The Alcoholics Anonymous model of 12 steps and 12 traditions is one of the oldest treatment programs available and is widely regarded as the gold standard for recovery from virtually any form of addiction. They were formed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous to provide instructions for overcoming alcohol addiction. In its early years, the program was successful enough that other addiction support organizations adapted the stages to their own requirements.

Despite the fact that the 12 Steps are founded on spiritual concepts, many nonreligious persons have found the program to be quite beneficial. The phrase stresses God’s presence as each person interprets him, allowing for a variety of interpretations and religious views.

Does it Work?

Because of the program’s anonymity and a lack of official study, it’s difficult to determine how beneficial the 12 Step approach is. However, the popularity of this form of treatment, as well as success stories from addicts in recovery, indicate that it is beneficial.

At the absolute least, the 12-Step approach gives those who really want to overcome their addiction support, encouragement, and accountability. The sponsorship model, along with the regular meeting times, promotes the type of social support that has helped thousands of individuals stay clean.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Because recovery is a lifetime journey, there is no right or wrong way to approach the 12 Steps as the person seeks to discover out what works best for them. In fact, most participants discover that as their recovery progresses, they will need to revisit several steps or perhaps handle multiple steps at a time. The first, second, and third steps are considered the cornerstone of a 12-Step program and should be practiced on a daily basis.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are as follows:

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

Unlike the 12 Steps, which revolve around the individual, the 12 Traditions speak to the members of Alcoholics Anonymous as a group. The Big Book, the fundamental governing literature of Alcoholics Anonymous, defines the traditions. The 12 traditions have also been altered by the majority of 12-Step traditions for their own recovery strategies.

Here are the 12 traditions:

  1. Our collective well-being should come first; personal recovery is dependent on AA unity.
  2. There is only one ultimate authority for our collective purpose–a loving God as He may manifest Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are only trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The sole prerequisite for joining AA is a willingness to stop drinking.
  4. Except in problems impacting other groups or AA as a whole, each group should be independent.
  5. Each group has only one main goal: to deliver its message to the alcoholic still suffering.
  6. An AA group should never support, finance, or lend the AA brand to any affiliated institution or outside the company, lest financial, property, and prestige issues detour us from our core mission.
  7. Every AA group should be self-sufficient, with no outside funding.
  8. Although Alcoholics Anonymous should remain nonprofessional in perpetuity, and our service centers may hire special personnel.
  9. AA, as such, ought not to be organized; nevertheless, we may establish service boards or committees that are directly accountable to the people they serve.
  10. Because Alcoholics Anonymous has no stance on external problems, the AA name should never be associated with public controversy.
  11. Our public relations strategy is focused on attraction rather than promotion; we must constantly retain personal anonymity in the press, radio, and film.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual basis of all our faiths, reminding us to choose values above people.

Alternatives to the 12 Steps

There are alternate 12-step programs that are also free to attend for persons who are not comfortable with the spiritual part of the program or the AA 12 stages of recovery. Many non-twelve-step programs are not religious in nature. They employ a self-help group method while incorporating scientific research and emphasizing self-reliance. Non-12-step group members may also attend AA or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings.

Seeking Help

Are you looking for a 12-Step program to help you overcome your addiction? With over 50,000 Alcoholics Anonymous groups in the United States (and thousands of other Anonymous groups for different addictions), you’re sure to discover one that works for you.

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