What are the 12 steps in 12 step programs, what do they mean and how do they help? Find out more below.

What are the 12 Steps?

The 12-step approach to addiction exemplified by Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar groups is the 12-step program. After admitting they have a problem and seeking help, recovering addicts can join a 12-step program by attending meetings and finding a sponsor. Once they do so, addicts are encouraged to “work the steps,” which means following each step to completion before moving on to the next.

However, the process of dealing with addiction and rebuilding one’s life does not end with the completion of the 12th and final step. Instead, addicts are encouraged to repeat the steps throughout their lives to sustain a happy and stable life.

The steps were created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith. Initially workshopped in the early meetings of AA, the 12-steps received mass exposure in “The Big Book of AA,” published in 1939. The book has since become a best-seller and was designated one of the “Books that Shaped America” by the Library of Congress in 2012. Due to their power and broad dissemination, the 12-steps have been adopted by many groups and are often used in rehab centers worldwide.

Here are the 12-steps at the core of this approach:

Step 1

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8

Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 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.

Step 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.

How the 12 Steps Help

It is easy to see how these steps build on each other. They encourage individuals to develop specific characteristics which facilitate recovery. Starting with the very first step, addicts are expected to engender an attitude of humility and the courage of self-examination.

The process can be a long and difficult one. There is no estimated timeline for completing the steps. Rather than rush through the steps, it is far more important to progress thoroughly and when one is ready.

12-step programs are not the only method of recovery from addiction. Indeed, they are not for everyone. However, the steps are a well-established method of fighting addiction that has changed the lives of millions for the better.

Articles about the 12 steps in 12 step programs including what they are, what the importance of each step is and each step is done. Read about each of the 12 steps.

Articles about the 12 Steps

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