Two (or three) LDS versions of the 12 steps

July 19, 2006

THE 12 STEPS

Step 1

Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.

Step 2

Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.

Step 3

Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Step 4

Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.

Step 5

Admit to yourself, to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of your wrongs.

Step 6

Become entirely ready to have God remove all your character weaknesses.

Step 7

Humbly ask Heavenly Father to remove your shortcomings.

Step 8

Make a written list of all persons you have harmed and become willing to make restitution to them.

Step 9

Wherever possible, make direct restitution to all persons you have harmed.

Step 10

Continue to take personal inventory, and when you are wrong promptly admit it.

Step 11

Seek through prayer and meditation to know the Lord’s will and to have the power to carry it out.

Step 12

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, share this message with others and practice these principles in all you do.

These are the 12 steps found in the current LDS Addiction Recovery Manual or ARM (which can be downloaded here). I find them interesting for how they differ from both the original 12 steps associated with AA and from Heart t’ Heart’s 12 steps associated with the Book of Mormon. In particular, I find the distinctions between the latter two fascinating.

It seems as if there is more of a concern in the LDS ARM 12 steps with repentance within the context of the church. Notice that in step 5, you are to confess both to proper priesthood authority and to another person (in addition to God and yourself). Not all of the things that we inventory necessitate speaking to the bishop. For that matter, if you are solely a food addict or a codependent, you may not have to speak with priesthood authority at all (although, sometimes talking things out with the bishop helps). Additionally, for some offenses, disclosure to a counselor, sponsor, friend, or spouse are insufficient. Some addictions must be confessed before priesthood authority (I’ll let you and your bishop work out what they are). By integrating both into the steps, some confusion is avoided.

Of course, the LDS ARM version is less flowery that Heart t’ Heart’s version (especially the longer version which incorporates more scriptural language). More than that, I think that its clarity makes it a little more compelling. In the Heart t’ Heart version, a greater power will restore us to ‘sanity.’ Here, God will restore us to ‘complete spiritual health.’ In other words, he will not only correct and change our addictive behaviors; he will also make us spiritual whole and spiritually his.

Often the language of God differs between the two. Heart t’ Heart deliberately mimics the language of the original AA 12 steps in its shorter version, using ‘God’ or ‘a Higher Power’ frequently. The LDS ARM adopts the named gods of Heart t’ Heart’s longer version, while keeping the language relatively simply. So, God often becomes ‘Our Heavenly Father’ and we do things ‘in the name of Jesus Christ.’

Both versions (perhaps I should say all three versions) are wonderful. They have different emphases and use slightly different vocabularies. All three give clear instructions on what to do, how to do it, how to feel about it, why you should feel that way about it, and why you can. These are the kinds of instructions that the repentant need. I am grateful to have been introduced to the 12 steps.

The 12 steps will be the main topic of discussion around here for the next 12 weeks or so. Beyond that, we’ll probably go over them again. Over the rest of this week, I’ll tell you a little more about myself and my journey in the 12 steps (I’m really only about halfway along). In this, I understand that I am kind of skipping ahead to step 12 (which is a no-no). I’m sorry. I just think people need to be able to talk about this without feeling embarrassed. So, I’m talking about it.

Take Care!

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24 Responses to “Two (or three) LDS versions of the 12 steps”

  1. Dana Says:

    I was doing some searching through the internet, and am so glad that I stumbled onto this site. This is really great! I attend the LDS AR meetings 4-6 times a week in the Salt Lake Valley. I am a facilitator in the Sandy district. I absolutely love this program. I don’t know what I would do without it in my life. Thanks so much for this site, and for spreading the word.

  2. John Anon Says:

    Thank you for commenting, Dana. Please feel free to come back!

