Step 12

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs


How It Works

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill.

Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends - this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.
-A.A. Big Book p.89

More about Step 12 in the Big Book


Comments from Web Sites and Publications

Step 12 gives me the satisfaction of helping others. I am uniquely suited to help others that have suffered the same addiction as I have suffered with. Although I did not plan on being in the role of the recovering addict, I find myself in that role because of the choices that I have made. It now becomes my duty as well as my joy and privilege to find others suffering in a similar way and to help them in the best way that I know how. It completes the cycle of life and I get to play a wonderful part in it.
- From 12Step.org


The joy of living is the theme of A.A.'s Twelfth Step, and action is its key word. Here we turn outward toward our fellow alcoholics who are still in distress. Here we experience the kind of giving that asks no rewards. Here we begin to practice all Twelve Steps of the program in our daily lives so that we and those about us may find emotional sobriety. When the Twelfth Step is seen in all its full implication, it is really talking about the kind of love that has no price tag on it.
- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 106


The selfless service of this work is the very principle of Step Twelve. We received our recovery from the God of our understanding, so we now make ourselves available as His tool to share recovery with those who seek it. Most of us learn in time that we can only carry our message to someone who is asking for help. Sometimes the only message necessary to make the suffering addict reach out is the power of example. An addict may be suffering but unwilling to ask for help. We can make ourselves available to these people, so that when they ask, someone will be there.

Learning the art of helping others when it is appropriate is a benefit of the N.A. Program. Remarkably, the Twelve Steps guide us from humiliation and despair to a state wherein we may act as instruments of our Higher Power. We are given the ability to help a fellow addict when no one else can. We see it happening among us every day. This miraculous turnabout is evidence of spiritual awakening. We share from our own personal experience what it has been like for us. The temptation to give advice is great, but when we do so we lose the respect of newcomers. This clouds our message. A simple, honest message of recovery from addiction rings true.
- Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 12


Helping others is a significant part of the program, and there are many ways the program gets passed on. When you live the program and share it with others, you are carrying the message, especially when you sponsor new members. In practicing the Twelfth Step you will find that -

  • By witnessing to others, your appreciation of the program and the program's impact on your life deepens.
  • By hearing the stories of new members, you are reminded of where you were when you started.
  • By modeling to others, you become aware that you need to practice what you preach.
  • By giving to others, you develop bonds with new people who really need you
  • By helping others, you give what you have received.
  • By supporting new beginnings, you revitalize your own efforts.
- A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps, by Patrick Carnes, p. 197


Although we enter recovery to heal a particular affliction, we find that, in the end, we have received far more than a specific healing of an addiction; we have received the gift of a profound spiritual awakening...

The second phrase in Step 12 reads: "we tried to carry this message to others." Twelve Step programs place great emphasis on outreach to those who still suffer. Another oral tradition says, "You can't keep it unless you give it away." Having received healing and spiritual renewal, we can retain them only as we offer them to others...

On a practical level, psychologists have long believed that there is a special capacity for empathy between persons who have shared the same addictions. That is why Bill Wilson encouraged alcoholics to help other alcoholics, and it is also why we now have such a proliferation of recovery support groups for different dependencies. Again, the premise is that people who have suffered from an addiction and have found spiritual healing from it are in better positions to understand and help others with similar problems.
- Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 76,77


Step Twelve is considered to be so important that it takes up much more space in the literature than any other step. It's almost three steps in one. I have divided it into three parts to look at in this chapter.

  1. Having had a spiritual awakening...
  2. We tried to carry the message to others...
  3. And to practice these principles in all our affairs.

1... In the Twelve Step community the word spiritual usually doesn't mean the same thing as the word religious. For many, spiritual refers to being in touch with and living on the basis of "reality". A spiritual woman, for instance, would be in touch with her own reality, her own feelings, her own controlling and diseased behaviors and character defects as well as her own preciousness and gifts. She would be in touch with the reality of other people and with ultimate reality in the experience of a Higher Power, God. In that sense a "spiritual awakening," whatever else it might include, is an awakening to seeing and dealing with reality in one's own life and in relationships with other people and with God...

2... in the Twelve Steps, where people learn about God through their own experiences with him, there is no need to "persuade" with theology or verbal arguments. We let pain do the persuading, because we know that it is only through pain that the hunger for healing comes that will make us ready to admit our powerlessness. We know that until the pain of our lives was greater than the fear of swallowing our pride and going for help, we were not hungry enough for healing to go for it through the Twelve Steps...

3... When we first read that we were to "practice these principles in all our affairs," some of us didn't understand. How could we use the Twelve Steps to deal with conflict in a personal relationship or a decision about buying a house? Gradually we realized that "practicing principles" means taking specific usable pieces of truth out of larger truths and applying the smaller principles to a different situation...
- A Hunger for Healing, by J. Keith Miller, p. 196, 199, 210


Personal Experiences

In our forums, you can read about how others have worked step 12, or share your own experiences about working step 12. The audio section also has examples of people sharing about how step 12 worked for them.

To share your own experiences in the forums, you first need to sign up for free membership.