What Exactly are the 12 Steps?


The 12 steps were created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous as a guide to aid in recovering from addiction. In addition to helping individuals struggling with alcoholism, 12 step programs are used for those recovering from other addictions, including drugs. This blog from Wellbridge Addiction Treatment Center will provide a brief history, as well as an overview of the 12 steps.

Where did the 12 Steps come from?

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by Bill W. and Dr. Bob. Both men were alcoholics who had difficulty maintaining their sobriety on their own. Connecting with someone who was not only familiar with the struggles faced by alcoholics but willing to help, was essential in helping Bill W. and Dr. Bob remain sober. The pair developed a set of guidelines – the 12 steps – which they believed were beneficial to recovering from addiction.

What are the 12 Steps?

The 12 steps are considered spiritual in nature; however, Alcoholics Anonymous recognizes that a belief in God is not necessary for recovery. Following are the original 12 steps from Alcoholics Anonymous.

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. The phrase “The first step is admitting you have a problem,” is frequently used in recovery circles because the journey toward healing often begins by acknowledging you need help.

 Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. The second step is about the power of belief in your ability to be healed. Note that belief in God isn’t required – just in a Higher Power other than yourself.

Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Step three requires a deliberate choice to surrender yourself to a Higher Power. Again, faith in God is not required – just faith in a Higher Power.

Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Part of the recovery process requires introspection. Identifying problematic behaviors and the harm they have caused to not only others, but to ourselves too.

Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Accepting responsibility for our behavior is also an essential part of the recovery process. Again, Higher Power can be substituted for God.

Step Six: We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. The sixth step asks that we accept our flaws and to begin the journey of releasing them.

Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Understanding that you are unable to change without help, from God or a Higher Power, is at the heart of the seventh step.

Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Identifying the individuals we have hurt remind us that our behavior has real-world consequences.

Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Part of the recovery process includes the hard work of repairing relationships that have been damaged by addiction.

Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. The tenth step is accepting that recovery is a cyclical process that requires walking through the prior nine steps on an as-needed basis.

Step Eleven: 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. Discovering what we believe is our life’s purpose is the essence of the eleventh step.

Step Twelve: 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. Bill W. and Dr. Bob believed that helping one another was the key to their sobriety. The twelfth step encourages those in recovery to live the principles and to help those who are in a similar situation.

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