The 12-Step Programs have saved and altered millions of lives across the globe. Today we will begin looking at these steps and the meanings/ interpretations behind them.
Before AA began, the Oxford Groups existed as a program of recovery from alcoholism. The Oxford groups were based upon the principles of absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love. What they discovered were that these four principles were difficult for anyone to maintain, let alone a recovering addict—thus AA was born as a program that was built upon the principle of “progress not perfection”; people were suggested that they made progress in their recovery not attain a perfect recovery. Absolutes were left behind and a “suggested program” was introduced.
Part of this program was the 12 suggested steps towards a life of recovery. The key to that statement is the “suggested” part, individuals could decide to do the steps or not do the steps, —and the only requirement to attending a 12-Step Program is the desire to change.
Today we will look at the first few steps of the AA program—other programs basically mirror the AA program by altering the word alcohol to suit the issue.
1–We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.
This step gets at the heart of accountability. Many have interpreted this as defeat. This is not intended as a statement of defeat, but rather a statement of becoming accountable for one’s actions and bringing a link between alcohol use and unmanageability. It is quite simple—over-use of alcohol causes problems in people’s lives and excessive over-use of alcohol destroys people’s lives. Alcoholics are infamous for seeking every other rationale besides alcohol for why their lives are in chaos; this step puts the accountability where it belongs.
2–Came to believe that a Power greater then ourselves could restore us to sanity.
As stated earlier, AA was built upon Judeo Christian principles and AA incorporated the need for spiritual recovery from alcoholism. Years of research had defined alcoholism as a bio-psycho-social disorder…today that has been extended to include spiritual. There have been vast amounts of research done in the area of spirituality over the past 15 years as it relates to alcoholism with many researchers drawing clear linkages between these two areas. AA was well ahead of its time in the development of this piece. The founders of AA understood the need for individuals to have a program of recovery that extended outside of the individual to something or someone more powerful and thus helpful. The simplistic definition of “insanity” is performing the same activity over and over and expecting different results; restoration of sanity here is the understandings that change were needed for change to occur.
3–Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
Having performed research in the area of spiritual belief systems and alcoholism, I am keenly aware of the differences between those that accept and rely upon God as part of their recovery versus those that choose a different path. What this step requests is that a person is willing to rely upon God for good direction in their life (some members of AA even define God as Good Orderly Direction)—most addicts have not done an outstanding job in directing their own lives and thus a spiritual outside support can be essential. It additionally moves one away from ego based direction to understanding and appreciating external direction. How God is defined is reliant upon each individual member of AA—there is no stated religion or spiritual belief system in this step.
These steps build the initial foundations for recovery. When we come back to this, we will begin to explore the action steps within the 12-Steps.