Newcomers are advised that in order to make serious changes in their lives, they must change their social habits and find a new source of support in the 12-step fellowship. Instead of spending time with other alcoholics or drug addicts, they are encouraged to attend meetings, find a sponsor and contact their fellow recovering addicts when they need support. The fellowship and one’s “Higher Power” fill the emotional and spiritual voids that the addict once attempted to fill with drugs or alcohol.
The first book written to cover the 12 step program was titled "Alcoholics Anonymous", affectionately known as the Big Book by program members. Following the subsequent extensive growth of twelve step programs for other addictive and dysfunctional behaviors, many additional books were written and recordings and videos were produced. These cover the steps in greater detail and how people have specifically applied the steps in their lives. An extensive chronology and background about the history of A.A. has been put together at Dick B.'s website.
One review of AA warned of detrimental iatrogenic effects of twelve-step philosophy and concluded that AA uses many methods that are also used by cults.[93] A subsequent study concluded, however, that AA's program bore little resemblance to religious cults because the techniques used appeared beneficial.[94] Another study found that the AA program's focus on admission of having a problem increases deviant stigma and strips members of their previous cultural identity, replacing it with the deviant identity.[95] A survey of group members, however, found they had a bicultural identity and saw AA's program as a complement to their other national, ethnic, and religious cultures.[96]
Jump up ^ Terra, Mauro Barbosa; Barros, Helena Maria Tannhauser; Stein, Airton Tetelbom; Figueira, Ivan; Palermo, Luiz Henrique; Athayde, Luciana Dias; Gonçalves, Marcelo de Souza; Da Silveira, Dartiu Xavier (2008). "Do Alcoholics Anonymous Groups Really Work? Factors of Adherence in a Brazilian Sample of Hospitalized Alcohol Dependents". American Journal on Addictions. 17 (1): 48–53. doi:10.1080/10550490701756393. PMID 18214722.

AA meetings do not exclude other alcoholics, though some meetings cater to specific demographics such as gender, profession, age, sexual orientation,[44][45] or culture.[46][47] Meetings in the United States are held in a variety of languages including Armenian, English, Farsi, Finnish, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Spanish.[48][45] While AA has pamphlets that suggest meeting formats,[49][50] groups have the autonomy to hold and conduct meetings as they wish "except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole".[4] Different cultures affect ritual aspects of meetings, but around the world "many particularities of the AA meeting format can be observed at almost any AA gathering".[51]
The Serenity Prayer is learned, which is meant to be used whenever individuals need a reminder in their lives. The Serenity Prayer is as follows: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”  This prayer is considered a cornerstone of many 12-Step programs as it embodies the idea that individuals need to accept the control that alcohol and drugs have over them, gain strength to work at remaining sober, and know when things are changeable and when they are not. Step 3 asks individuals to be willing to let God, in whatever form that is for each person, fully into their lives.

