Understanding the 12 Steps Of AA

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is among the most preferred methods in helping not only alcoholics, but even persons who are struggling with other forms of addictions such as drugs, gambling, and computer games. An article published by the American Society of Addiction Medicine also touted the activities of Alcoholics Anonymous as among the “most familiar recovery activities” where persons with addiction engage in.

And while there are those who find the 12 steps program for addiction controversial, experts in the medical field believe that treating patients with addiction will find help in acquiring a well-rounded knowledge that does not exclude “recovery activities.”


Where do the 12 steps of AA come from?

In the 1930s, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, were members of an evangelical movement called the First Century Christian Fellowship. The movement was established by a Christian missionary named Frank Buchman. The group, which became more known as the Oxford Group, advocated Christian living influencing its members to voluntarily quit drinking. While Smith struggled with alcoholism despite being a member of an Oxford Group in Ohio, Wilson was successfully recovering as he continued to work with other alcoholics.

When the two met, Wilson was able to explain to Smith that alcoholism was a disease affecting the mind. It wasn’t long before the two founded the Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935 and the Big Book, outlining the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, was published four years after.

Get to know what the “12 Steps of AA” are, and how they guide a person who is struggling from addiction, which might not be that of alcohol or substance, but other things that manifest risky compulsive behaviors, as well.

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First Step

We admit that we are powerless over alcohol. Our uncontrollable habits have also made our lives miserable.

Addiction to alcohol or any substance undergoes a cycle in the brain, affecting the main regions of the brain and therefore causing behavioral changes in a person. The first step of the 12 Steps of AA summarizes the person’s weakness in managing addiction by himself.

A study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry defines addiction as the “most severe form of substance use disorder.” As a chronic brain disorder, addiction affects a person’s behavior without him having control over it. When a person is addicted to alcohol, a habit, or other substance, they can no longer regulate their behavior and consumption. The person’s “powerlessness” over addiction is causing adverse effects on his health, relationships, and his life, in general, making everything seem “unmanageable.”

When a person admits his weakness over managing an addiction, he allows himself to accept interventions to help him cope with the disorder. Intervention might come from the family, health care providers or peers. The important thing is, the individual is opening up to the ways that will pave way for the other steps towards recovery.

Second Step

A Higher Power can help us overcome our weaknesses

The second step of the 12 Steps of AA highlights the message of hope for recovery to persons suffering from substance use disorder. If a person would believe that a “Power” greater than himself will help him, there is hope. The belief of a “higher power” is connected with the first step of admission that addiction will be difficult to cope with if the person will not recognize that he needs help and that there is a problem. The “Power” mentioned may refer to an entity outside oneself who can help guide the person or inspire the person to become better.

Third Step

We decide to turn our lives to the Higher Power who will care for us and help us.

Both the second and third steps have come to discuss the concept of asking help from a “Higher Power” to help a person struggling from alcoholism. Usually, non-religious are put off by the concept of having a “higher power” helping them. However, the 12 steps of AA are subjected to various interpretations, and the concept of “Power” is openly discussed as a person’s fate. For instance, Secular Alcoholics Anonymous does not endorse any belief system or religion in using the 12 steps of AA. It helps individuals to recover from alcoholism without denying one’s own belief system.

The concept of a “Supreme Being” or deity is personal. It may be interpreted as the strength of human nature or the journey to recovery that a person will undergo. The experience of transforming into a better person is always beyond the person’s concept of who he is. It might also refer to his friends and families who support him. Turning the lives to a Higher Power means asking for intervention, feeling more positive, grateful and practicing meditation to process one’s experiences, emotions, and behaviors.

Fourth Step

We fearlessly confront ourselves and admit the wrong deeds we have done.

In the fourth step, a person continues to recognize the wrong habits and the effect of his behaviors to others. With admission comes the recognition that something needs to change. This strengthens the previous three steps where a person would get to the root of his weaknesses and ask intervention from others to support him to become better and abandon the negative habits. This step also helps a person in taking into account his strengths that will build his confidence in making better decisions.

