Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book and the 12 Steps of AA
What Is the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous?
The Big Book lays out the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and includes personal stories of those who found recovery in the program.1
Many people in recovery from alcohol addiction work the 12 Steps with a sponsor as a part of AA. The process includes believing in a power greater than yourself, admitting past mistakes, making amends to people you have harmed through drinking, and continuing to focus on spiritual growth.
Many AA members refer back to the Big Book once they complete the 12-Step program and as they work with others on their recovery.
What Are Some Other 12-Step Support Groups?
Alcoholics Anonymous is often referred to as a 12-Step program, and AA is the basis for many other 12-Step programs and support groups that have been established. These include:
- Cocaine Anonymous
- Marijuana Anonymous
- Crystal Meth Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Smokers Anonymous/Nicotine Anonymous
- Emotions Anonymous
- Workaholics Anonymous
- Overeaters Anonymous
- Codependents Anonymous
- Sexaholics Anonymous/Sex Addicts Anonymous
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
- Gamblers Anonymous
- Gamers Anonymous
What Are the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous?
The 12 Steps of AA or Alcoholics Anonymous are a set of steps, based on spiritual principles, that followers of AA must work through in their daily lives in order to achieve sobriety. The 12 Steps are a path to recovery, and the AA Steps and Traditions can be found in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book. Alcoholics in AA live their lives in line with a set of “promises,” which also can be found in the AA Big Book.
These 12 steps are outlined in Chapter 5, “How It Works,” of the Big Book. The 12 Steps helped each of the co-founders of AA in their own recovery from alcohol misuse and have continued to help countless others battle their alcohol addictions.
Alcoholics Anonymous members often talk about “working the Steps.” During this process, members of the group move through each of the steps of recovery to achieve sobriety.
In AA, participants are encouraged to pair up with a sponsor to work through the Steps. The sponsor is an AA member with significant time in the program and who supports other AA members as they move through the steps.
Sponsors provide individual care and support throughout recovery, even making themselves available outside meetings via phone. In the face of potential relapse, a person can call his or her sponsor. Having a sponsor can make all the difference for a recovering user in AA.
What Do the 12 Steps in AA Recovery Involve?
If you were wondering, ‘what are the 12 Steps in AA like?’, or you want to know how to work the Steps, the following list of the 12 Steps of AA elaborates on what happens at each step as they appear in the Big Book:
Personal Stories of AA Recovery
The AA Big Book section with personal stories can be particularly helpful to recovering alcoholics. They can read about others who have struggled with alcohol addiction and effectively recovered.
One of the personal stories is called Bill’s Story – One of the founders of AA, Bill describes his story of how he went from a wealthy Wall Street hustler to broke, how his struggle with alcohol misuse fueled his decline into chaos, and how surrendering to a higher power helped him maintain sobriety and help others going through a similar challenge.1
What Are the 12 Traditions of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)?
The authors outline the 12 Traditions of AA in the appendix of the Big Book. These are a complement to the 12 Steps and outline the way AA fellowships maintain unity and relate to the world outside of AA.1
The 12 Traditions are as follows:2
- Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
- For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority—a loving higher power that expresses itself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
- The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
- Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
- Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
- An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
- AA, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
- Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
Using the AA Big Book in Recovery
Alcoholics Anonymous believes that recovery is a lifelong process, so the AA Big Book is a continual companion in a recovering person’s life.
People in AA regularly refer to the Big Book as they progress in addiction recovery, and they use it to help new members as they begin their recovery process. Many people work the 12 Steps of AA more than once.
How Alcoholics Anonymous Works
AA offers a supportive addiction recovery program to those who need it. The only requirement is that a new member has the desire to stop drinking.
Meetings are free to attend and are held in most cities around the country. The best way to find one is to visit the AA site and locate the central office for your city. You can then either call to learn about meeting locations and times or browse the meeting listings on their site. Some meetings have online options as well.
The backbone of the AA program is that people connect with a higher power of their choosing to help them through the process of working the 12 Steps of recovery. AA has no rules on religion or spirituality; what a higher power means to each person will vary.
AA also encourages total abstinence to support recovery from alcohol misuse. The program believes that people struggling with addiction likely cannot moderate their drinking and need to stop altogether.
Finally, Alcoholics Anonymous believes that a person is never cured of their addiction. However, they can manage it and AA is one tool to help. Many members of AA have been in recovery for decades and continue to attend regular AA meetings and reexamine the 12 Steps of AA to keep themselves on the path of sustained recovery.
For help locating addiction treatment near you, phone American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at . You can also check your insurance online now or use the form below to determine whether your insurance provider will cover alcohol rehabilitation.
Learn More About Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step Programs
- About the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12-Step Recovery Program
- Alcoholics Anonymous FAQs
- Faith-Based Treatment Programs
- Find the Best 12-Step Substance Abuse Recovery Program
- Find the Best Alcohol Recovery Center
- How to Help an Alcoholic Spouse
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