Understanding the Alcoholic Anonymous 12 Steps

Understanding the Alcoholic Anonymous 12 Steps

What Are The 12 Steps Exactly?
The Principles Behind The 12 Steps Explained


Read on for a list of the 12 steps and a discussion of the principles behind the 12 steps


Almost everyone has heard about the Alcoholic Anonymous 12 steps at one time or another. Even if you don’t have a drinking problem, you have probably heard the phrase associated with this group:

“Hi, my name is _____, I am an alcoholic”.

Even though behavioral health professionals and social workers are likely to work with individuals with substance abuse in different practice settings beyond specialty treatment, the AA 12 step alcohol treatment program has, rightly or wrongly, become THE choice of treatment and recovery program for alcohol dependents and medical professionals alike over the years of its existence.

It is called a 12 step program because it involves following, or taking 12 steps. These 12 steps if followed, will ‘guarantee’ sobriety (at least according to AA).

Every AA meeting will have a list of the 12 steps in full-view of the participants. They are at the very core of the Alcoholics Anonymous program

You can never complete the 12 steps of AA. There is a beginning, the first step, but no end. From the moment you undertake the program you are, to use AA parlance, constantly ‘working the steps’ in your life.

So what are the 12 steps?

The 12 Steps were created in 1938 by the fledgling AA founders and it originally appeared in what’s known to legions of recovering adults as the Big Book. In Alcoholics Anonymous, sobriety is upheld by thoroughly applying this 12-Step concept and by imparting experiences and stories with other people who have endured similar problems.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Founded in 1935, AA is the oldest, most famous, and most effective mutual help organization all over world. Its members make it the most well-known and most widely used treatment for alcohol abuse and it has encouraged many imitators, such as the Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

The  A.A. introduced the concept of the Twelve Steps as a way to recovery. The Twelve Steps have been adopted to support individuals recovering from other addictions (e.g., Narcotics Anonymous), the families of those recovering from addiction (e.g., Al-Anon, Alateen, Nar-Anon), and people with weight or dietary issues (e.g., Overeaters Anonymous).

“If at any point you’re struggling with your sobriety, speak to one of our supportive counselors. With many having first-hand experience, they have been in your shoes. The free chat is confidential & they are available 24/7.”

Alcoholics Anonymous
What are the 12 Steps?

  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Alcoholic Anonymous 12 Steps
Ever Increasing Popularity

Ever since the first group of alcoholics involved in the program opened their arms and their doors in the 1930’s to begin its level of popularity has continued to increase worldwide.

However, despite its popularity and widespread acceptance, ONLY 5% of alcoholics remain sober after 3 years of attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
For alternatives to the Alcoholic Anonymous 12 steps model read our pages on AA alternatives.

Individuals that are involved in peer-groups of the Alcoholic Anonymous 12 steps program
don’t think that quitting drinking is easy.

They believe that it takes a large amount of willingness to change in attitudes and acts on the alcoholic individual’s part to successfully be able to make a positive change in their life without alcohol.

This change is achieved through the involvement of four individual phases which can be seen in the list of the 12 steps above. These phases are…

        • An admission on the alcoholic individual’s part that they indeed have an addiction to alcohol and need to abstain from alcohol.
        • Submission of the alcoholic person’s will and life to the power of God or a Higher Authority.
        • The act of restitution with individuals that the alcoholic has harmed in any way.
        • Spreading the message of AA and the 12 steps and principles to achieve each of the above, providing each person with a healthy alcohol-free life and the ability to help others.

Recovering alcoholics continue to live by the 12 steps in order to stay sober. The reason they continue live these principles is to learn a new healthier, happier and freer way of living, while removing various alcoholic behaviors that may be in their way.

12 Steps AA
3 Parts to the Alcoholic

One of the principles behind the Alcoholic Anonymous 12 steps program is that each alcoholic has three parts that go to make up the entire individual.

These parts are the spiritual, mental and physical parts and each of these parts suffer when an individual suffers from addiction to alcohol.

Recovering alcoholics follow the AA 12 step program and engage in regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings through sharing experiences, knowledge, and care for others. By doing this a true or ‘spiritual’ healing, can occur to the three parts of a person.

Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps
The Guiding of New Members

Through the Alcoholic Anonymous 12 steps meetings, new members of the group are often able to identify similarities in messages that other alcoholics share within the group, resulting in the realization and admission that they themselves have a problem with alcohol.

By each individual following this same 12 step path to healing, it makes it easier for those further along the path to help those just starting their journeys to sobriety.

Another of the principles behind the 12 Steps is that they represent a progressive healing that not only helps heal the body but the mind and soul, as well.

By breaking the process down into 12 consecutive steps the founders (for more on the roots of AA, read the history of Alcoholics Anonymous) of AA were making the process easier for people to follow on their personal journey to sobriety.

If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed