The 12 Steps
The 12 Steps were initially created by the group Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) but are now used by programs that support people dealing with problems from ranging from substance abuse to eating disorders to gambling or sexual compulsions. Groups of this type are sometimes called self-help groups, and it is estimated that around 5 million people in the United States attend one or more of these groups per year. While the formatting of the 12 Steps changes slightly when they are used in settings outside of substance abuse, the concepts remain similar.
Step 1: Admitting Powerlessness
In AA, this is powerlessness over alcohol. In Narcotics Anonymous (NA), it’s powerlessness over drugs. In each setting, the subject of addiction may be different, but the person who wants to recover is acknowledging that the substance in question has been holding control over them.
Step 2: Recognizing a Higher Power
While some 12-Step Groups, such as Celebrate Recovery, center around a specific religious tradition and specify the nature of this higher power, it is often left to the person in recovery to define their higher power for themselves.
Step 3: Turning Over Control to the Higher Power
By recognizing the existence of something bigger than oneself and surrendering to this larger purpose, the person in recovery is letting go of the need for control. This can feel new and scary at first, but it can also provide immense relief. No one is on their journey alone or expected to manage everything themselves.
Step 4: Looking Inward to Discover Shortcomings
The person in recovery needs to examine themselves without reservation and determine where they have room for improvement.
Step 5: Acknowledging Mistakes
For a person to successfully complete the fourth step, they need to acknowledge to themselves, their higher power, and other people what errors they have made in the course of their addiction.
Step 6: Being Ready to Admit and Ask for Help in Addressing Flaws
At this point, the person needs to be ready to be changed and become a better version of themselves.
Step 7: Asking the Higher Power to Help Them Improve
On this step, a person is showing humility in asking their higher power to remove the flaws they have detected and help them become better.
Step 8: Making a List of People Who the Person Has Wronged and Become Ready to Make Amends to Each of Them
Because addiction is a disease that can lead those who suffer from it to harm the people who most care about them, it is crucial that a person who wants to live in long-term recovery understand the harms they have done and do what is possible to make them right.
Step 9: Making Direct Amends (When Possible and Appropriate)
Direct amends means directly engaging with the person who has been harmed, admitting to the harm that was done, and doing what one can to repair the relationship. There may be cases in which direct amends would cause further distress or harm to the person who was adversely affected. In that case, direct amends may not be possible or appropriate. There may also be times when a person who has been harmed is not ready to offer forgiveness to the person making amends.
Step 10: Ongoing Efforts at Self-Improvement
As a person continues in their recovery, they must continue to evaluate where they have had or continue to have short-comings and address these issues as they become aware of them. This especially includes recognizing when one is wrong and admitting to being wrong.
Step 11: Praying to Know the Will of the Higher Power and Aiming to Fulfill That Purpose
A person in this stage of recovery wishes to gain as much understanding as possible of the higher power’s purpose for their life and to be in compliance with this purpose.
Step 12: Carrying the Message of the 12 Steps to Others in Recovery and Living a Life in Alignment with the 12 Steps
A phrase that is commonly heard in the recovery community is “the only way to keep it is to give it away.” This means that the best way for a person to maintain long-term sobriety is to help other people with their recovery journeys. The second part of this step is to continuously evaluate one’s life to ensure it is lining up with the requirements of the 12 Steps.
Part of a Bigger Treatment Plan
Many people in recovery swear by the 12 Steps as a tool for obtaining and maintaining sobriety. While some people are able to stop abusing substances by only attending 12-Step support groups, many people suffering from addiction have a better chance at sustaining long-term recovery when they engage in formal treatment and pursue therapy, as these options give them access to trained professionals and additional resources.
Safe Harbor Recovery Center Can Help
If you have questions about the 12 Steps or self-help groups that offer this format, our team at Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, VA, is happy to help.