Alcoholics Anonymous is a time-worn recovery program that was first developed in 1935 by a recovering alcoholic named Bill Wilson and a medical doctor named Robert Smith. More commonly known by Bill W., Wilson had struggled with severe alcoholism for the majority of his young life. He had been unable to stay sober for any extended period of time, and worked with Smith (more commonly referred to as Dr. Bob), to develop the program that would go on to save millions upon millions of lives over the course of the next century. Most reputable treatment centers focus on 12 Step immersion as part of their comprehensive curriculum of clinical care, requiring daily meeting attendance and encouraging their clients to begin working through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous with a sponsor of their choosing. At Intrepid Detox Residential we heavily emphasize the 12 Step method of recovery, thoroughly educating our clients on the ins and outs of AA and preparing them for success in their program of choice down the line. Of course, we understand that many of our clients come to us with no working knowledge of this recovery method – and additionally, many come to us with pre-existing aversions. Maybe the mentions of God and spirituality turn some people away; people who have had negative experiences with religion in the past. Maybe some people have had negative experiences in some 12 Step groups, or with specific individuals. Whatever the case may be, we believe that recovery is possible for everyone – and AA is an important piece of every long-term recovery journey.
Table of Contents
To make the 12 Steps more accessible, we have translated them into layman’s terms – language that everyone can easily understand.
We have removed all mention of God, however, it is important to note that spirituality remains an important facet of AA. If you have any additional questions about our clinical program or about the importance of 12 Step immersion, please feel free to reach out to Intrepid Detox Residential at any point in time for more information.
Step one covers the willingness to get well. It covers coming to terms with the fact that no matter how many times you have tried to cut back or quit, there always comes a time when you cave and return to your old way of drinking. Step one asks you to admit that you have a serious issue with alcohol, and acknowledge the fact that your life is no longer manageable. Basically, everything has gone to sh*t. You can no longer pick up the pieces of your life on your own. The time to seek help has finally come – and that’s okay.
As alcoholics, we tend to be rather stubborn. We tend to think that we can do everything on our own. Step one simply asks us to acknowledge the fact that we can’t pull ourselves out of the deep hole we have dug – and continue to dig.
The second step throws a lot of people for a loop, seeing as it includes mention of a “power greater than ourselves.” It is important to understand that this higher power by no means has to be God. A higher power can essentially refer to anything that is bigger than you are – and we can agree that there are things in this world that are more powerful than we are, can’t we? Like the ocean, for example. The stars. Things that we cannot quite grasp and that we might not fully understand. There are more tangible things that are bigger than we are too, things like a group of people that help us immensely, or even a relative that has had a major impact on our lives that has since passed away. Try not to let the phrase scare you away. Higher powers are always open to interpretation.
Okay, now we actually hear the first mention of God. Some will not bat an eyelash at this – others will bristle in violent disgust. Many men and women come to Alcoholics Anonymous from a harshly religious background. In fact, many individuals who end up abusing alcohol initially begin drinking as a form of rebellion. In any case, God is an unpleasant concept for some, because it has religious ties. It does have religious ties. The truth is, when the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous was first written in 1935 it was written with Christianity and religiousness in mind. But it is adaptable. It is not law, and it is open to interpretation. The word God can be switched out with anything you want.
The third step suggests turning our will and our lives over to God as we understand the word. It allows us some wiggle room. All we really have to do is say to ourselves, “Okay, whatever, maybe something bigger than me can help – I’m willing to give it a try.”
The fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous encourages us to take an honest look at our own shortcomings. It is important for us to understand that we are far from perfect, and that we are pretty prone to making mistakes. The fourth step is a process. It takes a while. It is important to understand that rushing through any step just makes things more difficult in the long run. This step is not enjoyable, so brace yourself to take an honest look at your own actions and the consequences of those actions for what might be the very first time.
This step closely resembles a confession. We read our lengthy list of wrong-doings and fallibilities out loud to our sponsor (and to our higher power). Basically, we’re just admitting that we know we screwed up and we thoroughly understand the consequences of our actions. It is important not to skip over anything for fear of judgement – the role of the sponsor is to listen without bias. Opening up to someone else and being vulnerable and honest with that person helps us develop the communication skills we need to maintain recovery long-term.
The sixth step of Alcoholics Anonymous essentially concerns our willingness to let this long list of shortcomings go. It might seem like a complete no brainer. Why would we want to cling tight to behavioral patterns that are doing nothing but hurting us? Well, the truth is that most alcoholics (and most people, mind you) cling tight to familiarity. It can be difficult to let anything go, even things like self-centeredness or anger. During this phase of the 12 step process, we simply say, “Here’s what’s contributing to my inability to stay sober, and here is what I need to let go of… and I’m totally ready to let all this go.”
This step basically piggybacks off of the sixth step. We simply must ask our higher power to help us move through these personal blockages. “Hey, I’m ready to work through my issues and continue on a path towards self-betterment, higher power (whatever that means for you). Humility also comes into play during this step, in the sense that we understand we need help and guidance and we will not simply heal overnight.
Enter the amends process. In this step we look at all of the people we have screwed over at any point during our lives. This could be things we did to others while active in our addictions or things we did long before picking up a drink or a drug. Again, we need to be completely honest with ourselves during this step. We also need to be thorough. Oh, and one more thing. We can’t make excuses for our actions. We jot down this list and move onwards and upwards, straight towards the ninth step.
During this step, we physically go out into the world and sincerely apologize to all those we have harmed. We don’t say, “Hey, sorry I cheated on you in college. My bad.” Instead, we speak from the heart while understanding that nothing owes us anything. No one we have harmed owes us a second chance or the acceptance of the apology we make.
Basically, the tenth step suggests that we continue doing the right thing even when no one is looking. We continue to look at our actions, and whenever we screw someone over we make amends to them as quickly as we can. This facilitates personal growth and helps us maintain our sobriety by consistently taking the moral high ground.
Here’s another easily misinterpreted step, one that suggests daily prayer and meditation. Meditation is pretty unproblematic – you just sit with yourself. Easy. Prayer is a word that throws some people off. Fortunately, we do not even need to know or identify who or what we are praying to. Our daily prayer can also take roughly 20 seconds, so long as we’re keeping up with it. Think of it as a little added structure – there’s a good chance that it will make sense over time.
The final step alludes to helping others and being a good, decent person. Practicing the principles that coincide with the 12 steps and doing the right thing whenever possible. It isn’t that hard. It is important to recognize that you will never achieve perfection, and that the best thing you can do for yourself is accept that straightaway.
Intrepid Detox Residential
At Intrepid Detox Residential, we have carefully developed a program of recovery that caters to men and women of all ages who have been struggling with a substance abuse disorder of any severity. Because we have witnessed the success of the 12 step method of recovery in the lives of others and in the lives of many of our staff members, we have heavily incorporated Alcoholics Anonymous into our program. We educate our clients thoroughly on each of the steps, require daily meeting attendance and encourage our clients to begin working through the steps with a sponsor of their choosing. If you have any additional questions about the 12 step method of recovery or about our program specifically, simply give us a call and we will be more than happy to answer them! We look forward to speaking with you soon.