12-Step Programs

Alcoholics Anonymous is the oldest treatment program around. With its 12 steps and 12 traditions, it has been the standard model for recovery for nearly any type of addiction. 

The Purpose of the 12 Steps

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) created the 12 Step program to be used as a guideline for overcoming an alcohol addiction. Due to its success rate, it has been adapted by other programs to step the needs of individuals wanting to recovery from addiction.

The 12 Step program has been used by groups such as Cocaine Anonymous and Debtors Anonymous to treatment addictive and compulsive behaviors.

The 12 Step program is spiritually based, however, many non-religious individuals have participated in the program. They have found the program to be extremely helpful in overcoming their addictions. Throughout the program, the presence of God is referred to as a “higher power” which allows each participant to interpret God based on their understanding and religious beliefs.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Recovery is a lifelong process so there is no wrong way to approach the 12 Steps. Each participant attempts to figure out the best way to meet their individual needs. Often, the participant discovers they need to revisit steps they have already completed in order to be able to fully gain the benefits of the recovery process.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are defined below:

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

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The 12 Traditions

Along with the 12 Steps of AA, there are 12 Traditions. The 12 Traditions speak to the entire support whereas the 12 Steps are directed towards the individual participant. The AA Big Book, the main literature book for the program, outlines the 12 Traditions. Just as the 12 Steps have been adapted for other recovery groups, the 12 Traditions have been adapted as well.

The 12 Traditions as listed in the Big Book are:

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority–a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Does the 12 Step Model Really Work?

There has been no formal research completed on the effectiveness of the 12 Step program. The program is based on anonymity of the individuals in the group. However, there are many success stories from recovering addicts that attest to the effectiveness of the program.

The 12 Step program offers encouragement and accountability for those participating in the program. Each individual is supported through sponsorship and by regularly attending meetings. This social support has allowed many participants to remain clean and sober.

Finding Treatment

If you are interested in finding a 12 Step program to help with your addiction, there are more than 50,000 AA groups nationwide. Call us today so we can help you find a support group in your area.