All About 12-Step Programs

by Jun 28, 2019SUD Resources0 comments

Let’s Talk About 12 Step Programs

So you’ve made the leap into a sober life whether that be through a hospital treatment program or maybe even some time Behind Bars, what do you do now? A lot of people in recovery from substance use disorder whether it be alcohol drugs Etc find a lot of help in 12-step programs.

The oldest original and most commonly known 12-step program is AA or Alcoholics Anonymous. Here are the 12 steps as outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as on their website:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—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 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 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.

There are various other 12-step programs that have branched off from AA over the years below find some information on the most common 12-step programs and references to their websites for more information.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Usually referred to as “AA”, Alcoholics Anonymous was formed in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, two alcoholics that helped each other stay sober, and thus shared their experience so it could help many more alcoholics find recovery in the future. Bill Wilson wrote the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” in 1939 and it has remained mostly unchanged since then. See below the Preamble of AA, which explains the general purpose of the program:

“Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”

Learn more on the AA website:

Narcotics Anonymous

Also known as “NA”, was created in 1953 and exists to offer “help from peers and offers an ongoing support network for addicts who wish to pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle.” Narcotics Anonymous adopted the 12 steps from AA, but changed the word “alcohol” in the first step to “addiction”, thus removing drug-specific language. NA has a unique text written in 1983. NA’s “White Booklet” describes the program as such:

“NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We … meet regularly to help each other stay clean. … We are not interested in what or how much you used … but only in what you want to do about your problem and how we can help.”

Learn more on the NA website:

Gambler’s Anonymous

Gambler’s Anonymous joins AA and NA in the oldest of the 12-step fellowships. It also follows the 12-steps from AA, changing the word “alcohol” to “gambling” in step 1.

“The fellowship of Gamblers Anonymous is the outgrowth of a chance meeting between two men during the month of January in 1957. These men had a truly baffling history of trouble and misery due to an obsession to gamble. They began to meet regularly and as the months passed neither had returned to gambling.”

Learn more at

Cocaine Anonymous

Cocaine Anonymous adopts the original 12-steps from the book Alcoholic Anonymous, and similarly to NA, changes to word “alcohol” to “cocaine – and other mind altering substances.” The first CA meeting was held in 1982 in Los Angeles, CA. This meeting was created so those with a common problem with cocaine addiction could freely share about their use and recovery in a meeting setting.

The fellowship is described on their website as such:

“The best way to reach someone is to speak to them on a common level. The members of C.A. are all recovering addicts who maintain their individual sobriety by working with others. We come from various social, ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds, but what we have in common is addiction.

Anyone who wants to stop using cocaine and all other mind-altering substances (including alcohol and other drugs) is welcome.”

Learn more at

Additional 12-Step Groups

There are many more 12-step groups that have formed over the years to assist people with various addictions from food, sex, and more. We have listed most of these various 12-step groups information in our Resources Page – please visit here for more information.

Do I need to go to a 12-step group?

That’s up to you! 12-step groups have shown great success over the decades in helping people maintain long term recovery from addiction, but it is also stated in the AA Big Book – and many other places in its various literature that “we do not have a monopoly on recovery.”

Many people find long term recovery by other programs or means, 12-step programs are just one option that you can check out to see if that will work for you. If you have more questions about 12-step programs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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