12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous

Table of Contents

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are the foundation of recovery from alcohol use disorder. Developed in 1935, the Twelve Step program offers spiritual and physical healing for those struggling with substance abuse.

These steps provide a structured approach that encourages individuals to take responsibility for their addiction and seek support from others with similar struggles. Here is everything you need to know about the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The 12 Steps of AA Explained

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is one of the most successful recovery programs. The 12 Steps of AA, which are also known as the Recovery Roadmap, have helped millions of people who struggle with alcoholism to get their lives back on track.

The 12 Steps are guiding principles that provide a system and support for recovering alcoholics. Through continual work and a strong commitment to the program, individuals can recover from their addiction and learn new ways of managing their emotions.

The 12 Steps are not a “quick fix” or one-size-fits-all solution; they are a journey of self-exploration and discovery. Individuals should be patient with themselves and take each step at their own pace. There might even be some alternatives to the 12-step that might interest you.

Here’s what each of the twelve steps is:

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

  2. We believed that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

  3. We decided to turn our will and lives -to God’s care as we understood Him.

  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

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

  6. We 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 doing so would injure them or others.

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

  11. Ask through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

  12. Having had a spiritual awakening due to these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs.

The 12 Steps of AA Explained

What Are the 12 Traditions of AA?

In addition to the 12 Steps, Alcoholics Anonymous also follows 12 Traditions. These are guidelines that help ensure peace and harmony within the fellowship. The 12 Traditions of AA remind members that they must put their recovery first and strive for unity among all Alcoholics Anonymous groups.

The 12 Traditions include:

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.

  2. For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience.

  3. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA.

  5. Each group has one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

  6. An AA group must refrain from endorsing, financing, or lending the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

  7. Every AA group must be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

  9. AA, as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues, so the AA name must never be drawn into public controversy.

  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we must constantly maintain personal secrecy at the press, radio, and film levels.

  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, reminding us to place principles before personalities.

A well-conducted 12-step program imparts helpful knowledge and practice that remain forever; non-professional experiences can traumatize patients in recovery and make them feel unwelcome. That’s why it’s so important to find the right program.

How Do the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions Work?

The first three steps focus on establishing an individual’s powerlessness over their addiction and surrendering control to a higher power. In steps four and five, members take an inventory of their wrongdoings (step four) and confess it all to God, themselves, and another person (step five). The remaining seven steps focus on making restitution for past wrongs by taking responsibility for one’s actions.

The 12 Traditions provide structure for groups to remain anonymous and practice cooperation among their members. These traditions are grouped into four categories: unity, purpose, service, and recovery.

The first tradition states that the goal of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help its members stay sober by focusing inward and helping other alcoholics become sober. The remaining eleven traditions outline how the group will achieve this goal by maintaining an atmosphere of unity, focusing on taking a primary purpose, and providing service to other members.

Religiosity has a significant influence on 12-step programs. The question of how atheists practice the 12 Steps of AA is important. While many members adhere to a higher power, this can also involve accepting that there is something greater than oneself at work. They can believe in a power greater than themselves without conforming to any religion.

What are the Benefits of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions?

The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions have helped countless people overcome their addictions. The main benefits of these principles are:

  1. They provide structure for recovery, providing individuals with a plan to break away from addiction.

  2. They promote accountability by having members take ownership of their actions and admit their wrongs.

  3. The steps and traditions create a support system within the 12 Step recovery programs, providing members with an extensive network of individuals who can encourage and motivate each other.

  4. They offer spiritual guidance that helps people find peace, providing tools to help them cope with difficult emotions such as fear, guilt, anger, and shame.

  5. The principles help people understand their role in the bigger picture, reminding them of their connection to collective humanity.

  6. They emphasize personal responsibility and encourage members to make changes that will lead to positive outcomes.

  7. The steps provide an understanding of powerlessness – accepting that life is out of our control and learning how to live without relying on external sources of comfort.

  8. The principles provide a path to self-discovery, helping individuals uncover their true potential and discover newfound purpose in life.

  1. The 12 Steps offer a framework for forgiveness and reconciliation, showing people how to heal relationships that have been damaged due to addiction.

  2. Finally, the steps and traditions create an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding, allowing individuals to share their stories without fear of judgment.

How do 12 Steps and 12 Traditions Provide Support for Loved Ones?

The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous provide support to loved ones of alcoholics in many ways. In addition to creating a safe, supportive environment for recovering alcoholics, these programs offer guidance on how best to interact with the recovering alcoholic in their lives.

