What is a 12 Step Program?
In short a 12 step program is any program based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are a design for living, whereby a person  can learn to live at peace and joy, without resorting to destructive substances or behaviors. Millions have found this program so useful that it has been adapted to solve other problems than alcohol—overeating, emotional challenges, gambling, cocaine, nicotine and many other habits.

Twelve step programs include:

 Who Is An Addict?

In general, an addict is someone either with a psychological or a physical dependence to something that he or she is unable to stop, despite the negative consequences.

Some addictions like drug or alcohol addiction can even lead to death.

Food addiction is currently becoming a more dangerous addiction (even though it is not categorized as such by the DSM V [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders]), especially in the United States. Statistics are showing an increasing problem with obesity, with life- threatening diseases such as diabetes, heart-attacks and stroke.

In more recent years, compulsive behaviors like gambling, sex and “retail therapy” have also fallen under the banner of addiction in cases where the behaviors become uncontrollable by the affected person.

How Do I Know If I’m Addicted?

There are actually five criteria that can help you see if you’re addicted.

1. Tolerance.

The  person’s tolerance  to  the  substance  of  abuse  increases.  In other words, it takes more and more indulgence in the addiction to reach the same level of satisfaction.

2. Withdrawal.

The person suffers in some way or experiences dis-ease when the substance or behavior is removed or denied.

3. Self-Deception.

The mind deceives the addict with obsessive thoughts about the substance as well as about reality.  The thinking then becomes a problem, and it’s frequently called “DENIAL,” an inability or unwillingness to face the truth or reality of the situation.

4. Loss Of Will Power

One part of the addict really wants to be free and realizes there might be a problem, but a bigger part is held captive by the addiction. There is a persistent desire or failed attempts to cut down.

5. Distortion Of Attention

All the attention and energy is focused on how to find the next fix or act out the next behavior.

6. Problems with work, family, legal ramifications
Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
7. Continuation in spite of problems
The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.

Analyzing the behavior against these seven criteria can be a simple way to find out if, in fact, either the substance or the behavior is a problem.
The first two criteria, tolerance and withdrawal, are central to “physiological dependence” on a drug. A person can be diagnosed with substance dependence either with or without the “physiological dependence,” although a person is at greater risk of medical problems and relapse if he does not have “physiological dependence.”



Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Text Revision, Fourth Edition, (Copyright 2000). American Psychiatric Association.

The Cliff Notes version of the Beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step Programs
It all began last century when one alcoholic found a way of life, a design for living that enabled him to get sober and he shared it with others.

That alcoholic, (Ebby Thacher, on the right), was a friend of Bill Wilson, also an alcoholic. Both men were raging alcoholics, unable to achieve sobriety. Ebby finally got sober using a program called the Oxford Group—a program that called for Purity, Honesty, Love and Service. Here is what happened according to Wikipedia:

“In November 1934, Ebby had arranged a visit to Bill Wilson's apartment. Expecting to spend a day drinking and re-living old times, Wilson was instead shocked by Thacher's refusal to drink. "I've got religion," he reportedly said to Wilson's surprise. Thacher told Wilson of his conversion at the Rescue Mission and acquainted Wilson with the teachings of Rowland Hazard about the Oxford Group life-changing program, as well as the prescription of Carl Jung for a conversion.
Wilson at first declined Thacher's invitation to sobriety, and continued to drink for a short while, before being hospitalized again for alcoholism…. He was admitted to the Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcohol Addiction in New York City on December 11, 1934 [where he had a “spiritual awakening”]. Thacher visited him there on December 14 and essentially helped Wilson take what would become Steps 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 [of what would become the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous].” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebby_Thacher

Once sober, Bill Wilson (on the left) was so delighted to have found an answer, a way that worked, he began sharing his experience with other alcoholics. At first, many were unable to achieve sobriety. When he was about six months sober in 1935, he met a medical doctor in Akron, Ohio—Dr. Bob Smith. Dr. Bob, who although he was religious, was unable to stay sober. When Bill shared his experience, strength and program of recovery with him, Dr. Bob embraced the program as it was explained to him, and together they set off to share their recovery with others—June 10, 1935 became Dr. Bob’s anniversary of sobriety and the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous. This program of recovery was eventually condensed into the 12 Steps and became the basis of recovery for millions.

Once the program of recovery began for alcoholics, others with addictions of various sorts, adapted it to their needs, thereby creating numerous 12 step programs. Currently there is probably a 12 step program for any difficulty you can imagine. Below there is a list of some of them.

Fellowships in this section follow reasonably close variations of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.

List taken from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_twelve-step_groups

Author's Bio: 

Sandra Lenington, MA is an authority on the psychology of recovery with a purpose of assisting others to experience the psychic change that is sufficient to assure a life of irresistible joy and balance. As a life-long learner and lover of new and fun techniques, she insists that recovery be joyful...otherwise, why do it? The bottom line? If it doesn't work, try something else!

She also trains other coaches and previously has worked as a physical therapist as well as having owned several companies that develop websites; she has worked for NASA as a research engineer. http://crossaddictionrecovery.com/12stepPrograms