What is a 12 step program

Sobriety Navigator: What is a 12 Step Program? 

“If it’s going to be, it’s up to me!” This is a well know motto and philosophy that is practiced in many arenas. It is a perfect description of what the 12 Step self-help programs are all about. 

In 1935, a stockbroker, Bill Wilson, and a physician, Dr. Robert Smith, created a series of exercises that, if practiced honestly and sincerely, could arrest the obsession and craving for alcohol and assist in maintaining physical and emotion sobriety.  Both had suffered the damning effects of chronic alcoholism for years, and were determined to overcome the disease. They understood very well that no amount of will power, education, intelligence or any other social, ethnic or economic social position could insulate them from the degradation that they had visited upon themselves through their substance abuse

These specific exercises became known as the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and were published in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous (aka the “Big Book”).

One of the many attributes of these 12 steps is that they are presented as suggestions only. Each new-comer who walks through the doors of A.A. is met with kindness, compassion and understanding. Alcoholics Anonymous subscribes to the belief in attraction, not promotion. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking

As a result of the success of the 12 Step program, other groups adopted the 12 Step format to deal with addiction in their lives. The only difference among them is in the wording of the 1st Step. All others remain the same.  Here are some examples: 

  • Alanon – This specific program deals with the alcoholic’s effects on the family. The 1st step is utilized for the admission that a spouse, lover, friend or family member is powerless over the alcoholic and the drinking, and how life has become unmanageable.


  • Adult Children of AlcoholicsACOA, as it is commonly known.  The 1st Step here addresses our history of growing up in a household where alcoholism prevailed and how life has become unmanageable as a result.


  • Co-dependency AnonymousCODA address the fact that we are powerless over others and how our life has become unmanageable as a result of the interactions.


  • Narcotics AnonymousNA deals with powerlessness over drugs, and how life has become unmanageable.


  • Sex Addiction AnonymousSA address the powerlessness over addictive sexual behaviors and how life has become unmanageable.


  • Overeaters AnonymousOA address the powerlessness over food and how life has become unmanageable.

These are just some of the 12 step programs that have come into being over the years.  They can all work, but, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me!”

By Cynthia Peterson                                                                                    

Post Your Comment or Question Here

 Add a Review of this item 
Comment Title:

Your Name:

Your Email Address:

Notify me of new comments to this item:
Your Rating:
Additional Comments:

Site design by:  Visions Unlimited ©2015 all rights reserved