The 12 Steps and 12 Step recovery programme were founded by a group of approximately 100 people in Akron and New York in the United States of America and led by Bill Wilson (Bill W) and Dr. Robert Smith (Dr Bob), both recovering alcoholics and responsible for the world famous Alcoholics Anonymous Programme.

Their names are abbreviated to uphold the 12th tradition of the 12 Steps concerning the anonymity of members. The 12 Steps are used in many different fellowships today, all dealing with an addiction of some sort, be it sex, gambling, drugs, over-eating, co-dependence or others. The 12 Step programme is a source of hope for any person needing help with addiction. The programme is based on spirituality, not religion, and has become one of the most popular recovery programmes in South Africa and the world.

Stepping Stones to Freedom
The programme is a journey which progresses through the rest of a recovering addict's life: any 12 Step fellowships regards addiction in any form as a disease, not a moral failing.

There is no cure, no miracle drug that will cure the disease which, if not stopped, is progressive: it worsens continuously and results in the addict being jailed, institutionalised or dying. Because the disease of addiction is incurable, it is suggested that an addict seeking recovery will need to work the 12 Steps for the rest of their life if they wish to abstain continuously, however a "one day at a time" approach is heavily emphasised in the programme.

An addict will most likely be introduced by the rehabilitation centre they are in, by word of mouth, or through a 12 Step fellowship's own efforts – most have subcommittees responsible for carrying their message of hope and recovery to those who are unaware that an answer is possible.

What do the 12 Steps do?
A 12 Step programme consists of five key elements (in no particular order): working the 12 Steps through written work, attending 12 Step meetings, service in the 12 Step fellowship, sponsor contact, reading literature, and prayer and meditation with a Higher Power.

The steps are explored through the programme: Steps 1, 2 and 3 involve the addict admitting that there is a problem, seeking hope in a power that is greater than they are and allowing this higher power to work in their lives. Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7 involve the addict taking an inventory of themselves which they read to a trusted person in their lives. They also take note of which patterns occur in their lives due to their own faults. The addict then prepares to begin a life living without these character defects with the help of their higher power.

Steps 8 and 9 are when the addict makes a list of everyone they have harmed and make amends to them, but only if doing so will not cause any harm to others or themselves.

Steps 10 and 11 involve the addict continuing to take a short inventory on a daily basis to keep in check with their behaviours and remain vigilant whilst using prayer and meditation to understand which directions their lives should take, even if it involves something simple.

Step 12 notes that by this time, an addict working the steps will have had a spiritual awakening from working Steps 1 to the end of 11. Twelfth Step asks that the addict helps others who are in difficulty with their addiction and also to apply what they have learned to their life. Once Step 12 is finished, Step 1 is started again as the process never ends and the addict is never cured.

What does a 12 Step Programme Consists of?
12 Step meetings take place in any public domain and a meeting is structured and run by the addicts in attendance. Meetings follow the 12 Traditions which are guidelines to keep each fellowship, group and member safe from issues such as internal conflict and outside influences. The meetings are self-supporting and follow a specific format depending on how the group feels the meeting should be run. The group is responsible for making any decisions involving the meeting and is a true example of addicts working together to arrest their addictions. Meetings can either discuss a topic or have a member 'share' his or her experiences in their recovery. Members have the opportunity to share back to the speaker or on the topic during an allotted time.

Service involves anything in the fellowship which is selfless and for which there is no reward other than helping others. A meeting will have specific service positions which are filled by addicts on a rotational basis but service also involves sponsorship. Sponsorship is the act of guiding a less experienced addict in their fellowship through the 12 Steps and sharing his or her experience. It is advised that every member has a sponsor and that every member becomes a sponsor when they are ready.

The literature is different for every 12 Step fellowship but the 12 Steps remain the same. Each fellowship has a basic text book which is a guide to the specific fellowship. Other literature available includes step working guides, collections of daily meditations and books exploring each step and tradition in detail. These are written with the specific fellowship in mind.

Higher Power contact through prayer and meditation is incredibly important to the 12 Steps. As the programme is based on spirituality, it is necessary for an addict to participate in regular prayer and meditation. This is what will keep the addict from straying in the wrong direction and will assist them in being able to accept life's problems.

Help for Addiction by Addicts
A 12 Step programme is not something which can be achieved overnight. In fact, it can never be achieved; it is a constant journey of vigilance.

However, even though the programme requires a thorough application to the principles and steps for prolonged sobriety, the changes and breakthroughs experienced by members are positive and constant. So much so that they become accustomed to a "normal" life. Member's needs change from chaos to calm and they become accepting of a good life, filled with enriching experiences and positivity.

Author's Bio: 

The Oasis Centre is a rehabilitation centre in South Africa which treats multiple addictions, including drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, co-dependence, sex addiction, gambling addiction and self-harm addiction with nurturing and care, promoting the 12 Steps in their programme for patients as well as intense therapy and a positive, healthy lifestyle for their clients.