What’s the 12 Step Program and How Can it Help?


If you or someone you love is battling addiction, you’ve likely heard of the 12 step program. This system is one of the key tools in addiction recovery – whether the person is addicted to alcohol, drugs, food, gambling or something else entirely.

Since its creation, the application of the 12 steps has grown tremendously. Now, it’s one of the most popular addiction recovery processes in society and can help you, or a loved one tackle their most powerful addiction.

What is the 12 Step Program?

The 12 step program is one of the most successful systems that has helped countless people beat their addiction. Although it originally started in Alcoholics Anonymous, the power of the process lead other addiction recovery institutions to adapt its teachings.

The central premise of the 12 steps is to assist recovering addicts in a community setting. Addicts often understand how another addict thinks, and therefore, may be able to provide support beyond a medical professional’s ability. With assistance from both parties (those who know the technicalities behind additication, and those who have the empathy piece) truly powerful outcomes can result.

The Original 12 Steps

The original 12 steps first appeared in the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women have Recovered from Alcoholism. Most people in the Alcoholics Anonymous community refer to this book as ‘The Big Book’, and it’s the foundation for the beliefs that drive almost all forms of addiction recovery.

While the 12 steps seem to be heavily focused on spirituality, those who are non-religious have also found the program to be immensely helpful.

As outlined in the book, the twelve steps are:

  1. Admitting that we are powerless over our addiction
  2. A belief that a higher power can help us get our life back in order
  3. Turning control over to the higher power
  4. Making a moral inventory of ourselves
  5. Admitting to ourselves, others, and a higher power the wrong we’ve done
  6. Becoming ready to allow a higher power to remove our shortcomings
  7. Asking the higher power to remove our shortcomings
  8. Making a list of people we’ve harmed and become willing to make things right with them
  9. Making direct amends with people we’ve hurt, unless doing so would harm them further
  10. Continuing to take inventory of our wrongs and immediately admit them
  11. Seek a connection and understanding of our higher power and its will for us
  12. Carry these messages to others who are suffering from addiction

The above list is a general overview of the 12 steps, but an addiction recovery service such as Alcoholics Anonymous will dig deeper into each topic.

Surrendering Control

Although the 12 step model has shown itself to be one of the most effective ways of kicking an addiction, no one solution will work for everyone. Every individual has their own needs and preferences when it comes to addiction recovery.

Some people don’t like surrendering control over their addiction to a higher power. In Alcoholics Anonymous, admitting that you’re powerless over addiction is one of the core tenants.

Thankfully, for people who don’t want to subscribe to the 12 steps by the letter, there are alternatives to this method. These alternatives focus on the power of the individual in tackling their addiction.

The success of the 12 steps is well documented, but that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. What’s important is a community atmosphere in helping people stay sober. Following the 12 steps isn’t a path to sobriety for every person who tries, but if you want to get sober, you might as well start there. You can’t tell if the steps are right or wrong for you unless you give them a shot.

How Can the 12 Step Program Help You Beat Addiction?

Researchers agree that community-based abstinence programs like the 12 Step Program have far greater success rates than other sobriety systems. Because of the past success, most treatment facilities use some form of the 12 step program for their group sessions.

There is a very low barrier to entry when it comes to Alcoholics Anonymous and other drug treatment programs. All you have to do is have the desire to get clean. Even if sobriety looks like a distant reality, you can still benefit from the teachings of the class.

Although AA and other 12 step programs heavily focus on God and spirituality, you don’t need to be a devout believer to attend these sessions. Many people who aren’t religious find benefit in these classes as well.

The 12 step program focuses on teaching its members to live their lives the right way. It tells those who subscribe to the idea to make amends for their wrongs. It encourages them to live each day better than the last.

Living “a day at a time” is cliche, but it’s all addicts have. Staying sober for a year, two years, or ten years sounds impossible for someone in the thralls of addiction.

Instead of starting a journey that will last the rest of their life, addicts stay sober for one day at a time. Eventually, they’ve stayed sober for 365 one-days. Looking at sobriety this way is much easier than trying to stop drinking, using drugs, or overeating for months or years at a time.

Recovering From Addiction

There is no universal way to kick an addiction, but the 12 step program has come the closest. Each individual will respond differently to addiction recovery, but the 12 steps give a lot of people a desperately needed framework on how to live their life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the 12 step program may offer a lifeline. Don’t write it off before you try the 12 steps. Trying it out might be the best decision you’ve ever made.

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