12-Step Research Paper
Origins of the Twelve-Step Program Once an addict makes the decision to stop using a substance or engaging in a detrimental behavior, the difficult job of sticking with that decision often becomes a daily struggle. This particular stage is called recovery and is a lifelong process. Recovery is the longest stage of addiction and requires extreme behavior modification and self-control. In the late 1930s, a program was created that became the standard for nearly all recovery programs still in use today. The program was originally called Twelve Steps for Alcoholics and is now referred to as the Twelve Step Program.
The origins of the Twelve Step Program are unique. The Twelve-Step Program was the creation of a gentleman named Bill Wilson. Wilson was a stockbroker originally from New York who moved to Akron, Ohio, in 1935. Wilson was an alcoholic. After his relocation to Akron, he was extremely lonely and his drinking increased; in spite of this, he desperately wanted to stop drinking (Wormer, 30). After a severe bout of binge drinking, Wilson was hospitalized for a short time and visited by his friend and former drinking buddy; a man named Ebby T. Ebby T. as now nearly sober and attempting recovery thanks to attendance in a program sponsored by the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group was a Christian-based, nondenominational movement that utilized Christian teachings in order to help alcoholics stop drinking and maintain sobriety. The Oxford Group organization stressed the importance of anonymity for individuals attending their program and an open structure of gatherings. No one person of authority was over the entire group. Many of the Oxford Group teachings and doctrine were adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous after its formation in 1936 (Trice, 90).
Shortly after hospitalization, Wilson contacted the Oxford Group to seek help, and he was introduced to Henrietta Seiberling, an influential member of the Group. Seiberling saw Wilson’s need and distress. She hosted a dinner party to introduce Wilson to Dr. Bob, another alcoholic, with the hope that the two gentlemen would connect and help each other through their addiction. Wilson and Dr. Bob made a positive connection and stayed at the dinner party talking until midnight. When asked about this later, Wilson and Dr. Bob stated they did this simply to remain sober and not have the urge to drink.
This initial bonding experience led Wilson and Dr. Bob to become the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (Wormer, 30). Alcoholics Anonymous was started with groups meeting in New York and Ohio in 1936. The groups initially utilized the Oxford Group content for their program for their first few months of existence in 1936; however, in the latter months of 1936, the group severed ties with the Oxford Group and forged out on their own (Trice, 90). Wilson was thirty-nine years of age when he founded Alcoholics Anonymous.
He knew from experience that to quit drinking all at once was a monumental undertaking and that breaking it down into smaller more manageable steps would be easier to follow. He initially came up with six steps for the program. Although he originally planned to have more than six steps, he was not sure exactly how many. One evening, a revelation came to him, and he came up with the final six steps to the program, for a total of twelve steps. Wilson’s steps, along with his testimonial, were published in a pamphlet during April, 1939, and simply called, Alcoholics Anonymous (Cheever, 153).
News of this pamphlet spread rapidly, and eventually, Dr. Harry Tiebout, a psychiatrist, reviewed and gave his professional opinion of the publication. Tiebout stated that although the program would help alcoholics with their drinking, it did not address the fact that they might have other underlying psychological problems (183). Tiebout was the first medical professional to endorse the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve-Step Program as a viable treatment and aid for alcoholic addiction. Tiebout had a patient who became a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and studied the Twelve-Step Program in order to better understand how it worked.
As a result, he became an advisor to the Alcoholics Anonymous program and referred to himself as a “member by proxy” from that time forward (Unity Service Recovery, 47). Wilson wrote a total of four books on the subject of alcoholism (Wormer, 31). The pamphlet Alcoholics Anonymous gained national attention after being featured in an article in the Saturday Evening Post in 1940, which caused the Alcoholics Anonymous movement to take off, along with national recognition of the Twelve-Step Program (Trice, 90). The mechanics of the Twelve-Step Program works is multi-faceted.
Each member of the Alcoholics Anonymous group is an important component of the group and each group recognizes that recovery depends on unity. Every member is treated equally within the group; however, there is a leader or moderator, whose function is to facilitate communication among group members and introduce newer members or visitors. The philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous is that the only group leader is God with no one particular individual having superiority over another. There is no room for egos or judgment – only acceptance of each individual.
The only membership requirement for Alcoholics Anonymous is a desire to stop drinking. Additionally, each group is independent (Cheever, 187). Regular, frequent attendance at meetings is encouraged (Wormer, 57). From a financial standpoint, each Alcoholic Anonymous group is responsible for themselves. Since each group has a relatively low overhead cost, no real money is necessary to operate. Lastly, should someone wish to donate to a particular group, that group cannot accept donations totaling more than $1000 per year (Cheever, 35).
Instead of thinking of sobriety as saying that someone will never drink again, emphasis is placed on taking smaller steps alongside other people who are also recovering. Recovery is seen as a life-long process, taken “one day at a time” (Wormer, 57). Forgiveness is stressed; both self-forgiveness and forgiving others. Admission of faults along with making amends is encouraged. Reminding the alcoholic that no one is perfect is an important part of treatment (Cheever, 255). These behavioral goals help remind alcoholics of the human component of the condition and the importance of continuing to try.
Doing so eventually leads to success. Although the Twelve-Step Program is not a therapy-based or a professional program, many rehabilitation programs have adopted the guidelines as part of their treatment models. The Minnesota Model Twelve-Step Program, utilized by the Minnesota Clinic, was the first to do so. There are some subtle differences in the way a rehabilitation center conducts a Twelve-Step Program. The main differences are that participation groups are smaller and everyone is required to participate in the group, it is not voluntary (Wormer, 61). There are obvious drawbacks to Twelve-Step Programs.
Foremost, there is a high reference to God in most Twelve-Step Programs, with many programs having strong religious undertones (Wormer, 63). Psychologist B. F. Skinner was the first to rewrite the Twelve-Step Program for Alcoholics Anonymous removing references to God (Cheever, 254). From a psychotherapeutic standpoint, the Twelve-Step Program is not an individualized approach – a participant must complete all twelve steps and cannot skip around. This can be difficult for many people to deal with, especially steps 4 and 5, where the addict is required to make inventories of their prior behaviors and make admissions of their faults.
Lastly, individuals who have not experienced addictions have a tendency to feel “left out”, meaning they do not feel that they belong because they have not experienced what it is like to have an addiction, or their addiction may not seem “serious” enough to them (Wormer, 63). This is a common complaint among many professionals who work with recovering addictions, just as it is a complaint among many recovery addicts seeking help from professionals who have not had any prior personal experience with addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous was created as a direct result of one person’s need to help others, therefore hopefully helping himself.
Wilson was instrumental in clarifying what an addictive personality is (Cheever, 255). Because of the success of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve-Step Program, its principles have been applied to many other addictions, helping them to be recognized as diseases as well (Wormer, 63). Consequently, scientific research has helped implement treatments for this disease and opened new frontiers for the study of addiction (Wormer, 31). Works Cited Cheever, Susan. My Name is Bill – Bill Wilson: His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous. Ed. Susan Cheever.
New York: Washington Square Press, 2004. Print. Trice, Harrison M. “Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). ” Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Addictive Behavior. Ed. Rosalyn Carson DeWitt. 2nd Ed. Vol. 1. New York: MacMillan, 2001. 88- 95. Print. Unity Service Recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. Ed. Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing, Inc. 8th Printing. New York: American Book – Stratford Press, 1972. 235- 251. Print. Van Wormer, Katherine. Alcoholism Treatment – A Social Work Perspective. Ed. Dorothy J. Anderson. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1995. Print.