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Twelve Step programs are well known for their use in recovering from addictive and dysfunctional behaviors. The first 12-step program began with Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) in the 1930s and has since grown to be the most widely used approach in dealing not only with recovery from alcoholism, but also from drug abuse and various other addictive and dysfunctional behaviors.

The first book written to cover the 12-step program was titled “Alcoholics Anonymous”, affectionately known as the Big Book by program members. Following the subsequent extensive growth of twelve step programs for other addictive and dysfunctional behaviors, many additional books were written and recordings and videos were produced. These cover the steps in greater detail and how people have specifically applied the steps in their lives.

Other groups who have adopted the 12 steps to address their own particular addictive or dysfunctional behavior have similar

Ideas, usually with only minor variations. These steps are meant to be worked sequentially as a process of getting rid of addictive behaviors and should result in a growth in freedom and happiness, as outlined in the Promises. The general governing approach for A.A. groups was originally laid out in the Twelve Traditions, and they remain the guiding principles for most 12 step groups today.

As summarized by the American Psychological Association, the process involves the following:

  • Admitting that one cannot control one’s alcoholism, addiction or compulsion
  • Recognizing a higher 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 who suffer from the same alcoholism, addictions or compulsions

The following are the original twelve steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous and have been adapted for other twelve step programs:

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