What are the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions?

AA otherwise known as Alcoholics Anonymous is a community-based program, which helps alcoholics to beat their addiction. No one knows the exact origins of the 12 steps or the 12 traditions but most believe they originated from the Oxford Groups in the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1934, it is said to have morphed into what is now the Alcohol Anonymous program. This program is based off a set of 12 steps and 12 traditions. They claim that if you follow the 12 steps and comply with the 12 traditions, you will lead a life away from your addiction.

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The Adapted 12 Steps

All 12 step programs are founded on a set of steps. Although different groups have variations of these steps the basic principles are essentially the same. According to Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 steps that you need to take to recover from your addiction are:

12 step meetings

The 12 steps and 12 traditions are meant to be followed by all AA members.

  1. You are powerless over your addiction and that your life is now unmanageable – this step forces you to admit your addiction and the problems it caused.
  2. There is a greater power that helps you restore your sanity – by recognizing something other than yourself; you find that the insanity the addiction causes is lessened.
  3. Give up your will to the greater power / God as you know him – by giving yourself up to a higher power, you can make the changes that you need to, to beat the addiction.
  4. Search yourself and make a moral inventory – examine yourself closely and figure out what is good and bad about you and your decisions.
  5. Admit to yourself, the greater power, and at least one other person everything you’ve done wrong – some say that admitting what you did is somehow cathartic and helps to focus you on your goals.
  6. Be ready to have God take the defects of character away – once you realize your shortcomings be ready to understand and correct them.
  7. Ask God to help you correct the shortcomings you have – asking the higher power to take the problems away.
  8. Make a list of the people your alcoholism hurt and try to correct as much as you can – by making a list of everyone you hurt and correcting it you take responsibility for what the drinking has done to your friends and family.
  9. Fix what you can – try to correct what you did wrong unless it makes things worse.
  10. Try to continually evaluate yourself – when you do you can correct the wrongs immediately.
  11. Through praying and meditation seek help from god – accept that only god can change things and believe that he will.
  12. Use what you have learned to help others – when you find a spiritual awakening try to help others find theirs.

Each 12 step program has a slightly different variation of these. They range from more to less spiritual but the basic idea is generally the same. The original groups believed strictly in nondenominational devotion. The idea is to believe in spirituality and a higher power without judging others for their beliefs. This idea continues in Alcoholic Anonymous programs today. They believe in a nonjudgmental atmosphere in all things except for the desire to stop using.

The Adapted 12 Traditions

Along with the 12 steps, there are also 12 traditions. These are the core tenants of the program. They act as kind of a rulebook to the meetings and program in general.

  1. The welfare of the organization comes first.
  2. God is the highest authority of the group.
  3. The only requirement to be in Alcoholic Anonymous is the desire to quit drinking,
  4. Everyone should remain anonymous unless it affects someone else in the group or the group itself.
  5. The primary purpose of the group is to spread the message to other alcoholics who need help.
  6. No one should use Alcoholics Anonymous name for any purpose other than their primary one, to help other alcoholics become sober.
  7. Members should support the group without outside donations.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should be a nonprofessional group using volunteers and workers only under special circumstances.
  9. Alcoholics Anonymous is not an organization as such but will sometimes use committees and boards when needed.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous should never be involved in controversy, lobby, or have opinions on other matters.
  11. Public relations for Alcoholics Anonymous is based off attracting people to the program rather than promoting the program. Always maintain the anonymity of the program.
  12. Anonymity is the cornerstone of the traditions. This reminds you to put principles above personalities.

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The Oxford Groups which most believe Alcoholics Anonymous came from also believed in the pattern of anonymity and sharing to the benefit of yourself and others.

Although there is no hard data on the effectiveness of 12 step programs, many people find comfort in both the steps and the traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. The essential tenants and anonymous nature of Alcoholics Anonymous makes the data difficult to collect. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many of those in the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs attend other types of therapy for their addiction. Because some of the Alcoholics Anonymous programs are available in rehab facilities, it is impossible to tell exactly how many people the program helps. Since the tradition started, it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon of alcoholics helping one another to recover from the addiction and achieve sobriety.

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If you're seeking addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, the AlcoholicsAnonymous.com helpline offers a convenient and private solution to assist you. Our caring treatment advisors are ready to take your call anytime, day or night. Calls are answered 24/7 to discuss treatment and recovery options.

Your call is routed to a general helpline call center where caring admissions coordinators can help you decide what treatment option is right for yourself or for your loved one. Our helpline is NOT affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous/AA nor does AA sponsor the treatment options that are recommended when you call.

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