1-805-202-3440

24/7 Confidential Hotline

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Beginners Guide to the 12 Steps


We have all heard about Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step groups, and understand it to be a community-based self-serve treatment for overcoming an addiction to alcohol and other drugs. For many years, these groups formed the backbone of treatment in this country for alcoholism, and thus, still in operation today, their wisdom has certainly spanned the test of time. 


However, many of us have certain ideas about what 12-step groups look like, some that are rooted in truth, and others that do more harm than good to continue to believe. So, what are the 12 steps? Are they full of hundred-year-old wisdom? Or a sign that addiction treatment is out-of-date and could use its own recovery?

History of 12 Step Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) founders Bill Wilson and Bob Smith originally created the 12 Steps to demonstrate how they and hundreds of others obtained sobriety. The 12 steps and their counterpart, the twelve traditions are read at each community meeting and offer an outline of the emotional steps involved in the recovery process. 


Since then, variations of the 12 Steps have been developed and incorporated in many other groups and programs including Narcotics Anonymous, Eating Disorders Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, etc. Again, due to its success, many substance use facilities also incorporate the 12 steps into their treatment program

What are the 12 Steps?

The 12 Steps, as written in the Alcoholics Anonymous text include:

  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.

How do the 12 steps work?

Traditionally in Alcoholics Anonymous, someone seeking sobriety works through the steps with a sponsor. In the program, you’ll want to align yourself with a sponsor who regularly attends AA, is sober, has gone through all of the steps themselves, and ultimately lives the type of life you desire for yourself. 


A sponsor guides the individual seeking sobriety, also known as their sponsee, through the steps. This often includes daily phone calls, meeting individually, and going to AA meetings together. The sponsor can share from personal experience about the challenges and rewards of recovery, as well as provide individualized instructions and guidance for each step. 


The twelve steps are unique to each individual and can be tailored to what a person needs. This also means there is no set time limit or expectation to work through them. You could finish all of the steps in a matter of months, or spend years on one of the steps. You may need to go through the steps multiple times or start over if there is a lapse.


It is important to note that the 12 Steps are not the only way to recover, but have been a life-changing process for many individuals. Ultimately, it can be a great way to get plugged into the recovery community and fill your time once leaving a more intensive treatment environment.

How do the 12 steps help?

12 Step programs not only provide guidance on how to heal from addiction but also provide a support network of individuals who are also in various stages of healing. 


Those struggling with addiction often describe a void in their life —or a hole in the soul—that existed long before the addiction started. This emptiness can lead them towards using alcohol or drugs in an effort to fill that void, but ultimately lose control of their life. The 12 steps offer another solution to fill this void: a connection to a higher power, inner peace, and meaningful relationships with others to establish a successful life in recovery. 


Addiction can be incredibly isolating, and the connection within the fellowship of AA and 12 Step programs provides guidance and encouragement. The 12 steps require one to accept responsibility, make amends, and give to others. This fosters healthier and healed relationships and a community of individuals dedicated to recovery. 


The 12 steps pave the way for individuals to recognize and build connections to others and their higher power, and to trust their higher power in guiding them towards recovery and hope.

Twelve Step Programs and The Haven

12 Step programs are not just about cutting alcohol or drugs out of your life but to change the way in which you see the world, and develop a new lifestyle. As these goals are perfectly aligned with our philosophy of treatment at The Haven, we encourage our guests to develop a schedule of mutual recovery support groups according to their preferences. 


Recovery requires a life of humility, honesty, and integrity. This takes practice and is often a new way of thinking and living. If you have any concerns about your or a loved ones drinking or drug use, reach out to an intake coordinator to determine the resources available to you and to learn about treatment options.