When we look at treatment opportunities, we often study programs for effectiveness. In reality, the key determining factor for the type of treatment we end up with may be cost.
One thing about the 12-Step program, as James points out in his answer to question #2, is it’s free! Even though passing the hat may be a tradition at meetings, it’s a no-pressure environment. A long battle with addiction can ravage a person’s finances, and most people at 12-Step meetings understand this – or have been in the same position themselves.
While few experts would recommend the 12-Step program as a replacement for needed treatment, a 12-Step program can serve as a galvanizing companion or complement to post-detox treatment. Because a 12-Step program is one of the few activities you can continue after treatment without stressing your budget, it often becomes a key component of aftercare. People who struggle with addiction and have neither the insurance nor the financial resources to pursue treatment often find the 12-Step program is their lifeline.
A full treatment sequence, could include the initial detox experience, an inpatient (residential) program, an outpatient program, and a sober living environment, all before the person is out on his or her own with recovery. Each of the pieces is costly, and each may or may not be covered by the individual’s insurance policy – if they have insurance.
Detox, generally the first step to recovery, can happen in a hospital or at a rehab facility; it can be a standalone process (typically in a hospital setting) or part of a continuum that includes “treatment” and/or “aftercare.” In many instances, Detox should be done in a professional environment.
This “medical detox” can provide optimum safety and comfort, averting medical complications and alleviating the most extreme side effects that come as all substances clear the system.
Due to the medical expertise and monitoring required for this process, medical detox is most often covered by insurance.
For those without insurance or with little or no funding, state-supported or state-funded detox is available and can readily be found in a brief online search. It’s important to remember that the term “detox” refers only to the time it takes to a.) clear the drugs from the system and b.) stabilize the individual’s health – roughly, 3 days to a week.
12-Step programs are not treatment, per se. They offer no medical or behavioral assessments, no personalized, professional prescriptions. Basically, they can be run by laypersons who volunteer their time.
However, for those who can’t afford doctors, therapists, rehab stays, or other arms of treatment, the value of a 12-Step program, with its low, low cost, is something that can’t be denied.
Because 12-Step programs are free, they may be the only thing between an individual who has fallen on hard times and relapse.
In most urban areas, there are enough meetings offered to ensure a recovery-supportive environment almost every day of the week. Providing a strong sense of routine, easy accessibility, and purposeful community, 12-Step programs solidly support recovery, especially for those recently sober. It’s typical for individuals to leave treatment and struggle with connections from an old circle of friends. It’s tempting to fall into being their “old selves.” But this can get them into trouble. It’s likely that their old selves were all about buying, selling, or taking drugs or about drinking alcohol and getting drunk.
Their old lifestyle was likely built around drugs or their old circle of friends. And without a ready-made community to step into, the individual can easily step back on the well-beaten path to drug-related environments steeped in memories of old drug use – all triggers. The 12-Step meetings offer a sober community, or at least a community that appreciates and understands the hard work of sobriety. With ubiquitous free coffee and sometimes home-baked goodies, the 12-Step meeting provides a most economical hangout for rebuilding a substance-free lifestyle.