What Are The 12 Steps? – Everything You Need to Know

What are the 12 steps of aa? How do the 12 step groups help in recovery? How do the Steps work for addiction treatment? What is the purpose of the 12-step process in al-anon? Find the answers to these and related questions in this article.

Hi. My name is Sean Galla. I am a facilitator of support groups and support forums for men, including addiction support groups, with over ten years of experience. My work provides safe spaces for men to talk about men’s issues, including addiction and recovery. The 12 steps are some of the most discussed topics regarding recovery.

In this article, I will talk about everything you need to know about the 12 steps in recovery.

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Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

The history of the 12-step program

Addiction has been an epidemic plaguing the American population for generations. Considered a mental illness, addiction is usually a common symptom in people battling other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

The first 12-step program was developed in the 1930s by Bob Smith’ Dr. Bob’, and Bill Wilson, which was what is today referred to as Alcoholics Anonymous world services. The program was developed to help members living with alcohol addiction.

Since then, the 12-step program guidelines have been used in international mutual aid programs that support recovery from different substance abuse addictions, compulsions and behavioral addictions. Over the years, tens of similar programs have been created using the A.A. approach as aid programs for various issues, including drug addiction, compulsive gambling, overeating, sex addiction, and many others.

The 12-step model has also been used to create auxiliary programs such as Al-Anon, gamblers anon, and Nar-Anon groups for friends and family members of alcoholics and addicts.

All 12-step programs make use of a version of the original 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous program that was published in 1939 in the big book titled Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism.

Many recovery centers in America fully embrace the 12 steps as practical steps to continued recovery. They are particularly helpful when combined with other addiction treatment methods like psychiatric care, behavioral therapy, and medication-assisted treatment (M.A.T.).


What are the 12 steps – the purpose

The purpose of the 12 steps treatment programs is to help people with an addiction to recover from their out-of-control behavior to restore order and manageability in their life. They also helps families and children who do not know how to deal with alcoholic parents. It allows them to see that their behavior is a symptom of other underlying issues. This prompts them to investigate the actual cause of the compulsive behavior.

What are the 12 steps of recovery?

These are a set of guiding principles used in addiction treatment to outline action plans that help to tackle the addiction. This includes issues related to drug addiction, alcoholism and behavioral compulsion.

  • Step 1: Admitting you are powerless over your addiction
  • Step 2: Believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  • Step 3: Make a decision to turn our will and lives over to God’s care as we understand Him.
  • Step 4: Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Step 5: Admitted to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Step 6: We are entirely ready to have God remove all these character defects.
  • Step 7: Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Step 8: Make a list of all persons we harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when making contact would injure them or others.
  • Step 10: Continue to take personal inventory and, when we are wrong, promptly admit 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.

The 12 steps mainly focus on believing in a higher power to find meaning in life after addiction. Believing in a higher power gives members a sense of community. They adopt healthy coping mechanisms, which is essential in progressing through the recovery process.

The 12-traditions

These are the spiritual principles that guide the 12 steps. The twelve traditions mainly focus on fostering understanding of the importance of effective leadership, sponsorship, unity, and independence. The traditions also address questions about managing public relations and financing support groups.

The purpose of the 12 traditions is to provide guidelines for how the group can relate to the community effectively and guide relationships between individual group members.

What are the 12 steps – Benefits

  • They are a free resource for addressing substance use problems in a community.
  • The 12-step programs are Readily available throughout America.
  • The programs are Community-based.
  • The steps encourage members to be actively involved in recovery
  • There are online and in-person 12-step recovery programs.

Are 12-step programs effective?

The path to substance use recovery is not linear. This means that there are many paths one can take to recover. 12-step programs are just one of the many paths people can take to recovery. However, the program has helped millions of individuals all over the world to recover from addictions and compulsive behaviors, deeming it helpful and ideal.

According to research, 12-step intervention programs and support groups are essential to recovery. Self-report information from N.A., CA, and A.A. shows that the average abstinence for 12-step program members is currently at five years. A third of members remain abstinent between one and five years.

Research also shows that:

  • Attending 12-step recovery programs as part of specialized treatment for substance use is associated with overall better outcomes.
  • Participating in program activities and faithfully attending meetings can reduce the chances of relapsing.
  • Greater involvement, especially when an individual connects with a 12-step program, is linked to better outcomes.

Alternatives to the 12-step recovery programs

There are other mutual support options available to recovering people with an addiction who prefer a non-spiritual approach to recovery.

SMART recovery

This is a secular alternative to 12-step programs such as A.A. This recovery program does not emphasize seeking a higher power or powerlessness. Instead, it emphasizes looking at substance use as a habit that can be controlled. It used cognitive behavioral therapy approaches to help members to find motivation, change addictive thoughts, cope with cravings and find healthier habits.

Secular organizations for sobriety (S.O.S.)

this program teaches members to focus on their core values and integrity instead of looking to a higher power. Members are encouraged to prioritize sobriety and focus on the steps to remain steadfast on the recovery path.

Seeking professional treatment

In addition to 12-step and mutual support programs, seeking professional treatment to improve your chances of recovery is always ideal. Treatment options are dependent on individual needs, including therapy, inpatient/outpatient rehab, mental health treatment, and medications for underlying health conditions. A medical professional is best placed to determine the best course of treatment for individual needs.

12-step support groups for men recommendations

Al-Anon family groups


Al-Anon is a support group for family members and caregivers of alcoholics. It offers support, guidance, and an opportunity to learn from other people who have lived with alcoholics. It has a support group for families and teens to ensure everyone has a safe space to come and learn more about alcoholism.

Narcotics Anonymous


Narcotics Anonymous is one of many 12-step meeting programs and treatment providers for narcotics addicts. As a global community-based organization, meetings occur in different parts of the world in different localities. You can check online for an available meeting in your area. It offers recovery from the effects of narcotics addiction through the twelve-step program.

About MensGroup


MensGroup is an online men’s support group that offers group support, help, and guidance to men interested in becoming better versions of themselves, including men working to overcome addiction.

It is a supportive network of men ready and willing to help others like them through shared life experiences. The men’s group session contains relevant information to help you lead a better life. It is more than just a self-help group. It offers one the support and guidance for relapse prevention to become a better man and lead a more fulfilling life.

As an online support group for men, the group meets virtually over video or chat, making it perfect for busy men who prefer not to attend physical addiction anonymous meetings.


Like any other mental health problem, understanding addiction is a necessary first step when working towards recovery. Whether you are a person with an addiction looking for help or a friend or loved one to a person with a substance use disorder, this article has all the information you need to understand what the 12-step programs are and how the role they play in addiction recovery.

MensGroup offers a solid social network of friends who will walk with you in your recovery journey for men needing a support network.