Principles of the 12 Steps

This article on the Principles of the 12 Steps, was authored by long-time, AA Historian and Archivist -- Bill Pittman, (1947-2007) and, was posted here in our Sober Recovery forums

The Principles of The 12 Steps

In recovery, we try to take the opposite of our character defects/shortcomings and turn them into principles. For example, we work to change fear into faith, hate into love, egoism into humility, anxiety and worry into serenity, complacency into action, denial into acceptance, jealousy into trust, fantasizing into reality, selfishness into service, resentment into forgiveness, judgmentalism into tolerance, despair into hope, self-hate into self-respect, and loneliness into fellowship. Through this work we learn to understand the principles of our program.

Such work may look like an overwhelming goal to an outsider, but those of us in AA know that our true goal is progress, not perfection.” As the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous tells us, we are not destined for sainthood and we should not be discouraged when we cannot “Maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. The point is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles are guides to progress.

But what, are these 12 Step Principles — Where did they come from?

Over the years a list of principles that correspond to each of the Twelve Steps has been printed in local area AA newsletters and on pocket cards. The origin of this list is unknown, although used by many Twelve step members:

Principles of the 12 Steps

The STEP: -- (The steps are printed on pages 59 & 60 of the Big Book.)

  • Step 1. Surrender. (Capitulation to hopelessness.)

  • Step 2. Hope. (Step 2 is the mirror image or opposite of step 1. In step 1 we admit that alcohol is our higher power, and that our lives are unmanageable. In step 2, we find a different Higher Power who we hope will bring about a return to sanity in management of our lives.)

  • Step 3. Commitment. (The key word in step 3 is decision.)

  • Step 4. Honesty. (An inventory of self.)

  • Step 5. Truth. (Candid confession to God and another human being.)

  • Step 6. Willingness. (Choosing to abandon defects of character.)

  • Step 7. Humility. (Standing naked before God, with nothing to hide, and asking that our flawsin His eyes be removed.)

  • Step 8. Reflection. (Who have we harmed? Are we ready to amend?)

  • Step 9. Amendment. (Making direct amends/restitution/correction, etc…)

  • Step 10. Vigilance. (Exercising self-discovery, honesty, abandonment, humility, reflection and amendment on a momentary, daily, and periodic basis.)

  • Step 11. Attunement. (Becoming as one with our Father.)

  • Step 12. Service. (Awakening into sober usefulness.)

Join in our discussion of these principles in the online recovery forums here at


The primary objective of Step 12 .com -- is found on page 97 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous "Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery" and page 89, "To be helpful is our only aim"

When are we ready to take the 12 Steps?

"RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it - then you are ready to take certain steps."

~Bill W., Page 58, Big Book.

The primary objective of Step 12 .com -- is found on page 97 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous "Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery" and page 89, "To be helpful is our only aim"

12 Step Recovery Information, Tools and Resources


A.A. Meeting information for A.A. Meetings in each State of the United States.

The Promises of A.A. 12 Steps.

Vision For You - A.A..

Addiction Treatment Recovery and Support