How to Work the 12 Steps of AA: A Guide for Lasting Sobriety

The 12 Steps are a set of principles developed to help people struggling with addiction change their beliefs and behaviors. Together, they act as a framework for sustainable recovery. In addition, 12 Step communities of all types help provide the support and responsibility that many recovering addicts crave. According to the American Society for Addiction Medicine, Twelve Step Facilitation Therapy is a Tried and Proven Approach.

So why does it work? The steps encourage the practice of honesty, humility, acceptance, courage, compassion, forgiveness and self-discipline paths to positive behavior change, emotional well-being, and spiritual growth. To learn more about our Lifeline First Aid Program, call (88) 731-FIRE (347) today to talk to a treatment counselor about your options. In Al-Anon, the twelfth step says trying to get the message to “others” and in Alcoholics Anonymous it says alcoholics. But the principle is the same: to work on the 12 steps, you must try to help others.

Is AA right for you? To find out, it's important to carefully explore the principles of AA. For Wilson and Smith, surrendering to a “higher power” was an integral part of developing their plan. Today, some critics of the program find that aspect of AA problematic, arguing that self-empowerment is an effective way to control addiction and achieve lasting recovery. The first step in AA is to admit your helplessness, which boils down to a level of honesty that many addicts have not achieved until now.

Many people under the spell of addiction or alcoholism think that “it's not that bad or that they can” stop at any time. Step 2 is about finding faith in some higher power, and the accompanying principle of hope means that you should never give up that faith, even when you suffer a setback. This virtue is easy to understand when it comes to practicing it on a daily basis. In recovery, not every moment will be positive, but if you keep that hope and faith alive, you will return to the other side.

Step 4 involves documenting all the mistakes you've made and is clearly linked to courage. Part of your past will be painful, and you may have to deal with some of your biggest regrets. Living courageously means that you can start from scratch without forgetting your past completely. Step 5 consists of taking the moral inventory made in step 4 and admitting first to God, to yourself and finally to another person.

You can practice integrity in your recovery by talking about everything that makes you feel guilty and your mistakes. Basically, having integrity is living honestly. In step 6, you need to prepare to have your sins taken away by admitting to yourself that you are fully ready to overcome them. Will as a virtue means that you have to be prepared to be acquitted in order to move forward without looking back.

You must have a good disposition in everything you do. In step 4, you catalogued your past, and in step 6, you admitted them and freed yourself from guilt and shame. Step 7 is about being willing to free yourself from your past. In step 8, you ask God for forgiveness or another higher power.

Humility is one of the simplest principles to understand because it is simple: when you're humble, you're aware of the fact that you're not an important part of the big picture. Humility in daily practice means never seeing yourself more important than you are. Step 10 refers very clearly to its own principle: discipline is needed to continue taking personal inventory throughout life. Step 11 tries to move forward without losing the notion of a higher power; this ongoing awareness makes it easy to match the step with the principle that accompanies it.

Most sponsors encourage AA newcomers to attend 90 meetings in 90 days; this commitment and focus helps fight for sobriety during the most difficult time of recovery when relapse is most likely. Sometimes people need a break between steps or more time in one step than another; some people never stop working on the 12 steps because they become part of life. You can also read about the Twelve Traditions which are spiritual principles behind the 12 steps. Working on Step 12 is one way to safeguard your own sobriety while helping others live better and sober lives day by day.

Overall, the 12 steps offer very effective opportunities for analyzing why and how addiction occurs as well as options before during and after compulsive drug or alcohol use. The 12 spiritual principles group these steps into digestible virtues and provide a roadmap for lifelong health and sobriety.