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A Humanist Alternative to A.A.’s Twelve Steps
human centered approach to conquering alcoholism
people have told me that they turned to Alcoholics Anonymous
for help but have been offended by its heavily religious
character. In view of this, I have proposed a humanistic
alternative to A.A.’s “The Twelve Steps.”
I sent this version to Alcoholics Anonymous, suggesting
that they offer it as an alternative for nonreligious members.
I was not suggesting that they abandon their own twelve
steps. I was told, however, that it would be impossible
to change their practices without a majority vote of all
Alcoholics Anonymous and was assured that many atheists
and agnostics have found the original twelve steps helpful.
Humanist counselors may, nevertheless, find an alternative
version useful. Below are listed both “The Twelve
Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous and my suggested alternative:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol… that our
lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could
restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the
care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being
the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing
to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except
when to do so would injure then or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong
promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious
contact with God as we under-stood Him, praying only for
knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that
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.
We accept the fact that all our efforts to stop drinking
We believe that we must turn elsewhere for help.
We turn to our fellow men and women, particularly those
who have struggled with the same problem.
We have made a list of the situations in which we are most
likely to drink.
We ask our friends to help us avoid these situations.
We are ready to accept the help they give us.
We earnestly hope that they will help.
We have made a list of the persons we have harmed and to
whom we hope to make amends.
We shall do all we can to make amends, in any way that will
not cause further harm.
We will continue to make such lists and revise them as needed.
We appreciate what our friends have done and are doing to
We, in turn, are ready to help others who may come to us
in the same way.
Skinner, 1972 Humanist of the Year, continues his research
and writing at Harvard University.
The Humanist, July/August, 1987)