Step Twelve

“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.”

The chapter on Step Twelve contains these topics:

  • Joy of living is theme; action is keyword
  • Meaning of spiritual awakening
  • Review of Steps One to Eleven
  • Release of energy for action of AA
  • Giving to another addict demands nothing in return
  • Other kinds of Twelfth Step work
  • Sometimes Twelfth Step work seems ineffective
  • How to practice the Steps in “all our affairs”
  • The danger of “two-stepping”
  • Taking troubles in stride by using the AA way of life
  • Attitudes about security and other people change
  • Spouse and family in recovery
  • Relationships in the Program
  • Money and material things
  • Many addicts are childish, emotionally sensitive, and grandiose
  • Humble gratitude, love, and service
  • Understanding builds right principles and attitudes; right action is the key to good living

Bill W. and Dr. Bob

In May of 1935, Dr. Bob Smith, an alcoholic physician in Akron, Ohio, encouraged by his friend Henrietta Seiberling to come to her house to meet with Bill Wilson, who was alone in Akron and realized he had to talk to another alcoholic to keep from drinking himself. Many people had tried to help Dr. Bob, and he was skeptical. But Bill was different, both because he knew so much about alcoholism from his on experience, and that he seemed to need Dr. Bob as much as Bob needed him.

In A.A. Comes of Age (page 70), Bill said, “You see, our talk was a completely mutual thing. I had quit preaching. I knew that I needed this alcoholic as much as he needed me. This was it. And this mutual give-and-take is at the very heart of all of A.A.'s Twelfth Step work today. This was how to carry the message. The final missing link was located right there in my first talk with Dr. Bob.”

Spiritual Awakening

Note that Step Twelve does not say, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps” … as many people read it. Instead, it says, “… as the result of these steps …” which implies that the spiritual awakening is the major goal of the Steps, rather than a nice by-product.

Carrying the Message

After you have had a spiritual awakening, through use of the Steps, you are asked to try to carry the message to those who still suffer. Carrying the message of recovery is the primary purpose of all Twelve-Step recovery groups that are closely modeled after A.A..

Ways you carry the message include: sharing your experience, strength, and hope with others, starting new meetings, ordering literature, and sharing in meetings.


Dangers of overdoing Step Twelve include becoming obsessed with your own ego and encountering one or more people whose disease is stronger than your recovery. The Red Cross used to give this advice about lifesaving: “Reach, throw or row, then go.”

It is also dangerous to “fake” recovery. Remember the poem:

You can’t lead where you don’t go
You can’t teach what you don’t know
You can’t be what you are not
You can’t give what you ain’t got.

Step Twelve, see also: Control, Employee assistance programs, Enabling, Gratitude, Humility, Intervention, Love & caring, Recovery, Responsibility, Self-centeredness, Service & giving, Sponsorship, Tools of recovery, Traditions of AA.

Updated 11 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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