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12 Step Programs: How They Work and What to Expect

12-step programs have become a hallmark of addiction recovery ever since Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) published the Big Book in 1939. The 12 Steps have become a model for multiple kinds of addiction recovery, not just alcohol. Many treatment centers all over the country, such as Villa Tranquil, have implemented 12-step programs within their programs to help women heal. Understanding the 12 Steps and what to expect women in early recovery know what to expect while going through the program. 

The Original 12 Steps

AA’s steps have been adapted for various addictions, such as narcotics, cocaine, debt, gambling, and more. The steps can be used daily, specifically the first three. Even those in long-term recovery often revisit the steps to maintain their recovery. 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 our affairs.

What to Expect

Most meetings are held in churches or community centers, with some treatment facilities having meetings on their campuses. You can make small talk before taking a seat with the other members. Excerpts from the literature pertaining to the organization are read, and then newcomers are welcomed. You do not have to introduce yourself if you wish not to, as the organization is anonymous. Stories are shared, and announcements are given. Throughout the program, you can ask for a sponsor, volunteer for commitments, and move through the steps with other members’ help. 


12 step meetings have become common in treatment centers and addiction recovery circles for over half a decade. They have proven successful for people struggling with addiction because of the nature of the meetings, connection between members, sponsorship, and the ability to track progress over time. Because of this success with various addictions, Villa Tranquil has implemented a 12 step approach in their program for women. At the beginning of treatment, you will be expected to attend meetings daily. This will help you become acclimated with the environment and help you begin healing at your own pace. Understanding the 12 steps and what to expect during a meeting can help you decide if this is the proper approach to treatment for you. For more information concerning the 12 steps at Villa Tranquil, contact us at 214-799-3080.