Addiction Treatment: The history of the twelve steps

Posted on 04/01/13 11:52:am

Addiction treatment can be the single most powerful time in someone’s life. Those in recovery often cite experiences within their first days if treatment as life changing and an experience that saved their lives. All over the country people belong to a fellowship called Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. These people meet to attain and maintain sobriety. The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. Shortly after AA began, the Oxford Group, a Christian organization influenced the early members of AA about the spiritual principals needed for recovery. Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA, wrote what would become known as “the Big Book”. He recognized that people struggling with addiction need a simple, yet powerful, program to become the crux of recovery. Today the original 12 steps have been modified very little, only edited down to include less reference to God.

Since then, the 12 steps have become synonymous with AA. Many treatment providers use the 12 step program as a basis for achieving and maintaining recovery from all types of addiction, not just alcohol. Additionally, the 12 step program is used to help people deal with certain emotional disorders.

The 12 steps begin by challenging the notion that no matter what a person has free choice and ends with the closing of the loop and giving back to those who can use this deep spiritual experience to improve their lives. Today’s 12 steps are recognized as:

  • Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—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 Him.
  • 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 Him 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 Him, praying only for knowledge of His 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 alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


While the 12 steps are widely recognized as a treatment program, they are not a stand-alone solution or cure for addiction. Professionals agree that addiction is not something with definite cure, but a constant series of activities designed to keep a person abstaining and improving their life and spiritual health. The ideal role of the 12steps is one facet in a multi modal approach. Other types programs like behavioral therapy, group therapy, and one on one counseling, all used together to help heal the whole person.

The addiction treatment services at Rogers Memorial Hospital are geared to help those who want recovery and are ready to accept change in their lives, to begin this process contact the admissions department with questions at 800-767-4411, or request a screening online.



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