One of the most prevalent (if not the most prevalent) program to remain sober is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA is a group-oriented program. In it you go to daily meetings and meet with others who are also working to stay sober. The strength of the system is the amount of support you get from the other people. Eventually you are to select a more senior member who will become you sponsor. This is the person who will lead you through the program and be there when you are having issues.

The program consists of 12 steps. Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith started AA in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. The program was created to represent the physical, mental, and spiritual parts of a person. The process of going through the 12 steps is intended to replace self-centeredness with a growing moral consciousness and a willingness for self-sacrifice and unselfish constructive action. Now once completed with these steps you just don’t stop and sit back. Instead you start over again and go back through them again. The reason is that each time you go through these steps you learn more about yourself. For example each time you read a book you learn something new. The same idea applies here only with you.


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 all 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.

The twelve-step program has been expanded to also work for drug abusers, food abusers and people with relationship issues. These are Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Overeaters Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous, Emotions Anonymous and Sexual Compulsive Anonymous etc. There are approximately 50 different groups. AA has also expanded into helping the people who live with the abuser. For instance there is now Al-anon which is for the people who live with an alcoholic.

There are also the Twelve Traditions. These are guidelines for the group governance of AA and help resolve conflicts regarding issues with publicity, religion, and finances.

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority-a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
5. Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Twelve step programs have a reputation of working well. However the numbers do not support this. Unfortunately the success rate is around 5% based on AA’s internal records. 80% of people drop out of the program in the first year.