12-Step Programs for Addiction Treatment

The 12 steps were created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s as a model and process of recovery for alcoholism. Since then, many groups have used the 12-step model to form other programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, to adapt to their group’s needs. 

The 12 steps are based on spiritual principles, with strong emphasis on being non-denominational and empowering each individual to explore and discover what “higher power” means to them. Newcomers are encouraged to not let the word “God” deter them from seeking recovery from addiction through the 12-step program, which countless people, many of them nonreligious, have found immensely helpful. 

As 12-step programs have evolved and branched off of the original foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous, so have the types of meetings themselves, varying from open and closed meetings, women’s meetings and men’s meetings, to LGBTQ+ meetings, to Agnostic and Atheist meetings. 

The 12 Steps 

Recovery is a lifelong process and there is no “wrong” way to approach the steps, though it is generally suggested to not try to do them alone, but instead work through them with a sponsor. A sponsor’s role in a recovery program is to guide someone as they work the 12 steps. The steps are not a list of actions to be checked off and never returned to, but are a continual process of personal and spiritual growth. 

Here are the 12 Steps as defined by Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
  8. Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  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.
  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 12 Traditions

While the 12 steps speak to an individual, the 12 traditions of a 12-step program are foundational guidelines for a group, to help them stay on track and unified with their primary purpose of recovery.  

The 12 traditions as stated in Alcoholics Anonymous: 

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority–a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10.  Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities

Finding a 12-Step Meeting

Alcoholics Anonymous has more than 50,000 meetings nationwide, and thousands more internationally. There are also many other programs based on the 12 steps, such as Narcotics Anonymous, that are growing increasingly prevalent as well. To find a meeting near you, a great place to start is www.aa.org

At Oasis Recovery, we believe recovery is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and we support clients in exploring many different modalities of recovery, including 12-step meetings, to find their path of greatest freedom. For more information, download our free e-book to get started on a journey of mindful recovery today. With questions regarding our program options and how to get started, click here.