Studying the 12 Steps

What is it you want to study?

There are many ways to study the Twelve Steps.

One is to memorize their language. Another is to note that the “published” 12 Steps are not themselves the “steps we took.” Hence, you can and should study the instructions as to “how” to take the Steps; and only when you have followed the instructions successfully, can you say that you have “taken” a Step-i.e. made an inventory, made amends.

Another study possibility is to look at the varied ways in which they Steps were written before they were finally published. Another is to explore the myth of the so-called “six steps”-which actually were nothing more than Bill Wilson’s description of the “word-of-mouth” ideas he claimed were being used prior to publication of the Big Book-whereas there actually were many ways in which these six “ideas” were expressed, and yet no evidence that they formed any part of the Original Akron program.

Another is to look at the language of the Steps in the early drafts at Stepping Stones and GSO, and see how these differed from the language which ultimately came under consideration. And then there’s a way to study the great compromise Bill and three other people-Ruth Hock, Fitz Mayo, and Hank Parkhurst-adopted in order to appease atheists and agnostics, and did so only as the Big Book was going to the printer.

Then there is the study of how the 12 Steps compare with the basic ideas which came from the Bible, as Dr. Bob stated they did. Thus, where–among the Steps-can you find traces of the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13? Also, as some groups try to look at the Steps, is there a Bible verse that matches every Step? Or, as others do, must you substitute the words “higher power” or “Jesus Christ” in the Steps because you think that best represents the Steps as you understand them or as others ought to understand them?

Or, do you want to know the various sources which really contributed to the language and instructions for the Steps as found in the Big Book? If so, you won’t find them in the Big Book or the Steps. You need some study!

Or, have you attained the point in sobriety and recovery, where your mind is on its way back, and where you are able to look at facts, history, and resources, and gain a better understanding of what Twelve Step programs are really about, how they vary, why they vary, and in what way they may have elements in common.

For Those Who Plan to Learn for Themselves and Only Then Teach the Facts

There are at least sixteen different sources of the ideas in the Big Book and in the Steps. See Dick B. and Ken B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Bible as a Youngster in Vermont.

Here are some of those sources, and there is resource material to help you research, study, and understand each: (1) The Bible. (2) Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. (3) Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939. (4) Quiet Time. (5) the YMCA. (6) Salvation Army. (7) Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. (8) Rescue Missions. (9) Conversion. (10). Oxford Group. (11) Evangelists and revivalists. (12) William D. Silkworth, M.D. (13) Professor William James. (14) Dr. Carl Jung. (15) “New Thought” writings such as those of Ralph Waldo Trine and Emmet Fox. (16) Personal experience of the founders.

To help you look at each step and learn the varied sources from which Bill Wilson drew the language, you can profitably study: (1) Dick B., By the Power of God. (2) Dick B., Twelve Steps for You. (3) Dick B., The Good Book and The Big Book. (4) The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials ( And to see precise parallels between the teachings of Rev. Samuel Shoemaker, Jr. and the language Bill Wilson used, see Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. , 2d ed. (

Add to these thoroughly researched studies, one or two secular studies by AAs such as those by Joe and Charlie. Be aware of the date when they were written and how much has been discovered since that date. Look to see if the secular study accurately and fully takes into account the varied sources. Endeavor to see to what extent the Big Book itself actually instructs you as to “how” to take each of the Steps. Keep in mind that the Big Book language was never more than suggestive-suggestive, only. As the Big Book points out: Each person in the personal stories tells in his own language and from his own point of view how he established his relationship with God. And then was able to join others in the conclusion at the end of the Step language that “God could and would if He were sought.”