What is a 12-Step Program?

A 12-step program is a course of action that leads the participants to recovery from addiction. The original Twelve Steps was developed by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Although originally intended as a way to recover from alcohol addiction, the method has been adapted to serve as an aid to those recovering from many other addictions, including drug, food, and sex addictions. Other 12-step groups, such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, focus on providing help to the families and friends of those addicted.

Twelve-step programs work through group meetings in which members share their experiences in recovery. The program emphasizes the common welfare of the group. Meetings are anonymous, as participants only use their first name, and all discussions are considered private. Some groups are open to all, while others are limited according to certain characteristics. For example, some meetings are only for those new to recovery, while other meetings may be for those who have been in recovery for quite a while. Groups can also be limited by gender. Most groups distinguish between those meetings that are open to everyone and those that are limited to those suffering from the particular addiction that is the focus of the group (e.g., someone with drug addiction would not attend a meeting devoted to alcoholism unless they were also addicted to alcohol).



  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  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.
  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.

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