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The 12 Steps and the Principles Behind Them

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While some people seeking recovery from addiction find the principles behind the 12 steps of a treatment program simple, others find those steps complex. This article is an effort to simplify the meaning of the principles of the 12 steps for those who may be having difficulty. These so-called "steps" are the principles that are incorporated into our daily lives as 'we walk the walk' of recovery.

Employing each of these steps or behaviors will help us rebuild our lives as we recover from addiction. The steps are tools for living a life of increased self-esteem and self-confidence. So, in my never-ending quest to keep it simple, here are the active principles behind the 12 steps:

Employing each of these steps will help us rebuild our lives as we recover from addiction.

1. Honesty

The operative principle behind step one is honesty. If you cannot get honest about the scope of your problem, and honest about a sincere effort to resolve it, you will not succeed in your recovery. How about a definition of honesty as "the absence of the intention to deceive"? Why do we try to fool ourselves and others?

2. Hope

In order to engage in a course of addiction recovery, we must have hope of success. If there is no hope, why try? Perhaps you have failed on our own, so how about enlisting some help? A way to find hope is to realize that recovery is not a question of your ability. After all, there are millions in recovery. Your hope of recovery is not through ability but through persistence and application.

3. Faith

This step represents a stage of action where you begin to employ the recovery skills being learned. You can seek out help with the skills, but it is also necessary to utilize them on your own. Your job is to become willing to do the right thing. A simple way to view the 'next right thing' is to not engage in your old behavior. Have faith that your recovery will work.

4. Courage

This step is really about having the courage to honestly (see step 1) look at yourself. Take a look at how your perspective has become warped to justify your continued behavior. You are in a recovery program to take an honest assessment of yourself. This is about having the courage to do that.

5. Integrity

If you have truly done a thorough job of introspection and evaluation of your assets and shortcomings do you have the integrity to own up to them? It can be very difficult to be open and honest about your past behaviors and mistakes. You must accept them, and accept the need for a dose of humility.

6. Willingness

Now that we have accomplished an inventory of the good and no so good aspects of our character and behavior, are we willing to change them? All of them? The important part of this 12 step principle is the willingness to let go of old behaviors.

7. Humility

Here we move further into action. In step six you become willing to let go of your old behaviors. Now you ask for help in actually letting go. Can you learn to forgive yourself?

8. Discipline and Action

We are continuing to remove the barriers that can block forward sober growth. We are getting ready to sweep our side of the street clean. Make a list of all those people you have harmed both through actions and not being present or living up to obligations.

9. Forgiveness

Asking for the forgiveness of those we have intentionally or unintentionally injured is the order of the day with this step. This is where you take action regarding the list you made in step eight. A key point here is to try to correct those injuries through action, not just words. It is highly recommended that you get guidance and help with this step. Asking forgiveness is not a gift to the other person, but rather an act of kindness to you.

10. Acceptance

To be human is to make mistakes. Hopefully, our journey has led us to the point where we can readily admit mistakes and accept ourselves for being imperfect. We must also learn not to judge others but accept them for who they are, not our vision of who they should be.

11. Knowledge and Awareness

Here we search for our path and try to become aware of our purpose in life, and actively pursue that purpose. I view this principle as just being aware, and not being caught up in the rush of life. This step is about making a conscious effort to do the right thing and to be at peace.

12. Service and Gratitude

Having brought about a behavior and attitude change sufficient to remain in recovery; you are empowered to demonstrate the new principles by which we live in our daily life through example. At this stage in a 12-step program, you seek out and are available to help others in need.

There you have it. These are simple actions you can practice each and every day to improve the quality of your life in addiction recovery and the lives of those people you come into contact with. The above steps are the simple one-word action principles of the 12 steps in a recovery program.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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