Alcoholics Anonymous is a mutual aid fellowship that was founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, when Bill Wilson attempted to guide Dr. Bob Smith through alcoholism to recovery. The fellowship quickly became a popular resource for individuals suffering from alcoholism, even leading co-founder Bill Wilson to publishing a book that described the fellowship’s primary purpose, goals, and structure. Referred to as “The Big Book” due to the thickness of the paper on which the first edition of the book was published, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered From Alcoholism published the original form of the seminal twelve-step method, which has since been adapted as a philosophy for recovery by addicts of heroin and narcotics, marijuana, sex, gambling, and even food addiction. The Twelve Steps have been impacting millions of men and women’s lives ever since.
The focus of the Twelve Steps has always been on providing individuals suffering from addiction with a means of achieving spiritual and physical recovery while also including a social component. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous—Narcotics Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, and many other derivatives—offers a sort of progress checklist through the disease of addiction to physical and spiritual recovery. Since their inception, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have become renowned components of support groups and recovery programs around the world. They’ve remained popular as a means of achieving comprehensive recovery, incorporating a social component to the rehabilitation process, fostering accountability, and so on. If you are unfamiliar with twelve-step support groups, here are the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in addition to the part each step plays in an individual’s recovery.
Step 1: Admitting Powerlessness
Often considered the most essential and most difficult, the first step of the Twelve Steps is as follows: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” The difficulty of admitting powerlessness is likely due to the difficulty of admitting defeat; to admit that one is powerless to alcohol, or some other drug or behavior, is tantamount to admitting being defeated by the disease of addiction. Without accepting that one is, in fact, suffering from addiction, relapse is inevitable as the individual clings to the misguided impression that he or she still has some level of control over their alcohol or drug use.
Step 2: Belief in a Greater Power
The second step—“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”—is about accepting that there are things in life that are beyond or outside of our control. For the religious among us, this means accepting the all-seeing, all-knowing love of God, but for the agnostic and atheist, this might mean accepting that the universe is its own force and that, try as we might, we can’t control everything.
Step 3 Turning Life Over to God
The third of the Twelve Steps says that as part of the recovery process, individuals must turn themselves over to the god of each addict’s understanding. In essence, this means that the addict in recovery turns him or herself over to whatever higher power they believe in, whether that be Jesus, Zeus, or the universe as a whole. As part of this step, individuals are encouraged to accept the part they might play in the grander scheme of things, recognize that addiction is in opposition of their ultimate purpose, and to give in to the will of their personal higher power.
Step 4: Taking a Moral Inventory
With the fourth step, the real work begins. We have a great many instincts as human beings, which include feeding ourselves, seeking sex to propagate the species, and finding shelter for protection from the elements; however, this can also include the drive to achieve and be successful, to be emotionally fulfilled, and so on. In the pursuit of some of these desires, we sometimes accept that satisfying an instinct may require some sacrifice to personal integrity. At this step, individuals identify the instincts, desires, and morals that have either directly or indirectly caused hardship or turned into liabilities.
Step 5: Admit the Nature of Wrongdoing
In the simplest of terms, the fifth of the Twelve Steps is to admit to oneself, to others, and to the higher power of one’s belief our wrongdoings. This can take the form of sharing experiences and personal stories during group meetings—individuals volunteering to share personal experiences and anecdotes is one of the traditional Alcoholics Anonymous meeting formats—or even sharing with a complete stranger. However, sharing personal experiences can often release emotions that have been withheld and denied for many years.
Step 6: Ready to Purge Defects of Character
As a follow-up to the fifth, during the sixth step recovering addicts admit that they’re ready to forfeit, purge, or cure the person character defects that contributed to developing and sustaining addiction.
Step 7: Ask for Removal of Shortcomings
After deciding they’re ready to forfeit defects of character, recovering addicts will submit to God or some other higher power, seeking help in removing or correcting these personal shortcomings.
Step 8: Be Willing to Make Amends
One of the most well-known of the steps, the eighth of the Twelve Steps—making a “list of all persons [the recovering addicts had] harmed, and [becoming] willing to make amends”—requires individuals to take accountability for the ways they have affected others’ lives, becoming willing to repair the damage and, by extension, those relationships.
Step 9: Making Amends
As a follow-up to the eighth, the ninth step entails making amends to any individuals harmed over the course of an individual’s addiction whenever the opportunity arises unless making amends would cause additional harm.
Step 10: Continued Personal Inventory
When individuals reach the tenth of the Twelve Steps, they’re entering into more of a maintenance-type area of recovery. As part of the tenth step, recovering addicts are encouraged to take continued personal inventory, identifying deficits of character or behavior and opportunities to admit and rectify wrongdoings.
Step 11: Ongoing Emotional and Spiritual Improvement
According to the eleventh step, individuals are instructed, through prayer and meditation, to “improve conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will… and the power to carry that out.” In other words, individuals continue to pursue emotional and spiritual enlightenment and well-being using meditation or prayer to the higher power of one’s personal understanding.
Step 12: Continue Practicing Twelve Steps and Promoting Their Message
Having had a “spiritual awakening” as a result on working the steps, the final step encourages individuals to continue participating in each of the steps in order to sustain recovery as well as to share the message and efficacy of the Twelve Steps with other individuals who suffer from addiction.
So, what are the 12 steps? Recall the beginning, where the addict was powerless against drugs and alcohol. By the twelfth step, he or she is maintaining recovery through ongoing participation of the steps and helping others to recover using the twelve-step method. In short, it seems that the twelve-step method leads to a personal transformation. Indeed, that is precisely what the Twelve Steps are: Transformation from a toxic way of life to one of health and enlightenment.
If you or someone you love is currently suffering from addiction, call today and speak with one of Drug Treatment Center Finder’s recovery specialists, who can help individuals find the perfect twelve step-based or other addiction treatment program to begin the journey toward recovery.