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Roger Watts, Ph.D.Roger P. Watts, Ph.D.
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The Revolution in Alcoholism Treatment

Roger P. Watts, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 20th 2012

Many years ago, two alcoholic men - Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith - met and changed the world.

colorful sunsetUntil that point, alcoholism was considered largely an untreatable disease with only three known outcomes…jails, institutions or death. But after these two men met and talked with each other about their common illness, the processes by which people came to understand alcoholism and address it changed radically. No longer would alcoholics be seen as merely weak-willed men and women. No longer would alcoholics be relegated to the insane asylums or jails simply because they could not be treated. And, no longer would people with the disease of alcoholism or other addictions be without hope to arrest the disease. When Bill W. and Dr. Bob sat and talked about their experiences, strengths, and hopes for the future, they gave hope to now millions of people.

What made the difference in the lives of these men, and the millions who followed them, was that they had restored principles and values to their lives through the practice of a simple daily program of recovery. They reasoned that when they drank they ended up giving away not only money to get the alcohol that would ruin their lives, but they also gave up their morals, values, and principles that governed their lives. The bartender or liquor store owner ended up owning them and their lives as these men indentured themselves to the alcohol: They became slaves to the alcohol and would do whatever the people who had alcohol told them to do. But, in recovery, this servitude ended. They were able to not drink when they were abstinent and they maintained their abstinence by practicing a few simple principles in their daily lives.

As Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) came to say later, people in recovery from addiction need to "practice these principles in all their affairs." What were these principles that the men had given up when drinking and were restored to them when they were sober? The first 100 men and women who stopped drinking through AA in those early years set down in writing the steps that they took to get and stay sober. They became known as the famous "12 Steps" of recovery. They reasoned that if they became enslaved to alcohol by gradually giving away all their values, morals, and principles, then they would need to recover those same values, morals, and principles in their lives in order to remain sober. So they listed out the principles they knew they needed to live by. They arrayed them in terms of the step-by-step process they went through to get them back into their lives, and wrote the language for the steps it took in a clear and direct way.

Here are the principles that they built back into their lives, one-by-one over time, and the steps they took to get them:

Honesty - 1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives were unmanageable.

Hope - 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

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

Courage - 4. Made a searching and fearless more inventory of ourselves.

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

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

Humility - 7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Love - 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed ands became willing to make amends to them all.

Justice - 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Discipline - 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Spirituality - 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Service - 12. Having has a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


Roger P. Watts, Ph.D.

Dr. Roger P. Watts, Ph.D., a psychologist and licensed alcohol and drug counselor, operates and currently provides substance abuse counseling to dozens of alcoholics and addicts. He has 23 years experience delivering health care to hundreds of patients through individual, group, and online counseling services. He has been in recovery himself for 24 years. He lives and works in Saint Paul MN, and can be reached at

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