The 12 steps originated through the Alcoholics Anonymous programme (AA). The steps are a spiritual foundation for those who are looking for an individualised recovery from the effects they have experienced due to alcoholism.

The process focuses on helping the addict as well as their friends and family. The 12 steps can also be used to treat other addictions. However, it is most common in treating alcoholism.

Many people who go through with the 12 step recovery plan find that the steps don’t just provide a method for overcoming addictions. They also become a guide towards a completely new way of life.

The 12 steps, in themselves, are the main aspect of Alcoholics Anonymous. The steps are the directions that help to provide AA members with a path towards a lasting substance-free and sober lifestyle.

What is The 12-Step Recovery Process?

The original 12 steps have been altered through time. However, the premise remains the same for all of the steps in all of the recovery programmes that use this model.

Below is an overview of the 12 steps:

1. Honesty

After years and years of denial, alcohol recovery can start simply with an admission. This involves admitting that you are powerless over the substance of alcohol or anything else that you’re addicted to. Your family members and friends may also take part in this step by admitting to you that you have an addiction.

2. Faith

Before any higher powers can start to operate, you have to begin by truly believing that the higher power can come into action. If you have an addiction, you must truly believe that a higher power is out there to help you heal.

3. Surrender

You can easily change all of your bad decisions and behaviours by recognising that you can’t recover alone. However, you can recover with the help of a higher power.

4. Soul Searching

You must fully identify your problems and gather a clearer picture of the ways your behaviour has been affecting you and the people around you.

5. Integrity

In this step, you are provided with growth opportunities. In order to recover, you must admit your wrongs in front of another person and the higher power.

6. Acceptance

This step involves acceptance. You must accept your character flaws as they are and you must be fully willing to let these character defects go.

7. Humility

This step focuses on humility or on asking your higher power to help you with doing something you can’t do through your own self-will and that you can’t do with your own determination.

8. Willingness

In this step, you create a list of the people you may have harmed before entering the recovery process.

9. Forgiveness

Making amends can seem quite challenging. However, if you are serious about your recovery, this is a great first step in beginning to heal your relationships.

10. Maintenance

No person likes to admit when they are wrong. However, this is a very important step if you want to maintain your spiritual progress during your recovery.

11. Making Contact

The eleventh step’s purpose is to make a discovery to find out the plan that your higher power has for you and your life.

12. Service

When in recovery, you need to pass the message other people and you must put all of the principles of the programme into practice every single day in each of the different parts of your life.

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The Early Stages of The 12-Step Programme

The 12 steps that are used in modern times are based upon the same ideas and principles as those that were created by the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous back in the 1930s. The original 12 steps were focused on the power of God. However, this has now been adopted. It now refers to any type of higher power that the person may believe in.

Believing in a higher power can help a person find some kind of life meaning outside of their addiction. For example, they may start to find a much better sense of community. They can do this by joining some kind of religious or spiritual group.

Alternatively, they may take part in meditation or prayer. These are all healthy coping mechanisms that a person can turn to when they go through their alcohol recovery programme.

Does The 12-Step Model Work?

Due to the anonymity of the 12 step program and the lack of formal research surrounding this programme, it can be difficult to measure how effective it is. However, the mere prominence of this treatment plan and the many success stories that have come from it do suggest that it is effective.

At the very least, this type of treatment model provides encouragement, support, and accountability for those who genuinely do want to overcome their addictions. Meeting on regular occasions and the sponsorship model are great for encouraging the type of social support that has helped keep countless people away from substances and remain sober.

Newcomers in Alcoholics Anonymous

Newcomers are never asked to accept or follow the 12 step model in their entirety if they don’t want to or if they feel like they are unable to do so.

Instead, newcomers will be encouraged to keep an open mind and attend regular meetings. Some meetings will involve listening to recovered alcoholics who describe their personal experiences about their recovery and their journey towards achieving sobriety. Plus, newcomers will also be encouraged to read literature surrounding AA which describes and explains the AA programme.

AA members will usually encourage newcomers and they will also emphasise the view that the only problem that drinkers can determine themselves, individually, is whether a problem with alcohol is present and whether or not they are, in fact, an alcoholic.

In addition to this, it will be pointed out to all newcomers that all of the research and testimony surrounding alcoholism indicates that it is a progressive illness. It also suggests that it can’t simply be ‘cured’ in the usual sense of the term.

Instead, it can be arrested by the addict going through complete abstinence from alcoholic substances of any kind. If you would like to find out more about the 12-step programme or about addiction recovery in general, get in touch with us today.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: December 22, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.

Dr Adel Ghaly

    Dr Adel Ghaly - Clinical Reviewer - Last reviewed: December 15, 2023

    MB BCh, Psychological Medicine (Substance Misuse Psychiatry) from 2002

    Dr Adel Ghaly is a registered Doctor who is a specialist psychiatrist. Dr Ghaly gained an MB BCh in 1982 from Assiut University and has since become a substance misuse specialist and psychiatrist. After gaining his qualification in Psychological Medicine (Substance Misuse Psychiatry) in 2002, Dr Ghaly has worked in hospitals and as a specialist trainer recognised by the GMC.