What are the 12 Steps of Recovery?

What are the 12 steps to recovery? Alcoholics Anonymous or AA was founded in the 1930’s. Its 12 steps to recovery are stated in an AA guidebook known as the Big Book. It begins with step 1, which is basically admitting that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and ends with step 12, which requires you to carry the message of AA out into the world to help others struggling with addiction as you once were.

Here is a comprehensive list of AA’s Twelve Steps:

1. You admit to yourself that your life has become unmanageable due to your addiction.
2. You come to believe that a greater power can restore sanity in your life.
3. You make a decision and a commitment to turn power over your life to your higher power, whatever you conceive that to be.
4. You must make a fearless moral inventory of yourself.
5. You must admit your mistakes to yourself, your higher power and at least one other human being.
6. You prepare yourself to have your higher power remove your faults.
7. You ask your higher power to remove these faults.
8. You make a list of all the people who you have harmed by your addiction, and you prepare to make amends.
9. You make amends to those affected, unless this would cause them more harm.
10. You remain vigilant and keep an accounting of your behavior, and when you are wrong, you admit it.
11. You continue to seek out and commune with your higher power, seeking enlightenment and knowledge of what your higher power wants you to do.
12. You take the message of AA out into the world to help others caught up in addiction, and you practice the principles of AA in all your affairs.

Working the AA Steps

First of all, keep in mind that these are the 12 steps to recovery according to AA. That doesn’t mean it’s the only way to get and remain sober.

What do all these steps mean exactly? First of all, actually working these steps as intended is far more work that you could possibly imagine. However, you’re not expected to figure it all out on your own. AA provides worksheets and a sponsor to help you. A sponsor is an AA member, preferably of the same sex, who has already worked the 12 steps and who is a member in good standing with AA. This person typically has years of sobriety.

Intimate relationships between unrelated AA members are discouraged. This is not what AA is about. This is the main reason why sponsors are almost always of the same sex. In fact, there is a derogatory term among AA members called a thirteenth stepper. This is an AA member, typically male, who tries to take emotional, sexual and possibly financial advantage of new female AA members.

AA steps one to three isn’t really that much of a challenge and can be done unilaterally. However, the real work starts with step 4. The worksheet for step 4 is incredibly detailed and can take months to complete. You cannot move on to the next step until you have properly completed the one before it.

Steps 8 and 9

These are the most notorious and controversial of all the 12 steps. They are also the most impractical in many cases. Make a list of all the people who you have harmed by your addiction? That could be a very, very long list. You might not even remember them all or be unaware of some of them.

How do you make amends for past wrongs? Sometimes, this may not even be possible. It might cause even more harm to try. This is why the step says to leave it alone rather than cause more harm, but how could you be sure someone from your past even wants you to make amends to them? Maybe they’d rather just leave the matter in the past where they think it belongs.

You could really barge into somebody’s life with step 9.

Is AA for You?

For sure, the 12 step program is not for everyone. AA is intolerant of any type of medication, such as Suboxone, methadone, or naltrexone, for the treatment of opioid addiction or any kind of addiction. If you’re using these medications, you’re probably better off avoiding AA. However, if you’d like to know more about AA in your area, we can help. AA has chapters all over the country. We can help you find one near you, and we can also discuss other options with you. Just call us at 833-497-3808 24 hours a day for the information you need.