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12 Steps to Freedom

man walks up steps

Almost everyone has heard of the 12 Step programs. The 12 Step approach began in the 1930s with Alcoholics Anonymous. These programs now apply the same philosophy across a broad range of addictive behaviors and are often referred to as the “12 steps to freedom” from addiction. While originally a faith-based program, the 12-steps have been adapted to remove religion from the steps.

Why 12 Steps to Freedom?

The premise is that addiction is a progressive disease that must be acknowledged in order to be understood and recovered from. An admission that the disease and behaviors that flow from the addiction have made your life unmanageable is the first step. Some of the other steps include:

  • Recognition that a “higher power” can give you strength.
  • An examination of your past wrongs and taking responsibility for them, along with making amends for them when possible
  • An adjustment of learning to live with a new code of behavior.
  • Contribution to the greater community by helping others who suffer from addictions.

The “higher power” step is a sticking point for many people because it sounds a bit religious, and some people are philosophically opposed to organized religion. The suggestion is generally that those folks should interpret the “higher power” in a way that makes sense to them without reference to religion, such as the power of the collective group. The 12 Step programs have shown considerable success over the years.

The 12 Steps

Here are the original 12 steps. Variations for different 12-step based groups can be found here.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – 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 God.
  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 God to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing 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 meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s 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 other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.