God's work through 12-step programs should be lauded

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: I am Catholic but I read your column every week. Why don't you do a column on how 12-step programs, particularly Alcoholics Anonymous, have benefited both Christians and Jews? -- From C

A: I admire and respect 12-step programs as the most effective rehabilitation programs for substance abuse (and gambling addiction). I think one of their secrets is to create communities of healing and personal sponsors for healing. Most of our big problems cannot be solved alone.

I also use 12-step programs as one of my favorite proofs for the existence of God. Alcoholics Anonymous, the oldest of the 12-step programs, was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, one a stock broker and the other a surgeon. Neither one of them was clergy nor professionally religious, but both recognized the therapeutic value of faith. If those seeking healing turned to God not just because God is real but mainly because faith in God works, we can see why every culture is built on some form of religious belief.

These are the 12 steps of AA:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.


3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.


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