When they hear about 12 step programs, many people assume it is a reference to Alcoholics Anonymous. This isn’t surprising, since a majority of 12 step programs are directed towards alcoholics. More and more, however, 12 step groups for victims of drug addiction have become more popular. Groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can now be found in more and more areas. Similar groups such as Smart Recovery are also becoming more prevalent. The genius of these groups is that they provide a mutually supportive environment for people who are struggling with addiction. Professional treatment of various kinds is available, but access is limited. Generally speaking, you can’t just call up your counselor when you are having a difficult craving. 12 step programs, on the other hand, encourage you to have a sponsor, somebody who is willing to speak to you anytime day or night. In fact, many sponsors expect their sponsees to check in on a daily basis. This creates an element of accountability, a great resource for those struggling with addiction. In simpler terms, the sponsor-sponsee relationship keeps the victim of addiction from excusing their behavior. The sponsor has been there and knows all about the danger of making excuses.
While 12 step programs have much to offer, in the case of addiction more is usually needed. The sponsor is able and willing to walk beside the person in recovery, but trained professionals can provide needed guidance for long-term recovery. Because of their training, experience and education, the counselor or therapist can provide the victim of addiction with skills, insights and guidance as they learn to manage their lives and their addictive behavior. It is one thing to travel the road of recovery with the victim of addiction. It is something very different to point out the path they need to travel. In some cases, the victim of addiction may need the temporary support of medical treatments like methadone. The use of such medical treatments must be overseen by a medical professional and is something that the sponsor cannot provide. The sponsor is an important asset to recovery, but a professional is often essential to recovery.
One of the things that separates groups such as NA from other 12 step programs is the spiritual element. The acknowledgement that our lives are out of control and only God can help us is very important. As helpful as a sponsor can be and as valuable as a professional counselor can be, we cannot recover without the help of God. His grace is essential if we want to recover from addiction.
For more information about treatment and 12 step programs, go to https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/seeking-drug-abuse-treatment/5-how-do-12-step-or-similar-recovery-programs-fit-drug-addiction-treatment