The 12-Step Program: Step 1 – Honesty and Acceptance

What Is the 12-Step Program?

The 12-step program and the philosophy surrounding it was conceived by Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and published in 1938. In the decades since, it has been adopted by more than 200 self-help organizations with millions of members around the world. While created with alcoholics in mind, it has been adapted and modified for use in dozens of different support groups for addictions, compulsions, and other psychological disorders, including narcotics abuse, gambling, sexual addiction, and more.

The essential premise of the 12-step program is that people can come together as a group to help and support each other achieve and maintain abstinence to whichever substance or behavior they’re addicted. However, the program also insists that this process cannot truly begin without first surrendering to a higher power.

While some have difficulty with the religious basis of the 12-step program, it was inspired less by a specific religion and more by psychologist Carl Jung’s advice to Wilson that the cure for alcoholism needed to be spiritual in order to be powerful enough to combat “spirits,” or alcohol. While he was definitely making a bad pun, he was still onto something, since the 12-step program has stood the test of time and is currently employed by roughly 74 percent of treatment centers.

The Complete 12-Step List

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 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.

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.

Taking the First Step with Step 1

“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called willpower becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” – Bill Wilson, p.24, The Big Book

Whether you begin the program in group meetings, during therapy, or at a residential treatment center, Step 1 is the beginning of everything when it comes to getting on the path to addiction recovery, no matter the substance or behavior, but it can also feel like the hardest step to take. This is in no small part due to the difficulty in admitting not only that you have a problem but also that you are powerless against it.

The idea behind this is, of course, realizing that your addiction has moved beyond your control and taken over every aspect of your life. In being able to admit this fact, you can start to move forward and, after working through the steps and with the help of a therapist, a sponsor, or other systems of support, learn to control your addiction and gain power over it. But this can’t happen until you can look at your addiction with honesty.

Essentially, Step 1 is about letting go and breaking the cycle of denial and addiction so that you can move forward to an eventual state of acceptance so you can get to work on getting your life back.

4 Tips for Successfully Practicing Step 1

  • Let go of your pride. In order to acknowledge and accept that you do not have control over your addiction, you need to concede that you have made mistakes, that you need help to combat your problems, and that you cannot do that if you’re hanging onto pride.
  • Understand that admitting you are “powerless” does not mean you are weak. Quite the opposite, in fact! It takes real courage to accept that this substance or behavior has made you powerless, especially in the face of the stigma of addiction.
  • Abstain from the substance or behavior to which you have become addicted. While this might seem like something that goes without saying, part of admitting you don’t have control over your addiction is understanding that you need to completely stop. For example, you can’t keep drinking “just a little,” because there’s no such thing when your addiction is in control.
  • Be truly honest with yourself and want to make a change. Just saying you have a problem because you feel like you’re “supposed” to instead of really meaning and embracing it will not put you any closer to real recovery. It is a difficult process, so you have to mean it and you have to want it.

What to Keep in Mind for Step 1 and Beyond

Hitting “rock bottom” is not a necessary part of completing Step 1 of the program. All you need to do is be able to recognize and accept that your addiction is a problem that you are currently powerless to stop. If you can have this moment of realization and acceptance without having to undergo a significant event like losing your job or alienating the people you care about, that’s already a sizable victory.

It’s also important to remember that while the steps are laid out in a linear list, they don’t necessarily work that way. Many steps can be experienced simultaneously, out of order, or in a circular manner as you continue to work on earlier steps even as you’re moving forward in the program. Everyone moves through the 12-steps at their own pace and in their own way, and you cannot measure your personal progress against anyone else’s. What matters above all though, is being able to take that first “step” towards recovery by being honest with yourself and admitting and accepting your powerlessness.

If you or a loved one is struggling to take that first step, we at Pathway to Hope can help. You can contact us online or call 844-311-5781 for a free consultation and assessment. We’re here to help you take the necessary steps to get you on a path to sobriety!

Does Person-Centered (Rogerian) Therapy Work for Addiction Recovery?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivating people in recovery to get on the path to sobriety and stay the course after a battle with substance abuse. As with many other things, it takes different things for different people to commit.

For some people, a 12-step fellowship is the way to go while others may find the SMART Recovery approach starts the ball rolling in the right direction. Yet, for others in addiction recovery, participating in person-centered therapy may be just what they need to put addiction behind once and for all. In this approach, recovering substance users are encouraged to take an active role in their recovery and come up with their own answers of how to live substance-free. They work to accomplish this in a safe, no-judgment zone along with an understanding therapist to help guide them on their personal paths.

Here, we answer a few questions about what person-centered therapy is and how it can help people who are working to overcome substance addiction.

What Is Person-Centered Therapy?

Person-centered therapy was developed by renowned U.S. psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1940s. It goes by several names, including person-centered counseling, client-centered therapy, or Rogerian Therapy. This counseling approach is humanistic and based on Rogers’ belief that all people are fundamentally good and has the ability to fulfill their potential.