Fifth Step

We admit to the Higher Power, to ourselves, and to other people our wrongdoings.

After looking deep into oneself, the next step needed is to recognize the wrong deed to other people to help a person release the guilt, shame, and pent-up negative emotions and seek forgiveness. This step helps a person to speak to others as part of the recovery process. Studies show that support groups or self-help groups, such as the peer group of AAs, are recognized as vital parts of the informal care that should be afforded to persons with substance use disorder.

Sixth Step

We are ready to allow the Higher Power to remove our defective characters.

This step is regarded as a challenging step of the 12 Steps AA as it means the start of the abandonment of the bad habits that have affected a person. Changing bad behaviors is easier said than done. Individuals who have been used to doing something often find it difficult to learn a new habit. Backed with the previous five steps, this step will prove to be more easily compared to confronting addiction alone and in private.

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Seventh Step

We humbly ask the Higher Power to remove our wrong deeds.

The Seventh Step appears similar to the Third and Sixth Steps. The difference is after preparing for changes to take place from the first two steps, the Seventh Step has more conviction of asking the Higher Power to change what should be changed and be humble in asking that greater force to help the person in overcoming the shortcomings. It can be noticed that the value of humility is mentioned in this step to highlight the need for acceptance and a positive attitude that owns up one’s responsibility and acknowledges the need to change oneself.

Eighth Step

We listed all the persons whom we harmed, and we are willing to make amends with them.

The Eighth Step is a continuation of the Fourth Step – from the admission of the wrongdoings, the person is getting ready to make amends and restore broken relationships that were affected by the addiction. This step will help a person move forward and regain the trust of other people who might have been affected by his wrongdoings. Preparing a list of people to whom a person needs to make amends with shows his seriousness and sincerity in taking proper actions to rectify the mistakes he committed.

Ninth Step

“We make amends with the people wherever it is possible.”

The Ninth Step clearly guides a person that making amends is a difficult thing to do. It is not as easy expressing apologies to the person who suffered because of someone’s wrongdoings. It gives a reminder that only when making amends is possible – only when the other person is also willing to make amends with us – can reconciliation succeed. A person who is recovering from substance use disorder should understand that forgiving takes time and is not easy even if one party wants it badly.

Tenth Step

We continue to make personal reflection and promptly admit our wrongdoing.

This step bolsters a person’s maturity to own up to his mistake whenever he commits it. Self-reflection or personal inventory also shows a person’s growth as he is more aware of the consequences of his actions. For those who are recovering alcoholics, this attitude is very helpful in preventing relapse. This also reinforces the lessons and practices that a person has started in the first nine steps.

Eleventh Step

We can strengthen our bond with the Greater Power through meditation and prayer

The Eleventh Step is where a person strengthens his commitment to become a better person by practicing self-restraint, meditation, and prayer. Building a stronger relationship with the Greater Power, whether it is God or the process of becoming better is similar to committing oneself to follow the right path.

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Twelfth Step

As we experience spiritual awakening from following these steps, we will try to bring this message to other people who need our help.

The twelfth step is the commitment to become an active person who is conscious of how he can positively impact the lives of other people. This step encourages the person to become selfless in helping others. While this step might be difficult, it motivates a recovering addict or alcoholic to become more responsible and helps a person find a new purpose in life.

Today, millions of alcoholics found the road towards lasting recovery by following the 12 Steps of AA. The 12 steps that originated from the Alcoholics Anonymous were also adopted by other groups of people who are struggling with other substances and vices such as Nicotine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Liars Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Families Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Emotional Health Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous, among others.

All of these things have one thing in common – addiction. But the 12 steps introduced by the Alcoholics Anonymous eight decades ago offer them the guide that apparently worked in managing addiction. Moreover, the best thing that most members laud here is the peer support group whom they worked with in achieving their common goal.

Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-276-2886 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.

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Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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