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It is rare to find a place in the world, where there is as much courage, vulnerability, acceptance, and honesty as in a 12 Step fellowship meeting.

Originating from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the 1930s, the 12 Step recovery programme has been adapted for various types of addiction including drugs, gambling, sex, eating disorders, gaming, prescription medication, and other process addiction. It has helped countless individuals achieve and maintain sobriety. The 12 Step programme has been a guiding light for countless individuals seeking recovery from addiction. The principles of the 12 Step foster profound personal growth and overall well-being. A 12 Step recovery programme helps those suffering with addiction to gain new coping skills, feel continuous support and acceptance of a loving community, deal with life on life’s terms, and maintain a rewarding life in recovery from addiction.

Overview of the 12 Steps:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – 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 of 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 the 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.

The 12 Steps, as listed above, have been a guiding light for countless individuals seeking recovery from addiction. The steps outline a comprehensive course of action for recovery which promotes a new way of thinking and living. The focus is on the underlying principles of honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness.

Step 1 encourages individuals to admit and accept one’s powerlessness over alcohol and/or drugs and to acknowledge that the substance use has made life unmanageable. This admittance dismantles the denial and brings about a deep sense of self-awareness, prompting individuals to honestly evaluate their behaviours and the impact their addiction has had on their lives and the lives of others.

Steps 2 and 3 emphasise embracing humility. Individuals learn to accept that they cannot control everything and that seeking out and accepting external support is not a weakness but is a strength and a necessity in the recovery programme.

Steps 4 and 5 require immense courage and honesty. Undertaking Steps 4 and 5 is a process of reflection, rigorous honesty, and confession foster accountability. By openly acknowledging their past wrong-doings, newcomers take responsibility for their actions, paving the way for forgiveness, healing, and freedom from self.

Steps 6 and 7 focus on the willingness to let go of the defects of character that have contributed to maintaining one’s addiction. This requires ego to be replaced with humility.

Steps 8 and 9 involve making amends for past wrong-doings. This proactive approach to mending relationships can build a foundation of honest and trust.

Steps 10, 11, and 12 consist of regular introspection and practicing the spiritual principles learnt throughout the programme. These steps keep individuals grounded and focussed on their recovery.

How does the 12 Step programme work?

Putting down the drugs and alcohol is but the beginning and often leaves a person feeling lost and uncertain as what to do next. The 12 Step programme offers a clear, structured pathway for individuals as each step builds on the previous one, creating a progressive journey that addresses not only the physical aspects of addiction but also the emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions. This holistic approach ensures that an individual works on all areas of their well-being.

It is a well-known recovery saying that, “the opposite of addiction is connection”. The first word of the First Step is “We”, 12 Step programmes help one see and feel that they are not alone in their struggles with addiction. The power of community cannot be overstated in the context of addiction recovery. The 12 Step fellowship meetings foster a sense of belonging and mutual support. This sense of community and connection reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are common triggers for relapse. Most people suffering with addiction have difficulty feeling and expressing their true emotions because there is a fear they will be misunderstood or that they will be judged. Consequently, the emotions are then bottled up and potentially increases the desire to use and the emotional unmanageability. Meetings are judgement free spaces, mostly because other members have heard it before and/or they have lived it before. Meetings provide a safe and supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences, challenges, and successes without fear of judgement. It is a powerful space that create an opportunity to identify with others, connect with like-minded people, ask for help, and to realise that one is not alone. Furthermore, listening to personal stories of recovery and learning how others avoid triggers and cope with life on life’s terms without resorting to alcohol and other drugs can be hugely beneficial to the newcomer.

Hearing the success stories of others who have overcome their addiction and are now living a fulfilling life in recovery can be incredibly inspiring. Their stories, whether read in the recovery literature or shared at meetings, serve as powerful reminders to a newcomer that recovery is possible. The programme celebrates small victories and sober milestones, which can help maintain or increase the motivation, willingness, faith, and hope in order to continue working the recovery programme.

What are the basic elements of a 12 Step programme?

Newcomers are urged to do 5 things and be 3 things.


  1. Attend 12 Step fellowship meetings regularly.
  2. Find and maintain a relationship with a sponsor.
  3. Hold a service position at a recovery meeting.
  4. Work through each of the 12 Steps with a sponsor.
  5. Be willing to believe and form a relationship with a Higher Power.


  1. Honest
  2. Open-minded
  3. Willing

What happens in an AA, NA, CA or other 12 Step meetings?

  • Meetings typically involve members sharing their personal experiences with addiction and recovery. However, the format may include readings from 12 Step literature or a discussion on recovery-related topics.
  • Meetings are free and welcome people of all backgrounds.
  • Attendees are not required to speak at the meeting, sharing is completely optional.
  • The only requirement for joining a meeting is that an individual has a desire to stop drinking or using.
  • Meetings adhere to strict principles of confidentiality and anonymity in order to ensure a safe space for individuals.

Is being religious a requirement to join a 12 Step programme?

No. While the programme is not religious, it does incorporate elements of spirituality. You do not have to be religious in order to work the 12 Step programme. Members are encouraged to define their Higher Power in a way that is meaningful to them, whether it be a religious figure, the collective strength of the group, or another source of spiritual support.

In conclusion, the principles of the 12 Step programme are not just for overcoming addiction; they are tools for lifelong personal growth. Continuous self-assessment, spiritual development, and helping others are practices that can enhance every aspect of one’s life. Just as there is no cure for the disease of addiction the 12 Step programme is not a quick fix but rather a life-long maintenance plan. The efficacy of the programme is relative to the individual. Members of 12 Step groups use the phrase “it works if you work it”, meaning that if one commits to willingly and thoroughly working the programme, then the programme will be effective.

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