The 12-Step Dilemma

If you or a family member has sought help for addictive behavior, you more than likely were referred to a 12-Step program. Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Family Doctors and Clergy most often suggest that people dealing with addiction attend the 12-Step program that deals with the particular addiction that is causing issues. Many Judges will mandate 12-Step programs when a person’s behavior crosses legal boundaries. Millions of people around the world have found recovery using the principals outlined in the 12-Step Programs.

With a consensus of professions recommending these programs, it would seem that the obvious choice for combating addictive issues would be a 12-Step program. When we dive further into the actual success rates for addicts that attend these programs, we see a pattern that is concerning. Many studies show the real success rate for the various programs is between 4% to 13%, using 1 year of abstinence as the definition of success. The defenders of 12-Step Programs quickly point out that people who are “serious” make it work.

If any drug or medical procedure had a 13% success rate, the FDA would not approve the drug or procedure. Why is it the 12-Step Programs get such wide acceptance, while delivering such underwhelming results? The obvious answer is that addiction is a horrible disease that destroys families and often ends in death for the addict. Addiction invades the brain and takes over the addict’s life. Often, the addict doesn’t want to stop, they have become comfortable in the dysfunction of their addiction. These factors make addiction recovery especially difficult for most.

Most Mental Health Professionals are aware of the low rate of success of 12-Step Programs but still refer their clients to these programs, mainly because there are limited options available for treatment of addicts. There is also a fear to speak out or create alternatives due to criticism from the mainstream treatment establishment. This has created a lack of evolution in the field of addiction treatment. If you were to seek help for a medical condition, you would not be happy to have your treatment based on technology that is 10 years old, much less 80 years old. The original 12-Step Program, Alcoholic Anonymous, was founded in 1935.

By now, you are probably sure I am “anti-12-Step”. That is not true, the basis of my recovery began in a 12-Step program for gambling addiction. I do not have an agenda against these programs, they have helped many.

As a recovery coach, I want to have as many tools at my disposal to help my clients. When a client is finding success in the 12-Step Programs, I reinforce and encourage them to continue the path. However, I often have clients that have struggled with addiction for years and have not found the 12-Step Programs effective. They have had multiple attempts and have attended many meetings, but relapse has become the norm, most have quit going to meetings at all. It is for these clients that we have developed alternative methods of dealing with addiction. These methods combine Positive Psychology, Law of Attraction, Solution Based Therapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Holistic Nutrition and Exercise.

If you struggle with recovery and would like to consider a different approach, call for a free phone session to see if what we offer could assist you or your loved one. 804-335-4343