Principles of the 12-Steps

The origins of the principles of the 12-steps, including the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) itself, can be traced back to the Oxford Group, a Christian movement that had a following in Europe and America in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Oxford Group’s influence on the development of AA was substantial. As Bill Wilson wrote in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, “The important thing is this: that early A.A. got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Groups.” Today millions of individuals and their families have been helped by AA’s suggested 12-step program, which originated primarily from the Oxford Group.

Also, other 12-step fellowships (e.g., Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Overeaters Anonymous) have helped countless others improve their lives. What Is the Oxford Group, written anonymously in 1933, is considered to be the “Big Book” of the Oxford Group, and its reprinting here is offered for those interested in the historic roots of the Twelve Steps, principles of AA, and as a study guide.

Principles of the 12-Steps

Step 1: Honesty
After many years of denial, recovery can begin when with one simple admission of
being powerless over alcohol — for alcoholics and their friends and family.

Step 2: Faith
It seems to be a spiritual truth, that before a higher power can begin to operate, you
must first believe that it can.

Step 3: Turning it over
A lifetime of self-will run riot can come to a screeching halt, and change forever, by
making a simple decision to turn it all over to a higher power.

Step 4: Soul Searching
There is a saying in the 12-step programs that recovery is a process, not an event.
The same can be said for this step — more will surely be revealed.

Step 5: Integrity
Probably the most difficult of all the steps to face, Step 5 is also the one that provides the greatest opportunity for growth.

Step 6: Acceptance
The key to Step 6 is acceptance — accepting character defects exactly as they are and becoming entirely willing to let them go.

Step 7: Humility
The spiritual focus of Step 7 is humility, asking a higher power to do something that
cannot be done by self-will or mere determination.

Step 8: Willingness
Making a list of those harmed before coming into recovery may sound simple. Becoming willing to actually make those amends is the difficult part.

Step 9: Forgiveness
Making amends may seem like a bitter pill to swallow, but for those serious about
recovery can be great medicine for the spirit and soul.

Step 10: Maintenance
Nobody likes to admit to being wrong. But it is absolutely necessary to maintain
spiritual progress in recovery.

Step 11: Making Contact
The purpose of Step 11 is to discover the plan God as you understand Him has for your life.

Step 12: Service
For those in recovery programs, practicing Step 12 is simply “how it works.”


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