The 12 Secular Steps of Recovery

The 12 Secular Steps of Recovery
(as adapted by AA Toronto Agnostics)

Adapting the 12 Steps is done with the full support of the Founders of AA.  Bill Wilson was quite clear about this flexibility in Chapter II, Unity, in 1957’s “Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age:”

“To some of us, the idea of substituting ‘good’ for ‘God’ in the Twelve Steps will seem like a watering down of AA’s message.  But here we must remember that AA’s steps are but suggestions only.  A belief in them as they stand is not at all a requirement for membership among us.  This liberty has made AA available to thousands who never would have tried at all, had we insisted on the Twelve Steps just as written.”

In keeping with Bill’s encouragement, agnostic AA groups have created their own versions of the 12 Steps, replacing religious words like “God”, “Him”, and “Power” (all capitalized in the steps) with secular alternatives.  These versions are not meant to replace the original 12 Steps, but are solely for the use of the group, based upon the conscience of its members.  Thus the versions often vary from one group to another.

Here is a secular version of the Steps used by Beyond Belief in Toronto:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to accept and to understand that we need strengths beyond our awareness and resources to restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the AA program.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to ourselves without reservation, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were ready to accept help in letting go of all our defects of character.
  7. Humbly sought to have our shortcomings removed.
  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 accept 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 mindful inquiry and meditation to improve our spiritual awareness, seeking only for knowledge of our rightful path in life and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.