The 12-steps are a linear guide to sobriety.
They begin with admitting that you are powerless over alcohol and are maintained by helping other people through the steps. You look to make amends for any past transgressions and change your behavior to ensure it does not happen again.
The 12-steps are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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.
The first three steps introduce the idea of a higher power that can help us in our lives and asks us to examine our relationship with alcohol. The term ‘powerless’ means different things to different people.
All powerless means is that you cannot predict what will happen when you start drinking 100% of the time. It does not matter if you have had periods of controlled drinking or if you have maintained sobriety for short periods. If drinking sets off something you cannot always control, then you are powerless.
During steps two and three, we look at our lives without the guidance of a higher power. We realize that left to our own devices, we will end up drinking again. However, as long as we live our lives according to a higher power, we will be supported on our journey of maintaining sobriety.
Although these steps might seem like we are giving up our power, we regain control of our lives and start to rebuild it by turning over our will.
People often call these the ‘action’ steps – they involve you making a list of everyone you have harmed, admitting it to another human being, and making amends to others. People often get worried about confronting their past, but most people are very grateful for an apology.
When we create a list of our past harms, we can start to spot behavior patterns and examine which character defect is responsible. Through spiritual development, we can rid ourselves of these traits and become better people.
Although apologizing is something you do for their benefit, the happy by-product of an amends process is that you achieve freedom and closure from your past.
These are often called the ‘maintenance’ steps – these are repetitive actions we work into the fabric of our lives. We examine our day-to-day behavior and see if we acted out on any of our character defects or harmed anyone, and we apologize if necessary.
We continue to develop spiritually, and most importantly, we help other people. It is through altruism and service to our fellow humans that we achieve long-term sobriety. This involves attending meetings regularly, being accountable, and sponsoring other people through the steps.
Alcoholics Anonymous and Medication
“No AA member should “play doctor”; all medical advice and treatment should come from a qualified physician.” – Alcoholics Anonymous
You can still work the steps while taking prescribed mental health medication. All medication aims to restore your body to equilibrium rather than alter your mind. As long as you take your medication as prescribed, it should not interfere with the steps.