Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded in 1936 and has since been touted as the model for recovery from most forms of addiction. The 12 steps were composed by the founders of AA to establish guidelines for the best way to overcome alcoholism. The program garnered enough success in its early years for other addiction support groups to modify the steps to meet their own needs.
Although the 12 steps are heavily steeped in spirituality, many nonreligious people have found the program to be helpful for managing addiction. The language stresses the presence of God, or a higher power, as each person understands him, allowing for different interpretations and spiritual beliefs.
The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
There is no wrong way to approach the 12 steps as the person attempts to discern what works best for their own needs. In fact, most members find that they need to revisit certain steps, do the steps in a different order, or even work on more than one of the steps at a time.
The following are the 12 steps as defined by 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 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 12 Traditions
The 12 traditions speak to the members of AA as a collective group. The 12 traditions are different than the 12 steps, which focus mainly on the individual. These traditions are defined in the primary governing literature of AA known as The Big Book. Most 12-step programs have also adapted the 12 traditions for their own purposes.
The 12 traditions are as follows:
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.
Do 12 Step Programs Work?
Because of the program’s anonymity and lack of formal research regarding its success rates, it’s difficult to determine how effective 12-step programs are in general. However, the prevalence of this type of approach, as well as a multitude of success stories from many people in recovery, suggests that it works, at least for some.
At the minimum,12-step programs offer support, motivation, and accountability for those who genuinely desire to overcome their addiction. Regular meeting times, in addition to sponsorship, encourage the kind of social support that has helped many people stay sober.
Support groups such as AA are great at helping people maintain long-lasting recovery through peer support and accountability. However, many people who suffer from addiction need long-term specialized treatment at a rehab center.
Recovery by the Sea offers comprehensive, evidence-based programs in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. Our services include behavioral therapy, counseling, and group support, in addition to alternative therapies, medication-assisted treatment, aftercare, and more.
You don’t have to suffer from addiction any longer!
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