Are 12 Step Alcohol Programs Good Enough to Keep Me in Recovery?

Are 12-step alcohol programs good enough to keep me in recovery? If you’re asking yourself this question, you should know that there is no simple answer. It really depends on the person and also how motivated the person is to maintain their sobriety, along with the level of addiction and personality factors. When combined with other types of treatment, such as rehab recovery treatment, the success of 12-step programs rises significantly. However, when used alone, these programs have a rather low overall success rate of somewhere around 8 to 12 percent.

Problems with AA’s 12-Step Program

First of all, AA disapproves of any kind of medication for the treatment of addiction in any form. This includes medications used for opioid maintenance, such as Suboxone and methadone, and it would also include a medication called Vivitrol, which is used to reduce drug cravings and discourage impulsive drug use for both opioids and alcohol. If you’re using Vivitrol or any kind of MAT, or medication-assisted treatment, AA’s 12-Step program will not approve. If they know about it, they might even ask you to leave the group. However, AA does allow the use of both nicotine and caffeine, both addictive drugs. Caffeine is probably relatively harmless, but nicotine is a dangerous, potent poison known to cause addiction and damage to the human body. Second-hand cigarette smoke is dangerous to others, too. You may see a disturbing dichotomy here. Many people do. When it comes to substances other than caffeine or nicotine, AA and other 12-step programs can be very judgmental and unyielding. Even legal consumption of cannabis and CBD are prohibited, although there is no current, conclusive evidence that CBD is addictive.

12-step programs will require you to give up control of your life to a higher power. This can be anything you perceive or understand it to be, but you must first admit that you are powerless over your life because you have allowed drugs or alcohol, because you are also powerless over them, to take over your life. This last part is certainly true, but not everyone is comfortable with giving up control over their life to an unseen deity, no matter how religious the person might be. Some people prefer to maintain control and remain sober under their own power. There is nothing inherently wrong with drawing on a spiritual source for strength, especially when the going gets tough, but that’s not the same as relinquishing total control to a higher power.

12-step programs also expect you to participate in regular meetings. These meetings are free, and there is probably one being held nearby you as you read this. There is often coffee, and the participants are free to step outside to smoke before and after meetings and during breaks. Everyone is anonymous and no one gives more than their first name, but many people get up and speak on highly disturbing and sometimes shocking topics. To get the most out of a 12-step program, you will be expected to eventually rise and speak about yourself, too. If you’re not comfortable revealing intimate details about your life to strangers, a 12-step program may not be for you.

Is a 12-Step Program Right for You?

You may have to actually attend some meetings before you can really make this evaluation. AA has definitely helped many people to get and stay sober, and it may work for you, too. There is no harm in giving it a try, but it’s a good idea to have some other recovery ideas, too, such as outpatient and inpatient rehab treatment.

AA 12-Step programs will only help you if you can comply with their program 100 percent and apply their principles to your own situation. If you’re not comfortable with faith-based recovery programs in general, you probably won’t get much from a 12-step program, either. There is no one recovery method that will work equally well for everyone.


If you’re addicted to alcohol, sudden withdrawal from this substance is not safe. Never attempt alcohol withdrawal on your own. Always consult with a medical professional. You will need medication and careful medical management to get through alcohol detox safely. After that, you will need some kind of recovery treatment. If you don’t get it, your chances of relapse are extremely high. Be wary of “social” or “natural” detox centers. Often religiously based, these detox programs don’t provide the necessary medications or medical supervision for safe alcohol detox.

Any Questions?

If you’d like to know more about 12-step and other faith-based recovery programs, you call call us anytime at 772-266-5320. We can explain in more detail what these programs entail and also help you explore other programs, too. We look forward to your call.

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Essentials mission is to renew lives impacted by addiction through personalized and complete behavioral healthcare. Our main purpose is to provide services and education to the client and family that will support long lasting recovery of mind, body, and spirit.