Twelve-Step programs offer one of the most popular approaches to treating addiction. Countless people join 12-Step groups or 12-Step based programs each year. These groups offer support from people who understand each other, leaders who have had similar life goals, and a structured program that breaks the daunting task of recovery into manageable steps.

The idea of attending your first 12-Step meeting or rehab program can be intimidating at first. Once you get started, you are likely to find an inviting group where people genuinely care for one another. When a person in recovery listens to other people’s stories of fighting addiction, encouragement and support are often found.

“I immediately fell in love with the 12-Step fellowship,” writes Anthony F. of Heroes in Recovery. “It was a group of friends. I had just spent my first 30 days of sobriety in jail, but this group welcomed me with open arms. We were friends, running around together, hanging out together, going to three meetings a day together. I felt like I could be myself around these new friends. I never had that feeling as a kid. Once I went to the fellowship, I found old-timers that were willing to love me until I was able to love myself. Everything that I craved my entire life was given to me right there and right then in the rooms.”

How Popular Are 12-Step Programs?

12-Step programs are found virtually anywhere in the world.

Statistics about attendance and participation are scarce — mostly due to the high level of anonymity within these program — but here are some facts:

  • There are many 12-Step programs to meet anyone’s needs– including programs that target alcohol use disorder, drug use problems, gambling, overeating, sex, codependency, and more.
  • There are more than 50,000 12-Step program groups in the US and more than 125,000 throughout the world.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous is believed to have over two million members around the world.1
  • In most major metropolitan areas, AA and NA meetings not only happen multiple times a day at various locations.

What Are the 12 Steps?

The 12 steps vary in focus and subject depending upon the addiction addressed by the group, but at their core, they are the same across all programs.

Here are the most famous steps in the world, The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous2:

  1. We first admit that we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We realize that power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our lives over to the care of our higher power. This can be God, a chosen deity, the group or society as a whole, or anything that is a higher power than ourselves.
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admit to our higher power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We ask to have our higher power to remove these defects of character.
  7. We humbly ask our higher power to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We make a list of all persons we may have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, we promptly admit it.
  11. We seek, through prayer and meditation, to improve our relationship with our higher power, asking for the knowledge of the best good action and how to achieve it.
  12. We have a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, so we go forward to carry this message to other addicted persons and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Is There a 12-Step Program for Me?

Since it was founded by Bill Wilson in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has become the largest and most well-known self-help organization for alcohol problems worldwide.3

Other, similarly structured programs soon followed. All were designed to help those who struggle with addiction or overwhelming life issues. From sex addiction to gambling, these programs opened the successful formula established by AA to a wider group of people that struggle with various addictions.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) — AA is the most famous of the 12-Step groups.This group is for people with alcohol use disorder as well as those who have problems with other drugs of addiction. There are different types of meetings available including women-only meetings, men-only meetings, meetings just for members, and meetings that are open to the public.
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA) — NA provides education and group support for those in recovery with addictions to drugs such as heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, prescription medications and other substances. There are also 12-Step groups specific to certain narcotics like Heroin Anonymous (HA) and Cocaine Anonymous (CA). Nar-Anon is also available for friends and family members who need support as they stand by a loved one living with an addiction to narcotics.
  • Marijuana Anonymous (MA) — Although there is considerable debate about the addictive nature of marijuana, there is no denying that many pot smokers are unable to stop using the drug, even when they recognize that they are experiencing negative consequences in their lives as a result. This group provides support for those engaged in trying to quit.
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA) — Crystal meth addiction is unique among illicit substances in that its users often have a more difficult time in recovery nine months to a year after they stop abusing the drug. Ongoing support through a 12-Step program is especially important for those in recovery from this drug.
  • Al-Anon This group provides needed support for those who have a friend or loved one who is fighting an addiction. Families Anonymous (FA) is another 12-Step group designed to help those who live with and love an addicted family member. Alateen is a branch of Al-Anon that offers12-Step groups dedicated to teenagers living with an alcoholic family member, and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) provides similar support for those who grew up with an alcoholic parent or caregiver.

What Meetings Should I Attend?

There are a number of different types of 12-Step meetings to choose from no matter what your age, gender, or sexual orientation.

Here are some of the distinctions you may find when you look for meetings in your area:

  • Open or closed meetings. Not all meetings are open to the public. Closed meetings are just for those who have attended the same group in the past. Open meetings allow potential new members to attend.
  • Newcomer meetings. These meetings give those who are new to the 12 steps a chance to ask all their burning questions. “Why do I need a sponsor?”“Why should we speak up and share at meetings?”“Does everyone have to work the 12 steps?”“What is the value of the 12 traditions?” All these questions and more are answered at newcomer meetings.
  • Big Book meetings. These meetings often begin with a reading from the Big Book for AA. Participants may share their thoughts and experiences after the reading.
  • Tradition meetings. These meetings examine one of the 12 traditions that those who participate in AA and other 12-Step programs are expected to honor.
  • Speaker meetings. A speaker is asked to share his or her story of recovery. When it’s over, depending upon the structure of the meeting, they may direct a study of one of the steps, discuss their experience further, or open the discussion to a topic of their choice.
  • Share meetings or discussion meetings. A chairperson is nominated to run these meetings for a few months at a time. He or she will choose a different topic for discussion at the start of each gathering and then open up the discussion to comments by participants. No one is forced to speak, and usually, there is no crosstalk allowed.

Michael’s House Offers the Option of 12-Step Treatment

For those who choose recovery with Michael’s House, 12-Step programs are incorporated into treatment in addition to a holistic, evidence-based treatment model. At Michael’s House, you can expect to experience a dedicated treatment team that leads therapies and proven addiction treatment, including 12-Step meetings.

Contact us today at 760-548-4032 to find out more about how we can help you or your loved one heal. Please don’t delay. Make this important decision today so you can live a healthy life.

Start the Journey Today!



1 Alcoholics Anonymous. Estimated Worldwide AA Individual and Group Membership. Web. Retrieved Nov 15, 2017.

2 Alcoholics Anonymous. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Web. Retrieved Nov 15, 2017.

3 Laudet, Alexandre B. “The Impact of Alcoholics Anonymous on Other Substance Abuse Related Twelve Step Programs.” Recent developments in alcoholism: an official publication of the American Medical Society on Alcoholism, the Research Society on Alcoholism, and the National Council on Alcoholism.18 (2008): 71–89. Web. Retrieved Nov 15, 2017.