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Importance of 12 Step Communities

Importance of 12 Step Communities

Sample Answer 

Importance of 12-Step Communities

Substance use disorders are currently the most prevalent health and social problems in society. However, most victims of substance use opt to seek substance use recovery assistance in non-specialty settings such as 12-step communities rather than in specialty and biomedical settings. Although these programs operate outside the formal substance use treatment framework, they are readily available to victims and highly effective in obtaining substance addiction recovery through an emphasis on peer support. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the social worker to understand the importance of 12-step programs in substance use treatment in order to make appropriate referrals when necessary.

Seekers of Sobriety Meeting

Seekers of Sobriety Meeting is a self-help group for individuals who have an alcohol drinking problem. The group meets at St. Francis’ Episcopal Church located along 4242 Bluemel Rd in San Antonio, Texas, every Tuesday at 6.30 pm. Although the weekly program normally ends within an hour, the meeting took almost 2 hours when I attended because the group had two newcomers and donation activity. The meetings are conducted in English. Notably, the program includes both men and women and usually has an attendance of 10 to 15 members. There were 11 attendees during my visit, 3 of who were women. In my estimation, there were five whites, three African Americans, and three non-Hispanic whites. Similarly, all the attendees during my visit were adults in their 4th to 6th decade of life.

Story of Alcohol Addiction

Pre-Alcohol Phase

            This is the first phase of the downward spiral. Mr. M.K. is a 27-year-old alcoholic who has struggled with alcohol addiction for almost five years. This was his third meeting. He entered the pre-alcoholic phase of addiction during his freshman year in college. During this stage, the drinking was non-habitual, and he mostly indulged in the behavior as a harmless way to have fun. He also limited it to specific days of the week, usually during the weekends. However, over time he noticed that drinking numbed negative feelings such as stress. Therefore, he started to use alcohol as a means to avoid social anxiety and stressful situations. The hallmark of the pre-alcoholic stage is the development of physiological tolerance to drinking with the ability to function normally despite consuming large amounts of alcohol (Kelly, 2018). For Mr. M.K., this stage was marked by increasing reliance on alcohol to dissipate stress, even though it did not jeopardize his grades and relations.

Early Alcoholic Stage

            This stage normally follows the first major drinking episode, usually culminating in a blackout. It is characterized by increased discomfort and guilt about continued drinking alongside a compulsive urge to drink (Kelly, 2018). Although he was employed as a computer scientist, Mr. M.K. also had a gambling habit that began during his college years. This habit would later be the greatest influence in the progression of his addiction. He increasingly craved alcohol as a means to deal with the stress of losing. The habit became more regular and irresistible, and he needed more drinks to achieve the desired levels of intoxication. Sometimes he had to drink in multiple places or purchase extra drinks to use at home. Although his growing alcohol dependence made him uncomfortable, Mr. M.K. reported that the cravings were unbearable, sometimes having to sneak drinks to the workplace and drink secretly when working or between breaks.

Crucial Phase

            The option to work from home enabled him to get away with his disruptive drinking behavior. However, the habit began to interfere with his work. He would be late for meetings or miss important deadlines. The hallmark of this stage is the development of a defense system to justify continued drinking and the emergence of irritable behavior (Ponizovskiy & Gofman, 2017). Although his co-workers occasionally admonished him for his increased reliance on alcohol, he claimed it made him faster and more efficient at work and that he could stop whenever he wanted. He also claimed that he handled an overwhelming volume of work that made it justifiable to drink. Similarly, the habit began to jeopardize his relationship due to his irritable attitude towards individuals, especially co-workers who repeatedly castigated him. Meanwhile, his drinking worsened, and he started drinking alcohol regularly in the morning as an eye-opener.

Chronic Phase

This is the final phase of the downward spiral. Notably, this stage is marked by the emergence of long-term physical and psychological effects of prolonged alcohol use. The impacts of socio-occupational dysfunctions also become apparent in the form of job losses and severed social relationships (Verdejo-Garcia et al., 2018). For Mr. M.K., this phase was marked by the loss of his job, which consequently drove him into more regular drinking. He started using his savings to purchase alcohol and defaulted on his mortgage and credit card debt. Mr. M. K also began to experience physical and psychological symptoms of alcoholism. For instance, he developed tremors and became clumsy at simple tasks. He experienced minor accidents and sustained injuries such as sprains even when he was sober. Mr. M.K. also started to have hallucinations and fears he could not characterize. He later developed peptic ulcer disease.

Process of Recovery

This stage represents a turning point in the downward spiral. The victim is overwhelmed by the impact of addiction on their life and begins to question their values, identify substance use as a disorder and appreciate that they need help (Kelly J. F., 2018). Mr. M.K. was wallowing in a vicious cycle of obsessive drinking to relieve symptoms, exacerbation of symptoms, and persistent despair when he finally entered the road to recovery. He was depressed, worried, and constantly aware of the impact of his morbid drinking, such as losing his job and friends and exhausting his savings. He had no more excuses to justify drinking beyond attempting to suppress physical and psychological symptoms, and he started to view his drinking problem as a disease.

His hope for redemption came when an old friend from college, a former addict, approached him and offered to help him approximately one month before our conversation. It was this friend who referred him to the Seekers of Sobriety Meeting. Currently, he has a sponsor who was not in attendance during my visit. His outlook on life has improved, and he is on his thirteenth alcohol-free day. He has also contacted one of his former co-workers who is helping him find freelancing jobs and clients.

