If you struggle with addiction, you might have heard of the 12-step program. But what exactly are the 12 steps, and how do they work?
In this article, we’ll delve into the exact meaning of the 12 steps and discuss how they can help you in your addiction treatment program.
The goal of a 12-step program during your addiction recovery is to find enlightenment, healing, and betterment. Going through the 12 steps is not something you can halfheartedly commit to—instead, we believe that the 12-step program can work to heal you from your addiction struggles and co-occurring mental health conditions.
In Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), it’s important to follow these principles of the 12 steps to find recovery, especially if you are also struggling with mental health conditions. The 12 steps are:
1. “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
This step asks you to reflect on how addiction has controlled your life. Perhaps it has cost you your career or close relationships, gotten you into legal trouble, or negatively impacted your mental health. These are all ways that your life might have become “unmanageable” due to addiction.
2. “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
This second step goes hand-in-hand with the first step: you admitted you were powerless over your addiction, but then you’ve come to realize that there is a greater force that can help lift you from the trials of addiction.
For many people, this greater Power is a religious figure, but for others, it could be something like the universe or their bonds with other people. Looking at God, or the universe, or another Power you feel connected to can help you to find healing.
3. “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
This step encourages you to relinquish the struggles of addiction onto that greater Power we discussed in step two. Making a decision to turn to a higher Power means you are truly releasing the control you believed you had over addiction to something bigger than yourself.
4. “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Addiction recovery starts from within. What are some decisions you have made that might have hurt yourself or others? How has addiction caused you to go against your core morals? Writing down your past failings is a great way to take an honest look at your situation and prepare yourself to move past those mistakes.
5. “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
This step often comes with feelings of guilt and shame. Remember, these uncomfortable feelings might be intense, but they are temporary. Admitting your wrongdoings is not an easy task, which is why some addiction survivors find it best to start with narcotics anonymous or alcoholics anonymous.
When you are able to speak about past mistakes, even anonymously or privately to yourself and your higher Power, you begin to leave the past behind and start carving your path forward.
6. “We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
Admitting wrongdoing in step five is key to finding the strength for this sixth step. Removing defects of character is how you begin to heal from what your life used to look like under the control of addiction.
7. “We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
Turn yourself over to the strength of your higher Power for full healing, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
8. “We made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”
In this step, you begin to bring the healing from within yourself to the outside by addressing your mistakes and hurtful actions. This list is not meant to be painful or harm your healing process. Instead, this list will help you to understand the true hold addiction had on your life so you can begin to let that go.
9. “We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Completing this step is humbling and challenging, but entirely necessary to find peace with your past and allow you to move forward. However, something to keep in mind is that you can apologize for past mistakes and promise to do better from here on out—but this does not change the fact that the mistakes might have hurt somebody in your life.
Accepting that certain actions cannot always be forgiven will help you to come to terms with the reality of your experiences, even if you are not able to make peace with those around you.
10. “We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”
Continuing to hold yourself accountable is a life-long step, and one that you can use in every aspect of your life. Admit your wrongdoings and work on being a better version of yourself each and every day.
11. “We 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 is another step that you will hold with you long after your time in your addiction recovery program. Prayer and meditation will lead you to connect with something greater than yourself and remind you that you are not alone in this recovery journey.
12. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
By helping yourself through addiction, you are also able to help others who are in a similar position that you were in. And having the power to carry these messages you’ve learned and share them with others will allow you to create a community of survivors.
In support groups like NA and AA, the 12-step program becomes the 12 traditions, which focus on the group’s wellness as a community. These traditions come from the Big Book—a guideline for AA group members in particular.
Doing the 12 steps, as well as the 12 traditions, encourages full healing. Together, this community can overcome any challenges life throws in the way.
At Port St. Lucie Hospital, we believe that your spiritual, mental, and physical health can greatly improve as a result of these steps. We utilize the 12 steps in our dual diagnosis program and integrate it in all of our services to help you heal from co-occurring disorders. There is strength in recovery, and we are here to help you find it.