Twelve Steps

The Twelve Steps, central to the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), are outlined at the start of the chapter “How It Works” in the book “Alcoholics Anonymous.” These steps form a guideline for personal recovery from alcoholism, emphasising acknowledgment of powerlessness over alcohol, belief in a higher power, self-examination, admission of wrongdoings, readiness to have these shortcomings addressed and a commitment to making amends.

The book “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,” also known as the “Twelve and Twelve,” elaborates on these steps and includes the Twelve Traditions. Each chapter in this book interprets one Step or Tradition, providing insights into their application for personal recovery and group functioning. These 24 principles have been instrumental in shaping AA’s approach.

The Twelve Steps have been adapted by over 200 mutual aid organizations worldwide for various addictions and compulsive behaviors, leading to the creation of groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous and Marijuana Anonymous. They also address behaviors like gambling, eating disorders and codependency in groups like Gamblers Anonymous and Co-Dependents Anonymous.

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Additionally, auxiliary groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon support friends and family members of alcoholics and addicts, acknowledging the role of family systems in addiction. Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA or ACOA) focuses on those who grew up in dysfunctional families.

The concept of addiction as an illness, introduced in the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939, revolutionized the understanding of alcoholism. The Twelve Steps model has been widely adopted by various recovery programs, including Al-Anon/Alateen for families and friends of alcoholics.

The Twelve Steps work by encouraging individuals to honestly assess themselves, deconstruct their egos and rebuild their lives. They promote values like honesty, humility, acceptance, courage, compassion, forgiveness and self-discipline, leading to behavioural change, emotional well-being and spiritual growth.

The Twelve Traditions, while related to the Twelve Steps, serve as guidelines for the relationships between AA groups, members and other groups, ensuring AA unity and function. They were developed from the group experiences and practices of AA.

How the Twelve Steps Work

  1. Powerlessness
    The process begins with acknowledging your addiction and recognising its control over your life. This admission of powerlessness lays the foundation for transformation.
  2. Faith
    Embracing the belief in a force greater than oneself is crucial. This step involves developing faith and understanding that this higher power can aid in recovery, creating a new perspective and accountability.
  3. Surrender
    Following the recognition of a higher power, this step involves a full surrender to this greater purpose. It’s about finding meaning beyond oneself, which can reorient life towards positivity and community.
  4. Reflection
    A deep, introspective look into one’s soul is vital. It’s about examining personal intentions versus actions, identifying misalignments and understanding one’s true self beyond the addiction.
  5. Honesty
    Integrity is key in recovery. Being truthful, particularly in expressing vulnerabilities, is challenging but essential for genuine healing and growth.
  6. Self-Acceptance
    Overcoming addiction often requires addressing underlying self-esteem issues. Accepting oneself, including flaws and strengths, enables the shedding of negative self-perceptions and the embracement of a positive future.
  7. Humility
    This step involves letting go of ego and seeking help from a higher power. It’s about understanding and accepting one’s limitations and seeking guidance beyond oneself.
  8. Amends
    Here, you list those you’ve hurt and prepare to make amends. This step goes beyond mere acknowledgment; it’s about actively planning to rectify past wrongs with a sincere willingness.
  9. Forgiveness
    Holding onto past hurts or resentments can be a barrier to recovery. This step involves forgiving those who have wronged you, freeing yourself from negative emotions that could hinder progress.
  10. Self-Assessment
    Continuous self-evaluation is crucial. Being honest about your recovery progress allows for adjustments and keeps you on the path to healing.
  11. Higher Purpose
    In this step, you engage in deep communication with your higher power to understand your life’s purpose. Recognising your unique gifts and how to use them brings joy and fulfillment.
  12. Service
    The final step is about applying the principles learned in AA and NA to daily life. It involves helping others on their recovery process, thus reinforcing your own progress and building a future grounded in the lessons of recovery.

The 12 Traditions

The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous provide a framework for the organization’s group dynamics, focusing on the collective well-being and governance of AA as a whole, as outlined in the Big Book. These traditions have been widely adopted and adapted by various 12-Step groups to guide their collective functioning and ensure the integrity of the group’s purpose.

  1. Welfare and Unity
    The first tradition emphasises that the health of the group is paramount, understanding that individual recovery is deeply intertwined with the unity of the group.
  2. Common Authority
    This tradition establishes that the group recognises a higher power as its ultimate authority, expressed through collective decision-making. Leaders serve rather than govern, embodying the spirit of service.
  3. Inclusive
    The third tradition states that the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility to all seeking help.
  4. Autonomy
    Groups are self-governing, except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole, intended to strike a balance between independence and interconnectedness.
  5. Singular Purpose
    Each group’s primary mission is to support people in their recovery, keeping the focus clear and directed.
  6. Non-Endorsement
    Groups avoid endorsements or financial entanglements with external entities to prevent distractions from their core mission.
  7. Self-Sufficiency
    Groups are self-funded, declining external contributions to maintain independence and avoid external influence.
  8. Nonprofessionalism
    While AA remains a nonprofessional entity, the tradition allows for specialised workers in service centers to support the group’s needs.
  9. Structure
    AA avoids formalised structures but allows for the creation of service boards or committees accountable to the members they serve.
  10. Neutrality
    AA does not take stances on issues outside its scope, keeping the focus on recovery and avoiding controversies.
  11. Public Relations
    The approach to public relations is based on attraction rather than promotion, emphasising personal anonymity in public media to focus on the message rather than the messenger.
  12. Anonymity
    The final tradition highlights anonymity as a cornerstone, reminding members to prioritise principles over personal recognition, creating a spiritual basis for the group’s activities and traditions.

Together, these 12 Traditions serve as guiding principles to ensure the functionality, integrity and effectiveness of AA groups in their pursuit to aid individuals in their journey of recovery.


Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specialising in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance our organisation facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualised care that addresses the physical, mental and social needs of patients.



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