Introduction to the 12 Step Recovery Process

No matter what type of person they are or where they come from, ask any addict working a recovery program what they think about the Twelve Steps (TS). You will get the same answer every time.

The Twelve Steps saved my life.

The Twelve Steps are a set of guiding principles in addiction treatment. These outline a course of action for tackling problems including alcoholism, drug addiction, and compulsion. The 12 steps are the following:

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Where did they originate?

The original TS program was developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA was founded in 1935 by physician Bob Smith and businessman Bill Wilson, who were both addicted to alcohol and looking to maintain their sobriety. The two men drew their inspiration for the TS from the Oxford Group who advocated that all problems rooted in fear and selfishness could be changed through the power of God by following “Four Absolutes.” These absolutes were a moral inventory of “absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love,” that could be maintained through sharing/confession.

The Oxford Group also believed in the work of American psychologist William James and medical professional William Silkworth, MD. William James held a philosophy of pragmatism and “The Will to Believe” doctrine. This doctrine focused on changing the inner attitudes of the mind, through which we can change the outer aspect of life. William Silkworth, MD, was one of the first medical professionals to characterize alcoholism as a disease.

When AA was founded in 1935 by Bill W. and Dr. Bob as a fellowship of alcoholics working together to overcome their drinking problems, the TS acted as a set of principles for spiritual and character development- a blueprint for recovery.  These guidelines are a way of life and have enabled many of us to experience freedom from ourselves and to become whole.

How and Why Does It Work?

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, “Twelve Step facilitation therapy is a tried-and-true proven approach.” There’s a reason, after all, why people still “work the Steps” more than 80 years later. But how does it work? People are encouraged to take an honest look at themselves, then deconstruct their egos and rebuild, little by little. Why does it work? The Steps encourage the practice of honesty, humility, acceptance, courage, compassion, forgiveness, and self-discipline—pathways to positive behavioral change, emotional well-being, and spiritual growth.

The goal of the TS is to change the way we think. By changing the way we think, we will effectively change our behaviors.

Another reason why the TS is so effective is that it encourages reliance on a Higher Power.  You do not have to be religious to work the steps. One just must believe in a power greater than oneself. That could be as simple as the power of sharing with one another in a group setting. The choice of which Higher Power to believe is a very personal choice and completely up to the individual working the steps. Some of us are comfortable with calling our Higher Power God, while others are not. That is okay. Even so, relying on something outside of yourself is necessary to remain sober.

Do You Want More Information About the Twelve Steps?

If you need more information about the Twelve Steps, we would love to help you. Perhaps you have questions that we did not answer here. Please reach out to us!

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