The Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program is a general set of principles designed to help substance abusers abstain from the use of alcohol. Narcotics Anonymous and other groups later adopted the same principles.
Members of Alcoholics Anonymous are encouraged to participate in the 12-step program, but are not required to do so. The early steps of the program require the participant to admit that they are powerless over alcohol and to find and declare some form of religious belief. One of the key central steps is making a list of all the people that the participant has wronged, and attempting to apologize or make amends where possible. Prayer to a higher power is encouraged throughout the process. New members in 12-step programs often take on sponsors to offer emotional and moral support during their recovery.
Alcoholics Anonymous often refers to these steps as the Twelve Traditions. AA has used the steps since its inception in the 1930s. Members are encouraged to preserve the confidentiality and anonymity of other members in the group, but there are no specific laws preventing disclosure of the content of group meetings.
The 12-step program sometimes draws criticism chiefly for its insistence that a participant declares a religious belief.