What is The 12th Step of AA

Dr. Ximena Sanchez-Samper

Ximena Sanchez-Samper, MD is a Board- Certified Addiction Psychiatrist who obtained her degree as a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and completed her Addictions Fellowship through the combined Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital / Brigham and Women’s Hospital Addictions Fellowship program in 2004.

Admissions Question?

Inquire about our admissions process and start your journey.

Embracing Recovery: Understanding the 12th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcohol addiction is a complex challenge that affects individuals from all walks of life. It can lead to significant personal, social, and legal problems, impacting not only the individuals struggling with addiction but also their families and communities. Among the various support systems available, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a source of help and long-term recovery for many.

While AA is not an immediate cure, it can be enormously helpful in giving people the tools they need to break their addictions and start over their lives anew. The 12th and final step of the AA process is one of the most important to aiding the lives of those with alcohol use disorder and perpetuating the program that has helped so many people over the years.

What Is AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the world’s most popular programs for combatting addiction. It is not based on updated behavioral therapy techniques or the latest research into the physiology of addiction. In many ways, it is a therapy approach based on earlier pastoral methods of treating and tackling addiction. 

AA is focused on treating addiction by giving over a person’s dedication and actions to a higher power. This higher power helps to keep them abstinent from alcohol and gives them the strength to move beyond times when they may be weak. The theory behind AA is based on mutual support and personal growth

Individuals in AA use peer support and work to create new mental pathways that do not require alcohol. They work together in groups and create assignments for themselves that help identify the reasons why they felt the need to drink in the first place. AA is about both getting off of alcohol and staying off of it entirely. It requires an enormous amount of willpower that continues to be necessary for years and even decades after the initial completion of the program. 

Efficacy of AA: A Look at the Impact and Success Rates

Since its founding in the mid-1930s, AA has helped millions of people quit drinking. According to scientists who have studied the issue, the effectiveness of AA is tied to its social component. It involves people pushing other people to accomplish goals, attend meetings, and complete the program. 

This component helps people overcome the desire to skip meetings and otherwise abandon therapy, which they may have done if trying to complete therapy for addiction on their own. AA is also free and open to the public, making it an attractive alternative to other therapies. 

Finally, the specific rhetoric of AA treatment is helpful for the men and women who take it. Studies have shown that a hope-based intervention is more helpful for those fighting addiction than one that is more focused on acceptance or maintenance at a particular level.

The Steps and Their Focus

There are 12 Steps inherent in the AA model. These steps are all targeted toward the improvement of an individual, tearing down the boundaries that caused them to use alcohol in the first place, and then building up helpful habits that prepare them for the future while also allowing them to right the wrongs of their past. The initial steps are about admitting that one has a problem with alcohol. 

These steps are usually what brings a person to AA in the first place and are required to enter into the program. People have to admit that they are alcoholics and that they are attending the program in order to begin a process of permanent change in their lives. 

Next, AA members have to take concrete steps to quit drinking. AA is a treatment philosophy built on complete abstinence from a substance. Members of AA cannot continue to drink alcohol in any capacity. They also might start avoiding their friends who drink and the establishments where they used to consume alcohol. 

AA often allows for different supplemental therapies and treatments that can help a person get away from alcohol specifically. But this complete stoppage of drinking is essential for the entire program to work. The program is primarily focused on helping individuals rebuild their lives in a way that supports long-term sobriety, rather than solely concentrating on the initial cessation of alcohol consumption.

A part of following the steps involves the participant writing down and understanding all of the reasons that they used to turn to alcohol in the past to help cope with their problems. They write the information down and share it with the members of the group. The group then checks in at the next meeting to ensure that the behavior is being followed. 

Coordinators are trained to ask probing questions and push back on any dishonest behavior they might detect. After writing down these issues, members of AA should go through another exercise where they write a list of all of the ways they have harmed their family and friends. They follow this process by actively going to these people, presenting the ways that they have done wrong, and offering amends to make up for their negative actions. This process helps bring them closure and recover from some of the pain that they have inflicted on the people that they love. 

Once they have made peace with their friends and loved ones, one of the last steps is to start taking account of one’s life and acting in a righteous way. People who reach this step gain the ability to admit when they are wrong and act promptly in order to remedy the situation. They are more accountable, more trustworthy, and less likely to act out against their friends and family members.

The Final Step

The 12th and final step in AA is traditionally stated as: “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.” Part of this step is extending the benefits of the program to others. The program is administered by recovered alcoholics who have already greatly benefitted from it. These are people who know what it takes to go through the 12 Steps of recovery and have the strength and resources necessary to teach others. 

The organizers of AA believed that the best people to lead the program were those who had experienced it firsthand. These men and women are encouraged to spread the word of their accomplishments to others by taking an active role in the program. Those who go through AA are encouraged to volunteer at AA meetings and become AA sponsors to support new members.

They may read from the Big Book of AA guidance and then go about the process of securing meeting space and planning events. These men and women must make social connections and gain the trust of their peers. In many instances, members of AA will come together to head new groups and push each other to remain accountable and keep going through the whole program. 

Another element of the 12th Step is putting the teachings of AA to practice in all aspects of one’s life. This step involves acting in a restrained and honest manner in every situation. In addition to avoiding alcohol, successful AA participants avoid other addictive behaviors and substances to promote overall well-being, both physically and emotionally.

The teachings of AA can extend to work and relationships as well. Self-discipline and humility are both enormously helpful for relationships. They can cause a person to lean away from destructive traits and habits that put stress on their children and partners. Tools learned in AA can help foster happy, productive relationships that can begin to replace alcohol as a productive part of a person’s life.

Tools for Success

The greatest tool to accomplish the final step of AA is perseverance and understanding. The best AA teachers are those who have worked through the program and know exactly what it takes to succeed. They have an innate desire to succeed and to reach out and teach others. 

These men and women also know how to work in groups and ask probing questions that may help people overcome their resistance to improvement. The positive mindset that they develop in AA can support them in working through their addictions and applying the lessons learned in the program to other aspects of their life.

Completing the last step of an AA program requires resolve and dedication. It involves building up skills throughout the weeks and months involved in the first 11 steps. Anyone who completes the program and remains sober for an extended period of time after they are done has wisdom and knowledge that they can use to help others. One can only hope that these individuals will follow through with the 12th Step of the program and go on to share what they’ve learned and apply the principles to their daily lives. 

Reaching Out for Help: A Critical Step in the Journey

Embracing the principles of AA and completing its 12 Steps is a significant milestone in one’s recovery. However, addiction recovery is an ongoing process, and many face challenges that require additional support and guidance. Recognizing when to reach out for help is both a sign of strength and a critical component in ensuring long-term success and recovery. 

For those who find themselves or a loved one in need of additional support and guidance, Charles River Recovery offers a compassionate and comprehensive approach. With a focus on individualized care, we oversee a full range of programs, including detox, residential care, and intensive outpatient treatment. Whether you’re beginning your journey or seeking additional support after completing a program like AA, our team offers the expertise, care, and understanding to help you navigate the challenges of recovery and maintain lasting change. Start your recovery journey!