The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) were developed to facilitate overcoming alcohol addiction. The founders created this approach to help individuals succeed in their alcohol addiction, drug abuse, and other addictive behaviors.
The program was successful enough that other addiction support groups adapted its steps to fit their own needs in its early years.
Despite their spiritual basis, the 12 Steps have been beneficial to many non-religious people. There are various interpretations and religious beliefs in the language, allowing for a sense of God as understood by each participant.
If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, the 12 steps can help facilitate their recovery journey.
What Is a 12-Step Program?
A 12 Step Program is simply a roadmap in which individual uses to overcome their addiction. Programs like these are a way to engage people in a meaningful way. A self-help group is where people with an addiction are encouraged to get involved. The main goal of this program is to achieve abstinence.
A person in recovery must figure out what works best for them while finding what works best for them as a lifelong process.
The majority of participants are likely to revisit specific steps or tackle more than once during their recovery. It is recommended to practice the first two steps of a 12-Step program each day.
What Are the 12 Steps?
Taking a closer look at these 12 steps one by one will help us to understand better how they work. This sequence of steps should be followed, each building upon the last.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
The first step is to be truthful about your situation. People who are addicted acknowledge that they can’t control their addictions and are powerless to fight them.
Rather than defining addiction as a behavior, this perspective defines it as a disease. The 12-step model is built entirely around this definition.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
In Step 2, the individual is taught that there is a power greater than their own will to recover. Addicts can achieve a state of long-term sobriety through this “Higher Power.”
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
It is essential for individuals to learn and trust this Higher Power to recover from their condition. The Higher Power is specifically referred to as “God” in this step.
Therefore, steps 2 and 3 are another area in which recovery is controversial. This God does not necessarily correspond to any particular religion. It is understood among the members of the program.
This step may not be easy to accept for those without preexisting spiritual beliefs and atheists and agnostics. Those who fall into this category may benefit more from an alternative program.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Now that the first three steps have been completed, the foundation has been laid. A recovering addict starts step 4 with a thorough examination of themselves. Addiction must be examined objectively and honestly. Letting go of fear is a necessary step.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Upon completing step 4, you must contact yourself, God, and at least one other person with the information you learned in step 4. When the individual does this step, the person lets go of the shame and guilt they have from being addicted.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 5 begins with the addict accepting that they will let go of the behaviors communicated in step 5. Efforts at willpower are not sufficient for an addict to stop their behavior.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
A person explicitly involves God in Step 7 by asking Him to remove the offending behavior. This proves that God is ultimately responsible for enabling the person to overcome their addiction, not themselves.
The humility thus cultivated in the addict prevents them from becoming discouraged by the idea that their weakness makes their recovery impossible.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Similar to step 4, step 8 requires the same steps. Rather than just analyzing how their addiction has harmed them, the addict examines how it has hurt others.
To make amends, a person will make a list of people they have wrongly done and that they can apologize to.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Now, we are using the list we created in step 8. To find peace, the recovering addict will get in touch with a person on the list one at a time. Typically, an apology is spoken, repairs are attempted, and forgiveness is requested.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
In essence, steps 4-9 and 10 are repeated continuously over time. Individuals who learn this concept avoid thinking they’re “done.” Once they get that feeling, they’re likely to quit the program and relapse.
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.
It’s important to remember that we’re relying on a Higher Power in this program. Recovery addicts who forget this risk reverting to willpower and relapsing.
Consequently, step 11 recommends that individuals stay connected with God through prayer and meditation.
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 goal of Step 12 is to help other recovering addicts achieve sobriety.
Is the 12 Step Approach Effective?
As the program is anonymous and no research is available, it’s difficult to assess its effectiveness.
Even so, success stories from recovering addicts suggest this type of treatment can be effective since it is widely used.
Regardless of research, the 12-Step model provides support and encouragement and holds individuals accountable for their addiction treatment journey. This model works especially when regular meetings are held, and sponsorship is used.
Many people have been helped to stay clean because of the kind of social support they receive from peers. With that said, the success of the 12 Step Program truly depends on the individual.
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