  3. Diana Holland Says:

    Where are the groups, please? Are there any in Ogden? i have a real problem with something and that is that it says that the 12 steps is to move people to repentance and into spirituality and i feel I am extremely spiritual but I do not like going to church any more _ i find the people judgmental, hurtful, and at times blind to truth and also to genuine love for all people. I am sorry if I sound arrogant I do not mean to, but I almost want to become Buddhist – and yet i sincerely love the gospel.
    take last time I went – all about the chastisement of Joseph Smith and someone said yes, we need to chastise our children more, and it ping ponged with talk on the devil rather than Christ. I left in tears. my friend did the same the week after in her ward when someone put their hand up and explained that she was hurt by the constant put downs by us, of other religions – she explained that her famly were still none LDS and very lovely people. my friend left crying. I did too when i went and could not hear any more about how they hoped those in prison had learned their lessons. i know I know how wonderful the gospel is, i know how fabulous the people are in so many ways but in such a narrow sense at times – do I go to 12 steps or become buddhist? I am half joking about the buddhist but so tired of the judgment I hear and hanging on by a thread – I know the gospel is true but do not want to be with those who bring me down, and yes, i am codependent too but do not feel a lack of spirituality is my main problem and to go to church feeling this way feels very codependent to me – i just do not want to be with people who do not love all cultures, all people and all those who have sinned. It is like being with the deaf, blind and dumb and pretending you are the one who has to repent when i honestly want to say who will throw the first stone? who is without sin? . i am english and it is seeming to me like the catholic church more and more instead of the beauty of love and the Savior’s admonition to now love one another as i have loved you I hardly feel welcome if I am different this should not be. My bishop suggested i do more service work – kind of be quiet keep busy and you won’t worry. i guess i need to repent because i am not going to church and if 12 steps is aimed at making me do that and saying i am not spriutal enough, I am not sure i want to go there either – and yet i do honestly truly want to go back to church, but only if the people are kind and non judgmental. what is wrong with me?
    maybe there is something right with me and I am just deeply sensitive at the moment and I know I am not the only one. The reason I joined 30 years ago was because of the absolute love i saw given to all. i saw punk rockers walk in and they were treated like royalty -so much love given to them.

  4. Fiver Says:

    Diana,

    I’m sorry you are having that experience. I am a convert to the Church (16 yrs ago), so I can see your point-of-view clearly. There are a lot of members who do miss the point. There are also a lot who get it. But, for me, I have found that through my trials that stem from others’ choices (and trust me, that is a major issue in my life) I have found that the only answer is to ask Heavenly Father what he wants me to do. There have been big issues; infidelity, lies, stupid people; seriously big issues that have shaken me. But, I decided to not do anything without consulting Him first. And it has made a big difference for me. It doesn’t change the trials, but I know that if my inclination is, for example, to leave my husband, I don’t want to rely on my emotions or even my logic to make such decisions, so I ask, “What do you want me to do?” And He always tells me. Often it is, “Wait,” which isn’t my favorite answer :)and sometimes it is excruciating to do what he tells me, but there is peace in knowing that I cannot make a mistake, thus making my problems worse, if I ask Him first. There have been times that the whole world is coming down around me, but I do what He tells me to do, and then my life is at peace in spite of it. I hope this helps.

  5. 44Special Says:

    I’ve had plenty of people who try to ‘fix me’ say like Job’s friends, “Curse the church and take care of yourself!”. The thing I have found is that the turbulence increases the more ‘on path’ I have become. It’s easy to do what everyone else does, it’s hard to have faith and humility to ask what His will is. I find it frustrating that the answers don’t come for years sometimes. I still don’t have all the answers, but I know the GOSPEL is true, people aren’t usually.

  6. AJ Says:

    I find that church leaders are always acknowledging addiction until it shows up in the membership. Then it is just a matter of weakness or bad use of agency.

    My twelve step group is becoming way more important to me than the church and I don’t know how to feel about that. I keep asking myself, How can this be Christ’s church if there is no place in it for the addict? As my sponsor (non-member) said recently, “You may not be temple worthy, but you are Jesus worthy”.

    I guess I’m not worthy to be a member of this church anymore because I am an addict. But I know my saviour loves me, and I am learning to love others more than ever, and learning for the first time I think what it really means to be a Christian. And I don’t know what to do with the fact that this is all coming to me from outside the church. If fact it is all coming to me at a time when I am all but cast out of the church.

