Individuals seeking treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism often hear about 12-step programs. Although the principles underlying the Twelve Steps are easy to understand, living the steps is an ongoing challenge for many recovering individuals.

The 12-step model is just one of many treatment options for those experiencing problems with addiction, but it is a model that thousands of people have found helpful during the recovery process.

Origins of the 12-Step Model

addiction aftercareThe 12-step model was developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the 1930s. AA was the first organization to adopt the tradition of using first names to provide relative anonymity to members. For the first few decades of AA’s existence, it was the sole organization to use the 12-step model.

However, AA gave permission to Narcotics Anonymous to use the model in 1953. Following that point, the 12-step approach has been adapted for a variety of substance abuse treatment programs.

The Twelve Steps

Although specific wordings of the 12 steps may vary by treatment program, the essential message remains the same. A summary of the 12 steps follows:

  1. Admitting a lack of power of alcohol or drugs
  2. Coming to believe in a power greater than oneself
  3. Making a decision to turn your will and lives over to the care of God (as you understand Him)
  4. Making a moral inventory of oneself
  5. Admitting to God, to oneself, and to one other person the exact nature of one’s wrongs
  6. Becoming completely ready to have God remove these character defects
  7. Humbly asking God to remove all shortcomings
  8. Making a list of all people you have harmed and being willing to make amends
  9. Making direct amends wherever possible, unless that would hurt another person
  10. Continuing to take personal inventory and promptly admit wrongs
  11. Seeking through prayer or meditation to improve conscious contact with God
  12. Following this spiritual awakening, attempting to practice these principles and carry the message to others suffering from alcoholism or substance abuse


Traditionally, a person struggling with addiction receives a sponsor within the 12-step model. This sponsor is another person in the recovery process who has more experience with the 12 steps. Each new member enters into a one-on-one relationship with a sponsor, seeking advice and support from that person.

This often helps the sponsor better live the 12 steps during his or her recovery, while the sponsored individual benefits from the support of someone experiencing similar problems.

Benefits of the 12-Step Program

seeking addiction treatmentThe 12-step model remains one of the most popular approaches for treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse. One of the strongest benefits of the approach is that it empowers individuals struggling with addiction to take control of their own recoveries.

Each person receives on-going support from other members, encouragement from a sponsor and others who are committed to remaining sober, and increased confidence in their ability to maintain a strong recovery.

The 12-step program also teaches practical skills, such as how to deal with friends and family members affected by addiction, dealing with cravings, ways to cope with friends who are still battling addiction, and negotiating the path to becoming a functioning member of society.

Overall, the 12-step model provides a set of guiding principles for individuals struggling with addiction. It offers a network of supportive individuals with related problems who can help a person through the recovery process.