Even if a recovering drug addict or alcoholic has reservations about some aspects of 12-step recovery programs, the one aspect of those programs that can help him or her is its success in preventing relapses. Addicts and alcoholics can go through a painful physical detox and “get clean”, but they often find that staying clean is more difficult than the physical detox ravages that they might have suffered. 12-step programs instill tools and philosophies that a recovering addict or alcoholic can use when the psychological urge to use drugs or alcohol strikes, even years after a last use of those substances.
12 Step Programs for Avoiding Relapse
The strength of a 12-step program in preventing relapses is best understood in the context of the pressures that recovering addicts and alcoholics face after they have completed their initial recoveries. Initial recovery is necessarily focused on stopping drug and alcohol use and abuse. An addict or alcoholic might start a counseling program during recovery, but a few days of counseling will rarely be adequate to address any unresolved psychological or life issues that catalyzed a person’s addiction. Because 12-step programs address an entire life arc that extends beyond initial recovery, they provide a platform to deal with those issues that continues well beyond the initial recovery.
Addicts or alcoholics that do experience one or more relapses can find themselves wracked by guilt or shame over their inability to stay clean and sober. 12-step programs are ideally structured to address these emotions. Steps four and five guide a recovering addict through the process of taking an emotional inventory, followed by a process in which an addict faces and goes past any negative emotions that might come to bear in a relapse or that might otherwise be holding him back. Steps six through twelve help a recovering addict to establish a life plan in which he takes steps to resolve issues that he may have with himself and others, and sets a program with a non-judgmental support community to help him maintain his recovery over the long term.
Support for Active Sobriety
12-step programs also remind recovering addicts and alcoholics to do common-sense things that help prevent a relapse. For example, addicts and alcoholics who participate in these programs are reminded to avoid situations that can tempt them to use drugs or alcohol, they surround him with a strong support group, they help him to establish a healthy routine and schedule, and they keep him vigilant to the risks and threats to his sobriety that he might otherwise ignore if he fell into complacency. Lastly, if an addict or alcoholic does experience a relapse, rather than treating that a person as a failure, a 12-step program will welcome him back with instructions and suggestions to avoid further relapses.
Every recovering addict’s and alcoholic’s journey to sobriety will be different, and 12-step programs may not be the best solution for every addict.
If you have questions about whether a 12-step program is right for you or if you have concerns over a risk of relapses, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. We can provide a confidential consultation and direct you to a 12-step or some other program that will best help you to recover and to avoid relapses.