12 Steps of Recovery
Along with the A.A. Big Book, the A.A 12 Steps and 12 Traditions Book is our textbook or roadmap to recovery. You may be able to purhase this book from an AA group, or at Oklahoma City Intergroup Service Office, 2701 N. Portland, Suite E, Oklahoma City, OK 73107, or you can read it for free online from AA.org.
"A.A.'s Twelve Steps are a group of principle's, spiritual in nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily usefully whole." Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
Working the Steps Takes You Back to Your Humanity
During the deepest stages of your alcholism, how dark and lonely a place was it? Likely it was the worst part of your life, one of unimaginable and unspeakable thoughts, words and actions (but, of course, you remember how bad it was). Somewhere, in the depths of your soul, you felt a yearning to reach for that part of humanity that had somehow escaped you in your alcohol using days.
For some, beginning recovery is the first time in many months and years where hope for a better life is a goal that seems attainable. It takes a certain amount of faith to get to this point, and not everyone recognizes the opportunity in the first few weeks of recovery. Still, having a whole new beginning is enough to galvanize the most cynical into giving recovery a chance.
It’s also an opportunity to find your way back to core values or principles, having never recognized them in the first place, to discover principles that are important to recovery.
Working the steps is, then, a basic way – some call it a roadmap – to find your way back to your humanity. If you work the steps – really work them – they are progressive in nature. That is, the steps begin with a self-examination and steadily increase your ability to instill healthy habits and chip away at the wall of isolation that once kept you locked away from humanity.
Working the Steps Promotes Essential Values / Principles
It has been said that each of the 12 Steps incorporates an essential value or principle. As you work the steps, you become more practiced in helping your healing process. You learn by doing, by being active in working the steps. Of course, there is no “official” list of value or principles associated with each of the steps. You can ascribe any value you choose to any of the steps and it will be perfectly appropriate. What matters is that there are values or principles that you begin to incorporate into your life of sobriety the more you progress in working the steps.
Step One: Acceptance – "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable."- Twelve by Twelve pg 21" (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) You could just as easily say honesty is a principle associated with Step One, since you need to acknowledge what is really going on in your life as you work this step. You admit to yourself that you powerless over alcohol and choose to no longer deny the ramifications of your self-destructive behavior. Acceptance is a prerequisite to moving forward in recovery.
Step Two: Faith - "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." - Twelve by Twelve pg 25 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) - Certainly we are all powerless to overcome alcoholism on our own. When we work Step Two, we come to recognize that there is a Higher Power at work that fosters our ability to climb out of our alcoholism past and make steady progress in our goal of recovery. To actively work this step, we need to open up to the idea that there’s something infinitely more powerful at work in the universe than just ourselves.
Step Three: Trust - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him" Twelve by Twelve pg 34 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) Faith, which may be associated with Step Two, goes hand-in-hand with the principle of trust so intertwined with Step Three. You cannot go forward in faith of a Higher Power and do the work you must without trust that you will have the strength and courage and wisdom to keep on going. Trust also means that you learn to step outside yourself, end your isolation, and begin to extend yourself to others.
Step Four: Honesty - "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves " Twelve by Twelve pg 42" (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) Closely aligned with acceptance (the principle associated with Step One), honesty requires that you peer inside yourself and scrutinize what you see there. Alcoholism masks many character defects, but being sober allows you the opportunity to peel away that mask. Doing something about glaring faults and self-destructive behaviors requires rigorous honesty first – and continuing to work the steps.
Step Five: Courage - "Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." Twelve by Twelve pg 55 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ). How you build connection with “God, self, and another human being” that Step Five encourages? It takes courage, for one thing, and courage is not a principle many in early recovery have in abundance. Still, you’ve come this far, so you have some measure of grit and determination. Courage is another word for what it takes – and, you’ve summoned up quite a bit so far on your journey.
Step Six: Willingness - "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." Twelve by Twelve pg 63 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) Being open to learn a new way of life without the masks of Alcoholism means having the willingness to make further progress. At this point in your recovery journey, you may come face to face with things that you find troubling or even dangerous from your past. But you can’t hope to end your isolation and connect with others if you aren’t able to progress further in this step. Allow yourself the willingness to push on – despite how uncomfortable or disquieting your revelations may be.
Step Seven: Humility - "Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." Twelve by Twelve pg 70 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) The world is so much more than each of us and our immediate concerns. Once you start working Step Seven, it helps if you feel a sense of humility. None of us is, after all, God. Therefore, none of us is perfect. Humility allows us to accept and own that there is a better way to live our lives other than remaining trapped in our alcoholism.
Step Eight: Forgiveness - "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all." Twelve by Twelve pg 77 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) Months and years of alcoholism have kept you trapped in destructive and self-destructive behaviors that hurt many others besides just you. As you begin the tough work of Step Eight, you need to find within you the power to forgive yourself and others for all that has happened to cause harm due to your alcoholism. Yes, you need to own the responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions. And, yes, you need to do something about it. But first, embrace the principle of forgiveness – which makes working Step Eight that much easier.
Step Nine: Freedom - "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." Twelve by Twelve pg 83 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) Now that you’ve identified and accepted responsibility for the wrongs that you have done to others, making amends brings along with it an incredible benefit – freedom. Once you have lightened your burden by making amends, your soul feels lifted. You have a sense of well-being, an almost tangible sense of goodness and light – and you feel empowered to keep going, to keep working the steps in recovery.
Step Ten: Perseverence - "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it." Twelve by Twelve pg 88 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) You’ve come a long way by the time you reach Step Ten. In some respects, it’s getting tougher to make further progrss working the steps. You need the endurance of a long-distance runner, since you may hit the wall at any time. It is often at this point in recovery when you realize the principle of perseverence. You know your ultimate goal: effective long-term recovery. You also know that there are many obstacles that rear up along the way. At any time, you could come smack up against the urge to slip back into alcoholism. Stick with your resolve. Keep working the steps.
Step Eleven: Patience - "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." Twelve by Twelve pg 96 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) An awful lot of water has roiled under the bridge since you first set foot on the journey of recovery. It helps if you acknowledge that you don’t always know what’s best for you, that perhaps, it’s your Higher Power or the God as you know Him that can help you through the tough times. The steps you work day in and day out may not reveal a payoff that you can readily see – but they are working in your favor nonetheless. Strive to cultivate the principle of patience – which can help see you through periods of indecision or confusion.
Step Twelve: Love - "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." Twelve by Twelve pg 106 (Copyright © 2015 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services ) When you arrive at Step Twelve, you may be tempted to think that all your work is done. In some respects, however, this may be the toughest step of all. Achieving effective long-term recovery requires that you give of yourself to others. In essence, it means that you recognize and accept the principle of love as integral to true recovery. Looking at this another way you could say that recovery is love gained, whereas relapse is love lost.
The principles stated below do not reflect the AA as a whole, they are simply meant as a guide. As stated above, you can ascribe any value or principle you choose to any of the steps.