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The 12 Steps to Recovery

Most people have heard of the 12-step program structured within Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. But many people do not know the specifics behind the 12-steps. This article will familiarize you with one of the most successful alcohol recovery programs.


So what is the history behind the 12-step program? A.A. was began in 1935 by two men who believed that they could solve their own drinking problems by helping others with their drinking problems. They believed they had a medical condition (a view not believed by many at the time) that needed extra care and help from others. Alcohol addiction is now thought to be a disease by much of the medical community and is the third biggest killer in the United States. A.A. began in the United States and is headquartered now in New York, however, each group that meets is an autonomous group who work together to help one another.

There are no required fees or membership dues however many times donations are encouraged. It is easy to find an A.A. office, most urban areas have an office you can contact. A.A. endorses total sobriety and strives to keep your membership anonymous as both are what help A.A. to work.

So what are the 12 steps to recovery? The following is taken from the A.A. website:


  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 all 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.”

Yet the 12 steps do not stop there. Alcoholics Anonymous programs are found throughout the world in 150 countries with other 2 million members and over 100,000 groups. As an example, the A.A. program in Australia espouses the 12 steps. Also, other programs have espoused the A.A. 12-steps - the Cocaine Anonymous group helps those struggling with cocaine addictions in much the same way A.A. members help each other. So if you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, contact your local office to see what resources and help is available.

The 12 Steps to Recovery Sources

  • Alcoholics Anonymous, “A.A. At a Glance,” [online]. Alcoholics Anonymous, “A.A.’s Twelve Steps,” [online].
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Australia, “The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,” [online].
  • Cocaine Anonymous, “Twelve Steps,” [online]. General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous “A.A. Fact File,” [pdf online].
  • General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous “A brief guide to Alcoholics Anonymous,” [pdf online].

Related Article: Choosing a Recovery Support Group >>

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