If you are considering treatment or are in early recovery, you may have been introduced to a 12-Step program to help support you. 12-Step programs began in 1935 with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The steps themselves were accumulated and developed through the founders’ personal experiences living with and treating alcoholism. The steps offer a road map to success and show people that they can achieve long-term sobriety with the support of the group and their higher power.
The twelve steps are considered a traditional approach to overcoming addiction and compulsions, and they continue to be widely used in recovery today. The steps are meant to be completed in order, although individuals may revisit steps more than once or pause on a step as they work through them. Let’s take a look at the 12 Steps of AA.
#1. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
The first step is to admit our powerlessness over alcohol and/or other drugs. We must accept the fact that our addiction is beyond our control. We must also accept that our drinking and/or drug use has become unmanageable, leaving a negative impact on many other aspects of our life.
#2. “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
The second step focuses on establishing faith in something greater than ourselves. Your higher power does not have to be God or any interpretation of God. Your higher power could be believing in the recovery process or believing in the strength of human nature. It is more important that you find a source of inspiration to encourage and motivate your recovery than to adhere to one specific doctrine.
#3. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
The third step involves turning over your will to your personal higher power. In this step, you are beginning to ask for help, learning to meditate, and learning to accept what is.
#4. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
The fourth step encourages turning inward to our own honest thoughts and feelings. You are identifying your strengths, weaknesses, and morals fearlessly and curiously. You will start to understand the root causes of your addiction as well as identify unresolved trauma.
#5. “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
The fifth step is acknowledging the physical and mental harm you may have caused yourself and others because of your addiction. The uncomfortable symptoms that come with identifying shame and guilt are what typically lead us to substance use. Be aware of this and know that it is a necessary part of growth.
#6. “Were entirely ready for God to remove these defects of character.”
After confessing and unburdening yourself of the thoughts and actions of the past, it is time to allow your higher power to get to work. This is where you are encouraged to let go of the past and past behaviors and grow to be better for yourself and those around you. This step is often repeated numerous times throughout recovery.
#7 “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
The seventh step is like the third, although more specific. You are now more aware of harmful behaviors and attitudes and are ready to grow beyond them. You are practicing humility in greater awareness.
#8 “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
The eighth step is much like the fourth, although it is time to identify outward harm you may have caused at the cost of your addiction. You allow yourself to recognize damage you may have caused, acknowledging that identifying these feelings could lead to relapse. You are learning to make amends with those you have wronged in the past and putting faith in the future.
#9 “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
The ninth step involves reaching out to those you have wronged, except when doing so would lead to injury or harm. “Direct” means face-to-face, which is a humbling but necessary part of the process. In this step, you are taking responsibility for your actions and attempting to repay the debts owed. Apologize, be proactive in repairing the damage, and ask for forgiveness.
#10 “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
The tenth step focuses on being continually honest with ourselves. We are revisiting past steps and working them into the present, and focusing on building a better future for ourselves. Continue to admit when you are wrong and keep track of a personal inventory towards recovery.
#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.”
The eleventh step is spiritual and encourages prayer and meditation with your higher power. You can change your definition of who or what your higher power may be and act on it. Prayer refers to talking with our higher power, such as sharing burdens or admitting wrongs, while meditation refers to listening to our higher power, such as putting aside our own ego and cultivating a desire to understand our true purpose.
#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.
The twelfth step is self-serving yet selfless, as it focuses on being of service to yourself and others. You are called to remind others of the power of the twelve steps. You also become a resource for others struggling with addiction and can provide insight and advice to those who need it.
The 12 Steps are a traditional approach to recovery that focuses on putting faith in someone or something beyond yourself. The 12 Steps continue to be utilized in substance use recovery today and emphasize the importance of connection in the world around us. Completing the 12-Steps does not guarantee sobriety. However, consistently revisiting and implementing the steps wholeheartedly will lead to a more successful recovery journey. If you are looking to start your recovery or are looking for more resources to experience a life free from drugs and alcohol, we are here to help. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we focus on traditional and holistic treatment methods for mental health and substance abuse issues. We can help set you up with essential tools and resources to ensure lasting recovery. For more information on the 12 Steps or about other treatment options we offer, give us a call at (760) 492-6509.