Breakdown of 12-Step Programs

12-Step programming is viewed by many as the core of addiction recovery. Developed in 1935 by Bill Wilson, known through the

May 14

12-Step programming is viewed by many as the core of addiction recovery. Developed in 1935 by Bill Wilson, known through the program as Bill W., the 12-Steps came to be when Bill finally defeated his own bout with alcoholism. Upon overcoming this troublesome disease, Bill put together the 12-Steps as a guideline based on how he was able to achieve sobriety. By 1939, Bill had published the Big Book for Alcoholics Anonymous (affectionately known as “the big book”), which would soon begin serving as a Bible for those in recovery.

Recognizing that recovery is impossible without the support of others, Bill also developed Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, where alcoholics could come together to practice the 12-Steps from the Big Book and overcome this disease together. Today, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are all over the world, as are Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings.

What are the 12-Steps?

The 12 Steps are not religious in any way, or a part of any other entity or sect. However, the steps are rooted in the notion that anyone who incorporates them into their lives does so with the belief of having a higher power of their choosing. The 12 Steps are as follows:


  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 a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

It is important to note that while the 12 Steps reference alcoholism and alcoholics, that the steps themselves can be applied to anyone who is struggling with addiction or dependency problems.

12 step program

What to Expect in a 12-Step Program

12-Step programs have been and continue to be one of the most common forms of addiction treatment for millions of people throughout the world. Whether one participates in a 12-Step program within a treatment center or does so voluntarily on his or her own time, this model helps countless people uphold their sobriety and delve deeper into their recovery process.

Despite what many people might think in regards to 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, these programs offer more to participants than just a place to vent about their alcoholism. Instead, 12-Step programs encourage deep thought, soul-searching, and expression of emotions in ways that help everyone involved grow in their recovery. With more than 2 million members in over 115,000 groups worldwide, those in AA and other 12-Step programs can stand to expect many benefits of this program.

When you decide to participate in a 12-Step program, you will attend a meeting of your choice. There, you will gather with other men and women who share similar experiences to yours and who are willing to share their thoughts and emotions surrounding those experiences. Some 12-Step programs will allow time for every person in the room to talk and share their thoughts, while other meetings will be led by one person while others simply listen. Almost all meetings will be guided by a speaker or someone who is heading up the group for that day and will focus on one topic to get the ball rolling. While many people will stick to the topic of the meeting, others will choose to discuss other pressing issues. Some meetings simply just allow for participants to share whatever they would like at any given moment. Because of this variation, those who strive to be a part of a 12-Step program are encouraged to go to more than one meeting (specifically, upwards of 6 different meetings) to help find at least one meeting that feels comfortable for them. So, when you are looking to join a 12-Step program, keep this in mind and do not give up if you go to a few meetings that are not to your taste.

Outside of the logistical aspects of 12-Step programming like those listed above, you can also expect a number of different progressions in your wellbeing while in this type of programming. Designed to help you deeply analyze yourself, your disease, and the impact that your addiction has had on both yourself and others, the 12 Steps themselves will encourage positive growth if you allow them to. For instance, 12-Step programs often help individuals identify a higher power, which helps guide them through the rest of the steps. Also, you will be encouraged to obtain a sponsor, which is someone who has been in the program for a while and who can help you study and apply the steps to your life.

Most importantly, it is imperative to understand that 12-Step programs work best when you are actively engaged in the process and “work the steps”. This means that rather than just recite the 12 Steps, you take action with each and every one and work to apply them to your life going forward. As stated in the 12th step, you are striving to achieve a spiritual awakening that can help you remain comfortable in your recovery and then give back to others within this community who are in need.

12-Step programs are as successful as they are because it takes a community and the support of people who are understanding and compassionate to help others maintain recovery.

Get Help Today

If you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, know that you are not alone. Millions of people have faced similar challenges like those that you are experiencing right now. Take the time to find a 12-Step meeting, make the effort to try it out, and see where it can take you. While many people get sober and remain in recovery through 12-Step programs, it is also extremely beneficial to obtain treatment through a professional facility.

So, do not wait. Call us right now and we can help you get started on the road to recovery.  

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