The 12-Steps Model: An Overview

While today there are various addiction treatment models associated with the 12-steps model, most are derived in some way from the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12-step program that was first developed in 1939. AA and the related Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are the most popular 12-step programs and have a decided spiritual component. These programs and other related 12-step programs typically involve the following steps that are designed to help sufferers overcome their addictions by meeting one goal at a time until the program is complete.

Step 1: Admit the Problem

As so many people can attest, their loved one’s denial was one of the biggest hurdles to facing and getting treatment for their addiction. Programs like AA insist upon participants accepting that they have a problem.

Step 2: Restoration and a Higher Power

Programs like AA and NA help participants rely on a higher power to “restore them to sanity.”

Step 3: Decision to Give One’s Life to God

The defining aspect of step 3 emphasizes the decision to relinquish control and turn one’s life over to God’s care.

Step 4: Moral Inventory

Step 4 is an integral part of the recovery process as it forces addiction sufferers to revisit and define their moral identity. The investigation will necessarily focus on immoral actions versus moral beliefs.

Step 5: Admit Wrong Behaviors

Because many suffering addicts engage in behaviors they understand to be wrong, this step instructs them to admit their wrongful behaviors to God, to someone they love like you, and to themselves. This is another area of the program that addresses the denial issue that can be so difficult to overcome.

Step 6: Character Defects

Step 6 instructs the recovering addict to let God remove the character defects that have led to wrong actions.

Step 7: Request Spiritual Help

By requesting that God intervene in one’s life and remove shortcomings, the 12-step program emphasizes that both redemption and recovery can be obtained.

Step 8: Who Have We Hurt?

Step 8 can be difficult because of its comprehensive nature. To achieve this goal, participants must list those people they have hurt and must make a deliberate effort to make amends for the hurt they caused. While challenging, this step is vital for helping recovering individuals cope with the guilt they’ve been carrying around as a result of their actions that ultimately stem from their addiction.

Step 9: Direct Amends

Step 9 builds on step 8. To reach this goal, participants must directly appeal to those they’ve injured in order to make amends. If a direct appeal is construed as harmful to the person who has already been hurt, an exception can be made.

Step 10: Personal Inventory

Step 10 is a continuation of admitting instances when the individual was wrong or behaved wrongly.

Step 11: Prayer and Meditation


Step 11 focuses on the power of prayer and meditation to move forward in the recovery process and in life with God’s will governing all.

Step 12: Spiritual Awakening

Step 12 is the final stage of the program that is designed to culminate in spiritual awakening. Beyond this step, the individual is required to practice the program’s principles in all areas of their lives.

Programs like AA and NA have helped thousands upon thousands of individuals successfully manage their addiction and obtain long-term recovery. If your loved one subscribes to a faith, a spiritually based program may be the key to help them through the long recovery process.

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