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12-step programs have helped millions get sober and defeat addiction. Read on to learn about the 12 steps of AA.

Overview of 12 Steps of AA

12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) have been a staple element of addiction treatment and recovery for over eighty years. First created in 1935 and officially put into text in 1939, the 12 steps of AA have helped millions worldwide achieve and maintain lasting sobriety. Since its beginnings as a 12-step program for alcoholism, the process has been modified to accommodate many types of addiction. 

AA is a group or “fellowship” of like-minded people to come together to find freedom from problem drinking. AA meetings are free and open to people of all ages. The primary purpose of traditional AA programs is to help alcoholics achieve lasting sobriety. While participation in group meetings offers support and fellowship, the 12-steps of AA lie at the root of the program's longevity and success. In North America, AA is the most commonly sought source for help overcoming alcohol use disorders. At the end of 2018, you could find AA groups worldwide with more than two million members.  [1]  

12 steps of AA

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Why Was AA Created?

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous initially created the 12-steps to establish a series of guidelines they believed showed the best way to overcome alcohol addiction. The traditional 12-step principles are based on holistic principles and guidance; however, many non-religious people have found the structure and supportive nature of the program immensely helpful.  

While AA’s 12-steps emphasize the presence of God, each participant is encouraged to incorporate this presence based on their particular interpretation, understanding, and religious beliefs.

What Are the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous?

The initial 12 steps set forth by the program founders are designed to help addicts progress towards long-term sobriety. Members can revisit or repeat any step at any time; however, the steps are designed to advance in order. Below are the 12-steps in order with the original wording in order to help elaborate on each step.  [2]

The 12 Steps of AA

  • Step 1: Uprightness: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.”
  • Step 2: Expectation: “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
  • Step 3: Concede: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” 
  • Step 4: Courage: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. “
  • Step 5: Integrity: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” 
  • Step 6: Eagerness: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” 
  • Step 7: Humbleness: “We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” 
  • Step 8: Empathy and Compassion: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” 
  • Step 9: Liability: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” 
  • Step 10: Discipline: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” 
  • Step 11: Consciousness: “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: Service: “Having had a holistic awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” 

What Are the Twelve Traditions?

While the 12 steps of AA guide individuals on their journey to achieving and maintaining lasting sobriety, the 12 traditions provide a list of guidelines for members, groups, and the global fellowship as a whole.

The AA 12-steps offer individual guidance, whereas the 12 traditions answer questions about donations, public relations, and financial matters. There is both a long and a short version of the 12 traditions. Although both documents cover the same information, the short version offers a simplified, easier-to-digest read. [3] 

How Long Does It Take for the 12 Steps of AA?

The original 12 steps, published in the AA’s Big Book, are based on personal experience and Christian inspiration. The AA 12 steps are based on the long-held AA ideal that one can overcome the desire to drink by following the 12 steps as a way of life. The 12 steps are meant to be completed in order, beginning with step one and progressing as you are able to work through them. While it is possible to return to a previous step if you need more time, the steps are not meant to be done in random order.  

There is no set timeline for how long it will take you to progress through the 12-step program for addictions. Many AA newcomers are encouraged to attend ninety meetings in ninety days under the theory that attending 12-step meetings daily for at least three months helps establish a new routine and build a strong foundation for living substance-free.

Pros and Cons of the Twelve Steps

Although statistics on the success rates of 12 step programs like AA are difficult to come by, research suggests that they remain an effective way to achieve sobriety. Most studies into the effectiveness of AA and similar programs show they are 60% more effective than other interventions or no intervention at all. But, like any addiction recovery program, 12-step programs are not an ideal fit for everyone, and the AA format has pros and cons. [4]

AA 12 steps

Pros of 12-Step Programs

The pros of these programs are:

  • Group meetings are easy to find and easy to access
  • The format of group meetings helps you remain committed to achieving lasting recovery
  • They offer a community of sober, like-minded peers
  • They provide structure
  • They are a chance for addicts new to recovery to help others just starting on their journey
  • Group meetings are free and open to anyone

Cons of 12-Step Programs

Some cons of 12-step programs include:  

  • Many participants struggle with publicly confessing details of their addiction
  • A strong focus is placed on reliance on a “higher power” as the key to recovery, which is difficult for some who do not subscribe to a particular religious practice
  • Emphasis on complete abstinence
  • The first step of (most) 12-step programs is to admit powerlessness over addiction, reducing reliance on willpower

Obtain Long Lasting Sobriety With Genesis Recovery

While 12-step programs may not be the answer for everyone seeking sobriety, decades of success suggest this format of addiction recovery can provide the support and guidance many need to achieve lasting sobriety. To learn more about 12-step programs and addiction recovery, contact us at Genesis Recovery today. 


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