Humanist Alternative to A.A.’s Twelve Steps
A human centered
approach to conquering alcoholism
By R.B. Skinner
Several 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
THE TWELVE STEPS
- 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 of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our
- 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.
THE HUMANIST ALTERNATIVE
- We accept the fact that all our
efforts to stop drinking have failed.
- 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
- We are ready to accept the help they
- We earnestly hope that they will
- 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 help us.
- We, in turn, are ready to help
others who may come to us in the same way.
B.F. Skinner, 1972
Humanist of the Year, continues his research and writing at Harvard University
Humanist©, July/August, 1987
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