12 Step: All You Need to Participate Is the Desire to Stop Using

Opinion by EHN Staff

Written by Chris Morris, Clinical Lead of the Outpatient Program at Bellwood Health Services.

If you have the desire, you’re in!—that is 12 Step in a nutshell. You don’t have to say or do anything else, and nobody can make you. As soon as you decide you want to belong, no one can kick you out, and no one can enforce any rituals, rules, or beliefs on you. I can’t think of many other organizations with approximately 7.5 million members worldwide that can make similar claims. In fact, according to research, 12 Step is the most diverse and successful social movement in human history. It crosses barriers like language, culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and the list goes on. It’s free of charge, available in almost every country on the planet, and is interconnected through the internet and countless publications—all available at either no cost or for very little.

12 Step Is About Supporting Each Other

That’s what I tell patients when we are putting together a plan for their aftercare, and they want to know what to expect from mutual-aid groups like Narcotics Anonymous. I stress the term “mutual aid” versus “self help,” since a core tenet of 12 Step is the idea that recovery is something that happens as a collaborative process versus something that you have to do on your own. “A problem shared is a problem halved”—is a strength in numbers proposition, versus the isolating, stigmatized, lonely world of active addiction.

Misinformation Hurts Patients

I have found it to be a jaw-dropping tragedy when misinformation about 12-Step groups gets passed along, particularly from professionals, to people who are brand new to recovery. Research shows that a therapist’s attitude towards 12 Step is a critical factor in determining whether or not it helps their patients—and that can be a matter of life and death when we are talking about addiction. So, if a professional has a factually inaccurate belief regarding 12 Step—for example, if they think that “you have to introduce yourself as an addict at meetings” or “you have to believe in God”—or worse, they have never availed themselves to research 12 Step in depth, then they do their patients a grave disservice.

EHN Canada Patients Have the Opportunity to Experience 12 Step Meetings

One of the gratifying parts of my work at EHN Canada over the years is that patients in treatment can safely experience 12-Step meetings, without being subject to harmful, misinformed, or negative bias. As a long-time counsellor, discharge planner, and therapist, I’ve always tried to offer patients anything and everything that may be of value to them, particularly, as they prepare to leave the safe environment of residential treatment to re-engage with the real world.

12 Step is Flexible and Inclusive

As a “player coach” I offer the somewhat rare perspective of simultaneously having multiple years of clinical experience and education, first-hand knowledge of multiple treatment approaches and philosophies, and an insider’s perspective of belonging to a 12-Step fellowship. The flexibility and inclusivity that 12 Step offers can be translated into the simple, but possibly life-changing, affirmation embodied in the only requirement for participation: all you need is the desire to stop using.

EHN Canada is 12-Step Friendly

EHN Canada addiction treatment programs are evidence based and we are 12-Step friendly. Our treatment facilities host numerous weekly 12-Step support groups, and patients in our residential treatment programs are free to participate in them, on a voluntary basis.

Call Us to Learn More

If you would like to learn more about the treatment programs provided by EHN Canada, enrol yourself in one of our programs, or refer someone else, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

  • 1-866-926-4196 for Bellwood Health Services in Toronto, ON
  • 1-587-602-0266 for EHN Sandstone, in Calgary, AB
  • 1-866-946-4806 for Edgewood Treatment Centre in Nanaimo, BC
  • 1-866-627-8604 for EHN Whiterock, in Surrey, BC
  • 1-866-965-4345 for Clinique Nouveau Départ in Montreal, QC