The 12-Step addiction recovery process is one that millions of people with addiction issues over the years have credited with helping them recover from an addiction. The program has such an impact on recovering addicts that it has developed its own cult-like reputation, especially among those who don’t know it first hand. It is safe to say that 12-Step programs are so popular that they form a sub-culture in modern society.
Whatever the outside world thinks about them, 12-Step programs are popular among recovering addicts because they are effective. Much of the effectiveness comes from the basic premise that people who attend the meetings admit they have an addiction problem. That certainly is a major step for some addicts, a breakthrough moment. Recognizing this, AA practice involves those attending a meeting to begin their comments by saying, “Hi. My name is Bob (or whatever your name is). And I’m an addict.”
A second basic foundation to an AA meeting is the rule that “cross-talking” as it is called, is not allowed. Cross talking refers to commenting on what someone else has said. This rule prevents participants from criticizing each other, making a meeting to be, above all else, a safe place to be.
Addicts take turns speaking, telling their personal stories, often, but not always, relating their words to one of the 12 steps. Often meetings will focus on one particular step, but not to the point of excluding anyone from speaking. This is done only to provide some continuity to the meetings and to make sure each of the steps at some point is part of the focus. Each of the steps is considered important.
Not everyone who goes to AA meetings completes all 12 steps. There is no mandate that anyone do any of the steps. The only mandate for attending an AA meeting is the desire to stop their addiction, whether it is alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, over-eating or whatever it might be.
One of the astounding points of an AA meeting is that there is no leader in the meeting. Often someone is assigned the task of opening the meeting and reading the rules and, perhaps, reading a passage about the day’s primary topic. The same person might also let the group know when the meeting is over.
Instead of a leader, AA meetings rely on simple rituals, such as having someone read the meeting rules to open each meeting. But how they actually adhere to any of these is totally up to members of the group. Other than that, there is no therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, addiction counselor or social worker assigned to the meeting. It attended only by persons who have a desire to stop their addiction.
It is impossible to say how many people 12-Step recovery has helped since the program began in 1935. Millions? Tens of millions? Who can say?
The 12-steps are as simple as they sound and as deep as they sound. Each step is considered a sacred part of the 12-Step philosophy, as much so as the 10 commandments. But no member is allowed to publicly judge another member about their private recovery.
Here are the 12 steps.
- We admitted we were powerless over (our addiction) – 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 (our higher power) as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
- Admitted to God (our higher power), to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
- We were entirely ready to have God (our higher power) remove all these defects of character
- Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings
- Made a list of the people 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 (our higher power) 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 (other addicts) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.