Twelve-step programs have contributed to the recoveries of millions of addicts worldwide. The first 12-step program ever was Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which was started by Bob Smith and Bill Wilson. The two men devised a program that encouraged addiction recovery through the working of the steps, and the subsequent helping of other addicts by those in recovery.

Since writing those twelve steps in the Big Book, they have been adapted to work for other forms of addiction. For instance, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) uses a twelve-step program that is almost identical to that of AA. Other modified programs include those for sexual, nicotine and gambling addictions.

When working a twelve-step program, the steps must be done in order. The first step in any program is for the addict to admit that they have a problem and that they are powerless over it. The second step is to believe in a higher power which can bring back sanity. The third step is for the addict to turn their problem over to that higher power.

The higher power doesn’t have to mean belief in God; therefore, agnostics and atheists can use a twelve-step program without embracing organized religion. The level of religiosity attached to that higher power varies from one group to another. Some groups are religion-based, and end meetings with a prayer, while others skip it. Almost all meetings end with hand-holding and fellowship.

Step four is perhaps the hardest; the addict must take a moral inventory of themselves- recognizing bad behaviors, faults and patterns that encourage substance use. This step is usually guided by sponsors. Step five expands on the moral inventory; the addict has to admit their faults, confess them to their higher power and to another person (usually the sponsor).

Step six is to tell the higher power that the addict is ready, and step seven has the addict asking the higher power to take away their faults. Steps eight and nine have the addict asking for forgiveness from those they’ve wronged, and to offer restitution. Steps ten and eleven continue the moral inventory and the connection to a higher power. The final step is where the recovering addict tries to help other addicts.

People in twelve-step programs continue to work them for a lifetime; some recover enough to only go to the occasional meeting, and others attend more often. Study groups are typically offered for each of the twelve steps, and there are also books that go into more detail. Working the program is a very intense process, but it is very effective and has helped addicts all over the world.