The Origins Of The AA’s 12 Step Program

According to the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, it was a religious experience that cured him of alcoholism. In the 1930s, Bill was battling alcoholism, and every day, he drank more than two quarts of cheap rotgut whiskey.

As a result, at the urging of his wife and brother-in-law, he checked in to the Towns Hospital 4 times between 1933 and 1934 before finally breaking through his addiction.

On his fourth treatment, he lay on a bed at the hospital in dark despair over his alcoholism and cried out, “I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let Him show Himself!” What came next was his infamous moment of spiritual awakening as a blinding white light shone on him, leading to a rushing, overwhelming calming sensation.

He was sober from that moment on till his death 36 years later. Before his spiritual experience, Wilson had turned to the Oxford Group Christian fellowship to aid him in his addiction. He continued to do so regularly afterward, incorporating the values of love, purity, unselfishness, and honesty into his life as he maintained his sobriety.

We can see these forthright charitable influences in the 12 steps. The incorporation of a spiritual element, support from peers, relinquishing control in order to accept help, self-acceptance, and forgiveness, and an inward search for flaws for which you make amends – these are the elements that power the 12 steps.

The AAs 12-step program has become the most sought-after way to regain sobriety. Through connection to others, spiritual awakening, and principled living, millions have gained the inner confidence to maintain sobriety.

As much as the experience was religious for him, Bill Wilson was very careful that the AA program be all-inclusive. In 1946, he would write, “No AA group or members should ever, in such a way as to implicate AA, express any opinion on outside controversial issues. Particularly those of politics, alcohol reform or sectarian religion. The Alcoholics Anonymous groups oppose no one. Concerning such matters they can express no views whatever.”

The third step in the program is helpful in this regard. “(We) made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” That last part emphasizes the idea that every person has their own faith and has gone through a radically different life journey that has acquainted them with a unique set of beliefs.

The best part of AA is the sense of community that you can surround yourself with. For many, AA has been the helping hand they’ve needed, and with resources like Impact Recovery (, embarking on a spiritual journey grounded in the real-life ideals of mental wellness, good diet, mindfulness, and exercise, recovery is one step closer.

The AA is a place where anyone who needs help with addiction can find acceptance, treatment, and community. If you’d like to know more about the AA, feel free to reach out to your local chapter for assistance.

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