What are the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous?

The twelve-step program outlines a step by step action plan to recover from alcoholism established by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a fellowship of former alcoholics instituted in 1935, with a mission to help members stay sober and help other boozers achieve lasting abstinence.

The program was originally published in 1939 in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism.

The program basically operates by sharing one’s personal experience as a former alcoholic emphasizing how he or she found sobriety. The program’s success hinges on the fact that a former alcoholic has greater faculties to reach out, understand and help another alcoholic.

Today, the program has been adapted and applied as a method for the recovery of different types of addiction and compulsive behavioural problems.

Although the program accentuates on the presence of God, it is nevertheless universally applicable to different religions and non-religious groups because the steps may be interpreted based on any spiritual or transcendent principles. The following are the 12 steps and a brief explanation for each.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

The first step in the program addresses the foremost concern why many alcoholics refuse to face their addiction which is denial.  Most if not all alcoholics possess a distorted belief that they have complete control of their addiction. The step essentially involves a simple yet tough admission of being helpless over alcohol, which is the foundation of the Twelve Steps. Apparently, you cannot fix a problem if you believe there is no problem to fix on the first place. Admission involves acknowledging that one’s drinking has become excessive and out of hand to the extent that you have lost control and will power to stop it despite damaging yourself and others.

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

After fully admitting that we have a problem, the next step is to believe that there is hope to restore ourselves. You may be powerless over alcohol, but there is someone or something more powerful than you and your addiction that can change you.  This can be God for religious people or the love of other people or one’s will power for non-religious people. By having faith or by holding on to these more powerful forces, you can free yourself from our addiction. Having this faith will help you believe that you can bring change to yourself.

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

This step involves surrendering your will to God or the greater power or force that will change you. Recognizing the fact that you cannot control or trust your own will, there is a need for you to submit yourself to the will of God, or the more powerful force, that will guide you on how you will decide, act or behave. Whether this involves a divine intervention or spiritual experience, the step involves giving in to people who love you, take care of you, help you and know better. This step facilitates an alcoholic’s inclination to participate and join in recovery efforts instead of alienating oneself.

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

This step stresses that the 12 step program is a process of self-discovery. It encourages an alcoholic to engage in soul searching or self-examination. This can involve writing down one’s hidden fits of anger and bitterness, uncertainties or fears as well as the troubles and mischiefs that one has caused to others especially to their loved ones, family and friends. Resentments and hatreds are critical especially for alcoholics and addicts. Holding grudges traps a person to emotional distress that in turn triggers the addiction. You need to identify the fears and resentments that burden you.

Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

This step involves admitting and accepting your mistakes or wrongdoings. You have sinned against God or the people that you have done wrong including yourself. Take note that it is not only God and others whom you have done wrong. You also sinned against yourself because your wrongdoings ultimately ruined your own life. This step also means getting away from self-centeredness. You should refrain from justifying your wrongdoings and start to become sensitive to others by recognizing your responsibilities, your roles and your place in life.

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

This step means accepting your failings, shortcomings, faults and character flaws, which influence your excessive drinking or alcoholism. This is an important step because failure to address these defects can potentially cause you to relapse. Knowing and purging these character problems will help you rationalize why you need to stop picking up a snifter or a tipple again and again.

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings

Once more, this step stresses the intervention of greater power, force or being to help you remove your shortcomings, which you simply cannot do on your own volition or determination. The keyword here is humility in recognition that you don’t have the power to do it alone. Removing your weaknesses also includes directing you towards doing that what is right that allows you to connect better with others. This part of the process can also involve getting the right help yourself – e.g. attending a rehab clinic for alcohol like https://www.abbeycarefoundation.com/alcohol-rehab/. This step also initiates a change in how you perceive other people not as a means to your selfish happiness, but as humans in their own right so that you can respect and love them better.

Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all

Your list would often include family and friends. However, this step goes beyond listing the people whom you have sinned against or harmed.   The crucial and tough part here is making amends with those people, which entails your willingness and humility. This was made as a separate step because it takes time to build up the courage, strength, and modesty to conciliate with the people you hated or harmed whether consciously or unconsciously.

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

This step is a culmination of the previous step in which you approach and directly ask clemency from the people you harmed. This may be done explicitly by saying sorry and asking for forgiveness, or implicitly by doing things that show your intention to ask mercy.  Asking for forgiveness is a humbling yet relieving experience that can free you from burdens and afflictions. Achieving this is an indication that you are nurturing a sense of maturity and are slowly gaining control of your life.

