What Is a 12-step Program?
The first 12-step fellowship, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), was initially established in 1935 to provide guiding pillars for those suffering from alcoholism to come together in groups and support one another. In subsequent decades, the 12 steps have been adapted to fit the needs of people addicted to many different substances—not just alcohol.
The most common 12-step programs include:
- Alcoholic Anonymous (AA)
- Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
- Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
- Gamblers Anonymous (GA)
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
The program includes regularly scheduled meetings in a public space like community center or faith-based organization like a church. For those in recovery, the 12-step program is considered a safe space to share feelings, worries, and anything else.
Variations of the 12-step program are now used among countless self-help organizations as a tool to remind users to be steadfast in their commitment toward sobriety. The original AA has also served as a model for secular programs to fit the needs of the individuals.
The Comprehensive 12-Step List
These are the original 12-steps as published by AA:
- Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Step 2 – We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Step 3 – We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Step 4 – We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Step 5 – We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Step 6 – We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Step 7 – We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Step 8 – We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Step 9 – We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Step 10 – We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- Step 11 – We 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.
In the fifth installment of this series, we focus on Step 5, which states we have – “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
What does this mean? Is it like a confessional?
Maybe. It depends on your approach. Admitting one’s own flaws, let alone discussing them with others, is no easy task. However, it is a necessary step to move forward and feel at peace. Putting your faults out into the universe can be a therapeutic and humbling experience. Plus, humility and honesty are imperative to successfully completing the 12-step process and achieving sobriety.
The steps prior to Step 5 walk individuals through first admitting and eventually taking stock of their actions. But it’s not enough to make a silent general confession, whether to themselves or to their higher power. Many even rationalize that “God already knows this stuff.” Whether or not that’s the case, it’s not enough.
Instead, they need to break out of their fear-filled shells and vocalize exactly what they think they’ve done wrong. This particular step will allow people to become more comfortable with themselves since people can sometimes be their own toughest critics. For Step 5 in particular, the person in recovery should find someone they trust and are comfortable with. This certainly isn’t easy—it requires a level of courage and immense trust—but Step 5 serves as a fulcrum to tackle the rest of the remaining 12 steps.
How To Effectively Practice Step 5
Several accounts from people in recovery stress the importance of taking Step 5 immediately after completing Step 4. Take the moral inventory of yourself that you’ve written about during Step 4 and review them objectively with another person or guide. This will help you recognize patterns of what had consistently influenced your choices.
Choosing your guide – Your mentor or guide should be chosen with care. Be mindful of the fact that person whom you choose is your sounding board—they can be a therapist, AA sponsor, spiritual advisor, physician, etc, but the only criteria is:
- They should understand the fifth step, its purpose, and their role.
- They should be trustworthy
- They should be truly objective. This rules out family, friends, or anyone with whom you have a shared social history.
- They should know how to listen without being judgmental.
Confess, but don’t dwell – It’s vital to note that while you admit or confess your weaknesses, transgressions, wrongdoings, etc, the goal is to feel lighter and be at peace. It won’t help anyone to dwell on the negative, instead, open up and try to move on. It can feel liberating.
One of the most positive facets of the 12-step program and specifically Step 5 is that it can be applied to many different aspects of life after treatment. Routine emotional cleanses can enable you to think clearer and simply carry a more positive and peaceful disposition.
Moving Forward – Need Addiction Treatment? Call Us Now
Are you feeling confined to your addiction? Are searching for help but unsure how to approach it? California Highlands Addiction Treatment is here to help. Call us anytime at 888-969-8755 and our dedicated addiction specialists will be there. They can answer any of your questions and explain our variety of treatment options that can fit your individual needs.