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Introduction to 12 Step Recovery

Inspire Recovery finds it beneficial to offer an introduction to 12 step recovery to any clients unfamiliar with the principles behind 12 Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. 12 Step programs and fellowships are invaluable resources recovering addicts and alcoholics can rely on for literally the rest of their lives. The principles behind the 12 steps are spiritual in nature, but in no way are these organizations affiliated with the doctrines of any one particular religion. At Inspire we are spiritual and open to the many ways a “higher power” can be defined on a personal level.

The process of following the 12 steps as they are outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous or in the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous can be thought of as a means of practicing behaviors that are fundamentally incongruous with how one might act while in the grips of addiction. It is difficult to use the word spiritual to describe activities like lying to loved ones and stealing to support a drug habit. Changing the way we act can have an effect on how we, in turn, think and feel about certain things.

Put simply, substances can be addictive because the brain associates their effects with feeling good. An elementary belief system can be established that whenever one feels troubled or uncomfortable using a substance can be a solution to that predicament. In the same way that this detrimental belief system was constructed it can be deconstructed and a new healthy and positive belief system can be fashioned to take its place.

The concept of neuroplasticity suggests that the physiology of the brain is never fixed. Addictive behavior patterns that can be conceptualized as networks of neural connections in the structure of the brain can be disconnected. A network of neural connections that could structure healthier behavioral patterns can be strengthened as core beliefs are changed and rearranged. These changes in the brain can be promoted through being exposed to new ways of thinking, new perspectives and engaging in new and different activities. This is the process of learning. Despite the genetic components involved with the disease of addiction and a hereditary predisposition, drug abuse and drinking is, in part, a learned behavior. Abstinence from drugs and alcohol can also be a learned behavior. The 12 steps can be thought of as a course of guidance in that subject matter.

The success rate of 12 step programs speaks for itself. The literature associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous has been paramount in the recovery of countless alcoholics and drug addicts. The purpose of the 12 Step Groups at Inspire Recovery are to expose clients to methods that have worked for others in the past as they relate to conquering their substance dependence, to aid in the interpretation of 12 step literature and to engage in discussions about the relevant principles and techniques involved in 12 step recovery. For many, this is something that has had a significant impact on how they approach their substance-free lifestyles. For people who have had success with 12 step recovery, it makes more sense to live spiritually than to live addictively. The program curriculum at Inspire Recovery is not primarily based upon 12 step programs by any means, but Inspire Recovery recognizes their value and effectiveness and we are committed to bringing their value to those who are new to recovery. For those who are returning to treatment, we are open and accepting of recovery programs such as SMART Recovery and Refuge Recovery (A Buddhist based recovery approach.) We nurture our clients’ response to certain programs and ask each person be open to the potential of their benefits and exploratory in the variety of programs that exist. The most important thing is to have a program and work it. Without a recovery program many addicts and alcoholics find their way back to their problem.