The 12 Steps
Author: Emily Murray
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What Are The 12-Steps?
When people think about treating an alcohol use disorder (AUD), 12-step programs are often the first thing that comes to mind. Although rooted in anonymity, 12-steps programs have helped millions of people worldwide, regardless of age, gender, and socioeconomic status. These programs are one of the best ways to maintain long-term recovery. Members of these programs are encouraged to abstain from alcohol by working through 12 developmental stages to overcome their addictive or compulsive behaviors, self-reflection, and improve their relationships’ quality. If successful, these steps result in a satisfying life without alcohol. Exploring the history and specifics of the 12-steps can help to understand how these programs can effectively treat an AUD.
History Of The 12-Steps
The 12-step approach is the main component of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which is an international fellowship of men and women who have an AUD. AA attempts to assist members through the 12-steps by providing support groups and sponsorships. Typically, AA meetings are open to the general public, but closed meetings are only open to AA members and those who want to address and stop their problematic drinking. It is important to AA that their groups be nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost anywhere.
Just a few years after the end of prohibition, Bob Smith, a surgeon with an alcohol addiction, met Bill Wilson, who had overcome his own addiction. Wilson used a spiritual approach to work with a group of people who had similar struggles to treat his AUD. Bob was inspired his by Bill’s success and decided to get sober. Bob never had a drink ever again. Bill and Bob’s friendship was the model for the sponsor and sponsee relationship at the center of AA’s program. This type of relationship helps the person currently struggling with addiction and the sponsor who has a history of addiction in their past but has successfully maintained sobriety for an extended period.
Today, over 85 years later, there are over 60,000 AA groups in the United States. These groups continue to use sponsors and spirituality to help those with addictions learn how to live a balanced life without alcohol.
The Key Concepts Of AA
There are 3 key concepts present in the recovery process of AA: acceptance, surrender, and active involvement. Acceptance in this program is the understanding that addictions are chronic and progressive and cannot be overcome with will power alone. Individuals must also accept that their lives have become unmanageable because of their addiction. Next, AA members must learn to surrender. This means they must give themselves to a higher power, the support of other AA members, and the program’s activities. For active involvement, members must attend meetings and participate in service positions and other AA-sponsored activities.
Alcoholics Anonymous features the monotheistic idea of a single God or “higher power.” Despite AA’s use of spirituality and religious content, there is no traditional religious worship. Several other traditions help to establish AA’s mission and the 12-steps. Members must put the welfare of the group above their own as personal recovery is dependent of the success of the group. The only requirement to join an AA group is to have a desire to stop drinking. The most important aspect is anonymity which is described as the spiritual foundation for all of AA’s traditions. Personal anonymity eliminates some of the stigma associated with addiction while also establishing a sense of trust so members can feel safe to be open. Additionally, allowing members to remain anonymous, puts the principles of AA before that of individual personalities.
The 12-Steps Of AA
In Alcoholics Anonymous, members work through a set of 12 steps to overcome an alcohol addiction. Here are the 12-steps of AA.
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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.
The common goal of AA is to achieve abstinence one day at a time, and AA members accomplish this goal by attending meetings regularly. Because closed AA meetings are exclusive to people with alcohol addictions, they provide a community and support system for people with similar goals and desires. This sense of community is important to recovery because familiar, unhealthy environments and social circles can affect decisions and potentially cause relapse. By AA members sharing their experiences, strength, and hope, the community of people created by AA meetings can find those who relate to the difficulties of addiction, which offers more support.
Other 12-Step Programs
Although Alcoholics Anonymous is the most well-known 12-step recovery program, there are over 200 12-step fellowship programs that have adopted their methods to help overcome other substance and behavioral addictions. Some of these programs include Gamblers Anonymous, Clutterers Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous. The foundation of these programs’ 12 steps is similar to AA- the only difference is the drug type or the object of addiction mentioned in the first step. Because of the adaptability of steps 2 through 12, the basics of these programs have been said to be useful for practically any human condition and even just a guide to life in general.
For more information on treatment options, contact a treatment provider today.
Author: Emily Murray | Last Edited: June 23, 2022
Medical Reviewer: Dayna Smith-Slade