    My twelve step meetings make elder’s quorum meetings look like a sports bar.

    I have a hard time even imagining the church isn’t true. And I have a hard time imagining why the true Church of Jesus Christ would shun me and cast me out and mistreat me at a time when I am struggling for my very life.

    aj

    • anonymous Says:

      As a daughter of an alcoholic-anti-Mormon dad and a mom who was the third daughter of the 3rd wife of a fundamentalist… I can relate to your experiences with those in the church who misunderstand addiction and many other things. The descrepancy between the gospel of Jesus Christ and it’s membership (being made up of very real humans who are all sinners)seems wrong, but keep in mind that although the church is an inspired institution, it is still being run by imperfect beings. I married the perfect returned missionary – who was going to help me create a family – unlike the crazy one I was born into, right? Wrong. As soon as we had 3 children and he gets his pilot wings, he decides to create intimate relationships all over the planet – and I return to the drawing board: full time work, full time school and full time mom with 3 little ones… the entire time remaining active in this imperfect church (wraught with thoughtless comments and simpleton-sounding advice…) but guess what! This imperfect church still has some amazing people in it that, like you and I, have gone through some amazing transformations and can give 100 percent credit to our Saviour! Not only is the Gospel true, but this imperfect church and its imperfect and oftentimes downright annoying and thoughtless crowd of sinners is the perfect vehicle to hone our skills that we are learning in our AA and Alanon meetings, true? We are all just trying to develop enough of an understanding and relationship with Christ to be truly effective disciples, true? Those members of the church (and yes, even its leaders), who seem to belittle or ostricize or downplay the reality of addiction need our sincerest patience and understanding, because when they finally hit rock bottom due to addiction or whatever else will truly bring them to Christ, they’re going to need someone near who can TRULY mourn with them and recognize their joy when they “feel their Savior’s love.” I’m hopeful to think that you may recognize this opportunity. There are many church leaders who DO understand addiction and none of them live the perfect lives that the Mormon culture would have us believe. (By the way, the Mormon “culture” is created by humans, too, and much of it is uninspired, as Elder Uchdorf so lovingly suggested in his talk about just getting back to the basics of the Gospel…) Repentence and turning ourselves to Christ is a daily and sometimes hourly (and sometimes minute-by-minute) task for EVERYONE! When members of the church don’t recognize this in their lives, it shows more of where THEY are and is NOT a reflection of the Gospel and the purpose of the church in helping its members come unto Christ. If I could pursuade you it would be to have the patience and tolerance and love for those who seem to offer so little of it… they need it, true?
      Wishing you all the best, with love!

  7. george Says:

    AJ

    I’m sorry to hear about that you feel outcast at church. I don’t have many answers but I had a thought that may be of some benefit.

    Your post prompted the following question: Does the church reject sinners? I believe the answer is no, it does not. What is does is hold us to a standard. These standards are God’s requirements for certain blessings (ie temple blessings). God’s love for each individual person is not based on these standards — it is there, in the same quantity, for all.

    I’m glad that your 12 step meetings are such a blessing to you. I know that mine have been to me. I thought of Moroni 7:13 and 7:24 when reading your post (everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, love God, and serve Him is inspired of God).

    I believe these steps to faith and repentance are inspired of God.

  8. Diana Holland Says:

    I didn’t realize that my whole name would show up on here. Is there any way you can get it off here. you might want to somehow let others know that the whole name will show up publicly. i have a feeling your just going to say sorry there is nothing we can do aren’t you?

