The Controversy about the Twelve Steps

The Controversy about the Twelve Steps

I am a recovering alcoholic. The 12 steps saved my life. I haven’t had a drink in over 5-1/2 years at the time of this writing. I found out that there is some controversy about the 12 steps, so I looked into it. If you want to hear the entire scuttlebutt, just search for “the orange papers” in your favorite search engine. I am deliberately not going to place a link to their site on this one.

The twelve steps are under fire. The major complaints are from secular people. The ways of God are foolishness to the unbeliever. No amount of explaining will convince them. Here are a few of the complaints and my answers:

  • They complain that the first step makes a person feel powerless. This is patently absurd. In my experience (I and every alcoholic and addict that I know) were powerless while under the substance’s spell. Think about this: If we were not powerless, there would be no addiction, right? We’d simply quit!
    Anyhow, through the 12 steps, I was later empowered by God.
  • They complain that our dependance upon God is a bad thing. However, mankind was not created to be autonomous. We are finite beings with finite understanding. Autonomy – trying to live without God’s guidance – is what got us into this mess in the first place in the garden of Eden
  • In step five you admit the exact nature of your wrongs. But the mockers – the enemies of AA – complain about “confession”. Confession is an important part of a Christian walk. Without it, you carry the burden of guilt with you. Even secular psychologists know the value of confession. One author says that “Confession is located in that place where psychology and religion meet–guilt.” [1] Besides, step five is not confession, anyhow. It is trying to get to the bottom of the nature of our wrongs so we can begin to correct them.
  • Then to top it all off, they accuse us of “channeling” God. Step 11 says we seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand him. Where do they get “channeling”? The detractors of AA do not have a leg to stand on. When a person accepts Christ as their savior, the Holy Spirit quickens your spirit, and moves in with you. If you want to call that channeling, so be it.

References/ Further reading

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (Click here for a PDF)


1 The value of confession and forgiveness according to Jung
(See for quick reference)
Journal of Religion and Health
Publisher Springer Netherlands
ISSN 0022-4197 (Print) 1573-6571 (Online)
Issue Volume 24, Number 1 / March, 1985
DOI 10.1007/BF01533258
Pages 39-48
Subject Collection Behavioral Science
SpringerLink Date Saturday, April 23, 2005

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