The Twelve Steps: A Perspective

If you are a newcomer to Twelve Step programs, welcome!

To help you begin your journey, there are a few concepts I have discovered that may be helpful to you. Please take this information only as it is intended: a perspective.

My recovery journey began by developing realistic expectations about the Twelve Steps.

First, this meant admitting the Twelve Steps, by themselves, weren't a magical, miraculous, quick-fix cure for my problems. My problems centered around my inability to form and maintain healthy relationships, and the Twelve Steps alone were not going to undo overnight 33 years of harming myself and others.

For me, the Twelve Steps are not an end unto themselves. They are one means to an end: serenity. They are not the only means to serenity, but they are a proven component if a person will commit to working an honest recovery program. This I can say with all confidence.

Secondly, I realized the Twelve Steps are not a do-it-yourself program, despite what popular self-help books say. The Twelve Steps are an integral part of a complete recovery program. They are the foundation. They are the cornerstone of the recovery house that I am building one day at a time, one brick at a time. They are one tool out of many with which I am building my new life.

In reality, no system of recovery is perfect. Results don't happen by osmosis. I don't get the true benefits of recovery just by reading books, going to meetings, and talking about the Twelve Steps. I began real recovery when I made key decisions to change my attitude toward life. Changing my attitude began by making a commitment to recovery.

Commitment is the primary reason a lot of people come to recovery meetings one time and never come back. They have problems with commitment. They are looking for a miracle cure. They are coming with the intent of changing someone else, not themselves. Some like living in pain, and are only looking for someone or some group where they commiserate over a cup of coffee or bash the person, place, or thing they blame for their problems.

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To recover from co-dependency, I had to make a commitment to an honest program of self-growth and self-discovery. The commitment principle applies to any worthwhile endeavor in life. I really did want to feel better. I really did want to find serenity. I really did want to set recovery goals and reach them. I really did want to develop and maintain fulfilling relationships.

Here then, are some secrets I've found to honest recovery and spiritual growth. These principles and decisions will also work for you if you are willing to make a commitment to work harder at recovery than anything else you've ever done . . .because the results are worth the effort.

  • Make the decision, once and for all, to change what you can change (maybe the only thing you can change): your attitude. Give up, once and for all, trying to change what you cannot change: other people. Make these two decisions and never look back.
  • Make the decision to accept yourself and your life situation, as they are, in this moment. Recovery isn't about becoming perfect. Recovery is about loving yourself enough to accept your imperfections, right now, and accepting that the agent of change will, gratefully, be a power greater than your own.
  • Commit to attending real recovery meetings on a regular basis. Find a meeting where people are working at recovery, rather than having psycho-babble coffee groups. You'll have to try lots of different meetings before you can tell the difference. A real recovery meeting is a supportive and nurturing environment, where people can safely talk about their feelings and no one will respond critically or presume to give advice. In a real recovery meeting, people talk humbly about themselves, not their significant other, not their boss, not their co-workers, not their abusing spouse, etc. In a real recovery meeting, people are being honest with themselves and searching for answers, rather than using recovery as the ultimate form of denial.
  • Surround yourself with positive recovering friends. Real friends who will support you without enabling you. Find at least one recovering person to whom you will be accountable. Someone who will confront you and challenge your thinking. Someone with whom you can safely share and with whom you can be honest, open, and sincere. If you can't find such a person, then ask your therapist to be that person. If you don't have a therapist, consider getting one. The Twelve Steps are not a substitute for professional help.
  • Decide to be totally honest with yourself. Have the courage to look at and accept your strengths and your weaknesses; your assets and your liabilities; your successes and your failures.
  • Decide, once and for all, to accept your past, learn from it, and start living a life filled with peace and serenity.
  • Decide to get serious therapy to help you uncover the hidden parts of yourself that may be causing you grief and pain.
  • Decide to discover God and God's will for your life. Build a relationship with God and create trust, faith, and confidence in a Higher Power outside of yourself. If you've been hurt by organized religion in the past, discover the vast differences between spirituality and religion. You are not required to be religious to recover. It's OK if you are uncomfortable with spirituality or the God concept; just decide to remain open to these ideas for now and be patient with yourself.
  • Decide that you will courageously face your fears, your feelings, your past, your dark side—all parts of yourself. Embrace all the possibilities and potential for good within you. Believe that you are a beautiful person worthy of life's richest blessings. Love yourself unconditionally.
  • Develop the willingness to courageously share your experiences, strength, and hope with those you meet along life's path who are hurting and searching for serenity. Search for those who are searching.
  • Decide to work the Twelve Steps with the help of a local mentor or sponsor or therapist whom you can safely trust. Someone who knows how to listen and how to respond to a person in recovery. Some one who understands that unconditional acceptance and compassion and confidentiality are among the highest forms of love. Finding this person is essential.
  • Dedicate your well being and your serenity to the ongoing study, discovery, and applied understanding of all the recovery resources and people available to you.
  • Decide to love yourself, all of you, with all your heart. Develop a loving, esteeming, affirming relationship with yourself, because this is the basis for all your other relationships, including your relationship with God.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 4). The Twelve Steps: A Perspective, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 22 from

Last Updated: August 8, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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