For people living with addiction, 12-step and other recovery support groups can be a powerful source of community and accountability in recovery. 

An estimated 48.7 million Americans aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder in 2022. However, only a quarter of those individuals received any form of treatment 1. It isn’t just that treatment helps people safely detox and get sober; sobriety by itself isn’t enough to spur long-term recovery. Addiction treatment helps people address the deep-seated psychological and emotional aspects of addiction. It helps them build the coping skills and support network they’ll need to stay sober and accountable in their day-to-day lives.   

12-step programs and addiction support groups are a vital part of recovery for millions of people around the world. These programs offer a consistent source of community, accountability, peer support, and encouragement for people in recovery.

What is a 12-Step Program?

12-step programs (also known as fellowships) are community-based support groups for people battling alcohol addiction, drug addiction, compulsive behaviors, or other dysfunctional habits. 12-step meetings are typically free, readily available, and open to everyone. This makes it easier for people in recovery to access the help and support they need.

The 12 Steps were introduced in 1939 in the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism (later known simply as The Big Book). They steps were conceived by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as guiding principles for overcoming alcoholism and maintaining lifelong sobriety. 

Since 1939, numerous community support groups have adapted the 12 steps to their recovery programs. These include fellowships that support people with drug addictions–Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Heroin Anonymous, for instance–as well as destructive behaviors like compulsive gambling, overeating, and co-dependency. 

It isn’t just the people suffering from addiction or destructive habits that take part in 12-step fellowships; several groups aid people dealing with addiction or dysfunction in their families, friend groups, and close relationships.

What are the 12 Steps of AA?

The 12 steps of AA are: 

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

Do I Need to be Religious to Follow the 12 Steps?

No. The 12 steps can be adapted to the beliefs of atheists, agnostics, non-religious people, and members of all faiths.

While the original 12 steps were inspired by the teachings of a popular Christian movement, the programs themselves are non-religious. People in these fellowships define their own Higher Power, whether it’s a traditional religious God or gods, fate, kismet, Mother Nature, or even the power of the fellowship itself. 

Non-12-Step Recovery Support Groups

12-step programs have provided life-changing support for millions of people around the globe–but that doesn’t mean they work for everyone. 

If the 12-step method isn’t the right approach for your recovery, a non-12-step program might be a better fit. 

SMART Recovery

SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is an international network of peer support groups for people recovering from substance dependencies, process addictions, or other destructive behaviors. SMART Recovery was founded in 1994 as a secular, evidence-based alternative to spiritually oriented recovery support groups. The program focuses on self-empowerment and personal choice as key drivers of lasting recovery. 

Like the well-known 12-step fellowships, SMART meetings are free, confidential, and open to everyone. However, the program doesn’t use the 12-step method. Instead, it emphasizes the Four-Point Program, which supports the following areas of recovery: 

  • Building and maintaining motivation
  • Coping with urges and cravings
  • Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Living a balanced life

The SMART method utilizes evidence-backed tools and techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI). Meetings are run by trained volunteer facilitators or licensed professionals. 

Recovery Dharma

Recovery Dharma is a peer-led community of addiction recovery support groups that utilize traditional Buddhist practices and principles. The foundation of the program is the 2019 book Recovery Dharma, which was written by a collective of anonymous volunteers. 

The principles of Recovery Dharma (also called The Practice) are:  

  • RenunciationWe commit to the intention of abstinence from addictive substances. For process addictions, we identify and commit to wise boundaries around our harmful behaviors.
  • Meditation – We commit to the intention of developing a daily meditation practice.
  • Meetings – In early recovery, we attend a recovery meeting as often as we can. We become an active part of the community, offering our own experiences and service wherever possible.
  • The Path – We commit to deepening our understanding of the Four Noble Truths and to practicing the Eightfold Path in our daily lives.
  • Inquiry and Investigation – We explore the Four Noble Truths as they relate to our addictive behavior through writing and sharing in-depth, detailed Inquiries.
  • Sangha, Wise Friends, Mentors – We cultivate relationships within a recovery community, to both support our own recovery and support the recovery of others.
  • Growth – We undertake a lifelong journey of growth and awakening.

Recovery Support Groups in Addiction Treatment

Steps to Recovery helps our clients participate in 12-step programs and other recovery support groups in Bucks, PA while they undergo treatment at our facility. We help them attend weekly meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Dharma Recovery, and other fellowships, and we encourage ongoing participation in meetings as clients step down their care needs. 

Recovery support groups can be a powerful addition to your addiction treatment program. If you want to be free from alcohol and substance dependency, don’t wait another day to take your first steps towards recovery. Give us a call today at 855.403.5404.


  1. “2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases.”, 2022,