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

Admittance of your mistakes is necessary to sustain your spiritual progress to recovery. Being apologetic and making amends does not necessarily finish your role. The people you may have harmed may not simply forgive and forget easily. Saying sorry does not settle the issue. Asking forgiveness is only the first step to rebuilding things up which you as the offender should initiate and actively pursue. After your problem is nipped in the bud, you should plant new seeds to grow new plants so to speak.  Also, continuing your personal inventory also anticipates other people you have harmed that you may have forgotten. In this way, you can truly start your life with a clean slate.

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

This step intends to seek the continued assistance of God and discover His plan for your life. You will never get wrong once you understand God’s plan for you and submit yourself to his will. This could also mean reflecting on your life through introspective meditation to find your true north or niche. This spiritual growth can be interpreted as divine enlightenment or the psychosomatic feeling that you can get from the group’s dynamic, friendship or love. This step can take the form of a prayer, meditation i.e. yoga, daily reflection or any endeavour that keeps you in touch with your inner self such as reading books, painting, and gardening, among others.

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.

If you sincerely follow the 11 steps, you are assured of attaining a sense of spiritual awakening that will help you cope with your addiction to straighten up and structure your life. The 12th step encourages you to uphold and sustain the guidelines outlined in the steps which demonstrate that the program is an on-going process that you need to maintain for lasting sobriety. This step also endows you with the responsibility to help other alcoholics by sharing your experience to enlighten them.

In summary, the 12 step program involves an admittance that your addiction is beyond your control; recognition of a greater power to help you change; an examination of your faults; asking for forgiveness; adoption of new behaviour; and preaching the good news to others who suffer, to get their lives back like you did.

10 Celebrities in Alcoholics Anonymous

Fame and addiction have been known to be closely linked.  Addiction has become the notorious downside of fame and fortune.  Many famous celebrities and pop icons have lost their lives due to addiction – Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Whitney Houston and Heath Ledger to name a few.

The connection between addiction and stardom has been attributed to many factors.  For one, celebrities have the money, power and fame that give the them means and avenues to self-destructive behaviours that average people can’t afford and don’t have access to.  Others blame the pressure of fame as an excuse to alcoholism and drug use.  Still others feel that they can get away with bad behaviours as part of being a star.  However people try to rationalize their addiction regardless of their celebrity status, what is certain is that addiction does not choose its victims. Here are some of the top celebrities who have succumbed to addition but were fortunate enough to recover.

Al Pacino

Most famously known for his Mafioso roles as Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s film, the Godfather and Tony Montana in Scarface, Al Pacino is a seasoned actor that had won awards in the Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy Awards and practically all-known acting awards around the world.  He was also among the select actors awarded with a lifetime achievement award and was voted as greatest film star of all time in British television poll.  This amount of success in Pacino’s career did not help him with his drinking problems.  He went to Alcoholics Anonymous for support.  While he did not exactly start with the AA program, his meaningful meeting with them has helped him to stop drinking in the long run.

Robert Downey Jr.

Before finally becoming the billionaire industrialist and philanthropist Tony Starks also known as famous marvel super hero, Iron Man, Robert Downey actually holds the record as the celebrity with the most number of arrests for substance abuse, illegal possession of drugs and other related misdemeanours. After a successful young career, the actor has had a tumultuous relationship with the law because of his addiction and drinking problems.   What’s astonishing with the actor’s dark side is that he always portrayed a nice unknowing and harmless lad in his early films until news broke out of his troubles with the law.   With the help of AA, the promising actor found a resurgence of commercial success in his middle age. Today, he once against topped the charts, become the highest paid actor and named among the greatest actors of his generation by the press.

Ozzy Osbourne

The rock industry has had its big share of stars who succumbed to addiction. After all, sex drug and rock n roll goes hand in hand.  With that in mind, it would come as no surprise that the Prince of Darkness, himself, Ozzy Osbourne, would be one of the many victims of addiction and alcoholism. The lead vocalist of Black Sabbath, the inventors of heavy metal, has been the epitome of the rock and roll lifestyle.  While other members of the band were all engaged with alcohol and other drugs to a certain extent, Ozzy took things at the highest level.  He was the role model for living the rock n roll lifestyle among younger rock musicians.  getting visited by the Grim Reaper for numerous times, Ozzy Osbourne finally decided to stay sober with the help of AA.  Although traces of his once unhealthy lifestyle remain visible, the metal god continues to rock at the age of over 70 years old.

