The 12-step philosophy was written almost a century ago, and yet it remains the most effective method of treating addiction. This is true whether the individual accepts the traditional view of God or has their own perception of a higher power. In this post, we’ll explore the question “What are the 12 steps of AA/NA in modern terms?” We’ll use behavioral therapy language to explore how the 12 steps are still 100% relevant.
What Are the 12 Steps of AA/NA From a CBT Perspective?
Alcoholics Anonymous has been helping people battle against alcoholism since 1939, and Narcotics Anonymous has been aiding those going through drug addiction since 1953. Here are each of the 12 steps of AA/NA explained in simple terms so a modern audience can understand what they get out of these groups.
1. Admit You Are Powerless
If you don’t feel comfortable thinking of your entire self as powerless, you might prefer to alter your perception of this first step. Rather than admitting you’re helpless, accept that addiction is compulsive and treat it as an aspect of your life that you need to gain control over.
2. Believe a Power Greater Than You Can Restore Your Health
Step two doesn’t need to refer to God at all. If you don’t believe in God, CBT describes this step differently. At this stage, you need to commit to changing your belief system entirely. The one you had before is what led to substance abuse, so you need to start believing in your ability to create a new, positive belief system.
3. Turn Your Will Over to God
Rather than thinking about turning your will over to God as you would in the traditional AA, with CBT, you can accept that you need to turn your will over to the process. Your will has misguided you, and it’s vital for you to accept that you do not know better than the people helping you along this process.
4. Make a Moral Inventory
It doesn’t need to be a moral inventory, but to heal fully, you need to commit to the most thorough self-exploration you’ve ever been through. Use a journal to map the thoughts, beliefs and feelings that influence your behaviors.
Be fearlessly honest with yourself and make sure you note the ones that bring up guilt and fear. It’s these types of negative emotions that often drive our darkest actions.
5. Admit Our Flaws to God and Ourselves
Once you’ve worked through these yourself, approach a counselor, therapist or support group with them. The cycle of addiction depends on secrecy and shame, so by bringing your deepest innermost thoughts and feelings out into the light, you give them less gravitas.
6. Assess Your Character Flaws
The next step in AA and NA is to list character flaws. This isn’t to make you feel bad; it’s so you can face up to the truth of the past and genuinely work towards not making the same mistakes again. Character flaws aren’t a sign of moral weakness or reasons to be ashamed; they’re simply methods your mind has found to help you live with your disease.
7. Ask for Help From a Higher Power
Rather than asking God for help, a nonbeliever can either ask the universe or just shift their focus from negative self-talk to positive self-talk. There’s no point in feeling bad about the character traits you don’t admire in yourself — the brain is amazing. Don’t underestimate your ability to adapt and change!
8. Write a List of People Your Behavior Harmed
Addiction is a struggle that tends to affect the people around you badly. Create an honest, full list of everyone you’ve hurt with your actions and start thinking about how to make amends.
9. Make Amends
It’s not easy to process the emotions brought up when you face up to hurting people. It might be awhile before you feel confident enough to approach them and make amends, but once you do, it’s the most extraordinary feeling.
10. Address Your Feelings
CBT doesn’t need to translate step 10 of the AA book much. Whenever you experience problematic feelings or thoughts, address them safely and healthily.
11. Connect With Prayer
The similarities between prayer and meditation are striking. In meditation, you focus on your breath and ask the universe for guidance and love instead of asking God.
Now you must live and breathe these principles and try to help other people experience the transformation you’ve been through. You might perceive this experience as a spiritual awakening or as an extraordinary shift in attitude that facilitates the type of behavior that helps you to achieve your goals.