    Hmm, good job I am not that bothered. hate to think what would have happened if i had put more personal info on, as it is I am fine with what i wrote but still would prefer to only have my first name on – we need to always make that clear to people.
    thanks for the comments – i really believe i have listened to my father in heaven and you might not believe me but i believe there are times we are meant to do waht we are meant to do and not always go to our ward. for instance I have seen people with migraines and with depression and all kinds of things force themselves to go to church because they could not bear to think what others thought of them. I do not see that as listening to spirit. i know a girl who grew up LDS. Her little sister was killed in a terrible accident. her family suffered for many years and it affected their standing in the church, and she is so hurt and messed up that going to church makes her feel worse. i sure would not blame or judge her for not doing. I think church is a great vehicle for life but I find spirit and true love in my heart ultimately and even in nature. that does not mean that we do not need spiritual community and of course we are meant to follow our prophet but seriously isn’t there a time when we are meant to follow our own spiritual guidance.
    More and more I cannot help but feel that love is my religion. amazing church, and amazing concepts but there are times when i need to be with those who will truly love me and support me.

  9. John Anon Says:

    Diana,
    I am sorry, but I can’t erase your name. The name that goes up is the one you type (or the one you chose for your wordpress account). I can’t change it.

  10. sw Says:

    One of my favorte hymns says “Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving; Teach us tolerance and love. …

    One of the greatest blessings of going to group is being surrounded by others who live this principle. There are few places like it anywhere. We share, we trust, and in turn we are antrusted with the deepest fears, pains, hopes and desires of others in our group. Meetings are made for that. Church isn’t.

    I have felt for years there is a different quality in people who have gone through 12 steps. Like the gospel, applying the principles makes “bad men good and good men better”, but it doesn’t happen simply by showing up – you have to do the work.

    There are lots of members who just “show up” to church. I am not saying that those who have gone through 12 steps are better people, but when they have gone through that experience and have done the work, I do believe that they have an extra measure of tolerence and love. Can’t we bring that back to our wards? Can we be tolerent of those who aren’t? Like the 12 step groups, not everyone who shows up to church is ready to do the work, but let’s not reject them, even if they reject us. Live the higher law. You may find there is someone there who can benefit from things only you can give.

    There are real blessings in the Gospel and in attending church. Let’s not let the actions or attitudes of others deprives us of what is righfully ours.

  11. John Anon Says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, sw.

    For those who care, I plan to start updating this site again in two months. I appreciate your patience. Sorry for the long time dead. I have been dead along with it, but I am alive again.

  12. Mark Says:

    I feel as if the LDS 12 Steps as they are currently written are missing a significant spiritual principle. In AA and NA the steps are written in the “we” context and not in the “you” context. That would seem to make this a “we” program instead of an “I” program. “We can do together what I could not do alone….”, “I can’t, but we can”

    Why did the brethren feel as if that had to be taken rewritten? It seems to me to be just one more example of how they really do not understand the addict and what it takes to overcome addictions at all.

    In my area ARP has been a blessing and a curse in my life. It has at least kept me in touch with the church but the participants are so judgemental. There is no anonymity at all. The gossiping has nearly ruined lives. It has been a bad experience for many. There are some sick individuals who are not necessarily addicts— just sick.

    I’ve heard it said that every member “needs” this program. That may well be, but it’s not for all of those who need it— it’s for those who “want” it. It is not group therapy or treatment; it is recovery. There is a huge difference and all too often we seem to miss that point.

    I hope and pray that we can get ARP to the point where it actually works. Until then, thank God for AA and NA.

    • Nathan Says:

      Hey Mark. I just read your post from two years ago. I treat many people who suffer from addictions and have been a therapist at LDS Family Services too and I am familiar with their ARP program and book. For whatever it’s worth, I agree with you. The manual and program produced by the church are very positive tools but certianly are lacking a critical element of the “we” which is precisely what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about.

  13. Victor Says:

    Can you tell me where I can find a group meeting here in walnut creek California or it’s surroundings

  14. Shirley Andreasen Says:

    How do I order a 12 Step Addiction Recovery Program manual without the spiral binding , to be sent to the Utah County jail? I am a missioary in the 12 step program.

  15. Cortney T. Says:

    I’m looking for a meeting to attend in the Saratoga Springs, Lehi, Eagle Mountain, or American Fork areas of Utah County. I live in Saratoga Springs, but don’t have transporation. Anyone know of any meetings, day or evening that might be of help to me?
    I appreciate the feedback via email.
    Regards,
    Cortney T.

