The Road to Sobriety: What are the 12 Steps for Alcoholics?

What are the 12 steps for alcoholics? How do these steps facilitate healing and recovery? Find out all about 12-step programs in this comprehensive article.

Understanding the Scope of Alcohol Use Disorder

In 2021, an estimated 29.5 million people over the age of 12 struggled with an alcohol use disorder.1 Alcohol is one of the most common substances present in today’s society. As a result, there has been a large increase in the presence of this type of substance use disorder.

One of the main treatments for alcoholism is a 12-Step program. But what are the 12 steps for alcoholics and how do these steps help combat those staggering statistics?  Continue reading to find out.

what are the 12 steps for alcoholics

What is Alcoholism?

Before learning the answer to “What are the 12 steps for alcoholics?”, it’s important to know more about alcoholism

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic disease. It is characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse effects.2

Factors Contributing to Alcoholism

Factors contributing to alcoholism can include:3

  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • Mental health
  • Social pressures
  • Personal beliefs and attitudes about drinking

Complexity of Treating Alcoholism

Treatment can be complex. It involves a combination of:

  • Therapy
  • Medication
  • Support groups
  • Lifestyle changes

Remember, even though alcoholism is a serious disease, it’s also preventable and treatable. It’s important to seek help if you are struggling with alcohol use.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder can vary from person to person. But, on average, they revolve around the effects that alcohol has and the inability to control or limit drinking. 

Below are some of the most common symptoms:

Excessive Consumption and Tolerance

A person with AUD often consumes alcohol in larger amounts over a longer period than intended. This can lead to tolerance. This tolerance can also lead to withdrawal symptoms if alcohol consumption is reduced or stopped.

Cravings and Recurrent Use

A telltale sign of AUD is cravings, or a strong desire to consume alcohol. This is despite knowing the physical and psychological problems it causes. This is also despite recurrent social and interpersonal issues caused by the effects of alcohol.

These cravings lead to recurrent use. Recurrent use means there’s been a desire to control use, but the person was unsuccessful. This use can result in failure to fulfill obligations at work, home, or school. 

Excessive Time Devoted to Alcohol

A person with AUD may spend a great deal of time getting, using, and recovering from alcohol’s effects. This leads to important social, occupational, and recreational activities being given up because of alcohol use.

Important Note About Alcoholism

It’s important to remember that alcoholism is a chronic disease that often needs professional help to overcome. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare provider.

The Impacts of Alcoholism

Part of learning “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics?” is learning why they are important. This means understanding the impacts of alcoholism. Alcoholism has many far-reaching impacts that can affect every aspect of a person’s life. 

These impacts can be broken down into several categories: 

  • Physical 
  • Mental 
  • Social 
  • Familial
  • Societal

Physical Health

Chronic alcohol use can have severe health implications. It can cause damage to the liver. This can cause conditions like:

  • Fatty liver
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis

Cardiovascular and Digestive Problems

Alcoholism can contribute to cardiovascular problems. This includes those such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke

It can also lead to digestive issues, such as gastritis and pancreatitis.

Increased Risk of Cancer

It can increase the risk of certain cancers. This includes mouth, throat, liver, and breast cancer. 

Mental Health

Alcoholism is often associated with mental health disorders. It can lead to and worsen conditions like depression and anxiety. It may also increase the risk of suicide. 

Alcoholism is also linked to severe cognitive impacts, leading to problems with memory, attention, and decision-making.

In extreme cases, it can result in Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This is a brain disorder due to thiamine deficiency characterized by mental problems.

Social and Familial Impacts

Alcoholism can strain relationships with family and friends and may lead to isolation. It can interfere with a person’s ability to function at work or school. Alcoholism can also be a contributing factor in instances of domestic abuse and child neglect.

Societal Impact

On a societal level, alcoholism contributes to increased healthcare costs and decreased productivity. It’s also associated with a higher rate of accidents and violence.

What are the 12 Steps for Alcoholics: Overview of 12-Step Programs

12-Step programs are mutual aid organizations for people struggling with addictions. The original, and most well-known, is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). 

Many other organizations have adapted the 12-Step principles to other substance use disorders and issues, such as:

  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Gamblers Anonymous (GA)
  • Overeaters Anonymous (OA)

Each of these programs will address the question of “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics?” differently, with a focus on different addictions.4

Guiding Principles of 12-Step Programs

The 12 Steps themselves are a set of guiding principles for recovery from addictive, compulsive, or other behavioral problems. 

The steps involve:

  • Admitting one’s powerlessness over their addiction
  • Recognizing a higher 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 who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions

How Do They Help People During Recovery?

Asking “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics” only reveals part of the answers needed to understand this treatment. It’s also important to understand how they help individuals in recovery.

12-Step programs provide several avenues of support to individuals during recovery, including:

  • Community and peer support
  • Sponsorship
  • Structure
  • Regular meetings
  • Spiritual growth
  • Coping strategies and tools

Are These Programs Effective?

Research suggests that participation in 12-Step programs can be an effective component of a comprehensive treatment plan for substance use disorders. 

But, it’s important to note that different people may benefit from different types of treatment. This is why research should be done first to understand “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics?”

Not everyone will find 12-Step programs to be the best fit for their recovery journey. Always consult with a healthcare provider or addiction specialist to develop an individualized plan for recovery. 

