Origin of the Twelve Steps
The Twelve Step movement can be traced back to Alcoholics Anonymous. It all began with a stockbroker and a doctor – both “drunks” by their own admission, but alcoholics who had stopped drinking and who were “in recovery.” (Of course, they didn’t talk that way in the early days. The jargon of addition recovery would come many years later.) All they knew was that once they had been victims of alcohol (slaves really), but now they were free (though each new day was a challenge). What Bill W. and Dr. Bob tried to do was to start groups that would help others to stop drinking. Eventually Bill Wilson put down in writing how they (and others they knew) were able to overcome alcoholism, and thus the Twelve Steps came into being.
The rehabilitation process in AA is based on the Twelve Steps. It is this same Twelve Step program that is also being used today in groups such as Overeaters Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous (as well as in less organized programs of recovery dealing with scores of addictive issues).
Most of these programs are self-consciously secular in their orientation (since they want to remain open to all people regardless of religion). Nevertheless – and this is the thesis of this study subject – at its heart the Twelve Step program is profoundly spiritual. It is based directly on the teaching of the New Testament. Each of the Twelve Steps has its origin in a basic biblical concept. In this study subject, the aim is to get behind some of the secular language of the Twelve Steps to these foundational biblical principles. These are not new or mysterious ideas. In fact, what the Twelve Steps do is define the essence of the Christian life: how to begin it and how to live it. When we know this, the Twelve Steps no longer seem strange and unfamiliar.