One Day at a Time: The 12 Steps of AA, Simplified
AA has practically become synonymous with alcohol recovery. In fact, AA groups can be found in around 180 nations around the world. And, it’s estimated that there are over 2 million members of AA worldwide.
But, what exactly is AA? And, what are the 12 steps of AA?
Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about AA.
The 12 Steps of AA: A History
Before we dive into all of the 12 steps, let’s talk a bit about how it all began. AA, which stands for Alcoholics Anonymous, was founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio by Dr Robert Smith and Bil Wilson, a stockbroker.
Both men were actually severe alcoholics, and they set up the foundation of AA at Akron City Hospital, where Dr Smith worked. Because they were alcoholics themselves, they actually made up the nucleus of the very first AA group. After the success of the first group, a second group slowly began to take shape in New York City.
In 1939, the two created a textbook that laid out the basic methods and philosophies of AA. The core of the book evolved into what today is known as the Twelve Step Program.
The Twelve Steps of AA
Now that you have a bit of history under your belt, let’s talk about the 12 steps of AA:
Step 1 of AA states that “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable”.
This step is meant to jumpstart the recovery process of the alcoholic. AA firmly teaches that individuals cannot overcome their addiction on their own. Rather, they need to admit that they have a problem and seek out assistance.
This step is all about letting go and admitting that you’re powerless to your addiction. In order to complete this step, you must admit that there is something wrong in your life that you have no control over. You need to acknowledge that you need help and that you can’t tackle your recovery alone.
Step two of AA states that “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”.
AA is based on the belief that there is a higher power. For some, this higher power may be God, while for others it may be the universe. With this step, one must acknowledge that there is some higher power that can help them overcome their addiction.
“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him”.
The third step of AA clarifies that God can come in many forms, and you don’t need to think of God in the traditional religious sense. This step is further emphasizes that in order to recover from your addiction, you can’t do it on your own.
Step 4 of AA states that “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”.
In this step, participants are to make a list of their character flaws and bad decisions. You’re to outline the ways in which you’ve caused pain to others. In Step 4, participants should discuss what motivated their past actions.
Once you acknowledge the issues you have, AA teaches that you’re less likely to be triggered by these issues. Basically, this step is all about determining the cause of your drinking and what emotional problems you need to face in order to live a sober life.
Step five of AA states that “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”.
With this step, AA members sit down with their sponsors and go over everything they identified in Step 4. This step requires you to set aside your pride and ego in order to acknowledge your shameful behavior of the past.
“We are entirely ready to have God (Higher Power) remove all these defects of character”.
With this step, participants acknowledge that they’re ready to let a higher power into their lives. Again, this higher power doesn’t necessarily need to be God. To complete this step, you need to be willing to work with a higher power in order to change.
Step 7 of AA states that “We humbly asked Him (the Higher Power) to remove our shortcomings”.
Step 7 is all about accepting humility into your life so you can overcome your character flaws. During this step, participants need to practice modesty and be ready to change their attitudes to lead a happy life.
“We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all”.
During this step, you’re to write down a list of people whom you’ve hurt. This list is to include people you’ve hurt over the span of your entire life, not just those you’ve hurt during your addiction. This step is all about identifying the wrongs you’ve committed so you can repair them.
Step 9 of AA states that “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”.
This step is about taking the opportunity to make right with those you have hurt. The sponsor is usually an instrumental part of this step, as they often help participants identify ways they can make amends.
“We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, we promptly admitted it”. Step 10 is deeply linked to Step 4. It’s about making a commitment to continue to keep an eye out for defects in your character.
Step 11 of AA states that “We 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 it out”.
This step is about committing to progress spiritually. This can mean anything from meditating daily to reading scripture daily.
Last but not least, we have Step 12. Step 12 states that “Having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs”.
This step is all about helping others and is meant to serve as a motivation to become a sponsor.
12 Steps of AA: Is It For You?
AA works for a lot of people, it’s been around long enough to become the default option. However, the truth is many problem drinkers feel like they have nowhere to turn. They do not want to attend embarrassing group meetings, they don’t want to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers and label themselves ‘an alcoholic’ and they are worried about their reputation.
Plus, AA was never designed for problem drinkers, it was designed for full-blown alcoholics. The vast majority of drinkers who arrive at the Stop Drinking Expert website are fully functioning in other areas of life. They are not physically addicted to the drug, just psychologically addicted – in a loop with their drinking, if you like.
The Stop Drinking Expert program does not require you to attend meetings while offering the support of a friendly community online. There is no willpower, medication or silly gimmicks involved. This proven process works through logic and knowledge – it actually changes the way you see alcohol.
You don’t use heroin, right? Why not? Because your internal belief structure around this particular drug is in perfect balance. You understand and know at a profound level that heroin would cause serious harm to your life. However, with alcohol, your belief structure is out of line – we fix that in the course.
If you’d like to get your drinking under control but don’t know where to begin, then we suggest checking out our free webinar.