Are you or a loved one looking for a sober living program? Give us a call! 424-327-4614

Are you or a loved one looking for a sober living program?  Give us a call!

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship of people with a drinking problem. It’s nonprofessional, self-supporting, and multiracial and open to anyone who wants to do something about their drinking problems. Through the Twelve Steps, AA members give one another support by sharing their experience, strength, and hope with each other to recover from alcoholism and stay sober.

History of AA’s 12 Steps

The Twelve Steps of AA were originally published in 1939 in the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story Of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism. The content was based on a program developed by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S., two AA members who had already succeeded in staying sober.

The 12 steps have since become the mainstay of recovery for millions worldwide with alcohol dependency and substance abuse. The program is based on a three-fold approach emphasizing spiritual awakenings, physical health, and psychological healing.

Due to the success of AA, similar self-help support groups have emerged, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), founded in the late 1940s. NA adapted the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of AA to address drug addiction. Over time, other groups like Gamblers Anonymous (GA), Overeaters Anonymous (OA), and Al-Anon (for family and friends of alcoholics) have also adopted the Twelve Step model to address a variety of addiction and behavioral issues.

These groups have gained popularity because they provide a structured and supportive framework for recovery. They offer a sense of community and understanding that can be significant in helping individuals break free from their addictions. Additionally, the Twelve Steps’ adaptability has allowed them to be applied to various personal challenges beyond substance abuse, contributing to their enduring influence in the self-help and recovery communities worldwide.

History of AA's 12 Steps

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Each step of the 12 steps of AA is essential for personal recovery and addiction treatment as part of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. Here’s a breakdown of them:

Step 1

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

Recognizing that our lives have become unmanageable is the first step in recovery. This means acknowledging that we are addicted to alcohol and unable to control our drinking and that it has caused significant damage to our physical, mental, and emotional health and relationships. This can be a difficult but necessary realization for many people to begin recovery. Through this acknowledgment, we can start reclaiming control of our lives and begin healing.

Step 2

We believed that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

The second step is often referred to as the spiritual awakening step. This means we are open to finding a higher power – greater than ourselves that can help us find sanity and sobriety. This concept is often seen as a way to connect with others in recovery and for people to rely on something larger than themselves for guidance and direction in life.

Step 3

We decided to turn our will and lives to God’s care as we understood Him.

The third step involves deciding to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. This means that we are willing to accept help from a higher power, whether it’s an understanding of God, a belief in spirituality, or simply surrendering to something larger than ourselves. It helps us let go of control when faced with difficult decisions and allows us to trust that we are being taken care of.

Step 4

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

The fourth step is about taking a moral inventory of ourselves and being willing to look at our past behavior honestly and without fear. This means being honest about how our addiction has hurt us and those around us. This step allows us to take ownership of our mistakes and make amends for past wrongs.

Step 4

Step 5

We admitted to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

The fifth step involves admitting to God, ourselves, and another human being the nature of our wrongs. This is an important step in recovery as it helps us confront our wrongdoings with honesty and humility. By confessing to someone else, we can make amends for our actions and accept responsibility without judgment. It also creates a safe space to process our thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism. This can be an important step in the healing process, as it helps us move forward with our recovery.

Step 6

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

The sixth step involves being entirely ready to have God remove all our character defects. This means we are willing to let go of the negative behaviors and habits holding us back, such as dishonesty, anger, and selfishness. This step allows us to find inner strength and courage to change our lives. By letting go of these negative traits, we can start to focus on how to recover from alcoholism and make progress towards sobriety.

Step 7

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

The seventh step involves humbly asking God to remove our shortcomings. This is an important step in the recovery process as it helps us to be honest about our flaws and accept responsibility for them. By acknowledging our issues and asking for help, we can start to make changes that will lead to a more positive future. Through this step, we let go of past mistakes and open ourselves up to the possibility of growth and healing.

Step 8

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

The eighth step involves making a list of all the people we have harmed and becoming willing to make amends to them all. This step helps us take responsibility for our wrongdoings and how they have impacted others. It requires us to think about our behavior, reflect on how it has hurt those around us, and work towards making things right. By being honest about our mistakes and open to making amends, we can start to restore relationships and heal the wounds that have been caused. This step is essential in adolescent recovery since they require the support of those around them.

STEP 8

Step 9

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when doing so would injure them or others.

The ninth step involves making direct amends to those we have harmed, wherever possible. This means we take responsibility for our wrongdoings and try to repair any damage. In some cases, this may mean apologizing in person or sending a letter of apology. It’s important to remember that making amends does not necessarily mean offering compensation or material goods but instead being open to restoring relationships that have been broken. This step is important for helping us let go of guilt and shame around our mistakes and take ownership of our recovery.

Step 10

We continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

The tenth step involves continuing to take personal inventory and promptly admitting when we are wrong. This means being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and behavior and owning up to it if we make a mistake. This is an important part of recovery as it helps us stay accountable for our actions and think before we act. We must be willing to admit our mistakes to move forward in our journey and make positive changes in our lives.

Step 11

Through prayer and meditation, we sought 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 about seeking guidance and strength through prayer and meditation. This means connecting with a higher power, whether God or another spiritual force, to develop our understanding of His will for us. Through this step, we can gain clarity on our goals, direction on achieving them, and the strength to carry them out. Connecting with a higher power allows us to open ourselves up to new possibilities and stability to help us recover. Prayer, along with other things learned in the 12 steps, can be helpful tools of recovery that help individuals in the long run.

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.

