Completing 12 Steps allows individuals like you to move away from the compulsory behavior associated with addiction and create a manageable life. Each step in the program is pivotal in achieving this goal. After all, there are 12 steps for a reason.
Step 1: Honesty
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Step one requires people struggling with addiction to be fully honest. You must admit you are unable to recover from the disease on your own. This can often be one of the most challenging steps in the process.
Many people who struggle with addiction believe they are in control of their substance use and can stop whenever they choose. The process of recovery cannot fully begin, however, until you are able and willing to admit they are not in control. Acknowledging powerlessness is scary but can begin a beautiful journey toward recovery.
Step 2: Hope
“We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Step two introduces a means of progress away from substance use. This step encourages you to build hope and faith in a power outside yourself. That hope empowers you as you move forward in your recovery.
The 12 steps were originally established with Christian principles. Many people today, however, choose to decide for themselves how they will define higher power. Some people struggling with substance use identify God as a religious higher power while others replace a deity with medical professionals, karma, or even the recovery process itself.
Step 3: Surrender
“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
Step three centers on recognizing that you need outside help. You are not able to recover from your addiction on your own, so you depend on the previously-defined higher power.
Again, despite the use of “God,” the higher power in this step can be whatever you’ve identified. The essential step here is to recognize that the power to overcome substance use comes from outside of yourself.
Step 4: Courage
“We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Step four can often be painful. This step requires a person in recovery to document all the ways substance use has caused harm. Creating this moral inventory forces you to recognize the full impact of your addiction. This process, while painful, is also paramount.
Through step four, those recovering from addiction can more clearly see their own strengths and weaknesses. Facing these weaknesses takes incredible courage. When you can recognize and admit their shortcomings, you can then move forward with courage and strength.
Step 5: Integrity
“We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
Step five places an emphasis on integrity by freely sharing the moral inventory created in step five. Practicing integrity during the recovery process centers on being honest in every aspect of your life, even when it is difficult.
This step can be very freeing. Being honest and vulnerable about shortcomings eliminates shame and guilt, which lifts a burden. Unburdening yourself allows you to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms and move forward. That freedom opens you up to a more complete recovery.
Step 6: Willingness
“We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
Step six is about being open to moving forward. Willingness in this step points to a your openness to learning. The defects of character identified in the moral inventory cannot be removed unless you are willing to let them go. This step often involves replacing old, harmful coping mechanisms with healthier ones.
During this step, you must also accept that recovery involves progress rather than perfection. There are no guarantees that you will be able to avoid every trigger, but you will be better equipped to handle the missteps and the subsequent repeat recovery.
Step 7: Humility
“We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
Step seven has strong connections with steps four and six. The identification of specific weaknesses and the willingness to move forward are key to this step. Once you know your greatest weaknesses, you can seek help from your higher power in overcoming them.
Humility is an essential part of this step. You must humbly recognize that you cannot remove their shortcomings on your own and give control to the higher power outside of yourself.
This step also allows you to be freed from your past.
Step 8: Love
“We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Step eight moves the process of recovery outside of the individual. Once a person struggling with substance use recognizes the harm that addiction has caused internally, they can address the external harm as well.
This step requires you to make a list of everyone who has been harmed or affected by your addiction. Similar to step four, making this list allows you to own your guilt and be willing to make amends.
Step 9: Responsibility
“We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Step nine involves taking responsibility for the harm your addiction caused to others. At this point in 12 Steps, you have forgiven yourself for your past actions. While that personal forgiveness is essential, you must also work to heal the pain you may have caused others. This step pushes those in recovery to seek forgiveness from others as well.
To be clear, making amends is not always possible. In the cases where making amends is impossible, it is the responsibility of the person recovering from addiction to accept what they are unable to control.
Step 10: Discipline
“We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
Step ten is a continuation and expansion of the moral inventory in step four. As your recovery journey continues, you must be willing to continue examining your choices.
This step is evidence that you are creating a lifestyle of sobriety. Completing this process consistently helps you develop discipline in your recovery journey.
Regularly examining and admitting wrongdoing frees you from building up new guilt. This also breaks the illusion of control and reminds you that you cannot recover merely by your own power.
Step 11: Awareness
“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 that out.”
Step eleven maintains your established relationship with your higher power. This awareness means that you is consistently paying attention to the power that guides and drives them.
Some people recovering from addiction find it helpful to view prayer and meditation as a process of talking and listening. Regardless of the specific practice, individuals recovering from substance abuse should be intentional about this step to maintain sobriety.
Step 12: Service
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the results of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Step twelve gives those recovering from addiction the opportunity to serve others on their journey. When all 12 steps have been completed effectively, it is the responsibility of the recovered person to share their knowledge with others who would benefit from it.
After completing the 12 Steps, you should aim to stay connected with the community. Consistent contact with others who are working through their recovery journey presents opportunities for service through provided support when it is needed. This maintained fellowship also allows you to be held accountable in your continued journey.
Read More: Some of Our Favorite Sayings From the 12 Steps
12 Step FAQs
If you are struggling with substance use or addiction a 12-step program may help with your recovery journey. Below are some FAQs to help you determine the best course of action.
Q: What Is a 12-Step Program?
A: A 12-step program is a form of peer-based help for various dysfunctional or addictive behaviors. These may include alcoholism or drug abuse. These programs are entirely anonymous. They provide a safe environment for people struggling with addiction to build relationships, share and gain knowledge, and maintain their sobriety.
Q: What Kinds of 12-Step Programs Are Available?
A: There are 12-step programs available for a variety of compulsive behaviors and addictions. Some focus on substance use, such as alcohol and drugs. Others center on anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. There are also 12-step programs available for other compulsions, such as food, debt, sex, codependency, and more. Some examples of other 12-step programs are Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and Al-Anon.
Q: Who May Benefit From a 12-Step Program?
A: A 12-step program is for anyone who is looking to achieve or maintain sobriety. People who are recovering from addiction and are regularly attending, participating, and engaging in meetings are more likely to be successful. Long-term involvement with a group that follows a 12-step program also makes success more likely. If you are motivated and ready to be involved with a 12-step program, you will discover the profound effects it will have on your life.
Q: Are 12 Step Programs Led by Medical Professionals?
A: No, 12-step programs are entirely peer-based. This ensures mutual help from other people who struggle with substance use. If you attend a 12-step program, you will learn from other people on their recovery journey. Each person who is part of a 12-step program also has a sponsor. This is an individual who is also recovering from addiction. They offer individual and personal support outside of group settings. These programs are successful because they offer accountability and support for individuals who aim to overcome their substance use.
Q: Is There a Time Limit for a 12-Step Program?
A: There is no time limit for these programs. In fact, 12-step programs are designed to be ongoing. Individuals who struggle with substance use disorder, compulsive behaviors, and other addictions face those challenges throughout their life. If you attend meetings for a 12-step program, you will find people at every stage of their recovery. Many people who have completed each of the steps continue to attend meetings regularly. The social support, encouragement, and accountability they find in their program empower them to maintain their sobriety.