Alcoholics Anonymous or AA for short was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. The primary purpose of AA is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous has grown and expanded to presently include more than two million diversified members. Although it was founded on Christian principles, the AA traditions recommend that AA groups attempt to steer clear of dogma, hierarchies and involvement in public issues.
Basically, the principles speak about having an addiction that has become so intense that it leaves its victim feeling powerless to avoid temptation.
Step 1. We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
How many of us have been in that same situation? Whether that addiction was smoking cigarettes, gambling, overeating, or staying in an abusive relationship, the feeling of being powerless to break the harmful and negative cycle in which we find ourselves is still the same. And, in the process, at some point, our lives become unmanageable.
Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
The principles suggest that in order to gain control over this addiction that has us feeling powerless we may believe that there is a power out there that is indeed greater than ourselves and therefore that power could restore our sanity. What power is there that is greater than ourselves? Some might choose to call this power by a name-- perhaps God or Allah or Goddess-- and some might simply call that power unconditional or universal love. Others might suggest that the power is the will to survive.
Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Once we have admitted that there is a power which is stronger than ourselves, we may choose to turn our lives over to that power, in whatever way we choose to understand that power. Perhaps this is the basis of having faith in something beyond our own life experience. Addictions cause fear and fear breeds anger and anger breeds self-contempt. What happens if we simply allow that fear to dissipate in the face of self acceptance and self-love?
Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Once that fear is gone, we can then take an inventory of what is left behind. What caused the addiction in the first place? How can we prevent it from happening again? What is the fear that motivated that addiction? And, most importantly, can we love ourselves enough to just say “no.”
Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
When we admit to ourselves in the presence of our newfound strength and another human being that we have done many things that were wrong while we were caught in the web of our addiction, the process of self denial ends and a sense of self empowerment begins.
Step 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Now, we are ready to allow our faith in whatever higher power we have chosen to remove this short-comings even if it is a painful process for us to endure.
Step 7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
And, in so accepting that we have shortcomings and that we have asked to have them removed, we gain a sense of humility and self-understanding. We are ready to totally let go and start anew.
Step 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
In every case of addiction, someone is harmed, even if that someone is only ourselves. When you harm another human being in body, mind or spirit, you harm yourself as well. Asking for forgiveness, even self forgiveness is one of the hardest things a human being can do. But, in order to move forward it is an important step we must take. So, we make a list of those we have harmed and we ask those people to forgive us for our actions.
Step 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
There are times when we have harmed someone so badly that to approach them for forgiveness would only cause them unbearable pain. This is a result of our actions that we must accept and understand.
Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Addictions have a way of causing people to deny responsibility for their actions and the resulting consequences. When the addiction is conquered a new sense of responsibility and consequence ensure. We start to look at life as a cause and effect situation. When we are wrong, we admit that we are wrong.
Step 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Inner peace is often achieved through silence and inner searching. Prayer and meditation are ways of finding that inner silence and sense of peace. This allows us to ‘touch base” with something beyond ourselves… a higher consciousness..
Step 12. 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.
Once we have woken up to the spirit within ourselves, it is time to share this understanding with others. This can be accomplished through volunteer work in the community, helping others who are in need of our services or simply by maintaining a sense of inner peace and tranquility in the face of conflict.
We take these twelve steps often in our lifetime… sometimes rising and sometimes falling. They are a constant reminder of what we can and should be. Just imagine if the world in general lived by these principles.. What a wonderful world it would be.