The Twelve Step Model

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12: 10

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!” –Romans 7: 21-25

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” –Romans 12: 1

In 1935 Bill Wilson began holding meetings at his home in Brooklyn, to help others find freedom as he had from uncontrolled drinking. This was the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous, which today has tens of thousands of chapters all over the world. Emphasis was on surrender to Christ, daily prayer and quiet meditation, personal moral inventory, Bible study, and sharing with others. These practices grew into the classic Twelve Steps, which today have been generalized so they apply to all addictions.

Over time the spiritual focus of AA was altered from surrendering to Christ. The basis became submitting to an individualized “Higher Power”. Nonetheless, in the last seventy years Twelve Step groups have done more than either organized Christian religion or secular psychology to help addicts.

Alcoholics Anonymous from its inception boldly established an environment of acceptance, camaraderie, transparency, and accountability. This was in stark contrast to the atmosphere of performance-oriented role-playing found in many formal churches of the day. Addicts sought refuge and healing in AA meetings, where they were greeted with the mercy and compassion we all require to feel safe.

The variety of Twelve Step programs now encompasses approximately 20 separate organizations, including Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Sex Addicts Anonymous (SA), Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), Workaholics Anonymous (WA), and Overeaters Anonymous (OA). Although none of these approaches attempt to address dysfunctions from an inner healing perspective, they can be very helpful in breaking denial, exposing and treating character problems, and preparing people for deep inner healing when needed.


                      Here are some strengths of Twelve Step recovery groups:

~They do not expect instant results, but emphasize the process of change in a supportive community.

~Persons are received exactly as they are, and no one is considered better than anyone else.

~They have taken out of the realm of human possibility the idea that there can be true freedom from addictions without dependence on God.

~They coined the term “one day at a time”, emphasizing the day-to-day “walking out” of change.

~They insist on confession of faults and full personal responsibility.

~They emphasize forgiveness, reconciliation, an openly making amends to others for hurts they’ve caused.

~They recognize the need to give back and share what they have received to keep what they have gained.


So-called Christian Twelve Step groups do include belief in Jesus Christ as the true “Higher Power”.  Their version of the Twelve Steps is listed in another article.

Despite a proven track record in helping those imprisoned by addictions, the Twelve Step model is limited in that it does not address root causes of childhood wounding. This is the realm we explore in heart-healing counseling.