Are the 12 Steps Enough for Alcohol Addiction?


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The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been used for decades in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Today, the majority of popular treatment programs incorporate the 12 Steps or a form of the 12 Steps. However, we cannot rely solely on the 12 Steps for recovery, because there is so much more healing which must occur in the alcoholic for sustained recovery.

Changes to the 12 Steps over the Years

In the past few decades, our knowledge of alcoholism, its causes, its implications, and its treatment has improved vastly. This isn’t always evident by the way this disease is treated, however. Treatment for alcoholism and addiction still lags, partly because since the 12 Steps were created 65 years ago, there have been few changes or improvements to the program or the way it is used. In fact, the 12 Steps have actually been weakened over the years, as atheist groups have sought to push God out of the Steps. Today, groups refer to God as a “Higher Power” or “god as we know him.” This has caused a significant decline in what groups can expect of the 12 Steps and its effectiveness. Misapplied 12 Step curricula are at the heart of plenty of failing treatment programs.

Added to the weakened 12 Steps was the biochemical model of the disease of alcoholism which took hold in the 1950s. This model fails to see addiction as anything but a physical condition, leaving out the psychological and spiritual components entirely. With this biochemical model, full healing is impossible and behavioral management through watered down 12 Steps, facilitated by ex-addicts with minimal psychological or spiritual integration training, is why recovery rates have stagnated for decades.

Getting to the Root Cause of Alcoholism

When we look at the entire person’s life, we see that alcoholism is never the primary issue for the alcoholic. This disease always stems from an inner stress, hurt, failure, or conflict which the person attempts to fix by using alcohol as an escape. Alcoholism begins as a way to self-medicate the pain, anger, and stress a person feels. Over time, the individual becomes dependent on alcohol, needing more and more just to function and feel normal for a short period of time. What they are really doing is sinking deeper and deeper into alcoholism’s control.

PsychoSpiritual Healing

Treating a disease as complex as alcoholism takes a multidimensional approach.
Because alcoholism affects a person’s physical body, as well as spiritual and psychological health, a program that uncovers wounds, fixes distorted thinking, and helps improve physical wellness is the most effective. A PsychoSpiritual approach emphasizes the need to identify and deal with the primary issues causing alcoholism, through sessions with skilled therapists.

The most important component to an effective alcoholism rehab program is the spiritual aspect. Through a Christian rehab program, the alcoholic will learn that they are loved by God, that He saved and freed them through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, and He wants us to live according to His good and perfect will. True healing comes when we realize we are free from the bondage of addiction and when we follow God’s guidance. Combining psychological equipping with the power of God’s love, the alcoholic can achieve true transformation and new life.

While the 12 Steps can touch on some of these issues, they simply don’t go deep enough for true healing. The 12 Steps are helpful when incorporated into a solid, PsychoSpiritual program, but for lifelong transformation, the person needs intensive rehab, therapy, and a renewed relationship with God.

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