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12th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

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Step 12 AA – 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

The 12 steps of AA are a set of guiding principles that bring together traditional elements of religion, culture, and wisdom. They provide alcohol-dependent individuals with a course of action designed to connect them to their personal vision of a Higher Power. The growth people achieve by following these principles is meant to lead them to a point at which they should be able to offer help and support to those who are still struggling.1

The main tenets of AA’s 12-step program are aimed at achieving and maintaining complete sobriety. This journey begins by admitting that you are powerless against your alcohol addiction and that you need the guidance of a higher power to overcome it. For a considerable number of people, this higher power is God – in a traditional Christian sense – but AA doesn’t discriminate based on religious beliefs, race, gender, or sexual orientation.2

Since not all addiction-affected individuals share the same belief system, this guiding spiritual element doesn’t necessarily have to be a Christian God – it can be viewed as any type of spiritual entity (“God as we understood Him”), so this process can work for people with different belief systems and spiritual sensibilities.2

What Is Step 12 AA?

The main tenet of the 12th step of AA is: “Carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.”3

As the last step of AA’s program for people battling alcohol abuse issues, the 12th step is the natural culmination of a profound process of transformation and personal growth that results from the successful completion of the previous 11 steps.4

Before reaching this final stage, individuals affected by alcohol abuse go through an established sequence of phases that aim to help them find the strength and willpower to persevere in their battle against alcohol addiction. The 12th step of AA puts emphasis on connecting with other people battling the same issues by ‘spreading the message. As such, it’s a particularly important part of this program.2

The Journey of Life and the Joy of Living

This is the main theme of A.A.’s Step 12. This step requires putting into action everything learned and accomplished through previous steps and turning toward other people battling alcohol addiction. The process of going through the separate phases of recovery is often referred to as the ‘journey,’ and the 12 steps serve as stepping stones on the way to recovery. Even though the AA 12th step is the final one, that doesn’t mean that it is the end of that journey.5

The 12th step is also important for understanding that reaching this final stage isn’t the end of your healing journey. This step encompasses the entire process so you can incorporate it into your everyday living – the Journey of Life. The 12 steps can help turn your journey of life into a pleasant one by finding purpose through meaningful interactions with others.5

AA Step 12 Prayer

Even though AA doesn’t insist on specific religious beliefs, it does include relying on a spiritual presence to give you strength on your journey, so each step offers a type of prayer that may comfort struggling individuals along the way. This is the commonly used prayer during the AA 12th step of the program:6

Dear God (Higher Power), my spiritual awakening continues to unfold.

The help I have received I shall pass on and give to others, both in and out of the Fellowship.

For this opportunity I am grateful.

I pray most humbly to continue walking day by day on the road of spiritual progress.

I pray for the inner strength & wisdom to practice the principles of this way of life in all I do and say.

I need You, my friends, and the Program every hour of every day.

This is a better way to live.

This prayer expresses the main concept of ’carrying the message’ to other individuals battling alcohol abuse. After having completed previous steps and achieving a ’spiritual awakening,’ an individual is ready to give back to the community or the ‘fellowship.’ This is a way to express their gratitude for the progress they have made.5

What Is the Importance of AA Step 12?

Step 12 has particular importance as the last step of the journey as it contributes to the recovery and well-being of both the person going through it and other people that are currently working through the previous steps. It involves a great responsibility to always be there for people reaching out for help. This step is frequently described as “keeping what you have by giving it away.” Working with others and providing help simultaneously has a healing effect on the life of the person providing that help. This is also part of their recovery.5

However, Step 12 may present certain challenges to the person going through it. Providing guidance and help to others requires strength and wisdom, as well as humility because it brings up the memories of your own struggle. Simply being sober is not the end of the journey – the recovery must be maintained as a permanent lifestyle. Some people might need to work through some of the previous steps again.5

While helping others work through experiences of previous steps, people who have reached Step 12 may even feel that now that they have control over their dependence, they could drink in moderation. This is why it’s necessary to keep your own addiction in check and avoid falling into the trap of making excuses to use alcohol again. This could lead to relapse and compromise your new significant role, as others rely on your support in difficult moments.5

How to Complete Step 12 AA?

Since Step 12 involves sharing one’s spiritual awakening with others, being a supportive role model means practicing all 12 Steps of the program as part of everyday life. AA’s 12 steps are often described as stepping stones that guide those who are going through the journey after you. The journey usually feels scary in the beginning, and everybody moves through it at their own pace – one step at a time.3

Completing the 12th step means continuously applying all previously learned principles that lead to a new state of consciousness. This is usually referred to as “spiritual awakening.” It means that you are now able to practice honesty, tolerance, unselfishness, and love, each day of your sober life, through everything you do, while continuing to put your trust in a higher power. Sharing your experience, and helping others find strength and hope, is a life-long commitment.5

This is done by regularly attending meetings and sharing your story. It can also mean doing simple tasks like making coffee, setting up the chairs, or giving rides to people who would otherwise be unable to come to a meeting. Being of service to others is what practicing Step 12 entails – this creates a sense of purpose and is highly beneficial to one’s self-esteem and rebuilding a sense of pride and self-worth that generally get destroyed by alcohol addiction.7

What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

Spiritual awakening happens as a result of practicing the principles of the previous 11 steps and developing new views about life, addiction, and adopting new behaviors and attitudes. This transformation becomes possible after finding a source of strength above oneself. This is achieved by adhering to the AA’s 12 principles of:1

  • honesty
  • hope
  • faith
  • courage
  • integrity
  • willingness
  • humility
  • love
  • discipline
  • patience
  • awareness
  • service.

