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12 Steps of Recovery: Addiction Recovery Programs – Verywell Health

Michelle Pugle is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of experience contributing accurate and accessible health information to authority publications.
Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Alcoholics Anonymous or AA is the original recovery program that brought the world the 12 steps of recovery. The 12 steps have since been applied to other substances and types of addictions in recovery programs like Marijuana Anonymous, Al-Anon and Alateen for loved ones of alcoholics, Codependents Anonymous for people stuck in toxic relationships, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Workaholics Anonymous.
This article will describe the foundation of the steps, what each of the 12 steps of recovery means, what to expect when doing the steps, and how to help a person recovering from an addiction. 
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The 12 steps of recovery were published in the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous by two recovering alcoholics, doctor Bob Smith and businessman Bill W. The steps are founded on personal experience and Christian inspiration. They are based on the belief that by following these “principles, spiritual in their nature, as a way of life, you can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”
The 12 steps of recovery are meant to be completed in order as one step builds upon the next. The original steps spoke of a single “God” but have since been changed to a “Higher Power” or a “power greater than you.” Here are the 12 steps in order:
There is no set timeline for how long it will take someone to go through the steps. A person typically begins by attending their first AA meeting and being introduced to newcomer information (including information on the 12 steps).
It's up to each individual to decide when to begin “working the steps,” and when to approach a sponsor. Your sponsor is meant to provide guidance, support, and understanding during the steps process. 
Helping a person recovering from an addiction can come down to helping them connect to treatment—if they’re not already doing so—and encouraging support groups like AA. The people this person meets in these meetings are much better positioned to encourage their sobriety than family members are.
Attend meetings for loved ones of those recovering from an addiction as a way of supporting yourself and connecting with others who can relate. Bear in mind the person recovering from an addiction will need real-time to go through these big steps (not just a few days or a month). Recovery can take months and years.  Staying realistic about relapse and the road ahead is advised.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
The 12 steps ask a person to admit they’re powerless and that a higher power can help restore their personal power—but only if the person takes a full moral inventory, lists all people wronged, makes amends where possible, opens their communication or strengthens their relationship with their higher power, and practices acts of service that helps them maintain the new life. Recovery is possible, especially with the help of loved ones and groups like AA.
The 12 steps are challenging for every anyone struggling with a substance use problem, no matter what their addiction. Going through the ways your addiction has taken away from your life and how it has impacted others may be painful. While working with a sponsor is expected during the steps, the best chance of recovery comes from a combination of efforts. Bear in mind that recovery is a lifelong process (but it does get easier!).
How long it takes to complete the 12 steps of recovery is highly dependent upon individual circumstances. It is highly variable; it can take months to years. Some 12 steppers may continue "working the steps" as step 12 can continue on forever.
There is no hard and fast rule that you need a sponsor to complete the 12 steps, although it is strongly encouraged in the program meetings. A 2014 survey found about 82% of AA members had sponsors.
The 12 steps of recovery work for some people and may not work for others. Many factors influence recovery, beyond whether or not the person completes the steps, though. These include genetic, biological, and environmental factors. The 12 steps model may not be for everyone, and there are other effective approaches to recovery that might be a better fit for some.
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Alcoholics Anonymous. Member survey 2014.

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