12 step myths

“I no longer call these myths. I call them desperate excuses to hold onto my old ideas and continue to live in chaos and denial”


Myth: 12-Step groups are religious

The concept of a God or Higher Power is fundamental to the 12 steps. However, this God or Higher Power need not belong to any church or religion. Many members are atheist or agnostics and find the programme works for them. The programme gives individuals the right to interpret according to their own belief and value system what their God or Higher Power is.

Myth: You have to believe in God to belong to a 12-Step programme

The programme is a spiritual one with the fundamental belief in the value of mutual aid – one addict helping another to recover. This spirituality is often defined as “living in a manner by which we feel comfortable within ourselves, being a little less concerned about ourselves and a little more concerned for others and how we interact”.

Myth: 12 Step programmes are a cult

Members have the ability to come and go as they please, but there are ample opportunities for open discourse and an exchange of ideas. There is considerable amount of freedom to “practice” one’s own programme and within that to identify support systems and to be open, honest and willing to embrace change. The common denominator is the desire to stop using.

Myth: No one voluntarily seeks treatment until they hit rock bottom

Many people historically have only asked for help on hitting a rock bottom, but in reality today many seek treatment before this stage. The key is the level of an individual’s motivation, combined with the level of support given at that time.

Myth: It is hard for addicts to achieve long term abstinence

Research indicates the best predictor of success in residential settings is the length of the treatment combined with mutual aid, support and community-based treatment when in the wider community. This long term approach helps to enable people to address their behaviours, attitudes, thought processes, and persistent negative patterns that have formed part of the addictive lifestyle.

Myths about the 12-Step Programme

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