The Meaning and Intention Behind the 12 Steps
Millions of people have successfully recovered through the 12 Steps originally developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. 12-step recovery is an evidence-based element of care that has been proven effective in peer-reviewed research. But how does this process help trigger the profound insight and understanding that enable personal transformation? That’s a big question, but we can discuss the answer here.
In a nutshell, the 12-step process helps strip away the desires which have gotten the better of us and the ego and stubborn pride which stand in the way of our progress. We come away from the work with a better understanding of ourselves, the world, and our place in it. Most importantly, we have hope, humility, willingness, and a sense of purpose. Working the 12 Steps properly isn’t easy, but a few things worth doing are. The 12-step process is one of the most powerful tools for personal transformation.
If we expect big changes, we must be willing to do the work. The good news is that we know this system and way of living works. We’ve seen it time and time again. There aren’t any shortcuts to the cathartic, transformative experience that completing the step work creates. It’s that simple.
Here is a short summary of each of the 12 Steps in modern language and the principle associated with each one:
- Step 1 – Honesty: We admit and accept that addiction has made our lives unmanageable and we cannot overcome it alone.
- Step 2 – Hope: We acknowledge a belief that something greater than ourselves can help us overcome addiction and make our lives manageable again.
- Step 3 – Trust: We decide to turn our will (thinking) and our lives (actions) over to a Higher Power of our understanding.
- Step 4 – Courage: We take a careful, unflinching look at our thinking and behaviors and make a list of the things we believe we need to change.
- Step 5 – Integrity: We thoroughly admit these things to our Higher Power and someone we trust.
- Step 6 – Willingness: We are prepared to let our Higher Power and the program help us change these things about ourselves.
- Step 7 – Humility: We ask our Higher Power to help us initiate this change.
- Step 8 – Selflessness: We make a list of anyone we harmed in our behaviors and decide to make things right to the best of our ability.
- Step 9 – Justice: We make amends and set things right with all of those we harmed to the best of our ability. Note, this step isn’t about apologizing. It’s about asking the person directly, when possible and practical, how you can make things right or what you can do to make them better.
- Step 10 – Perseverance: We make a habit out of methodically taking an honest look at our thinking and behavior as we did in Step 4, so that we can maintain what we’ve gained and continue to grow.
- Step 11 – Spirituality: We use prayer and meditation to maintain awareness and connection to our Higher Power to help us continue to turn our will (thinking) and our lives (actions) over to a greater purpose.
- Step 12 – Service: We carry the message of hope and share the solution with others who suffer from addiction as we did. We continue to practice the principles we learned in every area of our lives to the best of our ability.