  16. robert Says:

    are there meetings in or near murray utah? if so what days and times please?


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    • Chub Daddy Says:

      I am not LDS (or even Christian) but the vast majority of my family is, including my wife (inactive) and my brother (who is active, currently his ward’s bishop, and is a practicing member of AA for the last 12 years.) I have been a clean (or sober if you prefer) Twelve-Stepper for 5,958 “Just For Todays”. My home group is a Narcotics Anonymous group and I consider that my “home fellowship”, if you will. I also consider myself to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, but am more at home in the rooms of NA.

      I have attended a couple of LDS 12 Step meetings. Can’t say why, but I went with an open mind to check it out and did not come in with an attitude of contempt prior to investigation.

      The reason I gave so much information about me and my family is simply so the reader can understand that I am very familiar with the 12 Steps from more than one perspective, as well as being familiar with Mormon (LDS if you prefer political correctness) culture.

      I am well aware that there is an attitude of judgement among a very outspoken segment of the LDS culture. I also understand that the members are not the doctrine and that the membership of any church is not perfect.

      That being said, I think the LDS church has shown an acceptance of the nature of addiction and acceptance of the disease model based on the 12 Step program it supports. Maybe things have changed in the years since I attended my couple meetings, but I do know at the time, the church itself administered the program, had missions devoted solely to it, and I even attended a Sacrament meeting with family members once, in which the entire meeting was devoted to the church 12 Step Program and the speakers were missionaries assigned to that mission who stood at the pulpit and bore testament to their recovery from the horrors of addiction through the 12 Steps.

      I do not know if the LDS 12 Step program is now an autonomous entity, but if it is still administered by the LDS church, I see this as the leadership embracing addiction for what it is – a disease of the mind, body, and spirit rather than a moral failing.

      I do not believe addiction to be a moral deficiency or a sign of “poor use of agency”. I do however, know that once I have found recovery, and become clean, I now have the choice to use or indulge my addiction. Powerlessness is often misunderstood by those outside the rooms (and misrepresented by those who wish to debunk or malign the Steps). I am powerless over my addiction and, when in its throes, have acted against my own will at times. However, having admitted powerlessness, there is no reason for me not to get help. I am powerless to move a grand piano down a flight of stairs, but it can be done with the right tools and help from those who know how to move such objects — TOGETHER.

      In the very few LDS 12 Step meetings I have had the privilege and honor of attending, I saw nothing judgmental, or that painted addiction as a moral deficiency.

      NA started because a group of addicts who had recovered through AA saw that there were addicts who could not identify with the alcoholic in AA because they identified at the level of apparent symptoms, and whose drug(s) of choice did not include the liquid variety.

      By the same token there are many religious people who may have an extremely difficult time sitting in an NA meeting and hearing the word “God” and the F-word in the same sentence. A common joke in NA is that NA is where men go to learn how to cry and women go to learn how to say the F word. It is just a joke but the stereotype is true to a large degree.

      I would simply urge LDS people not to confuse the attitudes of certain members of the LDS faith with the attitude of the religion, its doctrine, or the LDS 12 Step Program.

      I would also tell LDS people who just aren’t finding what they need in the LDS rooms to try NA, AA, or whatever particular fellowship fits your malady (Sexaholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, etc.). The LDS program does not operate on the 12 Traditions, and so will have a decidedly LDS/religious slant.

      I did not feel out of place in the LDS meetings but it was weird for me to hear shares concluded with “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” When I was called on to share I explained that I am not Christian. The missionary running the group told me it doesn’t matter, so I shared my experience, strength, and hope with the group. I did not conclude with the aforementioned phrase, and everyone was fine with it.

      My late sponsor joined NA as an inactive LDS man. He became very active later in his recovery. He never felt comfortable in the LDS rooms of recovery and continued to go to NA his entire life. His sponsor got active and eventually found a home in the LDS rooms.

