Is there an alternative to 12 step treatment for addiction?

Most addiction treatment centres in the UK are 12 Step

If you are looking for addiction rehab treatment for yourself or someone you love, you will find that most of the addiction treatment centres in Great Britain advocate the 12 Step Programme. The reason for this is explained below but a number of people who need help for addiction are not in favour of the 12 Step Programme. So why is there this mismatch between what people who need addiction treatment think that they want and what is available to them?

Is there a gap in the market?


You would think that, since many addiction treatment centres are private businesses, that more would be set up which did not involve the 12 Step Programme. People with addiction issues who are anti 12 Step would then have an alternative place to go to and the business owners of these non-12 Step rehabs would have a good customer base. It could be seen as a business opportunity, a gap in the market.

People who set up and work in 12 Step Treatment Centres know from experience that it is the most effective way of staying clean and sober

The fact is that most people working in the rehab addiction clinic business have had personal experience of addiction. In most cases they work in it because they want to get people well and free of their addiction – they are not in it just for the money. In the vast majority of cases it would not sit well with them to set up an addiction rehab centre that had little chance of getting someone well just to make a fast buck. People working in addiction and alcohol rehab centres will for the most part have benefitted themselves from the 12 Step Programme. They may even have shared doubts about it in the past. Nonetheless they also know from experience that it is the most likely route to a good recovery – one that has a chance of making the individual happy, in a lasting state of total abstinence – and with an opportunity to live a fulfilled life.

The 12 Step Programme is not religious

So why do so many people in active alcoholism or addiction have reservations about the 12 Step Programme? The most common reason given is that they think it is a religious programme because the 12 Steps includes the word God. They think  it is some sort of religious cult or, at the very least, involves you being religious. This is not the case.

People of all ages, backgrounds, races and religions have found escape from their addiction through the 12 Step Programme – as have atheists and agnostics. Although the 12 Steps were devised in the Bible Belt of America in the 1930s and did have a religious basis at the time, nearly 100 years later the world has moved on, as has the interpretation of the 12 Steps.

The interpretation of the 12 Steps today is as follows:

  1. We are powerless over drinking / drugs / our addiction, that our lives are chaotic and unmanageable
  2. A power greater than ourselves can get us from feeling as if we are going mad and ‘restore us to sanity’. The important point here is that it is ‘a power greater than ourselves’ – that is, we cannot do it alone. It can be help from anyone – another alcoholic or addict, an addiction treatment centre, an alcohol detox clinic….
  3. We need not to be led by our self-will. We can be very opiniated and stubborn! We surrender ourselves and are willing to listen and take guidance. We do not know best!
  4. We take a close look at ourselves and all our characteristics that may not be so attractive
  5. We admit all our wrongs from the past and take responsibility for them
  6. We decide we want to become a better person by addressing the faults in our character
  7. We ask for help to get rid of our character defects
  8. We make a list of people we have hurt in the past
  9. We say sorry / make amends to them (this frees us from any burden of guilt)
  10. On a daily basis we live our lives with integrity and address any wrong doings immediately
  11. We pray / meditate each day to improve our spiritual well being and to seek guidance to help us live our lives in a good way
  12. We carry the message of hope to other alcoholics and addicts

When we are drinking and / or using, it is often because we want to escape from our feelings. By clearing up the guilt we may have from the past, becoming a better person and living our lives with honesty and integrity, we do not have the same reason to escape our feelings.

Support after addiction treatment is available though the 12 Step Programme

Another reason that the 12 Step Programme is so successful is that it is not just a form of recovery found in 12 Step Treatment Centres. Once you complete your treatment, the process and support can be continued when you go home. There are thousands of 12 Step Meetings (face to face and online) at all times of the day and night. You would have heard of these – the most well known is AA – Alcoholics Anonymous – but there is also NA – Narcotics Anonymous – CA – Cocaine Anonymous – GA – Gamblers Anonymous –  and other such fellowships according to the nature of your addiction. It would be very rare that there is not one that you can attend in person near your home and, once there, you will meet like minded people who will support and help you in your recovery journey. You are advised to select one of them as a ‘sponsor’ (who is a mentor who has themselves been through the 12 Step Programme and is know more than 3 years clean and sober).

Alternatives to 12 Step Treatment are less likely to result in long term sobriety

There are alternatives to 12 Step Treatment Centres and these may be a more pleasant way to detox and get well. You may be able to sit around a pool, read the newspapers or a book and drink detoxing and nutritious juices. However, they are unlikely to get to the root cause of your alcoholism or addiction as will happen in an addiction treatment centre. If you go through the effort of learning how to work the 12 Step Programme and incorporate it into your life, then you will reap the rewards and you are more likely to stay clean and sober on a lifelong basis. Put in the effort and true happiness awaits.