For decades The Twelve Steps have helped people recover from addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, food and more. The Twelve Steps were written by Bill W., author of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, with input from the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group was a Christian organization founded in 1921 that Bill W. was a part of. One of the reasons The Twelve Steps are powerful is because they are based on Biblical principles. Christian recovery groups that use the The Twelve Steps not only read the steps before meetings, but they also read the correlating scripture for each step.
These steps have helped so many people because they demand accountability from God and others while also being fairly simple to follow. People new in recovery are often still marred by past trauma. To cope, they most likely have been self medicating for years if not decades and their emotional intelligence is stunted.
Below I have listed each step, it’s accompanying scripture, and a short description of it’s purpose in recovery. You’ll see in Step 1 we come out of denial. We admit our lives are a wreck and no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot stop our addiction on our own:
STEP 1: We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature, I want to do what is right, but I can’t” (Romans 7:18).
This first step in our recovery is another way of admitting we are powerless over sin in our lives. In Step 2 we recognize that only something or someone beyond ourselves can help us. This is a relief to so many addicts who have been trying to stop on their own for years to no avail:
STEP 2: We came to believe that only a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13).
The next step is surrendering our will to God. I read somewhere that the only thing of value we can give to God is our will, He already has everything else.
STEP 3: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. “Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable”(Romans 12:1).
For most people, Step 4 is the most challenging. It is about taking inventory of our lives and figuring out what part belongs to us, and what part belong to someone else. This DOES include working through past pain, trauma, and abuse. But, it is also about looking at our part in our problems so we can make better choices, and stop the blame game that plagues so many addicts.
STEP 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. “Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the LORD” (Lamentations 3:40).
We may not be to blame for much of our past troubles, but we are responsible for how we handle and react to things going forward. In other words, it may not be our fault, but it is our responsibility. Step 5 is about confessing. There is something so freeing about telling our story to a safe person who won’t judge us and has our best interest at heart.
STEP 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
The next two steps are (like the others) about the lifelong process of sanctification. This is where we allow the Lord to change us from the inside out.
STEP 6: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor” (James 4:10).
STEP 7: We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9).
Once we have done the work of the first seven steps, it is time to “sweep of our side of the street” so to speak. This is where we contact those we have harmed. We make amends to them and we forgive them. We don’t say: “I’m sorry but…” We just say: “I’m sorry for my part.” We do this for us as much as for them. We hope they will respond with kindness, but we don’t try to control that part.
STEP 8: We made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31).
STEP 9: We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. “If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar and . . . someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God”(Matthew 5:23-24).
Steps 10 and 11 are about continuing the lifelong pattern of sanctification by holding ourselves accountable daily and drawing near to God so we will remain in His will. If we do not continue connecting with God we risk relapsing.
STEP 10: We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
STEP 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart” (Colossians 4:2).
They say: “You can’t keep it, unless you give it away.” This last step is about helping others recover the way we have. Helping others helps us to remain grateful and allows us to play a part in a bigger story, not just ours.
STEP 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.“ “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1).
I hope and pray this post has given you a better understanding of The Twelve Steps and how they help others overcome addictions. If you would like to hear more about how these steps have benefitted myself and my husband (we have been sober 33 years between the two of us) check out my podcast called The 12 Steps (A Personal Discussion & Keys to Sobriety) Episode 12. Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens is a podcast about healing from addictions, codependency’s, trauma, anxiety, low-self esteem and more!