      My point is, find the program that works for you. The Steps are the Steps are the Steps. Only the environment changes. Here I am, an AA & NA member who was sponsored by a strict NA member, who was sponsored by an LDS 12 Step & NA member.

      I am glad the LDS program is there. I love that there is a place for the person who wants and/or needs a more religious environment. I have often heard debated in NA, the language we often use in meetings: “What about the little old lady who is hopelessly addicted to prescription drugs, is a devout Christian, needs our message, but can’t get past the word, f***? Do we have an obligation to share without so-called profanity?” The truth is the question can’t be answered. I got clean when I did because I heard the language I knew. I heard people share about the beauty of their respective Higher Powers in so-called street talk, and it resonated with me. And, yes, there are some NA and AA meetings with far less “profanity” than others.

      The point is, I needed what NA offered at the meeting I got clean in. I know there are those who need what the LDS 12 Step meetings offer. I hope there are other Christian religions doing the same, as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, etc.

      I know there are probably those who will think I am some “undercover Mormon” trying to spin things here. All I can tell you is, I am not LDS, I am not Christian, and actually have a distinct aversion to organized religion in general, and a sever distaste for “Mormon culture” (Maybe because I live too close to BYU. lol)

      I am simply trying to give an unbiased perspective of the LDA 12 Step program from someone outside “the church”. Some of the comments seem a bit judgmental of the LDS church or even the 12 Step program. Some seem to be genuine pleas for understanding and direction.

      At any rate, if you are not comfortable in the LDS 12 Step Program, I know for a fact the LDS church has no problem with recovery through the fellowships they got their 12 Steps from. Again, my brother is a Mormon Bishop and member of AA. The Stake Presidency are well aware of his non-LDS 12 Step affiliation and still they (or God from their perspective I suppose) see fit for him to be the priesthood leader of his congregation.

      If you are LDS and struggling with addiction, give the Church program a try. If you find it a bit too pious, get online and type “Twelve Step recovery from [insert specific problem here]”. If you look, you will find the right environment for you.

      PS I have noticed that posting here makes your name public. In the spirit of anonymity (and mainly to protect my brother’s anonymity) I have posted the nickname by which I am known in the rooms of NA and AA.

      I DO NOT SPEAK FOR NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, OR ANY OTHER 12 STEP FELLOWSHIP. N.A., A.A., AND THE VARIOUS 12 STEP FELLOWSHIPS/ENTITIES OPERATE INDEPENDENT OF ONE ANOTHER AND NEITHER ENDORSE NOR OPPOSE EACH OTHER. N.A. AND. AA ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH ONE ANOTHER AND HAVE NO OPINION ON OUTSIDE ISSUES. MY OPINIONS ARE MY OWN, AND ARE NOT THE OPINION OF FELLOWSHIPS OF WHICH I HAPPEN TO BE A MEMBER.

  18. Chub Daddy Says:

    Solely for the sake of comparison (and for those who may have more of a need for a less “repentance oriented” recovery, here ore the steps as employed by Narcotics Anonymous:

    1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.

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

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

    4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

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

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

    7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

    8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

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

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

    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.

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

    Having read the version of the steps in the article (rather than just the comments / yes I still have character defects), I do see a bit of a departure from the original steps and something very different than the Steps I heard read years ago in the few LDS 12 Step meetings I attended.

    I should also point out that NA literature defines God as whatever Power greater than yourself that you believe keeps you clean, and that “Him” is used for convenience. NA has no problem with conceptions of God that are not male, or based on “man in god’s image”.

    I DO NOT SPEAK FOR NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, OR ANY OTHER 12 STEP FELLOWSHIP. N.A., A.A., AND THE VARIOUS 12 STEP FELLOWSHIPS/ENTITIES OPERATE INDEPENDENT OF ONE ANOTHER AND NEITHER ENDORSE NOR OPPOSE EACH OTHER. N.A. AND. AA ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH ONE ANOTHER AND HAVE NO OPINION ON OUTSIDE ISSUES. MY OPINIONS ARE MY OWN, AND ARE NOT THE OPINION OF FELLOWSHIPS OF WHICH I HAPPEN TO BE A MEMBER.

