12 Steps to Recovery Defined
In 1938, Bill W. and Dr. Bob founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and developed what would come to be known as the foundational twelve-steps to recovery. In 1953, AA first published Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, which cemented the steps and the basic Fellowship function of the group. Since then, the twelve steps have expanded their relevance to recovery from alcohol dependence to a wide range of substance-abuse and dependency problems, including:
- Clutterers Anonymous
- Cocaine Anonymous
- Crystal Meth Anonymous
- Debtors Anonymous
- Dual Diagnosis Anonymous
- Emotions Anonymous
- Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous
- Gamblers Anonymous
- Marijuana Anonymous
- Nicotine Anonymous
- Overeaters Anonymous
- Pills Anonymous
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
- Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
- Workaholics Anonymous
Each of these groups follows the spirit of the twelve-steps, although they may alter the language to better represent their organization. What follows are the twelve steps presented without reference to a specific addiction. For more information about the 12 steps and their possible role in your recovery, call 800-895-1695.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
Most people believe in the authority of will-power and hold addicts responsible for their inability to control their behavior. However, Step 1 asks the addict to release themselves from responsibility for their addiction and to admit that they cannot and will not ever be able to indulge in addictive substances or behaviors with any degree of safety.
Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
“Power greater than ourselves” is a turn of phrase that causes a great deal of conflict in the 12 step community. But, it truly is open to interpretation. The most important part of step 2 is that the addict nullifies the addictive portion of their self and takes hold of hope that sobriety is possible with help.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
After surrendering their freewill to addiction in Step 1, Step 3 asks the addict to choose sobriety, to choose recovery.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
This step is mental housekeeping. The addict, over time, collects fears and self-judgments. Step 4 asks that all of that built up waste be removed to make room for recovery.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Step 5 asks that the addict take their mental inventory and share it with an objective listener. Without giving voice to the collected fears and judgements, there is the possibility that they could remain internalized and impede recovery.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
In step 6, the thoughts and fears of step 4 and 5 should be ready to be cleansed.
Step 7: Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
Step 7 makes action after the readying of step 6 is established. With or without a traditionally defined higher power, this step is about willingness to surrender the thoughts and actions that contribute to the addiction. Let them go.
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Up to this point, all the present mental baggage has been collected and is in the process of being purified. Step 8 uses the previous pattern and applies it to the past. Now, the addict must be open about their behavior and the effect it had on others.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
After the gathering of Step 8, Step 9 asks the addict to act. With every situation that is dealt with, a small amount of renewal occurs. Each act of forgiveness act as proof of positive progression.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
Step 10 is a repeat of steps 4 through 9. An addict should be developing a daily practice that keeps them mindful of their thought and behaviors.
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
Step 11 suggests prayer and meditation. The addict should take the time to sit with their higher power and ask and listen.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs
Step 12 transforms the addict from a recipient and into a giver. As they have benefitted from treatment, meetings, and the 12 steps, they can help another person through those trials as well.
These steps can be used to help an addict through the difficult transition from addiction to sobriety. They can also be modified to meet the needs of the addict. If the concept of a higher power doesn’t work, keep the essence of the step and find a way that it can be achieved using the specific needs of the addict. If you would like help using or amending the steps, call 12Step.com at 800-895-1695.