A Humanist Alternative to A.A.’s Twelve Steps

A human centered approach to conquering alcoholism

by B.F. Skinner

Several people have told me that they turned to Alcoholics Anonymous for help but have been offended by its heavily religious character. In view of this, I have proposed a humanistic alternative to A.A.’s “The Twelve Steps.” I sent this version to Alcoholics Anonymous, suggesting that they offer it as an alternative for nonreligious members. I was not suggesting that they abandon their own twelve steps. I was told, however, that it would be impossible to change their practices without a majority vote of all Alcoholics Anonymous and was assured that many atheists and agnostics have found the original twelve steps helpful. Humanist counselors may, nevertheless, find an alternative version useful. Below suggested alternative “The Twelve Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous:

THE HUMANIST ALTERNATIVE

1. We accept the fact that all our efforts to stop drinking have failed.
2. We believe that we must turn elsewhere for help.
3. We turn to our fellow men and women, particularly those who have struggled with the same problem.
4. We have made a list of the situations in which we are most likely to drink.
5. We ask our friends to help us avoid these situations.
6. We are ready to accept the help they give us.
7. We earnestly hope that they will help.
8. We have made a list of the persons we have harmed and to whom we hope to make amends.
9. We shall do all we can to make amends, in any way that will not cause further harm.
10. We will continue to make such lists and revise them as needed.
11. We appreciate what our friends have done and are doing to help us.
12. We, in turn, are ready to help others who may come to us in the same way.

B.F. Skinner, 1972 Humanist of the Year, continues his research and writing at Harvard University.

(Source: The Humanist, July/August, 1987)