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12 Step Program Basics

stepsSubstance recovery can be challenging to achieve due to the multiple aspects of a person’s life that should be addressed during recovery. Often, individuals are not equipped to face the issues on their own and must consider professional or structured help to reach successful recovery.

One of the most well-known and common types of structured recovery support is the 12-Step Facilitation Therapy. It is considered to be a leading therapy in treating substance abuse as it focuses on creating and maintaining a safe environment through regular meetings and fellowship.

The History of the 12-Step Program

Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson

Founder Bill Wilson built the model, in 1938, upon the support and experiences he had with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Once a Wall Street extraordinaire, Wilson’s career and life had been ruined by chronic alcoholism, at the age of 39 he accepted the need for treatment.  While in treatment he underwent a powerful spiritual experience; his depression and despair were lifted and he never sought another drink. Wilson was able to share the positive effects that occurred when people struggling with alcoholism were able to share their stories and develop support.

The 12-Step program is currently known as the Big Book. The steps were developed and built upon a six-step program adopted by the Oxford Group. In its purest form, the 12-Steps centers around a spiritual guidance and support from peers suffering from the same addiction struggles.

What is 12 Step Programming?

Considered an active therapy, 12-Step programming requires participation from the individuals using the program. The purpose of active participation is essential for the overall purpose of reaching sustained sobriety.  The process represents human structure in three dimensions which are physical, mental, and spiritual. It is suggested by Wilson that problems faced by those suffering from addiction manifest in each dimension and must be addressed properly.

The base of 12-Step is the belief that people can help each other through the recovery process to resist the urge toward addictive behavior. Interactions, group or duo, is carried out in periodic group meetings, fellowships, and sponsor/sponsee relationships. Members are encouraged to share their experiences with each other.

The Twelve Steps of 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 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.


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