The Twelve Steps
Twelve-step programs serve to help individuals in recovery from addictive or compulsive behaviors. The twelve steps locate these negative behaviors in the ego--that self-centeredness and overconfidence in one's own mental capacity have led to uncontrollable behavior. According to this model, recovery will only come from a spiritual awakening that leads the addict or compulsive toward humility and trust in a power greater than him or herself.
Admit our powerlessness and our wrongs, and trust in a higher power for guidance and strength.
- We admitted we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God to be.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God to be, praying only for knowledge of God’s Will for us and the power to carry that out.
- 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.
Here’s a classic video of Father Joseph C. Martin on AA:
The twelve steps originally came from the Alcoholics Anonymous program and were first put into writing in 1939. Over time, they have been adopted by groups addressing sex addiction, overeating, gambling, and a host of other problems. Twelve-step programs are now the most widely used resource for overcoming addictive behavior in the world.
If you suffer from uncontrollable addictive or compulsive behavior, please find a twelve-step meeting near you here.
The twelve steps as a recovery method are generally used in the context of meetings within a twelve-step program like AA. However, those who do not suffer from serious behavioral problems that might suggest a twelve-step program can derive strength from the message of redemption and humility that the twelve steps offer. Many in the twelve-step program use the Serenity Prayer as guidance for their recovery; its message, however, is relevant to all:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.