4 Misconceptions About 12-Step Programs

While 12-step recovery programs used in organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous work wonders for a great deal of alcoholics throughout the world, there is a lot of controversy about the program. Many people adamantly support the program while others say that it did not resonate with them or that it even hindered their path to recovery.

We personally believe in the 12-step recovery process, and we would like to clear up some of the common objections we hear.

1. If an alcoholic admits he is powerless, he is no longer responsible for his actions.

The idea of powerlessness is not about a lack of responsibility. It is true that alcoholism begins with the choice to drink. However, once an alcoholic has begun to drink, he will do so no matter how harmful it becomes to his life. This is because he has lost all control over his actions. He must realize that he is powerless in order to remove blame, guilt, and shame that will often prevent an alcoholic from seeking help.

2. The program requires a belief in God or the Christian religion.

While the 12 steps were initially created from a Christian perspective and while Alcoholics Anonymous does reference God or a higher power, it is not necessary for a member of Alcoholics Anonymous to be religious or even to believe in God. A “higher power” can be God, but it can also be nature, the Universe, the power of a group of people coming together, etc.

3. Alcoholics Anonymous has too many rules and requirements.

While there are many suggested steps for alcoholics to take in their recovery (through the actual 12 steps and the 12 traditions), the only requirement to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous is the desire to stop drinking. Sponsorship is also suggested, but by no means required. Individuals who attend meetings are asked to take what is helpful and leave the rest.

4. Alcoholics just substitute meetings for drinking.

If meetings do offer support and help for alcoholics in recovery, they are encouraged to attend as long as they can. While many people attend meetings frequently in the beginning, the amount of meetings they attend tend to decrease over time. And even if they have to substitute trips to meetings for trips to the bar for a while, this type of active participation in a group is much more healthy and productive than an alcohol dependency.

Recovery is not just about stopping destructive behavior, in this case drinking. It is about changing your life, and 12-step programs are a great way to do that.