12 Step Program for Alcoholics - What Are The 12 Steps?

What Are The 12 Steps?

As is the case with most addictions, alcohol abuse is more than just a physical problem. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) involves social, physical, mental and emotional realities. Recovery from AUD involves not just detox from alcohol, it also means changing the way you live your life. People who have made such a radical change in the way they live their life help others to make the same kinds of changes in their own life. Fortunately, it is not necessary to, as they say, reinvent the wheel as they work on making the needed changes. The 12 step program for alcoholics offers a pathway for those who want to quit drinking. While the 12 steps have been modified for various drugs and behaviors, the original 12 steps were the work of alcoholics and were meant for other alcoholics.

The 12 Steps Program for Alcoholics

  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 will and 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 alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

How Do the 12 Steps Work?

The 12 step program for alcoholics expects that each step must be completed one by one since they are a path to be followed. New members are encouraged to have an open mind and attend meetings. In return, older members pledge to share their experience of recovery and acknowledge that the person who has a drinking problem can determine whether they themselves are an alcoholic. Members of the 12 step program for alcoholics remind new members that medical evidence shows that alcoholism gets worse and worse and there is no cure for AUD. The only hope for the alcoholic is totally quitting the use of alcohol. New members are encouraged to seek out a sponsor, a person who has already completed the steps, to help them complete the steps themselves.

The 12 Step program for alcoholics understands the alcoholic on three levels. On the physical level, they recognize that their body reacts to alcohol in a way that results in the compulsion to continue using alcohol. On the mental level, the alcoholic has adopted thinking processes that cause the person to repeat the use of alcohol even though they know that they won’t be able to stop or have convinced themselves that things will turn out differently this time. On the spiritual level, the alcoholic behaves in a self-centered manner that ignores the harm that their behavior does to others.

There are 4 phases that are seen as being reflected in the 12 Step program for alcoholics.

  1. Admission, the first phase, requires the alcoholic to admit that their drinking is out of control.
  2. The second phase, submission, requires the alcoholic to entrust themselves to their higher power.
  3. In restitution, the third phase, the alcoholic acknowledges the harm they have caused to others while drinking and to atone for the wrong they did.
  4. Once the 12 steps program for alcoholics has been completed, the alcoholic is now called to reach out to and help others, just as others previously helped them.

One by One Through the Steps

  • The 1st step is in some way the most difficult. Nobody likes to admit that they are out of control. Only by admitting that they can’t stop on their own can the alcoholic begin the process of recovery. Members of a 12 step program for alcoholics introduce themselves using their first name and acknowledge that they are an alcoholic.
  • The 2nd step requires the admission that there is a higher power who can help them to stop drinking. This higher power can be god, the 12 Step group itself or whatever the individual recognizes as a higher power.
  • The 3rd step is an act of submission or trust. The victim of AUD entrusts themselves to the care of their higher power. This is meant to be a decision on the part of the alcoholic, choosing to give themselves into the care of a higher power.
  • The 4th step requires the person to carefully examine their lives in order to recognize the harm they caused to themselves and to others. There is no doubt that this can be hard and painful, but complete honesty is what is needed in this step. Members are encouraged to make a record of what they uncover in the midst of this examination.
  • The 5th step is the admission of the harm that was revealed in step 4. This step also requires that this admission be made to the higher power; to the alcoholic themselves and to another human being. It might seem that making this kind of admission to another human being will be very embarrassing, but the trust that develops among members of a 12 Step group means that this admission can be done with a real sense of security. Also, members of 12 Step groups for alcoholics know that all of them have caused harm to themselves and to others.
  • The 6th step and the 7th step are closely related. In the 6th step the alcoholic makes a firm decision that they are fully ready to have their higher power remove their defects of character. In the 7th step the alcoholic asks their higher power to remove those defects.
  • The 8th step asks for another review of the alcoholic’s past. In this review, they make a list of all of the people they have harmed as a result of their alcoholism. This should be a complete list, not merely a list of the worst things they have done to others. No harm is too small to be recorded in this list. Part of the wisdom here is nobody can know how their actions affected another person. What may seem like a small harm to the alcoholic hurt the other person a great deal.
  • The 9th step requires both humility and rigorous honesty. It requires the alcoholic to communicate to each person they harmed and make amends to each one. The only exception is if, being honest, such communication would cause the other person or somebody else further harm.
  • The 10th step asks the alcoholic to continue to examine their lives, being aware of actions that cause harm to themselves or to others. Any harm discovered in this way should be admitted as soon as possible. Often, this means that the alcoholic should review their day each night before going to bed so that they can make note of any harm caused that day.
  • The 11th step asks the alcoholic to develop and improve their connection with their higher power. Whether this means meditation, prayer, reading or some other activity doesn’t matter. What matters is developing some kind of spiritual habit.
  • The 12th step encourages the alcoholic to help others, just as older members once helped them. It is at this point that the alcoholic is ready to sponsor newer members.

Does the 12 Step Program For Alcoholics Work?

The 12 Step program for alcoholics provides a program which anybody can embrace. It summarizes and organizes what worked for other alcoholics and invites others to follow the same pathway. The steps are not easy, and they call for humility, for rigorous honesty and for submission to the person’s higher power. Still, the steps work if they are followed. For those who recognize in themselves that they are alcoholics, the steps offer guidance and hope.


Additional References: 12Step.com, Recovery.org, Wikipedia, The Alcoholism Guide