When combined with other forms of help, such as counseling and therapy, they can be a powerful tool in providing service and support to those dealing with addiction.

For loved ones of an alcoholic, it’s often difficult to know how best to be supportive without enabling behavior. The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions provide insight into how to support the recovering alcoholic best while still maintaining healthy boundaries. By following these principles, family members can learn to set appropriate limits and find ways of providing meaningful help without enabling destructive behavior.

How do 12 Steps and 12 Traditions Provide Support for Loved Ones

Finding an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting

Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is a 12-step support group program for individuals struggling with alcohol-related addiction. One of the most important steps for those seeking to join AA is finding an appropriate meeting in their area. This can sometimes be intimidating or difficult if you are unfamiliar with the local landscape and don’t know where to begin your search.

Luckily, there are a few different ways to locate and find an AA meeting in your area:

1. Contact local addiction or recovery centers for advice on finding appropriate meetings – they can often provide helpful guidance and resources.

2. Check online directories listing AA meetings by location, such as AA Near You or Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc.

3. Visiting the website of a local AA chapter and searching for meetings offered in your area.

Use mobile applications such as Sober Grid or Meeting Guide to locate meetings near you.

It’s important to remember that each AA meeting is unique, so it might be necessary to attend a few before finding one that works best for you. In addition, don’t hesitate to contact a meeting coordinator if you have further questions or need help getting started.

At NuView Treatment Center, you can quickly look for AA meetings near you. Our team of dedicated professionals is here to help individuals in recovery find the resources and support they need to return to living a life free of drug dependence. Contact us at (323) 307 – 7997 or email us at info@nuviewtreatment.com to learn more about how we can help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

The history behind the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions originates from the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. In its early days, the organization only had one set of instructions for recovery: The Twelve Steps. Over time, more material was added to support this program, and the Twelve Traditions were born in 1950.

The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions have profoundly influenced other recovery programs, impacting how individuals and organizations approach addiction treatment. The principles of self-examination, acceptance, and responsibility found in the Twelve Steps are often seen as the foundation of modern addiction treatment protocols. Furthermore, many programs incorporating peer support draw inspiration from the Alcoholics Anonymous model for group therapy.

The role of spirituality in the Twelve Steps is to provide those in recovery with an outlet for their suffering and to offer spiritual guidance as they journey toward sobriety. It allows individuals to tap into a source of strength greater than themselves, helping them find hope amidst addiction's darkness. The process emphasizes that no one has to recover alone and encourages them to rely on God or some other higher power.

Newcomers to the AA program are introduced to the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions by reading and discussing the literature and regularly attending meetings. The group structure allows individuals to ask questions, gain insight from hearing other members’ stories, and begin engaging with the recovery process in a safe and supportive environment.

The sponsors in AA use the Twelve Steps to guide their sponsees by using their experience and knowledge of the program. They explain each Step in detail, helping to understand how each applies to daily life and recovery. Moreover, sponsors strive to provide a sense of accountability, allowing individuals to stay on track with their progress and encouraging them when needed.

  1. Kelly, J. F., Humphreys, K., & Ferri, M. (2020). Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs for alcohol use disorder. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 3(3), CD012880. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD012880.pub2

  2. Kelly, J. F., Pagano, M. E., Stout, R. L., & Johnson, S. M. (2011). Influence of religiosity on 12-step participation and treatment response among substance-dependent adolescents. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 72(6), 1000–1011. https://doi.org/10.15288/jsad.2011.72.1000

  3. Donovan, D. M., Ingalsbe, M. H., Benbow, J., & Daley, D. C. (2013). 12-step interventions and mutual support programs for substance use disorders: an overview. Social work in public health, 28(3-4), 313–332. https://doi.org/10.1080/19371918.2013.774663

  4. Lookatch, S. J., Wimberly, A. S., & McKay, J. R. (2019). Effects of Social Support and 12-Step Involvement on Recovery among People in Continuing Care for Cocaine Dependence. Substance use & misuse, 54(13), 2144–2155. https://doi.org/10.1080/10826084.2019.1638406

Latest posts

Share this post


Leave a comment

Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Read More

Addiction & Recovery

Did you know that we are always here for you 24/7?

You don't have to try to cope with life and addiction all on your own. Reach out to us now, no matter the time of day or night, even if you're not sure what you want to do yet and just need someone to listen.

We understand what you're going through and we can help you or a loved one survive addiction and find happiness in your life again.

Fill out the form below and we will contact you soon or call us any time at (323) 307-7997.
Contact Form - Blog

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? We can help!

Our advisors are waiting for your call: (323) 307-7997

Ready to get Help?