What Is a 12-Step Program?

What Is a 12-Step Program? – The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) model of twelve steps and twelve traditions is one of the oldest established guidelines designed to help people overcome an addiction to alcohol. AA’s approach has frequently been lauded as the standard for recovery from nearly any type of addiction. The purpose of a 12-step program is to enable “members to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.”

Since its inception in 1935, AA has achieved enough success for other support groups to adopt and modify the steps to fit the needs of their members. Currently, there are many 12-step programs for various addictions and compulsive behaviors, such as Narcotics Anonymous, Food Addicts Anonymous, and Debtors Anonymous. Regardless of the addiction or compulsion of choice, all 12-step programs are based on AA’s original model.

Although the original twelve steps are heavily based on religious spirituality, many non-religious people have found the program to be tremendously helpful in addiction recovery. The program’s language places emphasis on the presence of God or a “higher power” based on each person’s own understanding, which allows for different interpretations and religious or spiritual beliefs.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Because recovery is a lifelong endeavor, there’s no wrong way to approach the twelve steps as the person tries to figure out what works best for them. In fact, most members find that they will need to revisit some steps, alter their order, or undertake multiple steps simultaneously.

The following are the 12 Steps as given 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 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.
12-Step Program | Harmony Recovery Center | North Carolina

The 12 Traditions

The 12 Traditions speak to the participants of Alcoholics Anonymous as a group. They are distinct from the steps, which are focused on the individual. Most 12-step programs have also adopted the 12 traditions for their own standards.

Here are the 12 traditions:

  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.

Getting Treatment

Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step programs can be very helpful at motivating people to quit using drugs and alcohol, remain sober, and receive the support they need from peers. However, research has found that people have the most successful recovery outcomes when they also undergo professional addiction treatment and receive evidence-based services, including psychotherapy, counseling, health and wellness programs, and aftercare planning.

Harmony Recovery Center is dedicated to providing the tools, support, and resources that people suffering from addiction need to achieve abstinence, prevent relapse, and experience long-term wellness and sobriety.

Contact us today if you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder to discuss treatment options. Learn how we help people free themselves from the chains of addiction indefinitely!

Related: Reasons to Call an Interventionist

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