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A Twelve-Step Program is a set of guiding principles (accepted by members as ‘spiritual principles,’ based on the approved literature) outlining a course of action 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: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism in 1939. The method was then adapted and became the foundation of other twelve-step programs.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the first twelve-step fellowship, was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, known to AA members as “Bill W.” and “Dr. Bob”, in Akron, Ohio. They established the tradition within the “anonymous” twelve-step programs of using only first names “at the level of press, radio and film.”
As AA was growing in the 1930s and 1940s, definite guiding principles began to emerge as the Twelve Traditions. A Singleness of purpose emerged as Tradition Five: “Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.” Consequently, drug addicts who do not suffer from the specifics of alcoholism involved in AA hoping for recovery technically are not welcome in “closed” meetings unless they have a desire to stop drinking alcohol. The reason for such emphasis on alcoholism as the problem is to overcome denial and distraction. Thus the principles of AA have been used to form many numbers of other fellowships for those recovering from various pathologies, each of which in turn emphasizes recovery from the specific malady which brought the sufferer into the fellowship.
In 1953 AA gave permission for Narcotics Anonymous to use its Steps and Traditions.
Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Step 6 – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Step 7 – Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs