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The Power of Connection to Heal Addiction and How it Ties Into the 12 Steps

As important is it is to support people facing addiction, many people don’t understand why they should be sympathizing with people who abuse drugs or alcohol. All too often people with addiction issues are labeled “addicts”, “users” or worse. They’re treated like outsiders, and are often told that there’s something wrong with them on a personal level. It’s little wonder that this method does little to empower and help people with addiction and abuse issues. And yet as problematic and unhelpful as this mentality is, it’s the way that much of society thinks. Journalist Johann Hari explored this very idea in a TED talk called “Everything you know about addiction is wrong”. Hari also wrote a book about the subject, in which he broke down the real reason people often become addicted to drugs and alcohol. According to Hari, an experiment in the 1970s — called Rat Park — demonstrated that when rats were provided with a stimulating and rewarding environment, they felt no need to pursue highly addictive substances. One of the most important positive influences in Rat Park was the ability to socialize with other rats.

The Power Of Connection To Heal Addiction

Hari believes that Rat Park’s findings are proof that connecting with others is crucial to both avoiding and healing addiction. If disconnection causes addiction, then connection might just be the perfect medicine. When people disconnect from people with addiction, they remove a vital support system from that person’s life— which only makes their addiction worse. Just as it’s necessary to show love and support for people with addiction problems, it’s equally as important for people facing addiction to seek out that support. Of course, this is easier said than done. When your life is consumed by addiction, it can be hard to maintain those vital relationships. You might feel like some of your actions have completely sabotaged your connection with the people in your life. So what can you do if it feels like you’ve lost your support network? The 12 Steps program may have the answer.

What Are The 12 Steps And How Can They Help?

The 12 steps program is one of the most well known treatments for drug abuse and addiction. It’s become synonymous with Alcoholics Anonymous, but is now used to help treat any number of addictions. The complete list of steps is as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood Him
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

While the original steps do mention the need for belief in a higher power, they’re often adapted to suit any belief system, including atheism. 12 step programs are often a component of outpatient treatment in rehab centers. However, many people seek out programs in their local community after they’ve finished treatment. The most important part of the 12 steps program is the element of support. These groups provide connections that can greatly assist your recovery. The people you meet in 12 steps programs…

  • Have experienced the same kind of substance abuse issues as you
  • Understand your journey
  • Sympathize with your struggle
  • Have no interest in judging you
  • Don’t want to enable you
  • Want to empower you
  • Are invested in their own recovery
  • Are there to support you during your recovery

As you can see, there’s no need to feel nervous or even ashamed. It might reassure you to know that these meetings are also anonymous. All you have to do to get started is show up. The people you meet in 12 steps programs often continue to support you long after recovery. These people are called sponsors. Sponsors have usually been sober for a prolonged period of time, making them the ideal person to coach you through the 12 steps and get you sober. Getting to know someone who has already overcome addiction can be inspiring and make you realize that your own recovery is possible. This kind of support network is beneficial to anyone with addiction issues, especially adolescents. You might even make a friend for life. More importantly, the people you meet in 12 steps programs are invested in their own recovery. If you’re abusing drugs or alcohol, you might find that most of the people you know have no interest in overcoming their own problems with addictive substances. This environment can be toxic to your recovery. 12 steps programs aren’t just therapy sessions. They’re communities that help you to remember that you’re still a valued and meaningful member of society. Some people attend meetings their entire life, even if they haven’t used in years. This can help you to refrain from relapsing and continue to feel strong and empowered, even when faced with temptation. Don’t forget: addiction cannot be “cured”. It’s a chronic disease that will always be in your life. But like any illness, it can be managed. 12 step programs are one of the best ways to manage your addiction long-term.

How Can You Repair The Connections In Your Life After Recovery?

Seeking treatment for your addiction means reclaiming your life, and a big part of that is reconnecting with the people you love. Thankfully, the 12 steps can help you to reconnect with your loved ones. In fact, steps 8 and 9 are all about repairing damaged relationships:

  1. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
  2. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

The people in your life may have disconnected from you because of your actions when you were using, but that doesn’t mean those relationships are damaged beyond repair. You’d be surprised at how people will open up to you again once they realize you’re committed to being clean. However, it’s necessary that you put in the required effort to repair broken connections. It’s also important that your reason for doing so isn’t simply because you want back in your life, but a desire to heal any damage you may done to them. It might help to let them know that support groups exist for families and friends of people struggling with addiction issues. After all, the people providing support also need to be supported.

Can The 12 Steps Help You Heal Your Addiction?

As promising as all of this sounds, you might be wondering, do 12 step programs actually work? Yes— but it’s not as simple as just turning up every week. Anyone who attends meetings must also do the work to integrate the 12 steps into their life. Addiction is psychological. As such, recovery is always dependent on the individual. One thing’s for certain: 12 steps meetings provide a much-needed support network for those who may be struggling to find people to connect with. Are you unable to travel to meetings? Feeling reluctant to leave the house? Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to. Many 12 step program groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous, provide online meetings via email, chat rooms or video chat. Online support groups are particularly helpful for people with anxiety. If you’re looking for a support group around Bellevue, Washington, then you’re in luck. There are many local 12 step programs exist for people facing alcohol and drug addiction. 12 step programs can be a great addition to a complete substance abuse recovery plan. Talk to us today about the right recovery treatment for you and find that missing connection in your life.


TED National Institutes of Health National Institute of Drug Abuse National Institutes of Health