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12 Step programmes and the treatment of addiction - By Cedars 18 Feb 2017

The phenomenon of relapse proves that addicts and alcoholics can be clean and sober with no physical craving and still choose to pick up a drug or a drink despite knowledge of the consequences.

How can seemingly rational and often intelligent people lose sight of how dangerous drugs and alcohol are to them? The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous refers to a “peculiar mental twist”, a thinking error, which tells us that addiction affects the mind of the sufferer as well as his body.

12 Step programs go further than this though – the founding concept is that addiction is a three-fold illness that affects the mind, body and spirit. As soon as the word ‘spirit’ is mentioned, one begins to understand the limits of medicine and psychology in the treatment of addiction.

Once the drugs and alcohol are gone, most of us are left with the ongoing problem of the way we think and react to life on life’s terms. These coping mechanisms are the exact character traits that gave addiction so much power in our lives.

12 Step treatment centres like The Cedars recognize the value of introducing a spiritual program as early as possible to our patients, knowing that to treat only the physical addiction is treat a symptom and not the underlying cause of the illness.

Spiritual matters are often intimidating and misunderstood. 12 Step fellowships are not religious in nature though members are obviously free to adhere to or explore individual religious beliefs.

Spirituality in terms of the 12 steps though, is practical: our understanding of a spiritual experience is that it rearranges us internally and changes our outlook. On a daily basis, we recommit to a way of life which is an active attempt to grow as people, take responsibility and strive towards ethical ideals. Not because we want to be saints, but because we want to feel connected, purposeful and good about ourselves.

Membership of 12 Step fellowships worldwide is in the millions, with 23 million confirmed members in the United States alone. The reason for this would be that it is one of the only proven methods not only for achieving recovery, but maintaining it. It outlines an approach to life that dramatically alters the way we respond to reality and gives us possibly best chance available of becoming happy, free, productive members of the human race.