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What is AA & The Twelve Step

Alcoholics Anonymous originally introduced the Twelve Step approach in the 1930s. The founding members used six steps borrowed from the Oxford Group, a Christian group founded by a Lutheran minister. But a lot more work was put into it by co-founder Bill Wilson. “Alcoholics Anonymous” was the first book written on the Twelve Step approach in 1938. Many refer to it as the “Big Book.”

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Spiritual, not Religious

A common misconception about Alcoholics Anonymous is that it is religious in nature. The emphasis on recovery with this method is mainly spiritual. Unfortunately, many shy away from it, mistaking spirituality for religion.

They avoid what they perceive as a new faith or set of beliefs. Most lost or never had any spirituality or religious beliefs. The program encourages others to find a source of strength outside themselves. On the AA website, they write:

“We are not anti-alcohol, and we have no wish to reform the world. We are not allied with any group, cause, or religious denomination. We welcome all new members, but we do not recruit them.”

The Twelve Steps Evolved

The method used in Alcoholics Anonymous was later adapted for other twelve-step programs. The approach helps in the recovery of different addictions and compulsive behaviours.

As the name mentions, there are 12 different steps that a person must go through on this program or method. Here are the basic twelve steps.

The 12 Steps

  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. Decided 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, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We Were entirely ready to have God remove all these character defects.
  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 promptly admitted it when we were wrong.
  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 practice these principles in all our affairs.


Each of these alternative versions comes with support groups and meetings. New members of this approach are encouraged to acquire a relationship with a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who has experienced recovery from the 12-step program and will guide the new person through the steps and give one-on-one support through hardship.