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Using 12-Step Books to Deepen Your Recovery

12-Step books are an essential part of recovery, whether you’re in AA or another group. All 12-step books are based on the guidelines that made AA a success in the first place. There are 12 steps to help an alcoholic stay sober, and 12 traditions that help groups manage themselves honestly and spiritually.

For most newcomers, guidance on the steps is the most critical part of the literature. The personal stories in the book also show people how their experiences and emotions are not-so-unique. Addiction to anything can cause a spiral, and many people are left feeling hopeless and trapped by it. Yet in books based on the 12-steps, you can read the experiences of others. Their stories illustrate how they managed to find a way out of their misery and on the path to recovery and serenity.

The Big Book of AA

The first 12-step literature published was written by Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The “Big Book” is often referred to as the “AA Bible”, although it is not a moralizing work. The book itself is meant to inspire and instruct how to get sober. It’s not meant to be an explanation of “fixing yourself” or achieving perfect recovery. Instead, it shows what other people did to get and stay sober, and how it helped them in their recovery journey.

In the foreword to the first edition of the Big Book, according to the AA Grapevine Newsletter, Bill W. stated that the main purpose of the book was to "show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered." Using that term, “recovered,” however, didn’t mean that people could drink again successfully once they’d been sober and completed the 12 steps. Instead, it meant that they had recovered an ability to live their own lives and share their own stories with newcomers. Once a person has reclaimed their life, they are duty-bound to continue working on themselves and also help others who are lost find their way.

While the first edition of the Big Book had the collective experience of around 100 people who got sober through the 12 Steps, it has grown over the years. The Big Book can give you inspiration and guidance throughout your 12-step journey. Whether you’re learning the steps or reading the stories, there is plenty of education about the disease of addiction between the covers.

The Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous has a similar structure, focusing instead on addiction to any kind of drug or substance. Every group based on the 12-steps focuses on the same principles: If you’re addicted, and want to find your way out of a hopeless spiral, you must admit you are powerless and take the 12 steps to begin a new way of life.

Using Books in Your Recovery Journey

Books are an important tool for people in recovery. They help remind you where you’ve been and show the way to get there. You may have a sponsor who assigns you passages to read during certain times in your life, or you may need the guidance of the book when you are working your steps. You can also explore 12-step literature on your own, especially when you are feeling down.

AA and NA also have pamphlets that talk about specific situations you may face, such as an upcoming surgery where you might take narcotics, or if you are young and feel like you may not belong. You can find these booklets at meetings or online.

Many people also like to find daily meditation books that are recovery-focused to start their day. If you meditate, consider starting your day with a reading and reflecting on its central point. Hazeldon is a great publisher to check out.

If you’re not into books, consider exploring or subscribing to a daily blog on 12-step topics. Reading somebody else’s struggles and experiences can help you get through your own.

There are also 12-step meetings that focus mainly on the literature – such as a step every week or a pamphlet every week. Consider adding one of these to your weekly schedule.

Sober Living and Recovery Life

A lot of people find that a sober living household helps them stay focused on their recovery. Being around others in recovery and talking about your struggles, experience, and strength can help you forge bonds that last for life. If you’re looking for a landing place after treatment, consider joining a sober home. Contact us at 760-216-2077 to learn more.



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Mark Gladden
CEO / Founder
Mark Gladden is the founder of By The Sea Recovery, a sober living facility located in beautiful San Diego, California. After struggling with addiction, Mark finally found recovery and a new purpose in life, to help others who are battling the same battle he faced.
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