Spirituality and the 12 Step Programme

John Waites

Visiting Lecturer, University of Portsmouth, and Chairman, Water Margin Restaurant Group

10 August 2016

Could you think of any example where a 12-step spiritual practice can actually help conquer one’s deepest fears and addiction, thereby turning one’s life around?

A “twelve-step program” is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for tackling problems including alcoholism, drug addiction, and compulsion. Originally proposed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a method of recovery from alcoholism, the original Twelve Steps were first published in the 1939 book Alcoholics Anonymous. Often referred to as the “Big Book”, Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold 30 million copies. The method was adapted and became the foundation of other twelve-step programmes.

In this paper, John Waites aims to bring arguably one of the most important books ever written to the attention of more readers; explain that the 12 step programme is predominantly a spiritual programme, not a willpower programme; and draw upon some beautifully written parts of the Big Book, still unknown to most. It is an unbalanced book, a curate’s egg. The first 60 pages took years to write and rewrite, whilst the next hundred pages were written in a month, to meet a print deadline. Here is a summary of this gem of a practical philosophy model that actually works, helping thousands of people with addictions and other problems turn their life around.