What Are the AA Principles?

The Role Of Alcoholics Anonymous In Recovery

We are exploring the origins of the AA principles, therefore, we need to start at the beginning. For most of human history, addiction to alcohol was seen as a moral failure. Those who could not control their pattern of drinking were labeled as “drunkards.” It was common for such people to be criminally or socially punished for their behavior. In the 20th century, people began to look at addiction in a more compassionate light. In 1935, Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith founded a social support group for those living with alcohol addiction. They named the group Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA.  The group was formed around a core set of 12 steps for its members to work through. AA is also built around 12 AA principles for the group and it’s members to live by. We will answer some common questions about AA, including:

  • How does AA work?
  • What are the 12 steps and 12 AA principles?
  • Does AA replace treatment?

How Does AA Work?

Group Structure

AA was formed as a social support network for those with alcoholism (today known as alcohol use disorder, or AUD.) Support groups meet at various times and locations throughout a local area. There are two different types of groups: open and closed groups. Open groups welcome new or visiting attendees to their meetings. These groups generally serve as an on-ramp for newcomers. In a closed group, the same individuals may meet together for a period of time.


In addition to group meetings, AA offers an informal mentorship program called sponsorship. A Sponsor is someone who has been active in the program and use-free for at least one year. Attendees seeking a sponsor must ask someone to sponsor them, and either party can end the relationship at any time. A sponsor’s role is to answer questions and help the newcomer feel at home in the group. Sponsors can also make recommendations and provide advice. However, it is not the sponsor’s role to try to “fix” any issues the sponsee may be facing.

Offshoot Groups

As the popularity of AA has grown, offshoot organizations have been formed for other addictions. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) was formed to offer support to those living with illicit drug use. A-Anon focuses on support for families of those with AUD. Al-Ateen exists specifically for children of those living with AUD.

What Are The 12 Steps And 12 AA Principles?

AA programs are guided by the “12 Principles.” These AA principles were written as a sort of moral guide for the life of an AA member. They are:

  • Honesty
  • Hope
  • Faith
  • Courage
  • Integrity
  • Willingness
  • Humility
  • Love
  • Discipline
  • Patience
  • Awareness
  • Service

The “12 Steps” are the process AA groups follow to maintain sobriety long term. The three key ideas behind the steps are:

  • Acceptance – the understanding that addiction is a chronic issue that is never entirely healed
  • Surrender – trust in a higher power and the continued work of recovery to maintain sobriety
  • Active group involvement – both to continue the work of recovery and to serve others

Does AA Replace Treatment?

AA was created before drug and alcohol treatment as we know it today existed. Since that time, the medical community has recognized alcohol/substance addiction as a treatable condition. Medications exist to help patients recover, and therapy has been shown to help patients develop coping mechanisms. In more recent years, some have questioned if AA and similar groups still have a place.

Most experts agree that AA and treatment work together to help patients live in sobriety. We know that once AUD has advanced and patients benefit from a medically supervised detox and treatment program. Simply put, only a qualified treatment center can offer physical and mental health treatment for addiction. Depending on the substance, patients may need medication to help the body physically adjust. Moreover, therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help patients identify their triggers and learn coping strategies. These treatments naturally require medical and mental health experts to administer.

It’s important to note that AA is a useful tool in helping patients reintegrate into normal life. 12 step programs offer an ongoing support community that stays with the patient long after treatment has ended. The 12 AA Principles help keep the group as a whole on track with it’s mission. Many patients find joy in building relationships with others on the recovery journey. Often, they even gain a new sense of purpose by serving inside and outside of their group. That’s why programs like ours utilize 12 step programs as part of a holistic wellness plan for our patients.

Harmony Health Group Can Help

If you or a loved one is currently living with addiction, contact us today! Addiction is a medical condition, not a moral failure. You are not at fault, and we will help you get your life back without judgement. We accept most major insurance plans, and will answer any questions you may have about our process.