The beginning of twelve step programs is usually traced back to 1935, when Bill W. and Dr. Bob began first meeting together and with other alcoholics and began using a 12 step process for recovery from alcoholism. The organization that grew out of these initial meetings came to be known as "Alcoholics Anonymous" or A.A. and is the model for many subsequent 12 step groups that deal with different addictions besides alcoholism.

Because of the tremendous growth of 12 step programs since that time, there are a great deal number of books, websites, treatment facilities and other resources related to the 12 step program. The resources presented here are some of the first and most "standard" references for working the 12 step program. They should be valuable to anyone who wants to work a recovery program using the 12 step approach.

Commonly Used References

This section contains some of the commonly used references for working a 12 Step program, such as The Promises, the 12 Traditions, Recovery Slogans, 12 Step Prayers and Meeting Formats.

12 Step Versions

This is a compilation of how different fellowships have adapted the wording of the 12 steps for their own needs. The 12 steps for the different groups include groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Emotions Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous and many others. For the most part, the steps are usually very similar in wording, building on the wisdom of the initial 12 steps.

Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book)

First published in 1939 and subtitled The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, the Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) 'Big Book', as it is commonly called, is the first text written about the experiences of the founders of the A.A. movement. It tells the story of Bill W., one of the co-founders of A.A. and how the program worked in the early days of the movement. It is full of much timeless and practical wisdom and is the first standard (and some would say the only standard) text of A.A. and, subsequently, of 12 step programs.

You can read the book online (2nd edition) or you can download the book (496 KB download size) in PDF format.

The Bible and the 12 Steps

Historians have traced the genesis of the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A) back to the Oxford Group, a Christian evangelistic movement from the early 1900s. Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of A.A., after being visited by an old friend, Ebby Thatcher, was restored to sobriety through the principles from the Oxford Group.

In the subsequent development of A.A., Bill Wilson distanced himself from the Oxford Group in order to reach out to others who were forbidden from or uncomfortable with the evangelical Christian emphasis (e.g., Catholics, those following Eastern spiritual traditions, agnostics, atheists). However, many of the practices of the Oxford Group continue in the 12 Step approach (e.g., small group meetings, confession of wrongs) because of their effectiveness regardless of agreement about a Higher Power.

Concerning a Higher Power or God, the second step and third step emphasize turning our lives over to the God of our own understanding. This has been criticized by both religious adherents as well as the non-religious sceptics. Those who are religious may sometimes like to say that their way is the best or the only way and so may tend to reject a program that may encourage people to find a spirituality different than their own. The non-religious sceptics may sometimes say that they would not like to even use the name or idea of God or a "Higher Power". And many others are in-between and are not sure what they really believe.

But this is the wisdom of the twelve steps. First of all, it teaches tolerance for others who sincerely believe differently than ourselves or who are still trying to figure out what they believe. Secondly, it emphasizes what should be emphasized to the addict, that the overcoming of their addiction is the focus of the 12 step program and not arguing about religion, God or spirituality. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it puts responsibility on the addict to become mature enough to find what it takes in their own life to live in a healthy manner, free from addictive behaviors.

With that background, the commentaries on the Bible presented in this section are primarily for believers in the importance of the Bible (e.g. Christians or Jews) and highlight the harmony between the Bible and the principles of the 12 Step program. These comments are primarily the thoughts of one person from, so please take them with a grain of salt and, as the 12 step saying goes, "Take what you need and leave the rest".