Addiction recovery is not an easy journey to undertake, and it is also often an isolated one. The urge to start using again and relapse are often too overwhelming, making most run back to their old habits. In order to help people get over substance abuse, various treatment techniques have been devised over the years.

One such approach is the well-known 12-step program. This peer-directed program was primarily designed to help those struggling with alcohol addiction. But over the years, it has been expanded and applied to treat nearly all types of addictions, including drug abuse, shopping addiction, workaholism, smoking, and gambling addiction.

In this article, we will explain what the 12-step recovery program is, how it works, and how it has evolved over the years.

What is the 12-Step Program?

The 12-Step Program, or simply the Twelve Steps, was initially developed and used by the Alcoholic Anonymous in 1935. It was designed to help people systematically battle their alcohol abuse problem. This 12-step plan is a spiritual foundation for overcoming addictions and recovering from the effects of alcoholism, which can be applied in combination with professional addiction treatment in Pembroke Pines.

It was designed as a form of personal recovery for addicts and their friends, family, and loved ones. Since it was a peer-directed program, its basic premise was that people could help one another recover from substance abuse. While people can help each other achieve and maintain abstinence, they cannot entirely heal unless they surrender to a higher power, i.e., God or whatever other higher power or purpose one chooses to believe in.

Nowadays, the 12-Step Program is used in various recovery centers to treat several addictions. Its secular alternatives are also available for inpatient and outpatient services for those who don’t connect with the original program’s religious theme.

The Evolution of the 12 Steps

Over the years, the original Twelve Steps have evolved considerably. Although the basic ideas are the same as developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, renditions of the same have occurred.

The original 12-Steps makes several references to God, but that has subsequently been reduced to factor in for the differing beliefs. But besides that, the 12 steps remain exactly as they were first written. In recent years, the understanding of the term God has been broadened significantly, and it now refers to a higher power that one chooses to believe in.

The 12-Step Program

The entire functioning mechanism of the Twelve Steps is explained in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. These 12 steps act as directions or guidelines to provide a path for individuals, leading them to a life of sobriety and a long-lasting substance-free lifestyle.

Although people, organizations, and rehab centers tweak the original 12-Step Program to resonate more with their requirements, the premise of each step as envisioned in the original program remains the same. Nowadays, many recovery programs use different renditions of the original 12-Step Program, without diluting its effectiveness in a bit.

Below are some of the foundational concepts mentioned within the program:

1.     Honesty

The first step in the 12-Step Program is admitting your powerlessness in face of addiction. The original step states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

While that was particular to alcohol, nowadays, the same can apply to any addiction. With a simple admission of your powerlessness over any drug, behavior, or habit, you can begin your recovery after years of denial. Besides addicts, their family members and friends can also use this step to admit their loved one is suffering from an addiction.

2.     Faith

After admitting your own powerlessness, the next step is to put your trust in God or any higher power you believe in for help. The original step states, “[We] came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

For a higher power to intervene, the individual must believe in its ability to help. Individuals struggling with addictions need to accept that the higher power is powerful enough to help them recover.

3.     Surrender

Originally, the third step states, “[We] made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Once the individual decides to turn control over to a higher power and surrender, self-destructive decisions can start transforming.

4.     Soul Searching

In the fourth step, the individual needs to start taking a personal inventory, as the original step states, “[We] made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” With productive soul-searching, individuals can hold themselves accountable for how their self-destructive behavior affected them and their loved ones.

5.     Integrity

The fifth step holds great potential for the addict’s personal growth as they confess to their own wrongdoings to themselves and in front of others. The original step states, “[We] admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Identifying and admitting your wrongdoings is not an easy task and requires courage. After this step, the recovery becomes smoother.

6.     Acceptance

In the next step, the addict becomes ready for the higher power to mend their wrongdoings and iron out the flaws in their character. The original sixth step states, “We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” This step means the individual has identified, admitted, and accepted their shortcomings, and now is ready to unlearn these self-destructive patterns.

7.     Humility

Spirituality is at the heart of the 12-Step Program, so the addicts ask the higher power to remove their character flaws in the seventh step. The original step states, “[We] humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” This step means the individual has recognized their inability to unlearn their self-destructive behaviors, and they want a higher power (or a higher purpose) to intervene or course-correct.

8.     Willingness

In the eighth step, individuals need to list all the wrongs they did to others and become willing to make amends. The original step states, “[We] made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

9.     Forgiveness

The ninth step is to actively connect with those you have hurt before coming into recovery. The original step states, “[We] made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” This step can be challenging as it may involve confronting the people you’ve wronged and show vulnerability enough to ask for forgiveness. This step is essential to the healing process.

10. Maintenance

Recovery does not happen overnight or after a single intervention. You need to continue taking personal inventory and soul-searching from time to time. It will help you admit your mistakes and heal quicker. The original step states, “[We] continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”

11. Making Contact

As already mentioned, spirituality is the core of this program, so praying or meditation is involved. In the second last step, individuals need to connect with the higher power through prayer to seek enlightenment. The original step states, “[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.”

12. Service

 Lastly, the addict must carry the message of this program to others who may need it. The original step states, “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.”

Read more at Abbey Care Foundation for How Addiction Affects Relationships
Please place after this sentence:  In recent years, the understanding of the term God has been broadened significantly, and it now refers to a higher power that one chooses to believe in.


The 12-Step Program is a comprehensive guide on the path of recovery. People can adapt it according to their requirements and the type of addiction they are dealing with. But as long as they stay true to their original premises, they can benefit from it, and it will help them recover and enjoy a life of sobriety.

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