Therapeutic Benefits of 12-Steps Communities

12-step communities have a crucial role to play in the treatment of substance use disorders. Firstly, these communities encourage the suppression of substance use by enhancing the self-efficacy of members of the group. Members of these communities are usually at different stages of substance addiction and recovery. Interactions between members allow addicts to obtain inspiration from other members’ addiction and substance use suppression experiences (Kelly & Bergman, 2016). This motivates victims to attempt to recover.

Similarly, the communities also provide valuable goal-directed distractions for members, enabling them to channel their attention towards non-substance-related harmless initiatives. For instance, 12-step communities enhance members’ engagement through activities such as doing service at meetings, including preparing and serving food, community service, and literature reading projects (Kelly & Bergman, 2016). Members of these communities also have recovery sponsors and role models (Kelly & Bergman, 2016), who they can access outside the community setting. This further provides a resource for distraction in the event of drinking predilections or stressful situations that might motivate substance use.

Thirdly, participation in the 12-step communities provides a forum for learning coping strategies and behavioral techniques for drinking cessation from other members of the group. Community discussions and interactions enable victims to learn methods of coping with stressful situations that may potentially trigger substance cravings and ways of actually dealing with the urge to drink from other members (McGrady & Moss, 2018). In addition, some members of the communities have been clients in formal specialty settings for substance abuse treatment, such as rehabilitation centers (McGrady & Moss, 2018). Through their interactions with other individuals with substance dependence in the 12-step setting, other victims can learn behavioral mechanisms for abstaining from substance use from such members.

Finally, 12-step communities provide a fellowship that disrupts the social factors which enable substance use. Enrolling and participating in the program results in a shift in the victim’s social network. Contact with social networks that facilitate drinking is severed or weakened and replaced by a network that encourages abstinence (Best, 2017). By reducing the exposure of members to drinking activities and cues that trigger drinking, 12-Steps Communities assist members in reducing their substance dependence.


Attending the Seekers of Sobriety Meeting was enlightening on drug addiction dynamics and the role of 12-step communities. For instance, of the 11 members present at the meeting, seven members had a drug-free record of more than two months. Only Mr. M K and the newcomers had a substance-free record of less than one month. However, I was discouraged by stories of sudden and unexpected relapse after long abstinence. For instance, one of the attendees, on day 29 of being drug-free, returned to drinking after abstaining for three months. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the depth of social interaction. Members of the community knew each other well, including the residents, friends, and the occupation of each other. For instance, some of the participants particularly cited other group members as their greatest source of help in their recovery progress. The group also participates in community service, and the food donation activity for the meeting I attended was in preparation for a visit to a nursing home.

In my opinion, the most important reason 12-step communities are useful in substance use treatment is their provision of psychosocial support to individuals struggling with substance use. Psychosocial factors play an important role in the downward spiral phase of addiction. This is through either the absence of a social network that discourages drinking or the presence of a social network that encourages and enables substance use.


Best, D. (2017). Why the mechanisms of 12-Step behaviour change should matter to clinicians. Addiction, 938-939.

Kelly, J. F. (2018). E. M. Jellinek’s Disease Concept of Alcoholism. Addiction Classics, 555-559.

Kelly, J. F., & Bergman, B. G. (2016). Twelve-Step mutual-help organizations and facilitation interventions. Integrated Approaches to Drug and Alcohol Problem.

McGrady, A., & Moss, D. (2018). Pathways Interventions for Chronic, Relapsing Substance Abuse Disorders. Integrative Pathways, 251-267.

Ponizovskiy, P., & Gofman, A. (2017). Cognitive status and addiction denial in the early stages of alcohol addiction. European Psychiatry.

Verdejo-Garcia et al. (2018). Stages of dysfunctional decision-making in addiction. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 99-105.


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Importance of 12-Step Communities

Written Assignment (Reaction Paper – Self Help Meeting)

  • The student will attend a traditional 12-step meeting or other non-traditional self-help arena. Please do not attend a group that is led by a professional facilitator. One place to locate 12-step meetings is by looking on the Internet. Papers where only a video of a meeting is watched will not be accepted.
  • Be sure to attend an OPEN meeting where visitors are welcome. Those who are able to honestly identify as having been in the process of addiction are welcome to go to a CLOSED meeting.
  • Try to go alone. If you do find the need to carpool, do not sit in the meeting with your friend. Be aware of how you are feeling, your thoughts, and the dynamics of the group. Please do not take notes or write during the meeting as anonymity is a strong value within self-help meetings and is adhered to by participants.
  • Compare at least 5 academic references and class content to your experience and throughout the paper to make academic sense of your observations.

    Importance of 12 Step Communities

    Importance of 12 Step Communities

The student will write a 5-page (not counting cover and reference pages) (or more if needed) paper that addresses the following issues. PLEASE USE ALL HEADINGS AS LISTED BELOW.

  1. Briefly describe the meeting, including location, time of day, and composition of the group (including sociocultural aspects such as gender, class, race, etc.)
  2. Describe a story that was told at the meeting. Organize the story with all the headings of the Jelinek chart, using both the downward spiral and the process of recovery. (Sometimes people are not comprehensive about all the stages. It is up to you to meet this requirement. Sometimes people talk with the person afterwards. Sometimes people make up the missing parts.) Explain the hallmarks of each phase and support your explanation with academic information.
  3. From a theoretical point of view, how do the 12 steps communities work as a therapeutic modality?
  4. In a paragraph or three, describe your personal experience of the meeting. What dynamics resonated with you? What dynamics discouraged you? What is your personal opinion about the usefulness of 12 step groups for people with addictions? And give a rationale for your opinion.

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