What are the 12 Steps for Alcoholics?

Now that you have a better understanding of alcoholism and 12-Step programs, it’s important to learn the steps themselves. After all, this is the focus of asking “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics?”

Depending on the source, the answer to “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics” may vary. Despite this, the original steps can be found in documents belonging to  AA.

The 12 Steps as outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are as follows:

Step 1

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8

Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9

We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when doing so would injure them or others.

Step 10

We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 11

We 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.

Step 12

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs.

Important Note About Terminology

It’s important to note that the term “God” is used in a broad sense here. AA emphasizes that these steps can be beneficial regardless of one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. The “Higher Power” concept is meant to be interpreted in whatever way makes sense to the individual.

In other words, AA doesn’t require belief in any specific deity. It is open to people of all faiths or none at all. A requirement for religion is a common misconception found when asking “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics.”

Types of 12-Step Programs

When asking “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics,” you’ll often learn about the original 12-Step program. This is Alcoholics Anonymous. But, the question of “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics” can also be adjusted to fit other types of disorders. 

The concept of a 12-Step program has been expanded to address a variety of addictions. This exceeds the original foundation of AA. 

Several of the types of 12-Step programs will be discussed below.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

This is the original 12-Step program, focused on helping people with alcohol use disorder.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

This program is for people struggling with drug addiction beyond alcohol, including substances such as opioids, amphetamines, and cocaine.

Cocaine Anonymous (CA)

CA’s designed for people who are addicted to cocaine and other mind-altering substances.

Gamblers Anonymous (GA)

This program is designed to help individuals who have a compulsive gambling problem.

Overeaters Anonymous (OA)

This program helps individuals dealing with:

  • Compulsive eating
  • Food addiction
  • Anorexia
  • Bulimia
  • Over-exercising
  • Other eating disorders

Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)

This is for individuals struggling with sexual addiction.


Al-Anon is for family and friends of alcoholics, and Alateen is specifically for teens affected by someone else’s drinking.


This is similar to Al-Anon but focused on the loved ones of individuals struggling with drug addiction.

Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)

This program focuses on adults who grew up in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional households.

Codependents Anonymous (CoDA)

This program is for people who want to develop healthy and loving relationships. The term “codependency” is often used to describe relationships that are unbalanced or dysfunctional.

Debtors Anonymous (DA)

This is for individuals who suffer from compulsive debt and spending.

Each of these programs adapts the core 12-Step principles to the specific needs and challenges associated with the behavior. 

As with any treatment or support program, different approaches work for different people. It may be necessary to try several options to find the best fit.

What to Expect from a 12-Step Meeting

If you find yourself asking “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics,” you may be interested in attending a meeting. If you’re considering attending a 12-Step meeting, it’s natural to be curious or even a bit nervous about what to expect. 

Here’s a general idea of what happens:


Meetings often take place in community spaces like churches or community centers. When you arrive, you’ll likely find chairs arranged in a circle or rows facing the front of the room. People usually chat and socialize before the meeting begins.


The meeting starts with a reading of the 12 Steps and possibly other readings. The chairperson of the meeting may introduce the topic for the session. This can be a beneficial step for those wondering “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics?”


After the opening, members may have an opportunity to share their experiences. In many groups, you’re not required to share if you don’t feel comfortable. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I’m just here to listen today.”

In some meetings, particularly large ones, not everyone will share. Instead, a few people may be selected to share a more in-depth personal story.

Anonymity and Respect

Respect for everyone’s anonymity is a fundamental principle. What you hear and who you see remains confidential. 

You’re also asked to be respectful when others are sharing by not interrupting or offering advice unless it’s a meeting format where that’s welcomed.


Meetings often end with everyone standing, holding hands, and reciting the “Serenity Prayer.” Another closing statement may be used in its place. 

This highlights the importance of a “Higher Power,” as discussed when learning “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics.”

Support and Fellowship

Before and after the meeting, you may have a chance to chat informally with other attendees. This can be an excellent opportunity to start building a support network.

what are the 12 steps for alcoholics

Learn More About “What are the 12 Steps for Alcoholics” with Choice House

Interested in learning more about the question, “What are the 12 steps for alcoholics?” Reach out to Choice House today.

Located in Boulder, Colorado, Choice House has over a decade of experience in treating addiction. This includes alcohol addiction. Our staff is prepared to answer all of your questions, including “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics?”

Our View on Addiction

We view addiction through a unique perspective that highlights trauma and personal experience. As a result, we understand that achieving sobriety can often involve unique modes of treatment. 

That’s why we include an outdoor component and a focus on treating co-occurring disorders. 

Contact Us Today

Are you ready to embark on a journey towards recovery and self-discovery? Reach out to our dedicated Choice House team today.

This supportive community is waiting to help you navigate the path to sobriety and beyond. There’s no need to face it alone –  take the first step today and discover the strength you have within.

Contact us today to learn more and get started with the 12-Step program at Choice House. Whether you want to learn the answer to “what are the 12 steps for alcoholics” or the services we offer, our team is prepared to help.

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Don’t let addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions keep you from leading the happy, healthy, and empowered life you deserve. Contact Choice House today and embrace recovery.

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