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12 Steps Of Alcoholics Anonymous

June 18th, 2010 – Posted by Betty Ford Center in Recovery News
Tags: 12 Steps Alcoholics Anonymous


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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24 Responses to “12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous”

  1. Z says:

    Hi – you have another article in this site, “Poppycock!” which says addiction is not the result of poor morals or bad character. Yet here, you appear to suggest that in fact, you believe it is. Does your center actually hold both positions?

  2. Betty Ford Center says:

    Addiction is a disease. What you are referring to is a list of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of which is to make a moral inventory. This does not mean the poor morals cause addiction; it is a Step that helps a person retain or regain honesty in their quest to stay sober.

  3. Troy B. says:

    Addiction is a disease. Chronic, progressive, deadly. Poor morals or bad character are usually the result of addiction, not the other way around. In working Step 4, I got honest for the first time in my life…

  4. Linda B. says:

    Hi everyone! I am a retired teacher and going back to school to retrain as a substance abuse counselor–I live in the Phoenix area. I think I can relate as I had a problem with overeating (emotional problems) and gained 100 pounds. Through something similar to the 12-step program I was able to loose the weight and have kept it off for over a year. It takes diligence every day to not overeat–just as the alcoholic or drug user will have to think about what he is doing every day. Overeating is tougher as we HAVE to eat–do not have to drink, take drugs. My “reward” for overeating is adult diabetes so I really have to be careful. Wish me luck!!

  5. Jassmine says:

    I’ve got 14 yrs clean /sober. I just wanted to say it doesn’t matter where we have been, it only matters were we are going. How we get there one moment at a time is with the 12 Steps and each other.
    NA AA CA – it all keeps me away from the DA.

  6. Lynn says:

    My name is Lynn, I’m an addict. I am an alumni from BFC. Unfortunately I relapsed, and it caused me to do some time in county jail. I am out now on a home monitor/GPS device and am starting my life over again. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have the support from AA/CA/NA and the skills and tools I got from the program at BFC. Although I relapsed, I still am very hopeful to get back on track and build another foundation for my new start!

  7. Betty Ford Center says:

    Lynn, With your positive attitude and the support of 12 Step friends, you have a strong, fresh start. We wish you well – please stay in touch and let us know how you’re doing.

  8. Beth says:

    Having read the above twelve steps, and aware of the success it has had with so many people, I am curious as to how you approach a non-religious or atheist person. Even non-religious and atheists have morals. But the Steps specifically ask you to throw yourself at the mercy of someone you don’t believe in. How do you help that segment of the population?

  9. Betty Ford Center says:

    There is a chapter in the Big Book of AA called ‘We Agnostics’ that deals with the questions you’ve raised. Because this has come up before through the years, ‘12 Steps for Atheists’ was created many years ago. A Higher Power can be whatever is needed to help a person realize their vision of recovery.

  10. Mark C. says:

    My closest friend is getting ready to leave rehab after 41 days (detox/rehab.) She asked me to attend AA meetings with her once she comes home. I gladly agreed then read the pillars of AA, the 12 steps.
    What bothers me is the heavy dependence on a supreme being who has the ability to change an individual. Karl Marx realized individuals can be controlled by simply giving them religion. Is this not what the 12 steps do? Would it not be better to teach the individual that they are strong enough to achieve the same goal by believing in themselves rather than in a God who will help them change. I am admittedly agnostic but I am disturbed by this “control the crowds by giving them religion” approach.
    Are there any other programs which do not rely on spiritual support? It seems to me that teaching someone to believe in himself rather than someone (or something else) would be somewhat more difficult but more effective long term.

  11. Betty Ford Center says:

    There are many agnostics/atheists in AA; although they don’t believe in the popular perception of God, they have found a power greater than themselves that helps them remain sober.
    Since your friend has asked you to attend with her, she has been advised to go to AA by people who know how effective the program is. I would suggest you put your thoughts on a ‘back burner’ for now and take an open mind into the meeting as you support your best friend.

