A twelve-step program is a set of guiding principles for recovery from addictive, compulsive, or other behavioral problems, originally developed by the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for recovery from alcoholism. The Twelve Steps were initially published in the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous ("The Big Book") in 1939; since then more than 25 million copies have been printed in many languages. This method has been adapted as the foundation of other twelve-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous and Emotions Anonymous. As summarized by the American Psychological Association, working the Twelve Steps involves the following.
• admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion;
• recognizing a greater power that can give strength;
• examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
• making amends for these errors;
• learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
• helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

These are the original Twelve Steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—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 Him.
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 Him 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 Him, praying only for knowledge of His 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 alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Other twelve-step groups have adapted these steps of AA as guiding principles for problems other than alcoholism. In some cases the steps have been altered to emphasize particular principles important to those fellowships, or to remove gender biased or specifically religious language.

Wikipedia, the free enclyclopedia &copy 2001-2008 Wikipedia Contributors
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License

Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Addiction & Recovery. The Official Guide to Addiction & Recovery is John McMahon. Dr John McMahon has a PhD in psychology. He has worked in the alcohol and drug field in various capacities for around 25 years. In that time Dr. McMahon has been a therapist, has designed and run treatment interventions for both alcohol and drug problems.

Additional Resources covering Addiction and Recovery can be found at:

Website Directory for Addiction and Recovery
Articles on Addiction and Recovery
Products for Addiction and Recovery
Discussion Board
John McMahon, PhD, the Official Guides To Addiction and Recovery