12 Step Program

12 Step Program | 12 Step Recovery

For a long time addiction was thought to be an incurable illness or moral failing. Early attempts to assist those who suffered were not always successful and often any success was difficult to duplicate. There were very few centers that offered any kind of treatment and recovery was not possible was a common view held by many. Many things changed with the development of the 12 step program by Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930’s.

Other programs emerged and Narcotics Anonymous is based on the idea that the disease of addiction is the source of the problem for many suffering addicts. NA has become the second largest anonymous 12 step fellowship in the world. NA literature written by addicts maintains the view that alcohol is a drug. Any one can remain anonymous and seek to help. Meetings started to spring up in major centers to help those who suffer from drug abuse by finding a new way to live.

12 Step to Recovery

These Steps originated with Alcoholics Anonymous and came from the Oxford 6 step program of recovery. Critical success was found for AA after the publication of the big book. As the process has enjoyed success, other programs have adopted and modified these steps. These steps have been amended by other programs but all of them essentially comprise the same process of a 12 step to recovery. Typically only the first and twelfth step are amended by each of the programs using these steps. Each step builds upon the changes brought about by the previous steps. When crafting the 12 steps, it was very important to Bill Wilson and the others involved that this process not be specifically about the Christian Ideals from the Oxford Group but more inclusive to all faiths, belief systems and even those without any faith at all. This allowed local AA groups to form and become the centers of a program of recovery for many alcoholics.

In the 1930’s, the choices were very different from today. Those in the late stages of the disease were doomed to institutions, jails and eventually death. Alcoholics Anonymous opened the door to the idea that Alcoholics could recover. This encouraged others to explore that those who suffered from addiction were not hopelessly lost. By the 1950’s new programs were established that incorporated the ideas from Alcoholics Anonymous, and the pharmaceutical industry had started to develop treatments for a variety of issues, including addiction.

What is the 12 Step Program?

What is the 12 Step Program? Early successes of Alcoholics Anonymous inspired others to try and adapt the program. Most treatment centers utilize aspects of the Minnesota model for addiction treatment which evolved from the ideas used in AA. 80% of all treatment models today incorporate many of the ideas that originated in Alcoholics Anonymous.

  • Mentor’s or Sponsor’s
  • Open and honest communication with others
  • Sharing the solutions and hope found in recovery
  • Commitment to a group
  • The ability to make amends and let go of the past.


Other people tried to adapt AA’s success to other substances including Cocaine Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and Crystal Meth Anonymous. There are many different twelve-step programs today, addressing many issues like Codependents Anonymous.

Narcotics Anonymous is unique in that they adapted the program to what members believed was the source of the problem, rather than specific substances and has become the second largest 12 step program in the world. They have adapted the 12 steps to suit their needs and define Step 1 as powerless over addiction.

Steps to Alcohol Recovery

Alcohol is a mind altering substance that affects the way we think and behave. In lower doses consumers will report mild feelings of euphoria and lower inhibitions. With sustained usage, the consumer can become dependent on alcohol. What causes the consumption to become a problem is sometimes subjective. Many heavy users report no ill effects and some eventually grow tired of the lifestyle where alcohol consumption is prevalent. Alcohol is a powerful drug and some users will change their view and seek help. The first real success was 12 Steps to Alcohol Recovery found in Alcoholics Anonymous. Others might experience a series of events that lead them to understand the drug has become a problem, causing them to seek help.


Increasing usage and dependence can lead to the disease of alcohol addiction, or substance abuse problem. Some will view this alcohol dependence as a problem. Alcoholics can become dependent on the drug and sudden withdrawal can be dangerous, even resulting in death. Carefully consulting with professionals is recommended for any alcoholic who wishes to stop drinking at the extreme levels of the disease. Addiction recovery is a recognized disease that affects those who use alcohol. Professionals will often view a rehab center, treatment center or detox facility as an important first step to getting help.

Alcoholism is a difficult disease to watch someone you care about suffer from. Most individuals who drink do not experience any long term issues with alcohol or drug addiction, even with periods of heavy usage. Treatment and detox is often recommended by professionals in the worst situations but some view early intervention as a way of avoiding the worst case scenarios. Some users are aware of the 12 step programs and even some professionals are also recommending a review of the steps to help those who suffer from alcohol abuse issues. Some individuals view the steps as the first and only solution to the problem of alcohol abuse.

The vast majority of treatment options available today are based on the Minnesota Model; a self help model utilizing therapy and behavioral changes with the support of others going through the same things. Also available starting in the 1950’s were pharmaceuticals. Antabuse (Disulfiram), Methadone, amphetamines, barbiturates and even LSD were used to treat alcoholism and other addictions. Other twelve-Step programs have grown in popularity and the number of groups in AA as well as others have increased. Treatment options have grown. Rehab and detox facilities are better equipped to assist individuals with withdrawal since twelve steps fellowships generally do not offer treatment or rehab. There are residential treatment programs that accept patients on an ongoing basis and these locations operate like any other business.

The first Anonymous 12 Step Program for Addiction

By the 1950’s, with the success of AA came the Minnesota Model for treatment that employed aspects of AA’s successful program. AA grew rapidly after the publication of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. 12 Step Programs grew from the foundation laid down by Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob Smith, and others who founded Alcoholics Anonymous, the first anonymous 12 Step program for addiction. Alcoholics found themselves working together in small groups to help other alcoholics find sobriety by learning the steps. These groups spread throughout the United States in many urban centers as members worked the steps. Many found help and this inspired them to help others find a solution in the steps. The program was popular as membership was anonymous. Growing pains became evident and AA developed the 12 Traditions to help groups remain focused and help prevent some of the problems groups were finding in working with each other and within the group. Large urban centers in the United States were the first to experience the program but now Alcoholics Anonymous is available worldwide.

The Twelve Steps of 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.

These steps have been amended by other programs but all of them essentially comprise the same process. Typically only the first and twelfth step are amended by each of the programs using these steps. Each step builds upon the changes brought about by the previous steps.


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