Principles of the 12-Step Program

At Extra Mile Recovery, we stand by the 12-step model as a tried-and-true method for building toward a life of sobriety. The 12-step model is so widely trusted for a reason: it considers the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of health, and offers a way to measure progress well into recovery. The first step is admitting you have a problem — but even before that, it helps to understand how the steps work. If you’re wondering what are the principles of the 12-step program, we’ve provided a brief overview below:

The 1st Step: Admission

The first step is admitting that you were powerless over a substance, and that your life had become unmanageable.

This may mean you were unable to hold a job, or your relationships were falling apart. This step is about acknowledging the hard truth that you aren’t in control and need help to overcome your addiction.

Male patient talking to therapist about the 12 Steps.

The 2nd Step: Something Greater

The second step is coming to believe that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity.

Your higher power doesn’t have to be religious: it can be anything from God to the importance of family. This step of the 12-step program involves seeing outside of yourself to devote yourself to that greater thing. Faith and dedication can return you to a healthier state.

The 3rd Step: A Decision

In the third step, we embrace the principles of the 12-step program by deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our greater power.

This step involves dedicating yourself to the higher power but also allowing it to care for you. This will support you as you seek the knowledge, and patience, to self-actualize and change your life for the better.

The 4th Step: Moral Inventory

The fourth step is making a searching and fearless moral inventory of oneself.

This step requires that you be honest about your own shortcomings, flaws, and other moral issues. Identifying negative thoughts, justifications, emotions, actions, and more can be difficult and scary, but it’s one of the most vital and lifechanging steps of all.

Client during individual therapy discussing the principles of the 12 step-program with therapist.

The 5th Step: The Nature of Our Wrongs

The fifth step is admitting to our greater power, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

In its simplest form, this is a confession of one’s own wrongdoings. This step allows for clearer self-recognition and requires one to have the honesty and bravery to share their faults and flaws: a necessary skillset to continue down the path to a better way of life.

The 6th Step: Readiness

One of the principles of the 12-step program is being entirely ready to let your greater power help remove all these defects of character.

The sixth step is about allowing your higher power to intervene on behalf of your problematic attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. You must consciously decide to let go of the shortcomings revealed in the previous two steps, which have no place in your life.

The 7th Step: Removing Shortcomings

The seventh step is humbly asking the greater power to remove your shortcomings.

This means replacing your previous beliefs and justifications with humility and sound principles. At this stage, it’s important to be ready and willing to change, and this step demands change through action and the ability to devote oneself to others.

Two friends shaking hands and making direct amends, one of the principles of the 12 step-program.

The 8th Step: Amends with Persons Harmed

The eighth step is to make a list of all persons we have harmed and becoming willing to make amends to them all.

This is one of the most crucial principles of the 12-step program, as it allows you and those you have hurt to heal and find closure. You must determine not only who you have wronged and how, but what you want to say or do to try to make amends.

The 9th Step: Direct Amends

The ninth step is making direct amends to the people you have wronged wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

This difficult but irreplaceable step is about repairing relationships, tackling guilt, and committing to doing right by people — even when that means leaving them alone. This can include working to restore trust, reconnect, and return what was lost, abstractly and materially.

The 10th Step: Continuing the Personal Inventory

The tenth step is continuing to take personal inventory and admit when we are wrong.

Healing is never linear: you will constantly need to monitor your personal inventory to correct harmful feelings, emotions, and thoughts from reemerging. Recognizing your weaknesses and playing to your strengths is essential to sobriety and recovery.

Specialist explaining the principles of the 12 step-program to patient.

The 11th Step: Conscious Contact

The eleventh step is sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our greater power, praying for the knowledge of our path forward and the power to follow it.

Prayer and meditation are one of the core principles of the 12-step program. It grants a sense of inner peace, allowing for spiritual reflection to build one’s comfort with oneself. These can take various forms and help you process negative feelings and seek productive ways forward.

The 12th Step: Carrying Forward

The twelfth step is having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, applying these principles to all our affairs, and sharing our lessons.

This step signifies that someone is truly ready to live without substance use. Carrying the message forward means working with others to create change, helping both yourself and others.

Learn More About the Principles of the 12-Step Program

A supportive community with regular meetings is essential to your success in a 12-step program. At Extra Mile Recovery, our recovery specialists facilitate discussions in our 12-step support group during rehab and connect you with outside groups as you leave our care. We’ll help you find ways to gain perspective, set manageable goals — and achieve them.

Joining Extra Mile Recovery means joining a supportive space and forming strong bonds you’ll be able to rely on for the rest of your life. Contact us today to learn how we tailor our programming to suit your needs and help you move forward.

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