Myth #1: “Twelve-step programs are religious and require a belief in God.”
Truth: Twelve-step recovery encourages members to develop a belief in a higher power of their own choosing, which can be anything from nature to an acronym for G.O.D. like “Good Orderly Direction” or even the 12-step fellowship itself. Although the word “God” is often heard during 12-step meetings, the term encompasses each individual’s personal concept of a higher power—and not necessarily “God” in the traditional sense as associated with organized religion.
Myth #2: “Twelve-step meetings will only trigger me to want to pick up a drink or drug.”
Truth: 12-step programs are based on mutual support and a shared goal of recovery. Because of this, meetings can be helpful in resisting the phenomenon of craving. Openly sharing with other members about cravings can provide an outlet that doesn’t involve actually indulging the cravings. Other members can validate this feeling and share their own “experience, strength and hope” about how they’ve managed to resist cravings.
Myth #3: “Twelve-step programs aren’t effective.”
Truth: Numerous scientific studies support the effectiveness of 12-step programs. For example, researchers at Stanford School of Medicine conducted a comprehensive analysis of 35 studies and determined that most of the studies measuring abstinence found AA was significantly better than other interventions or no intervention. Other research supports improved outcomes when treatment is combined with 12-step program participation.
Myth #4: “If I didn’t like a 12-step meeting I attended, I won’t like any others.”
Truth: Members won’t necessarily “connect with” every meeting they attend. That’s why it’s useful to attend a variety of meetings with an open mind—before making a decision about whether to pursue recovery through the 12 steps. A couple examples of different meeting formats include lead meetings (one member shares his or her account of “what it was like, what happened and what it’s like today”) and discussion meetings (members volunteer to share their views on one or more recovery topics). Meetings are also categorized as either “open” (for anyone interested in learning more about the 12-step recovery program) or “closed” (for anyone interested in actively pursuing the goals of the program).