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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on April 7, 2023
6 min read

Step 12 AA

What is Step 12 in AA?

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Step 12 is the last step of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program. It requires you to have a spiritual awakening as a result of completing the previous 11 steps.

In the final step, you will carry on the organization’s message to help others recover from alcohol addiction. Many people find the 12th step to be one of the most challenging. This is because it forces them to publicly acknowledge their struggles with alcohol.


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Purpose of Step 12 of AA 

There are three general purposes of step 12:

1. Spiritual Awakening

In step 12, many people feel they’ve had a spiritual awakening. They’ll acknowledge a power greater than themselves, make amends, and learn their role in managing their addiction. You should be proud of your accomplishments on step 12, but it’s important to remember that recovery is a lifelong process.

2. Practice the 12-Step Principles Daily

By the twelfth step, you understand that additional treatment might be necessary for you to retain sobriety. You may also need continued support from AA members and loved ones. Many use the 12 steps for the rest of their life.

Every day, you’ll conduct a personal inventory and put into practice what you’ve learned in the previous steps. You’re open to the need for ongoing treatment, and you accept that the work of the 12 steps doesn’t end. The goal is to practice the 12 principles daily and develop a long-term commitment to staying sober.

3. Carry the Message of Recovery to Others

The 12th step is about carrying the message of recovery to other people with alcoholism. You’ll share what the steps in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Al-Anon offer to those struggling with addiction.

In addition to helping others, you build your self-esteem and positively contribute to the recovery community. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and enjoy fulfilling experiences with others. 

Carrying the message of AA to others helps you:

  • Remember the early days of your recovery and recognize how hard you’ve worked to move past that stage
  • Stay accountable and prevent yourself from being complacent in recovery
  • Gain a sense of purpose
  • Enhance your fellowship with other people
  • Inspire others to stay on the sober path
  • Provide insight to other people in recovery
  • Become a trustworthy person who can offer support to someone in recovery

How Do You Know You’ve Had a Spiritual Awakening?

Spiritual awakening is an important part of the 12 steps. You know you’ve had a spiritual awakening when:

You begin to give back to others

You’ve learned how to help yourself throughout your journey and recovery process; now it’s time to start helping others. You’ll know you’ve had a spiritual awakening when you’re comfortable enough to reach out to others and provide support.

You know your higher power

Whether it’s a loving God, higher power, or something else, you’ve accepted a higher power in your life and understand its role. In a spiritual awakening, you recognize and accept a greater power, better understand yourself, and are truly humble and self-aware.

You know yourself better

Self-introspection is an important part of mental health and recovery. To live a sober life, you must recognize and know how to cope with your triggers. Together with your higher power, you move toward sobriety and serenity.

You enjoy a sense of well-being

Spiritual awakening brings a sense of peace and well-being. You’ll begin to appreciate how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved by putting spiritual principles into action.

You are ready to accept the good things in your life now that you’re free from cravings. However, you still recognize there is work to do.


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Does the Twelve-Step Model Really Work?

There are varying opinions regarding the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-step model.


According to an analysis from the Stanford School of Medicine researchers, support groups such as AA are almost always more effective than psychotherapy alone for achieving sobriety. AA also led to a reduction in healthcare costs. 

This analysis included the evaluation of 35 existing studies that involved more than 10,000 participants. The majority of the studies showed AA produced a significantly better outcome for people with AUD. In one case, the effective rate was 60 percent. 

The researchers believe AA is effective because it has a foundation for social interaction. Members provide emotional support to one another on a peer-to-peer level.


Despite the results of this analysis, many believe that 12-step programs are not as effective as they might seem. They think getting a true success rate is impossible because many people who relapse do not report their experience. These people believe the 12-step success rate is probably closer to 5 to 10 percent.

However, both AA proponents and detractors agree that the success people experience is due to the camaraderie of the group. Detractors understand that for some people, 12-step programs are enough to change, perhaps even permanently. This is because AA provides:

  • Support
  • Structure
  • Fellowship with like-minded individuals

12-Step Program Benefits

Chances are, most people familiar with recovery and sober living will agree that 12-step programs aren’t harmful. They don’t work for everyone, but the twelve steps and twelve traditions provide many with spiritual growth and peace of mind.

Other benefits of the 12-step program include:

  • Helping you discover your identity and the root causes of your addiction
  • Providing a community of empathetic and like-minded people
  • Providing additional support and guidance
  • Providing resources designed to help family and other loved ones of alcoholics
  • Helping you adjust to life after addiction treatment

What if 12-Step Programs Aren’t For you?

When deciding if AA or another 12-step program is right for you, knowing that every group has a different dynamic is important. Not all groups are a good fit for everyone.

If you’ve tried attending a 12-step meeting and it didn’t feel right, try a different meeting. It’s also important to remember that everyone responds to treatment differently.

Not everyone is ready for treatment. And even if they are ready to live a sober life, AA might not be the right path for them. Despite its detractors, for many, AA and other 12-step programs work.


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Relapse Prevention & Treatment Options

Working the 12 steps does not eliminate all risks of relapse. Many people have worked their way through the steps multiple times and still need treatment. 

Treatment options include:

  • Inpatient treatment: Provides round-the-clock support and lets you focus entirely on recovery and sober living
  • Intensive outpatient care: Provides access to individual and group therapy for several hours each day without removing you from your normal life
  • Outpatient treatment: Provides access to therapy approximately once a week
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Provides pharmaceutical support for treating addiction.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling lost and confused, even after working through the 12 steps. If you feel that something is derailing you from sobriety, it’s time to seek treatment.

Updated on April 7, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on April 7, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. With Sobering Science, Doctor Debunks 12-Step Recovery.”

  2. Erickson. Mandy “Alcoholics Anonymous Most Effective Path to Alcohol Abstinence.” News Center.

  3. Schneider, Kathleen M., et al. “Evaluating Multiple Outcomes and Gender Differences in Alcoholism Treatment.” Addictive Behaviors, vol. 20, no. 1, Jan. 1995.

  4. Stone, David A., et al. “Therapeutic Factors and Psychological Concepts in Alcoholics Anonymous.” Journal of Counselor Practice, 1 Jan. 2011.

  5. Suire, Jared G., and Robert K. Bothwell. “The Psychosocial Benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous.” American Journal on Addictions, vol. 15, no. 3, Jan. 2006, pp. 252–255.

  6. Alcoholics Anonymous: Is A.A. For You?”

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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