Mel Gibson

Known for his roles as Madmax, Martin Riggs in Lethal weapon and William Wallace in Braveheart, Mel Gibson was equally successful as a film producer and director.  He is also credited for the  timeless and controversial films, The Passion of the Christ, and Apocalypto.

The American actor admitted that his intimate rapport with alcohol started at the tender age of 13. However, it was in 2006 that his flourishing career come tumbling down after getting arrested for driving under the Influence (DUI) and making anti-Semitic rants for which he was blacklisted in Hollywood.

Mel Gibson joined AA and had gradually coped with his addiction problem. In 2016, he made his directorial comeback in a film about a pacifist combat medic who reserved a medal of honour without firing his gun in the Second World War, entitled Hacksaw Ridge for which he won two Academy Awards.

Owen Wilson

It seemed ironic and paradoxical for comedians whom people rely for a laugh, to be suffering from depression and addiction.  Owen Wilson, the famed actor known for his funny antiques in  Shanghai Noon, Zoolander, and voice behind Lighting Macqueen in Disney’s Cars, was just that. Wilson joined AA intermittently since 2003.  After an attempted suicide in 2007, he was subsequently treated for depression at a heath care facility.   Today, the actor appears to be back on track as he remains active in many films including Father Figures, She’s Funny that way, the French Dispatch, among others.

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan is one of those child actors whose sure-fire success suddenly went up in smoke after suffering from addiction. Her early fame as a Disney star was unrelentingly sustained in his teen years after starring in successful films like Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and Mean Girls.  The downfall of Lindsay started in 2007 when she was arrested for drug possession.  Soon thereafter, she became America’s favourite troubled teen, for which she was treated with scorn and sexism. In joining AA, the former teen star is still continuing her battle against addiction and the stigma of her past.

Elton John

One of the world’s biggest selling music artists, the Rocket man, Sir Elton John is not in the dark when it comes to alcohol and drugs. After all, he grew up in the Hippie era known for its psychedelic culture of LSD.  After years of living in alcohol and cocaine misuse, Sir Elton John finally decided to seek treatment in 1990 after his friend, Ryan White died of AIDS in 1990.  Just recently, the 72- year old rock icon posted a photo of his Alcoholics Anonymous sobriety badge to celebrate his twenty-nine years of being sober.

Daniel Radcliffe

Who would have thought that the greatest wizard of our time who fought “You know who” is suffering from alcoholism.  That’s right, Daniel Radcliffe, the actor behind the boy wizard, had a battle against alcohol which only gets to show that alcohol abuse can affect anyone regardless of age and fame for that matter. Aside from being young, Radcliffe’s alcoholism was a textbook case for being adept in hiding his drinking problems.

Radcliffe never identified himself as alcoholic but admitted to being a nightly drinker. When filming the last series of the Harry Potter franchise, he confessed of his growing dependence on liquor to cope with the pressures of the sudden and overwhelming wealth and fame.  Before his drinking becomes totally out of hand, Radcliffe sought help by joining AA to suppress his drinking habits and prevent becoming another anecdote of wasted youth.

Eric Clapton

Guitar legend, Eric Clapton is a veteran survivor of rock and roll’s perpetual scuffle against alcohol and drugs.  Like many other rock artists and musicians, he initially assumed that his alcoholism and drug abuse were necessary inspiration to becoming a great artist and guitar player.  He feared that he could no longer play great music if he stopped drinking or doing drugs.  Today, the rock icon has proven to himself that you can be a good musician without drugs or alcohol.

After finally getting sober with the help of AA, Clapton had since exhibited an enduring commitment to recovery. He actively participated in benefit concerts for addiction treatment centres.  However, he maintained that the best way to honour one’s recovery from addiction is to stay sober and clean. He added that he probably would be dead today if he had not sought help and gotten straight.

Tobey McGuire

Iron man is not the only super hero who has had problems with addiction.  Even the man behind the Spiderman mask, had once been an alcoholic and addict. Tobey McGuire, who is best known for his role as Peter Parker or Spider-Man has been into mind-altering substances during his teenage years.

Tobey describes his battle against addiction as a pain his back that has been exacerbated by a monkey jumping on it.  He sought help from AA whom he credits for his recovery and sobriety.  He relates how the people from AA helped him by sharing with him what they did instead of telling him what to do. He commends the unpretentious and modest spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous that helped him overcome alcoholism and get his back on track.

Addiction does not discriminate. It does not choose its victims.  While celebrities may have different sources of stress like fame or fortune or have more expensive drugs compared to regular folks, they use drugs like average people and are equally prone to addiction or even death for substance abuse.