12 Step to Recovery


12 Step to Recovery | 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. 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.

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.

Recovery has become possible. Those who seek help will find that these programs offer hope. Alcohol abuse can become a destructive force in someone’s life. The view that once someone was suffering from some form of alcohol abuse they were hopelessly lost is no longer true. Today there are many options and many programs help centers for those who seek recovery. These centers for drug abuse treatment, including alcohol are widely accepted and offer hope for so many today.

The Twelve Steps for those who Abuse Alcohol

These Steps originated with AA and came from the Oxford 6 step program of recovery. As the process has enjoyed success, other programs have adopted and modified these steps.

What are each of the 12 steps from AA?

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. 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.

The 12th Step

“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.” All 12 step programs are based on the idea that the disease can be treated by the application of spiritual principles learned from the 12 step process. Each step furthers a member along the path to an awakening of their spirit, with the ultimate goal of helping others who suffer from the same disease.

This step model provides a new way to view the disease. The goal of any of these programs is to complete all 12 steps and help others by working in a group.


During the early 19th century, any available treatment program for those who were addicted to drugs like alcohol and morphine were reserved for the worst cases. In the United States, addicts and other forms of mental illness found treatment in institutions but there was no proven program of help . Some were lobotomized, sterilized, imprisoned and some attempts were made to offer help for drug or alcohol abuse. In Kentucky was the Lexington Center, a federal initiative to learn more about treatment options for drug users. New York had the affluent Charles B. Towns Hospital, and Boston had the Emmanuel movement, a popular Christian based solution with a specific program of recovery.

By the 1950’s, with the success of AA came the Minnesota Model for treatment that employed aspects of AA’s successful program. The vast majority of treatment options available today are based on the Minnesota Model; a self help model utilizing group therapy and behavioral changes. 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 12 Step fellowships have grown in popularity. The number of groups in AA and other programs have increased to offer help. Treatment options have grown. Rehab and detox facilities are better equipped to assist individuals with withdrawal since 12 step fellowships generally do not offer treatment or rehab help. There are residential treatment programs that accept patients on an ongoing basis and these locations operate like any other business with the intention of offering help to those who suffer from drug abuse.

Drug abuse has become epidemic and new drugs are becoming popular all the time. Society was quick to condemn anyone identified as a drug user a hundred years ago but the complexity of society has made this increasingly difficult. Drug use and drug abuse are sometimes subjective depending on the individuals and not everyone wants or needs help. All levels of government are looking for treatment options. Many treatment options and programs have emerged or evolved. Anonymous programs are becoming more popular but due to the anonymous nature of the programs, it is difficult to track success but the views of those who work in the field of addictions have changed and treatment centers often encourage attendance at step meetings.


Addiction is defined as a brain disease that manifests as obsession with certain ideas and behaviors as well as a compulsion to act upon that obsession. Addiction is often characterized by the use of substances like alcohol or other drugs but can involve behaviors like sex, gambling or shopping. Many of these thoughts and behaviors can be considered normal, but when they start to interfere with the ability to function in everyday life, or become destructive, society will often classify them as addiction. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug and alcoholics are the largest population of those who suffer from addiction, but some find their addictive nature is pervasive in all aspects of their lives. As drug abuse continues, individuals often find new levels of suffering.


Alcohol is the product of fermentation of grains, fruits or vegetables where naturally occurring sugars are transformed. The production of commercial and home based products includes the addition of sugar to increase the yield of alcohol. Naturally fermented alcohol products can contain 4-6% alcohol by volume but as the alcohol content increases, the yeast that produces it starts to die. Sometimes these products have a low percentage of alcohol and are refined. Alcohol can be distilled to increase the potency of the product by removing the alcohol. Simple wines and beer might have only two to six percent alcohol content, but distilled products can be as much as 100% pure.

Alcohol is a mind altering substance that affects various centers of the brain. 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. Others might experience a series of events that lead them to understand the drug has become a problem, causing them to seek help.

One view is that Increasing usage and dependence can lead to the disease of alcohol addiction, or a substance abuse problem. Some will view this alcohol or drug dependence as a problem on a deeper level. 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. This is also true for other drugs. Addiction recovery is a recognized disease. Professionals will often view a rehab, treatment center or detox facility as an important first step to getting help. Alcoholism or drug addiction is a difficult disease to watch someone you care about suffer from but most individuals who drink or use do not experience any long term issues with drug addiction despite 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 substance abuse.

12 Step Model for Success

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.


Alcoholics Anonymous is a recovery program of anonymity. Members will try and create an environment where anyone who identifies as an alcoholic is free to share their experiences. Individuals need to feel comfortable sharing what is happening in their lives. When people are new is when they are the most vulnerable. Those who are familiar with the program try to focus on the principles of the program rather than the personalities. This allows others to experience a new way of living. The application of principles is important to recovery in 12 step programs. The principles that are learned and applied are meant to be free of individuality. One of the centers to the 12 step program of recovery is in working through the steps.


Table of Contents