12-Step Basics

The 12-step addiction recovery program is the heart of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), co-founded by Bill Wilson, who developed the 12 steps of AA. Since 1935, this community-based, mutual-support program has been helping alcoholics get and stay sober. The 12-step model has been adapted and applied to many other types of addiction treatment. There are, in fact, 12-step-inspired programs for every kind of addiction, from Crystal Meth Anonymous and Internet & Tech Addictions Anonymous to Food Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous. The bottom line is that if you’re struggling with an addiction, you’ll soon find that so are a lot of other people, and chances are good there’s a 12-step program that might help you.

The 12-step approach is also often woven into treatment plans at rehab centers, residential programs and in hospitals and sober living homes. And meetings are also held in cities and towns across the country and around the world, so there are plenty of opportunities to find a meeting once you or your loved one leaves treatment. How effective are 12-step programs? That’s not so easy to say. “Due to the anonymous nature of mutual-support groups, it is difficult for researchers to determine their success rates compared with those led by health professionals,” states the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The core treatises are “the 12 steps” and “the 12 traditions.” These are practical and spiritual steps that are “worked,” often with the help of a “sponsor”— someone who acts as a support and coach for the person in recovery — over a period of years. In programs for other types of addictions the term for the addict may change (to drug addict or sex addict, for example, instead of alcoholic), but the basic tenets remain the same.

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

  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 all 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.

The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholic Anonymous (short form)

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. 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 A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every A.A. 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. A.A., 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 A.A. 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.

Source: Alcoholics Anonymous

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