The benefits of practicing these principles, as well as tolerance and unselfishness, lead to a sense of inner peace and general enlightenment, previously hindered by addiction. This is described in the 12th step promise of AA that states: “We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves”. Not all people experience spiritual awakening as a miraculous and sudden ‘epiphany’ – it’s a process that builds up gradually over time. It means not expecting anything in return, not even affection from people you are helping. It’s finding out that being able to give is a reward in itself. It’s seeing people recover, find new purpose in their lives, their place in a community, and mend broken relationships.5

What Are the Tips for Completing Step 12 AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions offers an interpretation of the main principles that guide their process of achieving and maintaining recovery and abstinence from alcohol. There is a separate chapter dedicated to each of the Steps.1

They advise people addicted to alcohol to be of maximum service to the higher power they believe in, as well as the people around them.1

The previous 11 steps equip the individual with the necessary qualities to help others. Recognizing your own character defects, continually working to remove them, and praying or meditating, allows people to become the best versions of themselves. And only then it’s possible to also serve others, which AA lists as one of its ultimate goals. the book also offers advice to people working through the 12th step:1

  • Don’t push others into anything. It is best to lead by our own example and wait for the right time.
  • Stick to your own experience when talking to an alcohol (or drug) dependent person. Tell your story, talk about your progress, and the benefits that abstaining from alcohol or drug use brought to your life.
  • Avoid using labels because of the stigma associated with words like alcoholic or addict.
  • Keep your dedication to the 12 steps. AA is meant to be a lifelong community you can turn to in case of temptation, triggers, or relapse. Make sure that spiritual growth and practice remain a priority.
  • While the feeling of pride and accomplishment are positive outcomes of completing the steps, don’t forget to keep your sense of humility and purpose.
  • Apply the same spirit and attitude in everything you do. Every aspect of your life is deserving of the same devotion and commitment as your AA work.
  • Conquer new problems and turn them into strengths. Various issues will be arising even after you complete all your steps. Deal with them as they come and find serenity in accepting new challenges and knowing that you now have the skills to deal with them.

12 Step AA Worksheets with Questions

During the final step of your journey, you may question your ability to provide support and help to others in need. You should consider these questions as a guide when contemplating these matters:1, 3

  • Are you prepared to reach out to another person in recovery? If you had already done this, how did this experience make you feel?
  • What would be an ideal approach you would’ve liked when first starting with the program? Can you implement it when reaching out to others?
  • How would you describe your own experience with the 12-step program?
  • What’s your way of responding to conflict? Can you think of a more effective way that would lead to resolution? What steps would it consist of?
  • How much time can you dedicate to helping others work through their steps?
  • If you as a sponsor require assistance, are there external resources you can use, and what are they?
  • How do you know if you are suited to help another person work the 12 Step program?

How to Interpret Step 12 AA: What Should I Do Next?

Step 12 of AA is explained as the time to put all other principles to use by serving others. This step should be the culmination of all your efforts and the moment when you feel strong enough to give back to the community of those suffering from alcohol addiction. Reach out to those that are ready to accept help and offer them your perspective and guidance.5

The best way to do this is by providing your own experience as an example – showing how you implemented healthy practices into your life and sharing your story about how they helped you achieve sobriety and experience the joy of life. Aside from being of service to others, you should keep on applying the principles of the previous 11 steps to your everyday life. By helping others and carrying the message of AA to those who still suffer you will add a new sense of purpose to your own life.5

How Can I Get Help from Step 12 of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)?

Depending on the severity of your alcohol abuse disorder you can take part in an AA program during your outpatient treatment, or after completing an inpatient treatment program. If you or a loved one are experiencing alcohol abuse issues, the safest course of action is to seek professional help.8

You can get all the necessary information by reaching out to American Addiction Centers (AAC), a nationwide network of highly-rated rehab facilities. You can call the AAC helpline and speak to admission navigators to get the best possible guidance about the type of treatment you might need, as well as the costs of the appropriate treatment. Highly trained representatives will explain everything you need to know about using your insurance to pay for rehab and direct you to suitable substance abuse treatment centers.

AAC’s top-notch rehab centers offer individualized treatment programs that take each patient’s specific need into consideration. After an initial evaluation, most patients start with an inpatient detox program that lasts up to a week and then generally move on to evidence-based rehab treatment for at least a month.8

Verify your insurance coverage by filling out an online form on the AAC website, or by calling the AAC helpline. You can get accurate information about payment options and advice about different ways to finance your recovery program.

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The editorial staff of Projectknow.com is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
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