How does the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step programme work?
The 12-Step meetings and programme focus on spirituality, self awareness and service to other struggling alcoholics and society. “Trust God, Clean house, Help others” is a common saying in Alcoholics Anonymous that sums up the entire 12step programme and principles.
People are generally introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) when seeking alcohol detox advice or actually in an alcohol rehabilitation facility and are in serious need of help.
The 12 Steps start with the admission by members that they are powerless over alcohol, that their lives have become unmanageable and that a Higher Power (not necessarily religious) can help them to achieve sobriety and a better life.
Thereafter they undertake the decision to follow the AA “way of living”, and take an inventory of their lives that is rigorously honest. They begin to work on the defects in their character which cause them so many problems and have harmed others, and then ask their Higher Power to alleviate these defects.
Members also make amends to those they have harmed. They take a daily inventory to remain vigilant in their sobriety and meditate to establish a harmonious connection to their Higher Power.
Finally, they help newer or struggling existing AA members with their sobriety, and carry the same message of hope and recovery that was carried to them when they first became members of the AA fellowship.
This is done free of charge and without ulterior motive. People in 12 step alcohol recovery need to give freely what was so freely given to them.
The 12 Steps are as follows:
First of the 12 steps: “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Second of the 12 steps: “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Third of the 12 steps: “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
Fourth of the 12 steps: “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Fifth of the 12 steps: “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
Sixth of the 12 steps: “We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
Seventh of the 12 steps: “We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
Eighth of the 12 steps: “We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Ninth of the 12 steps: “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Tenth of the 12 steps: “We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
Eleventh of the 12 steps: “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.”
Step 12 of the 12 steps: “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.”
How does one begin all of these steps?
Once an alcoholic begins to attend AA meetings or is introduced to the programme by an alcoholism centre, they will slowly begin to apply themselves to the programme. There AA programme is divided into different components, which are all of equal importance. These components include meeting attendance, completion of written work, the use of a sponsor, service, and forming a relationship with a Higher Power.
Members attend fellowship meetings, where support is given and hope and experience is shared. Those who attend meeting regularly feel a sense of belonging and support. Step work or written work is used to explore the 12 Steps, under the guidance of a sponsor who is a more experienced member of the AA programme. This person shares their experience for free, as it was shared with them for free. This act of helping others and expecting nothing in return is another component of the programme known as service. Service can be done by assisting in the running of meetings, sponsoring other members, or even helping to tidy up a venue once a meeting is closed. It is an act of giving without receiving. A connection with a higher Power is something which members continuously strive for on a daily basis through prayer and meditation.
A 12 Step programme is nothing short of a miracle to many “hopeless alcoholics” such as Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith. The AA fellowship stretches worldwide and has helped many alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety. It has helped them reach their true potential in life whilst allowing them a safe space to share hope, dread, gratitude, unhappiness and other emotions which can be baffling to an alcoholic. The programme is a way of life and is one of the best tools that an alcoholic can have after they have completed a programme in an alcohol detox centre followed by some time in an alcoholism centre, especially where the 12 Steps are offered.
Does the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step programme work?
Studies show that whilst the initial drop our rate at AA meetings are high, of those that stay attending meetings and engaged in the fellowship, a high number become sober and remain sober.
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