Understanding the 12 Steps – Steps Seven Through Twelve

When you first encounter them, the 12 Steps to recovery created by Alcoholics Anonymous can seem a bit strange and confusing. You may not be sure whether the steps are the right choice for your recovery, particularly if the spiritual and religious language does not seem compatible with your personal beliefs.

Here is a straightforward look at each of the 12 Steps, to help you figure out whether Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Step program will work for you. The first six steps have already been covered, and steps seven through twelve are explained below.

Step 7: Humbly Asked God to Remove our Shortcomings

After the first six steps have prepared you for changing your life, you are now ready to actually begin the process of change. You will need help along the way, and AA wants members to be open about the journey they are undertaking and about asking for help. The choice of the word “humbly” is key as well; don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself, and recognize that the process of changing long-standing habits will take a long time and involve some setbacks.

Step 8: Make a List of All Persons We Have Harmed, and Became Willing to Make Amends to Them All

Steps Eight and Nine are two of the most well-known of the 12 Steps, because these are the steps that involve reaching out to so many different people who have been affected in some way by your behavior and addiction. These steps are also two of the easiest to understand, since they are already written in pretty straightforward language.

An important part of Step Eight is to make your list of people you have harmed without thinking about Step Nine. You want this list to be honest and comprehensive, and you may hold back if you spend time thinking about how you could make amends, and potentially having to contact people you don’t want to see. Make the list, and leave those concerns for later.

Step 9: Made Direct Amends to Such People Wherever Possible, Except When to Do So Would Injure Them or Others

Having the advice of another person – be it your sponsor, counselor, etc – is key when deciding if and how to make amends to people who have been affected by your addiction. While this step is still about your own recovery, it is also about repairing damage to other people and to your relationships with them. It is not enough to consider whether contacting someone to make amends will be healing for you, you also need to consider whether it will be a good thing for the person you contact. This is an important component of making sure that you change the pattern of selfish actions that grew from your addiction.

Step 10: Continued to Take Personal Inventory, and When We Were Wrong Promptly Admitted To It

It isn’t enough to atone for the mistakes you made in the past due to your addiction or related issues. In order to maintain your recovery, it is also important to continue in the habit of self-examination, admitting your mistakes to yourself and others, and making amends when necessary. Without this step, you may find yourself developing the same damaging patterns that led to your addiction in the first place.

Step 11: Sought Through Prayer and Meditation to Improve Our Conscious Contact With God, as We Understood God, Praying Only for Knowledge of God’s Will for Us the and Power to Carry it Out

AA believes that recovery from alcohol addiction is a life-long process, and wants its members to engage in a continued search for self-discovery and a greater understanding of the world. Whether this means intense prayer or meditation, reading or educational endeavors, or simply a little time out of every day for quiet reflection, AA wants you to maintain an awareness of your ongoing journey.

Step 12: Having a Spiritual Awakening as the Result of These Steps, We Tried to Carry This Message to Other Addicts, and To Practice These Principles in All Our Affairs

You’ve probably heard the saying that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. AA believes that an important element in your own recovery is the process of sharing your experience and support with others who are just beginning their 12 Step journey. In addition to the positive experience of helping others, staying involved in your local AA community can help you to stay focused on your own process of recovery.

NOTE: Advocates of the program insist that even confirmed atheists or agnostics may participate in and benefit from each of the 12 Steps. Hopefully, this breakdown of the steps has given you some insight into how AA might work for those who do not have a traditional concept of a “Higher Power.” However, Bill Wilson did attribute much of the success of his sobriety to a spiritual awakening, and the steps that he and his earliest members created were designed to use faith and spirituality for strength. If you feel like you cannot fully commit to the spirit of the 12 Steps because they do not speak to your view of the world, then you may be better off considering an alternative treatment approach.