Understandably, many people outside of recovery circles don’t know much about 12-Step programs. After all, the first 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) does have “anonymous” in its name. However, that doesn’t mean 12-Step programs should be shrouded in mystery. It is important to know that “anonymous” does not mean “exclusive.” These 12-Step programs are for anyone who needs help with drinking or self-medicating.

There is also much more to a 12-Step program than merely the 12 steps. The 12-Step programs offer a way of life that allows the individual to get beyond their dependency so they can grow internally, communally, and spiritually. These also happen to be three tenets that we here at Clearview Girls Academy embrace.

Alongside the 12 steps of recovery, many programs also have a set of 12 traditions. One of these traditions states that “The only requirement for [recovery] membership is a desire to stop drinking [or using substances].” Therefore, when it comes to the question of whether your struggling daughter is too young for a 12-Step program, the answer is a definitive no.

What Exactly Is a 12-Step Program?

There is a saying in many 12-Step circles that “The 12 steps offer a simple solution for complicated people.” That concept is important because it reminds its members that a 12-Step program can help treat their drinking or substance use disorder (SUD) while not diminishing their value simply because they struggle with dependencies.

Ultimately, a 12-Step program is defined by many as “One person struggling, helping another.” Founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith (more commonly referred to as Bill W. and Dr. Bob), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was built on the foundation of “I alone cannot do this.” That’s why Bill W. and Dr. Bob set out with two goals in sight. One goal was to be the hand of recovery to anyone who needs help. The other goal was to endeavor to remain sober themselves by becoming involved in helping others.

Now, a little over 87 years later, AA has spread all over the world, helped countless numbers of individuals and families, and branched out into nearly every avenue of dependencies. These include Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), and Overeaters Anonymous (OA), just to name a few. AA and its various offshoots have also spread to every population and demographic, regardless of creed, race, and yes, age.

Young People in 12-Step Programs

Many people hold onto the misconception that 12-Step programs are merely a bunch of sorry fellows who sit around in smoke-filled basements and pity themselves. This could not be further from the truth. Today’s 12-Step programs are communities of proud and strong people who have recovered or are recovering from their struggles. The group members’ primary goals are, as mentioned before, to stay sober and help other people get sober.

Many 12-Step principles, such as charity and gratitude, appeal to many young people. Many chapters of 12-Step programs are specific to adolescents and teens who are in recovery. These chapters are designed specifically to engage young people while also adhering to the principles of 12-Step recovery.

The Greater Availablity of 12-Step Programs

In the last 87 years, the 12 steps have survived a world war, a deadly terrorist attack on 9/11, and a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Instead of becoming shattered by these events, the 12 steps have emerged stronger from them. In fact, because of a shift to online access, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the 12 steps available to more people than ever before.

This availability is especially helpful to young people looking to participate in 12-Step programs. Utilizing Zoom and other communication applications and platforms, people can now access a 12-Step meeting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This accessibility helps many young people get past the stigma of attending in-person meetings and allows them to experience 12-Step programs all over the world from the comfort of their room.

12-Step Programs and Clearview Girls Academy

While it may not be part of every one of our students’ individualized recovery plans, we here at Clearview Girls Academy fully support the use of 12-Step programs for those students who can benefit from them. We know that recovery does not simply conclude once our students leave our doors here in Montana. The goal of recovery is not to be “fixed.” The goal is to grow beyond personal expectations and to pursue healing beyond our doors. We know the 12-Step model can be a wonderful support for people on an ongoing basis.

There is a prayer that is often spoken at the beginning and end of 12-Step meetings which reads “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

For those who have any hesitancy about their children participating in a 12-Step program, we ask that you use this prayer as a guiding light. Consult your inner wisdom, and if you think the situation you’re facing can change with the right help, have the courage to reach out. By doing that, you and your daughter can start to create a better future.

While many 12-Step programs began as recovery programs for older individuals, that dynamic has completely shifted in the 21st Century. There has been a significant shift to include younger members. Many young people participate in 12-Step programs today. There are even specific 12-Step meetings that focus directly on issues of recovery for the young person who is struggling. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, 12-Step meetings have now become much more technologically available. This often benefits how the younger generation can participate. 12-Step programs have been shown to be an effective part of recovery across all demographics, so it is not surprising that it works for younger people also. Please call Clearview Girls Academy today at (888) 796-5484 for more information.