If you haven't heard of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12 Step Program, you are a rare individual. AA started the 12 Step Program in 1935. The 12 steps collectively make up the methodological approach developed for fighting alcoholism, as well as other addictive behavior patterns.

Dr. Bob Smith, or simply Dr. Bob, and Bill Wilson, or simply Bill W., founded AA in Akron, Ohio. Why are the shortened names included? They help emphasize that in Alcoholics Anonymous anonymity is assured by only sharing first names with outsiders. In particular, no more is shared about member identities with media organizations and outside individuals than first names or nick names.

Growth of the 12 Step Program

AA grew rapidly in its first two decades of existence. Likewise, the organization developed more central themes, principles, and mottos. The Twelve Traditions were also adopted. So, for example, the fifth tradition states that “Each group has but one primary purpose -- to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.” This tradition establishes the reason for AA's existence, to help relieve the suffering of each alcoholic in need of relief.

This necessarily precludes people lacking an Alcohol addiction from being members of AA. This is important to keep AA groups focused on the issue of Alcohol. However, AA has allowed many other addiction fighting groups to be formed based on the Twelve Steps in order to help these people with other types of addictions.

Those other addiction fighting groups are also encouraged to make their programs specific specific to each type of addiction. For example, in 1953 Narcotics Anonymous was formed, using the same 12 Step Program and Twelve Traditions program used in AA.

So what is it about this 12 Step Program run by AA that makes it so special? All of the steps are built to help the three main aspects of human existence, typically stated as the physical, mental, and spiritual being. When you have an addiction, all of these aspects of your existence are involved in the addictive process and consequences. Therefore, these aspects must also be dealt with and healed in order for the addict to begin the healing process.

For example, common symptoms of addiction include such disorders as hoarding compulsively, lacking concentration, forming improper food attitudes and habits, living in states ranging from hyperactivity to mania to hypomania, being easily irritated, having frequent sleep disruptions, lacking motivation or procrastinating, acting compulsively, having panic attacks, and harming oneself.

The 12 Step Program begins with recognizing one's own powerlessness over their addictive behavior. In other words, you think about doing what you don't want to do, but have repeatedly done in the past, until you end up doing it, even though you know, or ought to know, that it will cause harm.


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