What is a 12-step Program?
The 12-step program was pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1935 and they are, in many ways, the beginning of modern addiction treatment. The steps are outlined in AA’s primary resource nicknamed the Big Book by people in the program. The steps are guidelines to accepting your addiction, working to change your thoughts and behaviors, and working toward a better future in sobriety.
Since its origin, the 12-step program has been adapted for other addictions, including cocaine, meth, narcotics in general, and gambling. Though despite these adaptations, the general wording and principles of the steps have remained the same.
Programs using the 12 steps usually involve regular meetings of support groups and mentor relationships called sponsors. The purpose of these meetings is to get involved with a community free of judgment while also offering accountability and structure.
The Comprehensive 12-step List
The 12 steps have been widely used with minimal variations since the beginning of modern addiction treatment. The following are the original 12 steps in their entirety. Most programs based on AA’s 12-steps stick closely to these principles:
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.
Step 8: Making a List
Steps eight and nine go hand in hand, as the first prepares you for the second. Their goal, according to the Big Book, is as simple as it is difficult to achieve: to “develop the best possible relations with every human being we know.” It’s not easy to achieve and as relationships change and evolve over time, it’s a task that’s never truly finished. But this Big Book calls this process an “adventure” because this noble aim is a fulfilling and humbling endeavor. However, many people who start to build stable relationships find that they are starting from scratch unless they make amends for the mistakes and transgressions they have committed against people in their past.
Addiction can lead a person to do things that they never thought they would even consider. That often means hurting friends, family, and acquaintances. However, pursuing better relationships with others is one thing, but sitting down with people you’ve wronged, admitting fault to them, and seeking forgiveness is something different. It can be embarrassing even to imagine sitting face to face with jilted individuals.
However, this step has a two-fold purpose. First, it helps you examine your flaws beyond the ones that are obvious to you by looking at them from the perspective of others. Second, it helps you prepare to forge a path to healthy relationships moving forward, with the people you’ve hurt and any new people you meet. Before you sit down with anyone, it’s important to closely, honestly, and thoroughly examine your flaws and the ways they have affected others in the past.
Tips for Approaching Step Eight
In pursuit of the preceding steps, you’ve had to admit your faults to yourself, to God, and to other people. To create a full list in step eight, you’ll have to revisit that honesty and humility. Pride, embarrassment, and guilt may incline you to fudge the list a little. To complete step eight, consider the following tips:
Don’t minimize your faults
Surely some things are just water under the bridge, right? Or perhaps your addiction was private enough not to hurt anyone but yourself. These excuses are typically a symptom of minimizing your faults. The Big Book refers to this attitude as “intentional forgetting.” Take a look at your motives and actions. Did you treat people with the love and respect that healthy relationships are built on while you were in active addiction? Through deep reflection, you can begin to see how addiction has affected the people around you.
Start by forgiving others
It’s human nature to take a defensive position when thinking about the mistakes you’ve made in the past, especially when it involves hurting others. Think about the common response from children faced with their own guilt: “He/she started it.” It’s the same when examining past transgressions; you may begin to justify your actions because of the failings of people around you. It’s important to realize that people who have not struggled with addiction have their own flaws as well. In many cases, your addiction may have worn thin their ability to resist their flaws. Addiction brings out the worst in people, and it can have the same effect on the people around you. Since you are seeking to make amends and, hopefully, forgiveness, it’s important to start by forgiving others.
Expect nothing in return
Not every reunion will result in a beautiful, bittersweet Hallmark movie ending. Some people may not be ready to forgive, some people may not want anything to do with you, and some people may not see amends as important. There is a reason the words of this step say “willing to make amends” rather than “willing to obtain forgiveness.” The best you can do apologize, offer to make things right and encourage the acceptance of restitution. However, you should be prepared to respect the response. Don’t go in demanding forgiveness or an apology in return.
Use your best judgment
In some cases, you won’t be able to seek forgiveness and, in others, you probably shouldn’t. But doesn’t this step require you to prepare to make amends no matter what? By no means! For instance, you shouldn’t put yourself in a high-risk situation to make amends with your old dealer. Conversely, if you have committed a violent offense against someone during your addiction, you should show up on their doorstep.
In sensitive situations, consider alternatives like sending apologies via email or a letter. In situations where reaching out would hurt you or another person, some choose to make “living amends,” which is a daily act or good deed to remind themselves and make up for the things they could otherwise amend. When in doubt, ask sponsors, mentors, or counselors for guidance.
Moving Forward—Need Addiction Treatment? Call Us Now
Addiction is a chronic disease, but it’s one that is very treatable. Through addiction treatment and programs like the 12-steps, you can begin the road to long-lasting recovery. Call California Highlands Addiction Treatment at (888) 969-8755 to learn more about your treatment options.