The Twelve Steps

“We must remember that AA’s steps are suggestions only. A belief in them as they stand is not at all a requirement for membership among us. This liberty has made AA available to thousands who never would have tried at all, had we insisted on the Twelve Steps just as written.” (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 81)

Bill W.
Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous written in 1939 were based on spiritual principles common not only to many religions but also in keeping with the ethical principles of a humanist. Though the language of the Twelve Steps may be off putting to the nonbeliever, it is good to remember that the steps are only suggested and each AA member is free to adapt and interpret the steps in a way that is meaningful to them. We list the steps here as originally written and we leave the interpretation of the steps to each individual, but if you are interested in learning how others have interpreted them, the site AA Agnostica has several examples of how the steps may be interpreted in a more secular way, and this is perfectly in keeping with AA Tradition.

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became wiling to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and mediation 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.
  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.