  19. Chub Daddy Says:

    A personal belief of mine is that to fully understand the steps, one should understand their evolution and history.

    The Steps originally come from a Christian religious group called The Oxford Group. The founders and early members of AA determined that more alcoholics could be reached if each person could apply their own spirituality and religious belief, even if they lacked an organized view of religion.

    The Oxford Group was based of Six Assumptions and Five Procedures that eventually contributed to their Six Steps.

    Six Basic Assumptions
    1. Human beings are sinners.
    2. Human beings can be changed.
    3. Confession is a prerequisite to change.
    4. The changed soul has direct access to God.
    5. The age of miracles has returned.
    6. Those who have been changed are to change others.

    Five Procedures
    1. Giving in to God.
    2. Listening to God’s directions.
    3. Checking guidance.
    4. Restitution.
    5. Sharing, both confession and witness.

    These lead to the Oxford Group Six Steps:
    1. Admission of personal defeat (You have been defeated by sin).
    2. Taking of personal inventory (List your sins).
    3. Confession of one’s sins to another person.
    4. Making restitution to those one has harmed.
    5. Helping other’s selflessly.
    6. Praying to god for guidance and the power to put these precepts into practice.

    When Bill W and Dr. Bob founded AA they saw a need to de-emphasize the sin & repentance aspects of the Oxford Program and focus on alcoholism as a disease rather than a sin. By so doing, AA saw more success in both the short term and long term than The Oxford Group had. AA was to be a non-religious program based on spiritual principles in order to treat a medical/psychological/spiritual condition. This allowed each alcoholic to incorporate his own beliefs about God without the spectre of judgment that often lead to relapse. This lead to an abandoning of the Assumptions, Procedures and eventually the Absolutes (which are not listed here) and the removal of reference to repentance from “sin” in favor of recovery from disease.

    Originally the AA Steps were carried word of mouth. As a result, the Six Steps evolved differently in New York and Akron, Ohio (AA’s original epicenters of growth). They always contained the same principles, but in different order.

    Some early examples of the New York Six Steps as practiced in AA follow.

    Bill W’s description (as recounted to medical societies) of how alcoholics achieved sobriety in the early years.
    1. [The alcoholic] admitted that he was powerless to manage his own life.
    2. [The alcoholic] became honest with himself as never before; made an “examination of conscience”.
    3. [The alcoholic] made a rigorous confession of his personal defects and thus quit living alone with his problems.
    4. [The alcoholic] surveyed his distorted relations with other people, visiting them to make what amends he could.
    5. [The alcoholic] resolved to devote himself to helping others in need, without the usual demands for personal prestige or material gain.
    6. By meditation, [The alcoholic] sought God’s direction for his life and the help to practice these principles of conduct at all times.

    A hand-scrawled note by Bill W in 1938 listed the Six Steps as follows:
    1. Admitted hopeless.
    2. Got honest with self.
    3. Got honest with another.
    4. Made amends.
    5. Helped other(s) without demand.
    6. Prayed to God as you understand Him.

    In 1953 The AA Grapevine recounted this version of the Six Steps as worked in New York in the 30s:
    1. We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol.
    2. We got honest with ourselves.
    3. We got honest with another person, in confidence.
    4. We made amends for harms done others.
    5. We worked with other alcoholics without demand for prestige or money.
    6. We prayed for God to help us do these things as best we could.

    This last version is the first evidence of “powerlessness over alcohol” being mentioned. Other versions of the Steps included a basic admission of hopelessness or admission of one’s inability to manage their own lives. When the Six Steps eventually became the Twelve Steps, both of these concepts were included in Step One.