  12. Ron C. says:

    For the substantial portion of the population who are either atheist or agnostic, those steps which rely on belief ‘in Him’ are not only not going to work but be quite off-putting. Do you have a program that doesn’t rely on belief in God?

  13. Ron C. says:

    In item 9 above, you state that “12 Steps for Atheists was created many years ago”, but you don’t provide a link or state that programs tailored to those steps vs. the ‘higher power’ ones are available at BFC. Where can I find the ‘12 Steps for Atheists’, and where are there programs centered on them?

  14. Betty Ford Center says:

    Hello Ron,
    ‘12 Steps for Atheists’ is in several locations on the internet; there are even separate versions for agnostics. Here is one of the atheist versions:

    1. We admitted we were powerless over other people – that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2. Came to believe and to accept that a power within myself in tandem with supports and strengths beyond my own awareness and resources can restore me to a healthier, more balanced, and positive state of mind, body and soul.
    3. Made a decision to entrust our wills and our lives to the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before us.
    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    5. Admitted to ourselves, without reservation, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. When appropriate, asked the opinions of others and were willing to take those opinions into consideration, whether they were what we wanted to hear or not.
    6. We are ready to accept help in letting go of all our defects of character.
    7. With humility and openness sought to eliminate 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. Made a genuine effort to maintain a positive attitude and remain honest with ourselves when tracing the root of our troubles. Continued to think for ourselves and not be easily led, but seriously considered the input of others.
    12. Having a much stronger sense of self-worth and purpose as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other co-dependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

  15. Betty Ford Center says:

    The Betty Ford Center treatment program is based on the 12 Steps, but accommodations are made as needed for a variety of beliefs.

  16. Troy says:

    How can you discount that a large majority of people treated for alcoholism return to moderation? How can you build an entire industry around the fraudulent studies done on alcoholism? Do you know the Sobells were cleared when the industry accused them of fraud, but the Jellinik study was a fraud? I look forward to your response.

  17. Georgie T. says:

    E-z does it, Troy. No one wants to intrude on whatever trip you are on, although you do seem irritated that your premise doesn’t cause the collapse of AA. I don’t know what you could propose to accomplish that goal; perhaps a cure for alcoholism. Good luck!

  18. Sharon B. says:

    To Linda B. March 21, 2011 at 5:57am–Retired schoolteacher
    Back to school for counseling, what a great plan. I so much want to ask you how you are doing? I do not want to know if you gave up. Unless it is because you did not follow through with your plan. I can imagine the rocky road and some of the roadblocks considering what I see for myself – afraid of myself – not diagnosed diabetic yet – see the picture unfolding. Currently I am powerless over my fear.

  19. John W. says:

    A.A., including attending many meetings and working the 12 Steps, has kept me sober for the last 14 months. This doesn’t sound like a long time, but this was after 45 years of moderate to very heavy drinking.

  20. Dallas says:

    I do not believe in the necessity of the Twelve Steps. I realize that, for some, it may be effective, but I do not believe that there needs to be so much emphasis placed on the soul searching and admittance of guilt that Step 4 entails. I think that once someone has truly admitted that they are responsible for their choices and effects they can move forward and start to be a better person. Why do we need a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves? Can we not just admit that things need to get better and avoid the negativity that can haunt people for the rest of their lives! Why dwell on the past when we are trying to create a positive future! People already know the bad things that they have been hiding from or repressing. Focus on the positive as opposed to the negative and more people would be in a positive state of mind moving forward, instead of dwelling on the past. People who have gotten to the point of admitting the first Step, are already on their way to helping others. They need more encouragement and not a reminder, that is hard to forget, of the wrongs in their life. Please help addiction with positivity and encouragement as opposed to bringing up the negative past. The more people that we can have helping, the better we will all be!