Non-12-step support groups provide a secular alternative to the 12-step programs and may be more comfortable for those not wanting to place such an emphasis on a higher power for recovery. Non-12-step groups sometimes involve fewer group sharing scenarios—which can provide some relief for those individuals who aren't as comfortable sharing sensitive personal information in group settings. Below are a few examples of non-12-step programs:
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Wilson took this to heart, coming up with additional points to safeguard the integrity and future of his group. To that effect, he wrote that every individual AA group should decline outside contributions and ought to be able to fully support itself. Alcoholics Anonymous was never to be a professional organization; “the only requirement for AA membership,” he wrote, “is a desire to stop drinking.” Above all, groups had to prize anonymity; Wilson wrote that it is “the spiritual foundation of all our traditions,” and that the sacrifice of identity would help members “place principles before personalities.”
At the end of an intervention, the stage is set for entry into addiction treatment programs. There are many different options out there. Some facilities, for example, offer inpatient treatment for addiction. These programs allow people to step away from their day-to-day concerns and tackle an addiction around the clock, every single day. For some people, that tight focus is an ideal setup for healing. But outpatient centers can be ideal for those who want to stay at home, surrounded by family, while they work on addictions to alcohol. It’s a personal decision that families can make in consultation with the person who needs help.
The co-occurrence of major depressive disorder and alcoholism is well documented.[47][48][49] Among those with comorbid occurrences, a distinction is commonly made between depressive episodes that remit with alcohol abstinence ("substance-induced"), and depressive episodes that are primary and do not remit with abstinence ("independent" episodes).[50][51][52] Additional use of other drugs may increase the risk of depression.[53] Psychiatric disorders differ depending on gender. Women who have alcohol-use disorders often have a co-occurring psychiatric diagnosis such as major depression, anxiety, panic disorder, bulimia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or borderline personality disorder. Men with alcohol-use disorders more often have a co-occurring diagnosis of narcissistic or antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, impulse disorders or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).[54] Women with alcoholism are more likely to experience physical or sexual assault, abuse and domestic violence than women in the general population,[54] which can lead to higher instances of psychiatric disorders and greater dependence on alcohol.
Schuckit, M. A., Smith, T. L., Danko, G. P., Trim, R., Bucholz, K. K., Edenberg, H. J., ... & Dick, D. M. (2009, May). An evaluation of the full level of response to alcohol model of heavy drinking and problems in COGA offspring. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 70(3), 436-445. Retrieved from
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While the program is neither religious nor mystical, it is considered spiritual in that members realize they are not the center of the universe. A higher power is at work, but that higher power can be defined however one chooses. Love, God, nature, conscience, the positive energy in a group of caring people, or an unnamed sense of spirit are all examples of higher powers.
The basic premise of the 12-Step model is that people can help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from the substances or behaviors to which they are addicted. They can do this through meetings in which they share their experiences with one another and support each other in the ongoing effort of maintaining abstinence. In research, as seen in a recent article from the journal Addiction Research and Theory, abstinence practices (as supported by 12-Step programs) can account for high levels of what experts call flourishing, which is positive mental health and can contribute to longer-term recovery. In the study, those who maintained abstinence were more likely to flourish in the long-term, with 40.7 percent flourishing after three months (as compared to 9.3 percent languishing) and nearly 40 percent flourishing after 12 months (compared to 12.4 percent languishing).
Recovery from alcoholism is a life-long process. The potential for relapse remains present and must be acknowledged and respected. Many individuals stop drinking and then relapse multiple times before attaining extended periods of sobriety. Statistics suggest that, among middle-class alcohol-dependent individuals in stable financial and family situations who have undergone treatment, 60% or more successfully stop drinking for at least one year.
People going through mild withdrawal are monitored to make sure that more severe symptoms do not develop. Medications usually are unnecessary. Treatment of a patient suffering more severe effects of withdrawal may require sedative medications to relieve the discomfort of withdrawal and to avoid the potentially life-threatening complications of high blood pressure, fast heart rate, and seizures. Benzodiazepine drugs may be helpful in those patients experiencing hallucinations. If the patient vomits for an extended period, fluids may need to be given through a vein (intravenously, IV). Thiamine (a vitamin) is often included in the fluids, because thiamine levels are often very low in alcohol-dependent patients, and deficiency of thiamine is responsible for the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

There are three oral medications that have been FDA-approved to help people remain sober: disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. They are prescribed for those who have indicated their intention to abstain from alcohol but require some reinforcement. Disulfiram causes unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and flushing with any amount of drinking. Naltrexone limits the cravings a person may get from drinking but can cause severe withdrawal symptoms in people who are also dependent on opiates. Acamprosate helps reduce the craving for alcohol. An injectable, long-acting form of naltrexone is also available. All of these medications are meant to be used in combination with counseling.
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As AA chapters were increasing in number during the 1930s and 1940s, the guiding principles were gradually defined as the Twelve Traditions. A singleness of purpose emerged as Tradition Five: "Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers".[8] Consequently, drug addicts who do not suffer from the specifics of alcoholism involved in AA hoping for recovery technically are not welcome in "closed" meetings unless they have a desire to stop drinking alcohol.[9]