A Study of Step 12 of the 12-Step Program

To keep it you have to give it away

Diverse group of ladies at a group AA Meeting

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Step 12: "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."

The last of the 12 Steps is to carry the message to others and to put the principles of the program into practice in every area of your life. For those in recovery programs, practicing Step 12 is simply "how it works," as the founders of the fellowship discovered for themselves in those early days.

As the history of Alcoholics Anonymous so clearly indicates, it was working with others who were still suffering that kept Bill W. and Dr. Bob sober. The same principle is true for all members of 12 step groups: "to keep it you have to give it away."

12 Steps Defined

According to Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 steps are as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. 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.

What Is Step 12?

In Al-Anon, the twelfth step reads "try to carry the message to 'others'" and in Alcoholics Anonymous it says "to alcoholics." But the principle is the same. In order to work all 12 of the steps, you must try to help others.

Carrying the message to others by sharing experience, strength, and hope reinforces the spiritual principle of the 12 steps in the person being 12th-stepped as well as the one doing the sharing.

If nobody was doing any 12th-step work, the program would simply cease to exist. Without the service work of those who came before, no members would be here now.

But step 12 also calls for members to put the spiritual growth they have found to work—not only within the fellowship but it all aspects of their lives. It requires practicing these principles in all your affairs.

This too is doing 12th step "work" and makes the program work as one of attraction and not promotion. For many in the 12-step fellowships, working the 12th step is simply how it works.

Benefits of Step 12

Step 12 allows people who have worked the program to work with others who are still struggling, which benefits both the person in recovery as well as those who are still going through the program. Being of service to others can:

  • Remind you of the early days of recovery (and why you’ve worked so hard to move past that phase)
  • Keep you accountable and prevent you from becoming complacent in your recovery
  • Give you a sense of purpose
  • Enhance your fellowship with others
  • Inspire someone else to stay the sober path
  • Help provide insight to someone else in recovery
  • Allow you to become a trustworthy person for someone in recovery

Making It Work

Twelve-step work isn't just going out to help the one who still suffers, but going to meetings and setting an example. Here are a few ways to work step 12 during an AA or Al-Anon meeting:

  • Make coffee
  • Speak up during comments
  • Say "yes" when asked to do service work or speak at a meeting
  • Offer to give a ride to those who otherwise would not go to a meeting

Follow-up is also an important part of a 12th-step call. Calling the person in a few days to see if they might want to go to a meeting with you shows that you are for real. A word of warning: Remember to carry the message, not the person with a substance use disorder.

A Word From Verywell

As you go through the 12 steps, remember that addiction recovery is a lifelong journey that requires work and dedication. Working step 12 is a way to safeguard your own sobriety as you help others live a better, sober life one day at a time.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Alcoholics Anonymous. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. 77th printing. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services; 2012.

By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.