  21. Denise U. says:

    I recently spent 2 weeks at a treatment center for alcoholism. Currently doing Intensive Outpatient services at the same center here in Ohio. I have been attending daily AA meetings that help me and working the 12 Steps. I am glad I chose to get help with my drinking problem. I have a lot of support from my family and friends. I focus on the positive and not dwell on the past. I will continue to move forward and listen to encouragement.

  22. Betty Ford Center says:

    Congratulations on doing the footwork you needed to do to get on the road to a healthy new life. The 12 Step meetings will continue to be wonderful support when you complete your treatment. Take care.

  23. Rick A. says:

    I am currently active in AA and it has worked wonders for me. I had visited the rooms twice prior and was “turned off” by all of the references to God in the 12 Steps, I considered myself an agnostic. This time around I decided to be more open to the program and give it a chance. I am not a religious person and do not see myself ever being so. I have found spirituality and a belief in a “power greater than myself”. Having had that spiritual awakening, I am sure that this is what has enabled me to have a new outlook on not only my future, but my past as well. I am positive that without this discovery, I wouldn’t be sober today. If you are agnostic as I was, just try to keep an open mind, as you work the steps with a sponsor, you may find the power you need to achieve long term recovery. Good Luck.

  24. Michael D. says:

    AA lacks authenticity and honesty…It repeatedly assures newcomers it is NOT religious, but it very much is! It is a matter of clearly established federal law that AA is religious and not spiritual. See the Griffin v. Coughlin case and the Warner v. Orange County case for example. Why the defiance on AA’s part? Why not just be honest with people? Lack of honesty and authenticity is not the way trust is built. This is likely one of the reasons that 95% of newcomers leave AA within one year of attending their first meeting. The reading of deeply religious, Christian prayers in every meeting reflects a lack of awareness and respect for the beliefs of others, and reveals intolerance. Programs of recovery should reflect and teach respect for the beliefs, or non-beliefs, of ALL people. That is how communities of trust and support are built and sustained. Page one of Step 2 is a perfect example of AA’s intolerance, where it calls non-believers “belligerent”, with the mind of a “savage”. Needless to say, criticizing and denigrating someone because of their beliefs is bigoted and ignorant. It is not very welcoming or tolerant, and sets a negative tone for any newcomer who comes to AA already struggling and simply seeking sobriety. In short, it reflects ideology that, decidedly, is anything but spiritual and principled.
    An even more chilling example of this bigoted and discriminatory ideology can be found on pages 143-145 of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions book. The story that Bill W. tells with such smugness is frightening. It is particularly sad that it is contained in a book which so many consider to be a “guidepost” for living. This type of bigotry, censorship, and vindictiveness has no place in the larger world, and even less of a place in the world of recovery. I ask anyone, does that type of treatment represent true fellowship? Is it spiritual or principled to refuse to help someone whose life is at risk due to relapse simply because they don’t believe a certain way? Of course not! It is spiritually and morally barbaric, and I think it is shameful that this type of intolerant and bigoted ideology continues to be broadcast to so many people. The individuality of each and every human being needs to be respected, especially when they are laboring under the ponderous weight of active alcoholism. How dare AA continue to publish such religious extremism. Hasn’t the world seen enough trouble from this type of intolerance and prejudicial ideology. It saddens me to know it is unlikely AA will change, but I am not surprised. If there is one question that should be answered by AA, it is this….”Is AA a calling to sobriety, or is it a calling to God? If it is the latter, it needs to practice the honesty it so fervently preaches. If it is the former, then it needs to make some long overdue corrective measures. With such an abysmally low success rate, I sincerely hope AA makes whatever changes are necessary. It is a deeply flawed program, rife with inconsistencies, contradictions, hypocrisies and incoherencies. Making it even more tragic is its unwillingness to accept criticism,acknowledge shortcomings, and embrace reform and change….ironically some of the very behavioral shortcomings it ostensibly is adroit at helping people change through the AA program.

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