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

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

Comments from Websites 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

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

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 1

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

If we've made it to this point, we've had a spiritual awakening. Though the nature of our awakening is as individual and personal as our spiritual path, the similarities in our experiences are striking. Almost without exception, our members speak of feeling free, of feeling more lighthearted more of the time, of caring more about others, and of the ever-increasing ability to step outside ourselves and participate fully in life. The way this looks to others is astonishing. People who knew us when we were in our active addiction, often appearing withdrawn and angry, tell us that we're different people. Indeed, many of us feel as if we've begun a second life. We know the importance of remembering where we came from, so we make an effort not to forget, but the way we lived and the things that motivated us seem increasingly bizarre the longer we stay clean. ...

"We can only keep what we have by giving it away." This saying is perhaps the most powerful reason we can present for carrying the message. Many of us wonder, though, exactly how this concept works. It's simple, really. We reinforce our recovery by sharing it with others. When we tell someone that people who go to meetings regularly stay clean, we are more likely to apply that practice to our own recovery. When we tell someone that the answer is in the steps, we are more likely to look there ourselves. When we tell newcomers to get and use a sponsor, we are more likely to stay in touch with our own. ...

Practicing the principle of unconditional love in the Twelfth Step is essential. Nobody needs love without conditions more than a suffering addict. We don't ask anything of the people to whom we are trying to carry the message. We don't ask for money. We don't ask for gratitude. We don't even ask that they stay clean. We simply extend ourselves.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't take reasonable precautions. If we believe it isn't safe to bring a suffering addict to our home, we shouldn't do it. Twelfth Step calls should always be done with another NA member. Nor does practicing the principle of unconditional love require that we allow ourselves to be abused. Sometimes the best way of loving and helping is to stop enabling someone else to use. ...

Before we get too excited about the prospect of being finished with the Twelve Steps, we should realize that we're not - finished, that is. Not only will we continue trying to practice the spiritual principles of all Twelve Steps, which many of us call "living the program," but we will formally revisit each of the steps, probably many times, throughout our lives. Some of us may immediately begin working through the steps again with the perspective that we've gained from our journey thus far. Others wait for a time or concentrate on certain aspects of the steps. However we do it, the point is that whenever we find ourselves powerless over our addiction, whenever more has been revealed about our shortcomings or people we've harmed, the steps are available as our path to recovery.

Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guides, 1998, p. 117, 118, 122-123, 124

In some ways, the 12th Step is the essence of the entire program. The notion of service inherited from the Oxford Group was the founding principle that brought Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob together - Bill's need to reach out to another alcoholic was what kept him sober, not the other way around. Recall that in his early sobriety, Bill tried to save one hopeless drunk after another, but the only one who really benefited from this effort was Bill himself. ...

At times, AA members may be asked to make a 12th Step call. This involves two or more AA members going to visit an active alcoholic to convey the hopeful message of the program to him or her. This is not done in a proselytizing or coercive fashion; the callers merely present their own stories of recovery and offer themselves as supports for the candidate.

The original 12th Step call was performed by Bill and Dr. Bob on an unsuspecting alcoholic (Bill D.) hospitalized and in restraints for his drinking problem. The two founders sought him out as a kind of experiment with their newly hatched ideas about a spiritual recovery for alcoholics. You can read Bill D.'s narrative in the Big Book, under the heading "Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three." [Webmaster's note: you can read that here] He provides an excellent picture of what the experience is like. ...

Newly sober members should never participate in a 12th Step call, and AA members should never do this alone. It is more appropriate for newcomers to offer service by such things as making coffee, distributing the literature, and so forth.

A Clinician's Guide to 12 Step Recovery, 2009, p. 55, 56-57