It is challenging for most people to admit to substance problems. Some people go through life denying to everyone, even themselves, that their alcohol dependence is debilitating. It’s unfortunate that while addiction recovery is an uphill climb and can scare people off, it is equally intimidating to ask for help in overcoming it.
However, committing to recovery means recognizing that some things are impossible to do alone, which is why groups like Alcoholics Anonymous exist. In AA, people encounter 12 promises which act as mile markers to help them take things one day at a time. These affirmations are part of the organization’s 12-step program for people recovering from substance abuse, and everyone who undergoes the program must learn them.
What Are the AA Promises?
The promises remind program participants that things get better, especially with forward movement. However, each promise also works as a small reminder of the benefits of committing to the process. Reflecting on each will help the participant internalize the things he or she must do. Here are the 12 promises and what they represent for recovering persons.
Number One: We Are Going to Know New Freedom and a New Happiness
Promise Number One sets the stage by laying a vision in front of the participant. It is the first one because it sets expectations and assures followers that the process works. Since a participant might have sought alcohol to experience a sense of freedom or happiness, Promise One asserts that the 12 Steps will provide those feelings, in addition to the relief that comes with being free from alcohol dependence.
Number Two: We Will Not Regret the Past, Nor Wish to Shut the Door on It
Someone in the program will have inevitably encountered difficulties because of substance abuse and might want to forget them. However, AA teaches the opposite; a participant should learn from all their experiences, whether good or bad. The program reminds people that all their choices have shaped them into the people they are, which they should honor every day.
Numbers Three and Four: We Will Comprehend the Word Serenity; We Will Know Peace
The next two AA Promises are related. First comes understanding—to embody a trait, a person needs to have a cognitive grasp of it. Serenity, characterized by clear thinking, is possible for people who make an effort to create a peaceful mental state. Then comes confidence. If you know what something looks and feels like, and if you have given yourself time and space to understand a concept, you will know how to achieve it.
Number Five: No Matter How Far Down the Scale We Have Gone, We Will See How Our Experience Can Benefit Others
Often, people caught in the storm of addiction alternate between feelings of denial and self-pity. However, AA’s fifth promise asserts that everyone is useful and worthy. All experiences deserve remembering, and everyone has something to offer other people. Those who had been far “down the scale” have valuable insights into perseverance and resilience.
Number Six: That Feeling of Uselessness and Self-Pity Will Disappear
Eventually, people who accept the fifth promise will graduate into recognizing the sixth in their life. When you see your experiences as worthy and important, and if you know that they can benefit others, you will stop feeling useless. Since self-pity is one of the main reasons people start drinking, this change serves as a turning point and helps people strengthen their commitment to sobriety.
Number Seven: We Will Lose Interest in Selfish Things and Gain Interest in Our Fellows
Selfishness is inherent in addiction. A person who cannot stay sober feels their pain intensely, so much so that they will do whatever they can to avoid it. This avoidance extends to pushing away family and friends, work or school, and other things that used to make them happy.
Sobriety helps a person refocus and shift their perspective. They have a view of the bigger picture and can see beyond their struggles. When they don’t have alcohol to rely on as a crutch, people start seeing others and recognizing that they have needs and wants.
Number Eight: Self-Seeking Will Slip Away
Promise eight is a natural extension of promise seven. Once you start becoming interested in other people, you see yourself in relation to them more clearly. When we realize our place in the larger scheme of things, it becomes easier to drop selfish habits that uplift only one person.
Number Nine: Our Whole Attitude and Outlook Upon Life Will Change
Once you dedicate yourself to staying sober, it will influence other parts of your life. The healthy outlook and attitude you develop about your experiences will show in how you regard others. A person who has found fulfillment at this stage will be rebuilding their self-concept, which means getting to know new people, rebuilding relationships, finding a way to support themselves financially, and even finding romantic love.
Number Ten: Fear of People and Economic Insecurity Will Leave Us
Sober people are more capable of handling responsibility. A person on the path to addiction recovery wants accountability for himself. He does not worry about hiding his actions, is more truthful and reliable, and can handle a range of interactions. As such, they are more confident in their capabilities, allowing them to hold a job and manage their finances.
Number Eleven: We Will Intuitively Know How to Handle Situations Which Used to Baffle Us
The eleventh promise is a fulfillment, a return to yourself. When a person stops conflating his personality with his addiction, he can start trusting his instincts again. Things that used to be too much to handle become mere hiccups or setbacks, and he will realize that he is more than his internal monologue.
Number Twelve: We Will Suddenly Realize That God Is Doing for Us What We Could Not Do for Ourselves
In AA, “God” does not refer to the Judeo-Christian deity. Instead, it can mean any higher power, whether it is a deity, the universe’s divinity, or the program itself. The program’s last promise states that going through the program means working on things you can address and surrendering those outside your sphere of influence.
The Importance of AA’s 12 Promises
Sobriety has its highs and lows. There will be moments of triumph on the road to addiction recovery, but there will also be setbacks. The 12 promises of AA aim to remind program participants that they have so much to look forward to and that everything they’re doing will help them reach those things. The promises realign people’s view, giving them something to hang onto when the process becomes emotionally and psychologically draining.
Most importantly, the 12 promises allow people to love and forgive themselves. It is a journey through affirmations that remind people of their inherent dignity as a person, someone separate from his drives and desires.
The 12 promises of Alcoholics Anonymous are part of the organization’s 12-step recovery program. Since sobriety is a process, there is no deadline for it; you can take as much or as little time as you need to go through all the steps. What matters is willingness and honesty, as well as a commitment to personal accountability.