In the 12 step program for addiction and alcoholism, the human structure is symbolically represented in three dimensions: physical, mental, and spiritual. The problems the groups deal with are understood to manifest themselves in each dimension.

Why Use a 12 Step Program for Addiction and Recovery?

The physical dimension is best described by the allergy-like bodily reaction resulting in the compulsion to continue using substances after the initial use. The statement in the First Step that the individual is “powerless” over the substance-abuse related behavior at issue refers to the lack of control over this compulsion, which persists despite any negative consequences that may be endured as a result.

The mental obsession is described as the cognitive processes that causes the individual to repeat the compulsive behavior after some period of abstinence, either knowing that the result will be an inability to stop or operating under the delusion that the result will be different. The description in the First Step of the life of the alcoholic or addict as “unmanageable” refers to the lack of choice that the mind of the addict or alcoholic affords concerning whether to drink or use again.

The illness of the spiritual dimension, or “spiritual malady,” is considered in all 12 step programs to be self-centeredness. The process of working the steps is intended to replace self-centeredness with a growing moral consciousness and a willingness for self-sacrifice and unselfish constructive action. In twelve-step groups, this is known as a spiritual awakening not a religious experience. In twelve-step fellowships, “spiritual awakening” is believed to develop, most frequently, slowly over a period of time.

"After thirty-six years in recovery and twenty years in addiction treatment, I am now solely focused on providing personal, 1-on-1 recovery management services to those in need. When I most needed it someone reached out and took my hand and help save my life. Ever since I have dedicated myself to returning that kindness. When I was in dire straits many years ago with an addiction to drugs and alcohol, all I wanted to do was STOP! With the support of skilled clinicians and generous men and women in the recovery community I was not only able to stop, but discovered that I was becoming a better man, a better husband, better father, better colleague, better neighbor, and a better human being. I also found that the key to my happiness is found in service to others. I have dedicated my life to this task and have been gifted with the opportunity to direct others to the discovery of that better life."

- Stuart Birnbaum, Founder