Person-centered therapy moves away from the traditional model of the therapist being the expert. Rather, in person-centered therapy, the client is regarded as the expert, and it is the therapist who listens to the client and is “there to encourage and support the client and to guide the therapeutic process without interrupting or interfering with the client’s process of self-discovery,” writes Psychology Today. Some say this approach promotes the client to feel empowered while discovering their emotions, decisions, and habits as they work toward the life they want.

Who Can Benefit from Person-Centered Therapy?

People looking to boost their self-esteem, increase their self-awareness and self-reliance, and gain more clarity as they focus on their life’s goals can benefit from person-centered therapy. This addiction therapy approach has been used for people across groups, including those who are dealing with substance use disorders and mental health disorders.

These include:

  • Substance abuse, substance addiction
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Dual-diagnosis clients (people who have co-occurring disorders)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating)
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

People who are managing stress, as well as those who are dealing with relationship problems, also may benefit from this kind of therapy.

How Does Person-Centered Therapy Work?

Person-centered therapy is a collaborative relationship between and clients and their therapists. The client; however, determines what course of action to take. The therapist aids in this process by helping the client get to self-actualization and personal understanding while clarifying the client’s responses. Feedback from the therapist gives the client a clearer picture of what needs to change and make changes as the person sees fit.

“Rogers strongly believed that in order for a client’s condition to improve therapists should be warm, genuine, and understanding,” writes Saul McLeod for Simply Psychology.

Finding a balance between who a person is and who a person wants to be is a key goal in this kind of therapy.

How Is Person-Centered Therapy Different from Other Therapies?

Person-centered therapy, also known as client-centered therapy, is different because it focuses on humanistic approach, not therapeutic techniques, such as an emphasis on boundaries of time. “What’s most important in client-centered therapy is the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client,” writes on its website. Person-centered counselors may practice differently and not use orthodox counseling approaches.

The therapist’s attitude is also important, and some say it matters more than mental health professional’s skill sets. The following three guiding principles that reflect the attitude of therapists help determine the success of the therapy:

Genuineness (also known as congruence). This principle is about the therapist’s ability to be authentic. According to McLeod of Simply Psychology, Rogers considered congruence to be the most important attribute in counseling. Therapists who are following Rogerian principles allow their clients to experience them as they really are, unlike psychodynamic therapists, who generally maintain a “blank screen” and do not reveal much of their personality, McLeod explains.

Unconditional positive regard. This principle is about valuing clients as they are. The therapist should be able to maintain the attitude of “I’ll accept you as you are,” even when the therapist does not approve of the client’s decisions or actions.

Empathy. This principle addresses the therapist’s’ ability to understand the client’s feelings and be sensitive to those feelings. The therapist must also be able to communicate with the client to let the client know that the therapist understands what the person is feeling.

Also, in this kind of therapy, the emphasis is on the client being in the driver’s seat. That person is solely responsible for taking the necessary steps to make changes that lead to a better life.

How Does Person-Centered Therapy Benefit People in Addiction Recovery?

Person-centered therapy can help people in recovery in several ways. First, it takes the emphasis off the substance and the behavior and broadens the focus to include the whole person and that person’s perception of reality. Instead of only looking at the addiction, it requires them to examine how they have battled with an addiction to certain substances and why they engaged in certain behaviors when those substances were used.

This kind of therapy also helps people in recovery change how they see themselves as they work to improve their self-image and increase their self-esteem. They must be open to cope with their thoughts, feelings, and motivations that will reveal themselves as they face the causes of their addiction. This kind of therapy provides the safe setting needed for them to do that. It will give them the tools to go deeper and take a look at themselves as a whole person and how they are connected to how they see themselves “within a complex web of personal, sociohistorical realities,” writes Wycliff Matanada, MA, for

Person-centered therapy also forces people in recovery to face their truth without outside distractions but with the support of an understanding, compassionate therapist who remains open to what their perspective is as they find the best path to sobriety for them.

It is common for facilities to incorporate it into their residential programs or outpatient programs for people who are recovering from addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, and other mental health disorders.

Approach Not Without its Limitations, Criticisms

Not everyone is a fan of person-centered therapy. Some critics of this approach say that the nondirective approach that therapists practice silences professionals from giving useful advice or guidance that clients can use, even if that guidance conflicts with the client’s perspective.

Other criticisms include that there is not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of the therapy, and some say only a few therapists can actually be nondirective or genuinely humanistic in their practice as they counsel their clients. These are just a few of the criticisms of the approach, but it is up to each person to decide whether it works for them or if it is something they think can enhance their addiction treatment.

Get Addiction Treatment Today

Person-centered therapy works for some people in recovery from substance abuse and addiction, but it might not work for you or your loved one. As one of the premier drug and alcohol treatment centers in Florida, Pathway to Hope has created treatment programs that give you the motivation you need to continue succeeding and thriving in your recovery, and they can be tailored to fit your current and future needs.

From other kinds of therapy, life skills training, and relapse prevention programs to our aftercare and alumni programs, you receive the support you need to continue to be empowered. Call Pathway to Hope at 844-557-8575 or contact us online today and take the first step to a new life in recovery.