Step 12 of AA: Carry and Practice the AA Principles
Step 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) calls on you to support other alcoholics. Taking all you’ve experienced and learned throughout your journey through the 12 Steps, you can carry the message to others and help them on their own paths to sobriety while continuing to apply those principles throughout your own life of recovery.
Think about when you first started on your 12-step journey. There’s a reason you were able to be more open and honest with a group of strangers than with your own loved ones: it’s because they’d walked in your shoes. They understood the struggles and pain of addiction better than any non-alcoholic possibly could.
What Is Step 12 of AA?
“Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
As the last step in the AA recovery process, Step 12 functions as both an acknowledgment of all your hard work and its results, as well as marching orders for stepping into the rest of your life without alcohol.
There are three distinct aspects to AA’s Step 12.
The first is recognizing that the previous 11 steps have resulted in what AA calls a “spiritual awakening.” All of the work you’ve done—admitting your disease, surrendering your will to a higher power, making amends, and establishing continuous self-awareness and conscious spiritual contact—has created a huge psychological shift in you, one that you may not even realize has occurred.
That’s because this major change has happened gradually, through small changes you’ve made in your habits and thinking over the course of your journey. Step 12 of AA calls your attention to this new mindset—after all, it’s something you should be deeply proud of and grateful for.
Next, you’re called to support other alcoholics (or anyone suffering through addiction) by carrying the lessons and principles you’ve learned through your own path to sobriety to others who need help. You have now become that source of empathy and experience that was so vital to your own recovery, and you have the opportunity to pay it forward.
This is best done by simply sharing your own story when asked, offering support without judgment, and keep an open the door to any who seek it.
Acknowledging the Lifelong Endeavor
Lastly, AA Step 12 reminds you that this process is truly a lifelong endeavor. The principles you’ve learned and practiced throughout the 12 Steps of AA—acceptance, honesty, humility, and self-awareness, among others—are now part of a long-term sober lifestyle.
These principles, combined with your new state of consciousness, comprise a toolset from which you can draw on daily to lead a peaceful, honest, and fulfilling life of service. Step 12 of AA will never be truly complete, which is what makes it so powerful and rewarding.
Benefits of Step 12 of AA
Working with others as part of Step 12 helps you keep your own sobriety in check. According to The Big Book, “Nothing will so much ensure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.”
Connecting with other alcoholics, especially those in the early stages of their recovery, serves to remind you of your own struggle with addiction and why you’ve worked so hard to get sober. This is also a way to practice Step 10 of AA, which calls you to make a continued personal inventory of your emotions and actions. Tradition 5 of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions puts this concept even more simply: To keep it, we have to give it away.
Serving others also brings a sense of purpose and fulfillment to your own life. You’ve been able to take a terrible situation in your own experience and use it for good. There’s little that’s more rewarding than positively impacting the course of someone’s life. Again, think back to when you began the 12 Steps and how instrumental other members were in making you feel safe and valued. Knowing that you’ve inspired those feelings in another person is a beautiful thing, indeed.
Practicing the 12th Step
AA’s Step 12 is about helping others and practicing the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous throughout your own life. To support others in recovery, you could:
- Volunteer to tell your story frequently at AA meetings so that others might learn from your experiences.
- Become an AA sponsor so you can work one-on-one with someone who is embarking upon the 12 Steps.
- Offer to accompany someone to their first AA meeting, so they don’t have to go alone (or bring them to yours).
- Take on smaller tasks at your AA meetings that can support others, like grabbing the snacks for after-meeting conversation.
To continue practicing the principles of AA, you can:
- Continue to regularly attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to hold yourself accountable to the fellowship.
- Keep a self-inventory journal and spot-check your emotional state throughout the day for any triggers.
- Maintain awareness of your effect on those around you, promptly admitting any hurt or wrongdoings to keep your spiritual slate clean.
- Bring the AA principles of forgiveness, empathy, and surrender to all of your relationships, such as your family, friends, and coworkers.
Myths and Misconceptions of AA Step 12
Step 12 Myth #1: “I should tell everyone and anyone I meet about the principles of AA.”
Step 12 doesn’t call for you to be a proverbial evangelist for the 12 Steps. In fact, Tradition 11 of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions clearly states that Alcoholics Anonymous is a program of attraction, not one of promotion. Instead, you should only talk to people about the benefits of AA when you’re certain that they’re ready, and you’ll know this because they’ll come to you for help, not the other way around.
Step 12 Myth #2: “I can help other alcoholics because they’re still sick and I’m cured.”
Alcoholism is a disease without a cure. Even the 12 Steps are not a one-time-through solution to giving up drinking forever. That’s why Step 12 is so critical: it acknowledges that the work of applying the principles to your own life is ongoing. Helping other alcoholics is part of our own recovery, and that recovery never ends. By carrying the message of AA to others, we consistently reinforce it for ourselves.
Find an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting
Whether you’re just beginning to get sober, or you’re a longtime AA member looking for a new support group, your first step is finding an AA meeting near you. Use the online directory to connect with a local chapter. If you’re new to Alcoholics Anonymous, don’t worry, there’s no cost to join or entry requirements—all you need to have is a genuine desire to stop drinking.
Even those who have completed the 12 Steps are vulnerable to the stressors of everyday life. If you notice signs that you’re slipping back into harmful habits—or you’re concerned about someone you care for—consider reaching out to a treatment specialist. They can walk you through options to help you get back on track, including detox and rehab programs. Call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to connect with a specialist today.