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Why the 12 Steps are for Everyone

If you’re in recovery, the 12 steps have more than likely become the foundation on which you have built your life in sobriety. These steps have helped individuals suffering from substance use disorder restore purpose and structure in their lives for many, many years.

What can these steps offer to those who are not religious, or even to those not in recovery? At first glance, someone who has never abused substances might feel as though these steps aren’t applicable to them…I’m not powerless over alcohol! A new individual in recovery may see steps 5, 6, and 7 and think, I don’t even believe in God, how can the steps help ME? The beautiful thing about the steps and step-based programs is that they can provide solace, structure, and some wisdom to everyone.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our higher power as we understood it.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to our higher power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have our higher power remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked our higher power to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our higher power, as we understood it, praying only for knowledge of its will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. 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.

Take a page from the big book…why AA/NA wisdom can be helpful for all.


As a human, you probably often think that you have autonomy over your life—that you can manipulate and control each variable to will things to go your way. Everyone gives into this illusion at times. The very first step reminds you that you are powerless. Not just over alcohol, but over most of the situations that occur day-to-day.

You can’t control whether or not it rains today, just like you can’t control how bad traffic is on your way to work. You can control how you respond to these events—maybe you grab an umbrella, or leave just a little earlier, or perhaps you make the most of your time in the car during your commute. By understanding that you’re powerless, you provide yourself with the opportunity to live in a greater sense of acceptance and peace.

Taking self-Inventory

What parts of yourself are hardest for you to accept? What comes to mind when you think of your flaws, your character defects, or your biggest failures? These aren’t comfortable things to think about, but in that discomfort, you will find growth.

Write these things down, tell someone you feel comfortable with, and work to fix the things you can change, and accept the things you cannot. As you work to improve yourself, you’re able to show up in a more positive way for those around you.

Turn your life over to something bigger than yourself (addressing the “God” word)

The truth is, you cannot handle all of the dealings of life alone, and you don’t have to. Whether you take your struggles to a higher power, a sponsor, a counselor, or the collective wisdom of a home-group, you must find some sort of greater purpose beyond just yourself. There’s an old saying that goes, “Practice waking up like it isn’t an accident,” This quote means that you should remind yourself each morning that there is a reason for every moment of your life, a greater purpose that you aren’t always able to zoom out and see.

When discussing greater powers and purpose, it’s important to note that AA/NA are not religious organizations. The entities do not offer this encouragement exclusively to believers of a higher power. A.A. co-founder Bill W. wrote in 1965:

We have atheists and agnostics. We have people of nearly every race, culture and religion. In A.A. we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a common suffering. Consequently, the full individual liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy whatever should be a first consideration for us all. Let us not, therefore, pressure anyone with our individual or even our collective views. Let us instead accord each other the respect and love that is due to every human being as he tries to make his way toward the light. Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive; let us remember that each alcoholic among us is a member of A.A., so long as he or she declares.

Bill’s words serve as a reminder that you are bound to others by your common struggles, regardless of your individual characteristics and beliefs. As the Agnostic and Atheist Members in A.A. Pamphlet says, “What we all have in common is that the program helps us find an inner strength that we were previously unaware of — where we differ is in how we identify the source. Some people have thought of the word “God” as standing for “good orderly direction,” or even “group of drunks,” but many of us believe that there is something bigger than ourselves that is helping us today.”

Whatever you believe to have a power greater than yourself is what will allow you to find purpose in your recovery, your mornings, and/or your life, every day.

Make amends and admit when you’re wrong

Unless you’re a robot, chances are, you’ve made some mistakes in your life. There’s probably someone, somewhere that you have an unresolved conflict with. Sometimes, admitting that you’re wrong can be the hardest thing to do. It can be hard to accept that you don’t always know the right way, have the right answers, and especially that you don’t always do the right thing.

It takes vulnerability to admit that you’re wrong. It opens you up to a discussion with yourself and others that may not be easy—but it will be worth it. When you think about life in its simplest form, you’re able to realize that all we have on this Earth is each other. The connections you have with your friends, family members, and co-workers matter. They shape your day-to-day interactions and your growth as an individual. When you begin thinking about someone you need to make amends with, reach out and ask for help by admitting your wrong-doings to someone you trust, a sponsor, a counselor, or a close friend. Repair relationships and practice admitting your imperfections so that you may continue to grow.

Help others and keep going!

As you work to practice the principles of the 12 Steps, you will gain infinite insight, wisdom, experience, and knowledge. You learn best when you teach something to others—yet another reason why strong interpersonal relationships are incredibly valuable. Pass on the things that you learn from practicing these steps of AA/NA. Most importantly, remember that this work is continuous, and requires conscious decisions made each day to learn and grow.

The 12 Steps are for everyone

…because the steps focus on building a strong and solid foundation in life that supports personal well-being, self-care, care for others, and improve the quality of living. Anyone can benefit from principles rooted in those goals, both the believer and the non-believer, the recovering alcoholic, addict, and even someone who has never used a substance.


For more information, resources, and encouragement, ‘like’ the Fellowship Hall Facebook page and follow us on Instagram at @FellowshipHallNC.

About Fellowship Hall
Fellowship Hall is a 99-bed, private, not-for-profit alcohol and drug treatment center located on 120 tranquil acres in Greensboro, N.C. We provide treatment and evidence-based programs built upon the Twelve-Step model of recovery. We have been accredited by The Joint Commission since 1974 as a specialty hospital and are a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. We are committed to providing exceptional, compassionate care to every individual we serve.