Alcoholic rehab facility in San Diego, California.

What is the 12 Step Rehabilitation Program for Alcoholics Anonymous?

It can be exceedingly difficult to stop drinking if you are an alcoholic. Alcohol is incredibly addictive, and the addictive properties of alcohol makes the struggle to stay sober a very tough one. That is why organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous exist. Alcoholics Anonymous provides a clear path for those who want to get help, and part of that roadmap for success is following the 12 step program.

What is the History of the 12 Step Program?

Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson came up with the 12 step program in 1938, when he wrote down all of the ideas he had from personal experience working with alcohol addiction. The original 12 steps had heavy Christian influences, looking to a higher power and support group for assistance. The 12 Steps were originally for people who could not attend AA meetings, but over time it became an outline for treatment in general.

What are the 12 Steps?

The 12 Step program has many derivations. Over time, it has been adopted by countless organizations to suit particular needs, and these different iterations all have slight differences. Here we will only address the original 12 step program.

1. Admitting powerlessness over the addiction

The first step of the 12 step program is crucial. Understanding what addiction is and how powerful addiction is can help you overcome it. If you underestimate an enemy, it can be difficult to defeat them. This first step makes sure you never underestimate the enemy, in this case addiction to alcohol, so you can confront it and beat it!

2. Believing that a higher power (in whatever form) can help

As was stated earlier, the 12 steps have a heavy religious influence. However, as sensibilities and culture has evolved the 12 steps have taken on a broader and larger meaning. Believing in some kind of higher power is a very helpful step because it brings some form of hope. For those who are religious, a belief that a good and benevolent God is on your side may give you greater willpower and self belief than previously thought possible. If you are not religious, this higher power could be a broader sense of destiny, the universe or other beliefs that will help you on your journey to sobriety.

3. Deciding to turn control over to the higher power

Again, this is a step that was originally meant strictly in a religious sense. However, over time this has evolved to mean putting trust in others, be it the AA 12 step program, the advice of friends and family, or other outside influence.

4. Taking a personal inventory

See where you are at in life. Take a look at yourself and the world around you through an outsider's lens, and take a personal inventory of everything you have, as well as everything you don’t have. This is a helpful step in identifying the negative consequences alcohol addiction has wrought upon your life.

5. Admitting to the higher power, oneself, and another person the wrongs done

Alcohol can make people do things they might not have done without the influence of alcohol. Instead of blaming other people or the world around you for forcing you to perform wrongdoings, this step is about you admitting responsibility for actions that may have caused harm while you were drinking.

6. Being ready to have the higher power correct any shortcomings in one’s character

Nobody is perfect. If you are an alcoholic, oftentimes it is to fill in the blanks of any perceived flaws you think you exhibit. In order to move past these issues, it is important to be open to changing and fixing any shortcomings you may have.

7. Asking the higher power to remove those shortcomings

Changing these shortcomings require extreme dedication and open mindedness. This step is about using the higher power, in many cases just the act of sobriety itself, to remove these shortcomings.

8. Making a list of wrongs done to others and being willing to make amends for those wrongs

This step allows you to make amends with the people around you, and perhaps more importantly make amends with yourself. It can be an incredibly humbling experience to apologize for all you have done during your struggle with alcoholism, but it is a very therapeutic experience.

9. Contacting those who have been hurt by your addiction, unless it would harm the person

This is the step where you actually contact the people you have wronged and make amends. In some cases, you may not actually contact the person but instead find a different way of making amends.

10. Continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when one is wrong

This step is a continuous step for the rest of your life. You need to constantly try to look at yourself holistically and admit when you are wrong. Taking care of problems promptly as they occur and not letting them linger is an important part of recovery and relapse prevention.

11. Seeking enlightenment and connection with the higher power via prayer and meditation

As AA is a spiritual program, this step encourages members to engage in daily spiritual practices, such as prayer and meditation,to further their personal and spiritual growth. You can also find activities that brings you peace of mind. Keeping your mind, body and spirit at ease is an essential component of staying sober.

12. Carrying the message of the 12 Steps to others

Now that you have conquered alcoholism, it is time to help others. Nobody truly understands what it is like to be ensnared by the throes of alcoholism like a recovered alcoholic, so it is essential to try and help people who need it.

Alcohol Treatment Study at The Pearson Center

If you or someone you know is struggling to stay sober, The Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research in San Diego may be able to help. The Pearson Center runs research studies and clinical trials for those who suffer with alcoholism and alcohol addiction. We offer treatment for alcoholism in our study, so if you are interested give us a call at (858) 784-7867.