What can I expect from joining a 12 step program?

Transitioning out of a life ruled by addiction to drugs and alcohol can be scary. It’s hard knowing where to go and what to expect. You’ve probably wondered if a 12 Step program would be right for you and right for finding a good direction and some stability. 


There are many 12 step programs from different organizations to help those with addictions to specific substances. These 12 step programs are here to give you an outline of how to come to terms with your addiction, how to make amends with others, and how to make positive action towards a goal of recovery. Is this the right structure for you and making a positive change in your life? Here are more specifics on what you can expect. 


First thing to look for is information straight from the organization. Often there will be a set of documents, book, or booklet on their website listing what their 12 steps are specific to their organization. It will outline them in depth which will give you an opportunity to see if it’s a good fit. This booklet will also often include names and contact information for those that are there to help anyone struggling within the group. Whether that’s an email address or phone number it is very common. 


In many 12 step style organizations, the primary foundation is spiritual. More often than not however you will find that the spiritual aspect is not necessary. Plenty of members of these groups choose to not subscribe to the idea of a higher power. There are even secular groups that follow all the other philosophies of the 12 step programs but choose to keep spirituality out of it. 


 One of the biggest fears expressed about joining is that the meetings might be uncomfortable. More often than not these meetings are held in churches, libraries, community centers, or other public spaces. The meetings are led by a volunteer or chairperson that is likely also in recovery. If that doesn’t help make the situation more comfortable, the most important thing to remember about the 12 step processes is that no one is obligated to participate in any way they are not comfortable with. Your addiction experience is still yours and it is up to you to share when the time is right. 


Anonymity is another big part of the 12 step process that is in place to help ease any discomfort with joining. The scene often portrayed in movies and TV about this is that you always start with “Hi, I’m so-and-so and I’m a….” Though that is still a common way to introduce yourself at these meetings, it is not required if you are not comfortable with it. Simply state that you are new to this and that you are not comfortable disclosing your name at that time. Sometimes the second step towards recovery is just making it to the meeting. 


Is a 12 step program right for you? Does it sound more comfortable than you thought? Consider looking for a local organization and making a second step towards recovery today!