A twelve-step program is a set of guiding principles for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. Originally proposed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a method of recovery from alcoholism, the Twelve Steps were first published in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939. The method was then adapted, and became the foundation of other twelve-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous and Emotions Anonymous. As summarized by the American Psychological Association, working the Twelve Steps involves the following.
Admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion; Recognizing a greater power that can give strength; Examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member); Making amends for these errors; Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior; Helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.
These are the original Twelve Steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous:
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.
In some cases, where other twelve-step groups have adapted the AA steps as guiding principles, they have been altered to emphasize principles important to those particular fellowships, to remove gender-biased or specific religious language.
The Twelve Traditions accompany the Twelve Steps, the Traditions provide guidelines for group governance. They were developed in AA in order to help resolve conflicts in the areas of publicity, religion and finances. Most twelve-step fellowships have adopted these principles for their structural governance. The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous are as follows.
Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority-a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.