A Brief History of the 12 Steps

Rehabilitation anecdotes

When it comes to beating an addiction, the 12-step recovery model is one of the most effective tools used in treatment. They were created by Alcoholics Anonymous as a guideline to working through and overcoming an addiction. The 12 steps, as defined by AA, are as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives have 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 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 persons who 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 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 the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous created these steps, initially known as the Twelve Traditions, in the 1930s. The steps recognize taking care of the body, mind, and soul, with a particular emphasis on spirituality.

The steps aren’t used just by AA anymore. Addiction centers all around the world are utilizing the tried and true guidelines of the 12 steps. The steps have been adapted to help treat other substance and behavioral addictions, such as addictions to drugs, gambling, food, and more. There are also versions that have been adapted for people who are atheists or don’t believe in the concept of God as defined by western religions.

Just how successful are the 12 steps? According to AA, up to 75% of its members stay abstinent from alcohol after completing their program. The AA Big Book mentions a 50% success rate, with an additional 25% achieve lifelong sobriety after experiencing some relapses.

If you’re looking for help with overcoming any sort of addiction, we recommend finding a 12-step treatment program. Lifelong recovery is possible.

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