The twelfth step involves having a spiritual awakening due to completing the previous eleven steps. This means recognizing that something is bigger than ourselves at work and allowing this power to guide us in our daily decisions. Through this step, we can find guidance on staying sober and practicing these principles in all aspects of our lives. Not only does this help us stay on the path to recovery, it also enables us to become role models for other recovering alcoholics and offer support to those in need. By understanding that we are part of a larger journey and taking responsibility for our actions, we can start to live in alignment with our highest selves and make positive changes in the world.

STEP 12

Get the Help You Need at Design For Recovery

At Design for Recovery, we find effective alcohol rehabilitation programs near you. Our knowledgeable and experienced team will help you find the right treatment program that meets your needs while providing professional support.

If you are looking for Alcoholics Anonymous groups near you, contact us today at 424-327-4614 to begin your journey toward recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions About 12 Steps of AA

The success rate of the 12-step Program in treating addiction varies greatly, depending on factors such as length of treatment, type of addiction, and level of commitment to the program. Studies have shown that those who fully engage in the 12-step process can experience significant improvement in their overall health and well-being.

Each step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is important for different reasons. For example, Step 1 acknowledges that an individual has a problem with alcohol and cannot control their drinking alone. Step 2 recognizes that there is a higher power greater than ourselves that can help us in our recovery. Step 3 encourages individuals to surrender their will and life to the care of this higher power. Step 4 focuses on moral inventory and making amends for past wrongs. Step 5 requires the individual to admit their wrongdoings to another person to begin restoring relationships harmed by addiction. Steps 6 and 7 emphasize humility and asking God to help remove our shortcomings. Finally, steps 8-12 focus on living a life of sobriety, taking responsibility for our actions, and making amends to those we have harmed. By working through each step in the program, individuals can experience significant personal growth and healing.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous program is designed to help individuals overcome addiction and achieve lasting sobriety. The steps involve acknowledging that there is an issue with alcohol, seeking help from a higher power, taking inventory of our wrongdoings, admitting them to another person, asking God for help in removing our shortcomings, making amends with those we have harmed, and continuing to practice these principles in all aspects of our lives. By following each step and engaging fully with the program, individuals can gain clarity on their goals and take ownership of their recovery.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are outlined in Chapter 5, titled “How It Works”, of the Big Book, officially known as “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism”. The steps begin on page 59 of the book.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are based on the concept of spiritual development and moral inventory. The steps involve acknowledging that there is an issue with alcohol, seeking help from a higher power, taking inventory of our wrongdoings, admitting them to another person, asking God for help in removing our shortcomings, making amends with those we have harmed, and continuing to practice these principles in all aspects of our lives. This program is based on the belief that individuals can achieve lasting sobriety by engaging fully with the 12 Steps and coming to terms with their addiction.

The AA Responsibility Statement is a pledge that members of Alcoholics Anonymous make to stay sober and practice the 12 Steps in all aspects of their lives. By making this statement, members commit to living up to the principles outlined in the program and acting with honesty and integrity. This statement serves as an important reminder of their commitment to sobriety. It can help individuals stay on the path of recovery. The statement reads, “I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there, and for that, I am responsible”.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous involve a spiritual component essential to the program’s success. The steps include recognizing a higher power greater than ourselves and allowing this power to guide us in our recovery journey. By connecting with this higher power, individuals can tap into their inner strengths to help them stay sober and live an authentic life.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are not based on the Bible. However, some people incorporate religious or spiritual elements into their recovery. The program is based on the principles of spirituality and moral inventory, and it allows individuals to define what a higher power means to them regarding their personal beliefs. Ultimately, everyone’s journey is unique and should be specialized according to what they believe.

The principles of the 12 Steps outlined in Alcoholics Anonymous are similar to many other mutual support programs for substance use disorders. These programs generally focus on the same principles, such as taking responsibility for one’s actions, seeking help from a higher power, making amends with those we have harmed, and continuing to practice these principles in all our lives. They all help beat addiction and help with mental health services administration.

  1. Greenfield, B. L., & Tonigan, J. S. (2013). The general alcoholics anonymous tools of recovery: the adoption of 12-step practices and beliefs.Psychology of addictive behaviors : journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors, 27(3), 553–561. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029268

  2. Nash A. J. (2020). The Twelve Steps and Adolescent Recovery: A Concise Review.Substance abuse : research and treatment, 14, 1178221820904397. https://doi.org/10.1177/1178221820904397

  3. Tonigan, J. S., Rynes, K. N., & McCrady, B. S. (2013). Spirituality as a change mechanism in 12-step programs: a replication, extension, and refinement.Substance use & misuse, 48(12), 1161–1173. https://doi.org/10.3109/10826084.2013.808540

  4. Brigham G. S. (2003). 12-step participation as a pathway to recovery: the Maryhaven experience and implications for treatment and research.Science & practice perspectives, 2(1), 43–51. https://doi.org/10.1151/spp032143

Author

Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

RADT
David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen
IMG-1545

LMFT
Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

We Can Help

Design for Recovery - Locations Pages Contact Form

Read More

Addiction & Recovery

Sober Living in Los Angeles - Design for Recovery

About Us

Design for Recovery empowers men struggling with addiction by providing 24/7 support, mentorship, and teaches them how to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Chat with us on Facebook
relapse prevention

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? We can help!

Our advisors are waiting for your call: 424-327-4614

Reach out to us today.

Design For Recovery is committed to helping you or your loved one live a fulfilling life free from alcohol and drug addiction. Below you can find out what to expect when you contact us for help.

Call us at (424) 327-4614 or fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you soon.

Send us a message below and we will reach out to you.
Design for Recovery Contact - Popup