    The Third and Fourth Editions of the Alcoholics Anonymous (a.k.a.The Big Book) contain a personal story which recounts the experience of an Akron member who was working with Dr. Bob as his sponsor. They are very different in sequence and illustrate how the “word of mouth” program was being worked in Akron as opposed to New York. It is noteworthy that the Akron Steps are the first time a reliance on God comes early in the steps as opposed to later. The Akron Steps are also the first place we see God referenced as Higher Power. Both of these things eventually made their way into the Twelve Steps when it was determined that the Big Book would be published with the Steps expanded from Six to Twelve in order to present a more detailed road map.

    The Akron Six Steps:
    1. Complete deflation.
    2. Dependence and guidance from a Higher Power.
    3. Moral inventory.
    4. Confession.
    5. Restitution.
    6. Continued work with other alcoholics.

    The Six Steps as set forth in a the 1937 transcript of the Big Book. (It is noteworthy that this is the first version of AA steps to mention sin. It also never saw the light of day as, by the time the Big Book was published in 1938, the Six Steps had become the Twelve Steps with wording evident from all previous versions, including the Akron program. ):

    1. We admitted that we were licked, that we were powerless over alcohol.

    2. We made an inventory of our defects or sins.

    3. We confessed or shared our shortcomings with another person in confidence.

    4. We made restitution to all those we had harmed by our drinking.

    5. We tried to help other alcoholics with no thought of reward in money or prestige.

    6. We prayed to whatever God we thought there was for power to practice these precepts.

    Bill W revised the Six Steps into Twelve Steps before publication, dropped the word “sin” and included reliance on God earlier in the Steps as the Akron program prescribed:

    1. [We] Admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

    2. Came to believe that God could restore us to sanity.

    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care and direction of 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 willing that God remove all these defects of character.

    7. Humbly, on our knees, asked Him to remove our shortcomings — holding nothing back.

    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make complete 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, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

    12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of this course of action, we tried to carry this message to others, especially alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    This version of the Steps also never saw the light of publication. The AA fellowship rejected it as they believed it too much a picture of Bill W’s religious/spiritual beliefs.

    The Steps were reworked again, including “Power greater than ourselves” from the Akron “Higher Power” concept and making sure to include the words “as we understood Him” after any mention of God.

    Though not completely revamped into the Steps we know today, here are the Twelve Steps as they were finally published in the First Edition of 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.

    Eventually, the AA Steps took their current (and seemingly permanent) form:

    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.

    There are many alternate forms today but most stick very close to the current wording. Most often the differences are “God as we understood Him” being changed to “God as we understood God” and, of course, “alcohol” being changed to another malady.

    The NA version of the Steps are unique in that powerlessness is admitted over the disease (addiction), rather than the substance or activity (alcohol, cocaine, drugs, sex, gambling, etc). The NA Steps are listed in my previous post.

    I know an understanding of the evolution of the Steps helped me to further understand them.

    One other important note. In 1930, the definition of “sanity” (see Step Two) was not as clinical as it is today. The dictionary definition of sanity in 1930 was simply “Being of sound mind”.

    I think I am done ranting for today. Thanks for letting me share! 😉

    I DO NOT SPEAK FOR NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, OR ANY OTHER 12 STEP FELLOWSHIP. N.A., A.A., AND THE VARIOUS 12 STEP FELLOWSHIPS/ENTITIES OPERATE INDEPENDENT OF ONE ANOTHER AND NEITHER ENDORSE NOR OPPOSE EACH OTHER. N.A. AND A.A. ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH ONE ANOTHER AND HAVE NO OPINION ON OUTSIDE ISSUES. MY OPINIONS ARE MY OWN, AND ARE NOT THE OPINIONS OF THE FELLOWSHIPS OF WHICH I HAPPEN TO BE A MEMBER.

  20. Chub Daddy Says:

    I mistakenly listed the current Steps as the 1938 version. The correct 1938 first revision follows:

    1. 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 and direction 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 willing that God remove all these defects of character.

    7. Humbly, on our knees, asked Him to remove our shortcomings — holding nothing back.

    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make complete 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, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

    12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of this course of action, we tried to carry this message to others, especially alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    I also incorrectly listed 1938 as the Big Book publication date. It was actually April of 1939.


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