-step program was initially established by Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s proven over and over again to be effective in battling many different types of addiction, including substance abuse, gambling, and sex addiction. Narcotics Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous were founded on similar principles to AA, and both use the twelve-step program as well.
Although an effective treatment method for many, the twelve-step program isn’t something that is commonly practiced at Tikvah Lake Recovery. We’re a small-scale, boutique and personalized rehab center, and we focus on offering tailored one-to-one care to our patients. The twelve-step program, while we can cater for it, sits outside of these parameters as it requires a collective group effort to achieve substance sobriety.
Are twelve-step programs exclusively religious?
Twelve-step programs are attended across the globe by thousands of people from diverse religious backgrounds and have seen worldwide success. They’re designed to trigger what’s called a ‘spiritual awakening.’ A spiritual awakening can mean many different things to different people, but in this case, it simply refers to the personality change that’s required to overcome an addiction.
So, while the twelve-steps were originally based on the principles of a spiritual organization, the word ‘God’ was eventually replaced with ‘higher power’, which can refer to many different things: the universe, fate, karma, your support system – even the recovery group itself.
In other words, your higher power is personal to you.Anyone from any spiritual or religious upbringing can effectively use the twelve-step program to battle their addictions.
Who can attend the twelve-step program?
Anyone! Twelve-step programs are personalized for each individual and designed to help with all kinds of addictions – not just alcoholism. For many years, twelve-step programs have been attended worldwide by thousands of people from diverse socioeconomic, ethnic, gender, and religious backgrounds and have seen worldwide success.
Whether you or your loved one is struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems, we’ll be able to help you at Tikvah Lake Recovery Center, and although we might not recommend the twelve-step program as a recommendation treatment approach, we offer alternative and, in our case, more effective therapies like one-on-one CBT and talking therapies that work in a similar vein to the twelve-step program, only, they go into more depth and help uncover the root behaviors of an addiction.
Visit here for a list of our programs and who they’re designed to help.
Finding the right program for you
Our belief at Tikvah Lake is that people can help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from substances and behaviors to which they are addicted. The twelve-step program is one of the most effective ways to do that, however, we often opt not to pursue this treatment approach.
We are an exclusive luxury rehab with few patients staying with us at any one time. While the twelve-step program is a possibility, it is often not a recommendation option by our clinicians. We have several different programs to choose from, however, so whether you’re struggling with a type of addictions, substance abuse, depression, or other unhealthy behaviours, we can help you out. Many of these options also manage to avoid the unfortunate side effect of group therapies like the twelve-step program – they avoid people recounting ‘war stories’ and ‘glorifying’ their addiction.
Not only that, but our approach to treatment also avoids the need to label patients as ‘addicts’. In the twelve-step approach, one of the first steps is acceptance. This means defining one’s self as ‘an addict’ and accepting this label. For some, this is unproductive and demotivating; there are better approaches to realising how substance abuse has affected you and those around you.
How can Tikvah Lake Recovery help?
We believe that addiction is more than just a bad habit; it’s a medical disorder that affects hundreds of thousands of people every day. Addiction alters the brain’s makeup and can be fueled by just about any substance that triggers the right release of chemicals in your brain.
As such, the programs we offer are immersive and unique. Not only do we give everyone personalized, tailored programs in our private residential recovery center, but our accredited staff will help you every step of the way with proven techniques and supported detox management. Our programs are inclusive, welcoming, and community-centered, and will offer you support as long as you need it.