The AA 12 Steps

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  September 19 ,
| 4 Sources

The AA 12 steps are a very popular program for alcoholics who want to stop drinking. If you have a drinking program, you should consider joining a 12 step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous. (There are 12 step groups for people with other addictions, such as Narcotics Anonymous, available as well).

The Steps

A 12 step program is based on 12 simple steps. The AA 12 steps are as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 
  3. Made a decision to turn our 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 all persons 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 so 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 others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The steps require that you be accountable for your behavior while you were drinking and admit the harm you may have done to others and be willing to make amends. You must continue to accept responsibility for your behavior and to promptly admit it when you are wrong.

By taking responsibility for your behavior, you can begin to gain control over your life again.

As you can see, AA has a strong spiritual component. It is a non-denominational program, however, and people of all faiths can attend. AA makes references to God but the individual may interpret that however they like (hence the term “God as we understood Him” used in the steps).

If you do not consider yourself a religious person, you should not be put off by the spiritual component of AA. You can substitute “Higher Self” or “Higher Power” or whatever words you like in place of “God.”

By attending a 12 step program, you can greatly improve your chances of recovery. A 12 step program is not the only treatment program available, however, and may not be sufficient for you on its own.

Your Complete Recovery Program

The AA 12 steps do not limit you to those steps. You are free to seek other assistance as needed while following the steps.

The first thing you should do is be assessed by a professional to see what level of care you need. Depending on the severity of your drinking problem, you may require inpatient or intensive outpatient care. On the other hand, a self-help group like a 12 step program may be all you need. Find out from a professional.

Most treatment programs will include AA 12 steps programs as part of their complete program. You will be encouraged to continue attending AA after completing your other treatment program. 

What Can You Expect from the AA 12 Steps Program?

AA meetings are usually held weekly at various times and places. It is not necessary to attend every meeting; you can select the meetings that suit your schedule.

When you arrive, there may be an opening or welcoming ceremony where attendees read from the Big Book (the book about AA). Then there may be a speaker giving his or her story. The speaker will talk about what it was like to struggle with addiction and how they were able to overcome their problem using the 12 steps of AA. If you are new, don't worry if this seems odd or awkward - it's just part of the process in AA! Finally, someone else will share their experience, strength and hope which will give newcomers some hope for recovery.

After this sharing time, you will be invited to share your story if you choose. You can speak about yourself or not at all.

Attendance and sharing at meetings is completely voluntary and no one should ever pressure you to attend, speak or disclose any personal information that you don't want to share. There is support available for those who need it, but the program respects your confidentiality and anonymity. What happens at a meeting stays there - everyone who attends has agreed on this as part of the 12-step culture.

Your desire for recovery is what matters most in AA and individuals are never pressured to give up their drinking problem completely or "cured". This is why it's called a "program" because it is not an instant "fix". Your commitment to do the work is what will lead you to a better life.

If you are struggling with addiction, attending 12 step meetings can provide you with support and encouragement during your journey to recovery. Attend as many meetings as possible to find out how they work. Meetings are free and easily accessible - there are more than 5,000 worldwide! You don't have to go at this alone; make use of whatever supports are available to help you get started on the path of healing for yourself or your loved one.

You can learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous by visiting their website. They also offer phone numbers that correspond to different locations across North America if you need more information about where you live.

                    More than the AA 12 steps on our main 12 step program of AA page

There are Many Alcoholism Programs and Treatments to Help You!

If you or your loved one is struggling with alcoholism or addiction, you are not alone. There are many different types of programs and treatments available for addicts in your area to help support them on their journey to recovery.

If you need information about treatment centers in your area, there is a good chance that the AA 12 steps program will be included as part of it.

However, if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction so severely that they require something more than what the regular 12 step program offers, be sure to seek out treatment providers who can guide you in finding the right level of care.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

Alcoholism home page