Founded in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous pioneered the use of 12-step programs as a method of addiction recovery. The program works by allowing members to share their stories with one another in a safe space where they need not worry about non-AA members hearing their secrets. When not in meetings, AA members work with a sponsor to go through the 12 Steps, a set of actions that members undertake to enhance their development of spiritual principles. While the program was originally inspired by a Christian organization known as the Oxford Group, today’s AA members remain open to persons of any faith, asking only that members accept the existence of something greater than themselves. This does not necessarily have to be God or any other deity, and many members put their faith in the group itself. Since AA is older and a bit more common, it is the program traditionally preferred by treatment programs.
Narcotics Anonymous was founded in 1953. While they use the same 12 Steps as AA, they use a different text as their main guidebook. Similar to AA, they do not require members to practice any particular faith. The primary difference between AA and NA is that the latter allows members to mention drug use, whereas many AA groups prefer drugs to remain unmentioned. Despite this difference, NA groups prefer that no drugs—including alcohol—are explicitly named during shares. Other minor differences include the use of the words “clean time” and “recovery” in place of “sobriety,” as a way of differentiating their program from AA and preserving their own traditions. While NA is less commonly used in treatment centers than AA, it has gained quite a bit of popularity in various recovery communities over recent years.
Other 12-Step Programs
Many 12-step programs exist for addicts who struggle with a particular drug of choice. Examples include HA for heroin addicts and CA for cocaine addicts. Additionally, many 12-step programs help people deal with particular behaviors that have had a negative impact on their lives. Among the more common such programs are SAA for sex addicts, OA for overeaters and CoDA for those who struggle with codependency. Some programs cater to the family members of addicts, the most common being Al-Anon, Alateen, Nar-Anon, Co-Anon and ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics). If you or a family member struggle with an addiction of any kind, the odds of finding a suitable 12-step program are generally in your favor.