12-step programs are increasingly popular in addiction recovery circles because they have been proven to work for the various individuals that have gone through them. For this reason, the 12-steps have remained the same since they were published. Explaining them in detail can help any person considering a 12-step program take the first step towards recovery.
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Step one means admitting that you have no power over alcohol (or whatever substance you were struggling with) and that you cannot control your life while using it. The two words in this step that are most important are “powerless” and “unmanageable.” Powerlessness means that you admit that you cannot control yourself when consuming drugs or alcohol. Unmanageability implies that you recognize the negative impact that substance abuse has on your life.
“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Step two has you recognize that there is hope to recover and get help despite addiction being present. It also explains that to heal and become stronger, you must lay aside your ego and need to control for the guidance of something bigger than yourself. Higher power does not have to relate to religion – 12-step programs are typically spiritual, not religious. Many require that a higher power only be something greater than yourself that is loving and caring. The important thing is getting out of your own way so you can heal.
“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
While the first two steps of AA are about recognizing you have a problem and relinquishing control of that problem, step three is about taking action to begin solving the problem. This step is where you actively get out of your own way. Remember that this step states, “God as we understood Him,” meaning that God does not have to be the Christian God, but rather a higher power that is personal to you.
“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
The purpose of step four is to rid yourself of the burdens that controlled and prevented your growth. You become honest with yourself, possibly for the first time, about the harm done to you and the damage you have done to others. Step four is the start of letting go of your past instead of clinging to it. When you let go of the hurt and get honest, you become free to live.
“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
Step five is where you share your personal inventory and wrongdoings with another person. It is essential also to share it with yourself and your Higher Power, allowing you to confront the things you have done. Sharing this can help you feel less shame and guilt related to your addiction, freeing you to begin healing as you start to let go.
“Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.”
Step six allows you to look back at your fourth step and recognize your character defects and how they affect your life. When you accept your defects, you can let them go and get on with your new life. However, while working on this step, you must also realize that you are human and will never be perfect; you become willing to let go of your character defects but accept that you still have flaws.
“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
When you decide that you want God to relieve you of your personality’s destructive aspects, you arrive at the seventh step. This step is considered an action step, where you ask God to remove your shortcomings. Step seven requires humility to move on from your past ways and ask for a life of freedom.
“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Now that you have taken a personal inventory of the things you have done, it is now time to make a list of the people you have hurt due to addiction. Step eight is excellent for healing your guilt and understanding the importance of making amends and changing for the better.
“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Step nine is a continuance of step eight. You have made your list of people you have harmed, and now it is time to make amends. However, this step states “…wherever possible.” Sometimes you cannot make amends with others due to the circumstances, so keep in mind if it will hurt you or the other person to make amends, do not do so and make amends in a different way.
“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”
Step ten serves as a reminder of the previous steps, having you remember to be aware of your actions and behavior continuously. It serves as a defense against previous insanity, making sure you do not pull yourself into old thinking patterns or acting. Remember to be honest and admit when you are wrong, keeping your progress growing.
“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.”
Step eleven solidifies your relationship with your personal higher power, having you continuously communicate with them to continue healing. Conscious contact with a higher power often includes meditation and prayer, which is subjective to the individual. Work to understand the path made for you in this life and continue speaking to your higher power, even when you are not in times of need.
“Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Step twelve is when you realize you are not bound by addiction’s hurt and actions but have found a new way of life. The changes we have made in our lives through working all 12-steps is considered a spiritual awakening. You have now found a direction for your life. Step twelve reminds you that you must continue the principles of sobriety and healing in your life to maintain your recovery. This step reminds us that by carrying the message of recovery, we can help other addicts. You can repeat the 12-steps to ensure your sobriety throughout your life.
The 12 Steps developed by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939 have been beneficial for individuals recovering from substance abuse for almost 100 years. The steps are not supposed to be a cure for addiction but rather a guide to help you progress through your recovery and maintain it all your life. Understanding what each step means will have you ready to take them on and move at your own pace as you continue through the program. By working the 12-steps, you change old thinking patterns and behaviors, coming to a spiritual awakening. Facilities across the nation, such as everlast Recovery Center, utilize 12-step programs to help their clients outline what recovery looks like. While the 12-steps may just be a list on paper, they take time and dedication to complete. Sobriety is something to earn and maintain, and 12-step programs can help you do so. Call Everlast today at 866-DETOX-25 to learn more.