The 12 Steps are a powerful process for creating transformation in body, mind, emotions and spirit. This simple, step by step method can result in miracles. (Simple not being synonymous with easy). There is hard work involved as well as courage needed to face the denial and self-delusion inherent in addiction.
1. We admitted we were powerless over ......-that our lives had become unmanageable.
The "we" part of the program is highlighted as important in healing the terminal uniqueness of the addictive personality. Powerlessness is explained as the inability to use willpower to stop once we've started to use/started the addictive behaviour. It's described as similar to "taking a bunch of laxatives and using willpower not to poop". This is supported by research in the brain chemistry changes created by addiction that cause craving. Unmanageability is often denied by the addict, and the enabler. Intervention, where concerned others relate their experience of the problematic behaviours of the addict is often used to reduce denial of unmanageability.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
The program is clear about only requiring a willingness to believe in something greater than ourselves. In the beginning we can use the group of successfully sober individuals. The 12 Step program us not religious, and has specific writing to atheists to underscore that. Many members define sanity as simply making the choice to abstain from the drug/substance/behavior that has caused such negative results for them in the past.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
The first 3 steps are often shortened to "We Came, Came To, Came to Believe". This involves turning our will (our thinking) and our life (our actions) over to our own conception of God, which begins a lifetime practice of believing and practising Let Go, Let God.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
This is the step that empowers this process. It differentiates it from techniques that result in "spiritual bypassing", which is manufactured spirituality. Emotions such as resentment, anger, shame, guilt, and fear, which underlie addiction are not denied and suppressed but rather identified and accepted. When we take responsibility for our actions, and write down our deepest darkest secrets (we're as sick as our secrets) it begins healing our shame and becoming authentic.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Real freedom begins here. People-pleasing and acting on the snoopy adage "the secret to life is to look good at a distance", results from fear of allowing others to see us exactly as we are. When we get to this step we have probably shared a lot of our "deepest darkest" with others at meetings. We have experienced not only unconditional acceptance, but have often talked with others who have done much worse, which is such a relief. From here we choose someone we trust, who agrees to listen to what we have written down. This ends much of the separation we've experienced because of our own self-judgement.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
In the preceding step we experience acceptance of ourselves, just as we are, through sharing with a non-judgemental person our flawed thinking, and less-than-wonderful actions through the years. Our concept of a Higher Power that is loving, rather than punishing, and forgiving of any perceived defect in our character, is being built through this interaction with other addicts who have regarded us with compassion throughout our journey to this point. This step requires us to have listed what we feel are our defects, and to simply become willing to allow them to be transmuted. Often in meetings we hear others with some sobriety talking honestly about their struggle with self-centredness, fear, etc. and we will notice how genuine and relaxed they are in their human-ness. This is the goal of these steps-progress, not perfection.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
This is a subtle, yet important broadening and deepening of self-inventory. Again, we are asked to be mindful of how we came up short in being the kind of person we want to be. Again this is not done from an ego driven or self-punishing perspective, but with humility (and lots of times feeling humiliated, when I've had to confess to another, my unkind or less than honest behaviour or words).
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Self-justification and self-flagellation are hallmarks of the wounded soul of an addictive personality. The steps are divinely designed to encourage us to take responsibility for our behaviour, regardless of the actions of another, by taking positive action, rather than internalizing and stuffing toxic emotional residue. By this time we will be aware that we can't hold on to negative emotions like resentment, shame, guilt and fear without eventually needing to suppress those feelings with addictive behaviour. (Stuff it in, or act it out). Our goal is to not need a crutch to face the world; to be genuine and transparent because we've realized our worth is not dependent on anyone else’s opinion. Paying back the money we may have stolen (and justified) is often easier than thinking about facing people who trusted us, and acknowledging that we were a self-centred jerk and took advantage of their trust. In addition we may have caused serious harm to a child or other vulnerable person. The program asks are we "willing to go to any lengths" to be free? This will take all the courage we have, but as with everything in the process, we don't have to do it alone!!
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
With no thought of the consequences to ourselves we continue this journey of reclaiming our Soul. The promises which follow doing this step include: “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. ..That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. ...Self-seeking will slip away....Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. ...We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” (Excerpt from Alcoholics Anonymous/Big Book pg. 83-84)
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
This program for living authentically, includes regular self-examination as the foundation of ensuring the humility required for correct relationship with ourselves, others and God. “Promptly” prevents the build-up of resentment fueled by self-justification, which blocks that relationship.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
In 12 Step meetings prayer if often defined as “talking to God”, and meditation as “listening to God”. TM meditation, Centering Prayer, and Buddhist meditation, which I study and practice, are based on the principle of learning to quiet the conscious mind in order to connect to Source Energy.
As step 10 clears blocks to our alignment with God; “My access to the Power is my attitude”, so our daily spiritual practice would include sitting in the silence, and prayer such as “not my will, but Thine be done” to maintain that clear channel.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to… (others), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Coming to experience ourselves as spiritual beings (God is not in you as the raisin is in the bun, but rather God is in you as the ocean is in the wave.), means that we are free from obsession and compulsion. When we share our journey with another who suffers, we strengthen our own recovery. We invite you to join us as we practice these principles at home, at work and at play.

Author's Bio: 

Lynn has 35 years of recovery from addiction. Her life and work is informed by a foundation of the 12 Step process. She has a spiritual healing practice to help individuals and families transform their lives and be be free of the effects of addiction.