The Twelve Steps

First published in the book Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939, the Twelve Steps continue to provide the foundation for my personal addiction recovery.  Many others have likewise found the Twelve Steps indispensable to their lives.  As was noted in The Buddhism and Addiction Series:

Alcoholics Anonymous is the most frequently used and the most widely available treatment program in the United States.  Because of the potential for long-term engagement, AA may be more accurately described as a form of aftercare rather than treatment.  Well over fifty percent of those who receive treatment for addiction will attend a 12-step meeting, and it is estimated that more than 5 million people attended such meetings over a 2-year period. Over 2 million people identify as members of AA, and printings of its “Big Book” have exceeded 25 million copies.  There are no membership dues or fees to become a member of AA though individuals may elect to make voluntary contributions to the organization.  According to its stated traditions, the only requirement for membership to the AA program is “the desire to stop drinking”.  The 12-steps and traditions of AA have been adapted to meet the needs of those seeking recovery from other addictions including drugs other than alcohol, food, gambling, and sex (citations omitted).

The 12 steps have been described as a “spiritual program for living”.  Though the 12 step model consists of many different facets — such as attending meetings, obtaining a sponsor, volunteering for service work, and otherwise interfacing with the fellowship — the centerpiece of the recovery program is in “working” the 12 steps.  This is usually done by the newcomer with the assistance of a sponsor who has previously worked the 12 steps.

The first 3 steps are mostly reflective and may be summarized quite simply as “I have a problem”; “I have identified a potential solution in the 12 steps”; and “I choose to follow the 12 step program as a solution to my problem”.  Steps 4 through 9 are known as the “action steps” wherein the individual makes a inventory of resentments and fears, identifies negative habituated life patterns, seeks to alter those destructive patterns, and makes amends for harms done.  The last three steps — steps 10, 11, and 12 — are known as “the maintenance steps” in which the individual applies the principles of the program to daily living, seeks to enlarge the spiritual dimensions of life, and endeavors to help others recover from addiction.