What are the Twelve Principles?

For each of the Twelve Steps, Dr. Carnes has applied a Principle in which to live the values behind The Steps. In addition, he divided the list of Twelve Principles into three categories: Awareness, Action and Core. Here is a chart to act as a guide through understanding model used in developing the Twelve Principles.

Twelve Principles and Related Focus Questions

Principle Focus Question
Principle One Acceptance What are my limits?
Principle Two Awareness How do I know what is real?
Principle Three Spirituality Am I loveable to God and others?
Principle Four Responsibility Who am I?
Principle Five Openness How do I trust?
Principle Six Honesty What must improve?
Principle Seven Courage What risks must I take?
Principle Eight Commitment How am I responsible?
Principle Nine Responsiveness What is integrity?
Principle Ten Trust How do I live without outcome?
Principle Eleven Meaning What is the purpose of my life?
Principle Twelve Generativity How do I pass it on?

For a more in depth description to each category and principle, go to https://thetwelveprinciples.com/principles-of-the-principles.

Where do I go to find The Twelve Principles Online Recovery Program?

A daily email will be sent to you providing a summary of the curriculum for the day and the links to find the work. The actual Twelve Principles Online Recovery Program is found on the website (www.thetwelveprinciples.com). In the website, you will click on a tab called “Curriculum”. From there you will be required to set up a user login and password. All of your daily materials can be found here. Additional links will move you into podcasts, websites, articles, graphics, etc.

These materials were created to provide a comprehensive, broad guide for recovery—to help you maintain consistency in your Twelve Step program, learn how to dialogue with yourself about past and present events, and become aware of how the five focused domains of life (work, money, intimacy, sex, and lifestyle) are intertwined and an integral part of your healing. Utilizing the website will help facilitate a personal change or paradigm shift as we explore the rules, beliefs, and processes through which we perceive things. This process also helps move you through a daily commitment and focus toward working, living, and breathing the Twelve Principles. In addition, each day is designed to flow seamlessly as you work this program individually, or in a group format either in person or online.

Pat Conroy stated, “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” It is our hope that as you access and truly utilize all this site has to offer that you will travel an amazing journey of deep transformation within and between you and others which will be played out over and over in your life.

What is required of me?

Just as in the Twelve Step program, the Twelve Principle program requires a daily commitment to change. As you progress through this program, you will be offered an opportunity to learn more about a specific Principle by reading books, articles, short stories, and poetry; some materials are delivered per quarter and some will be delivered per daily emails. Each day, you will receive morning and evening meditation readings, along with exercises and activities designed to help change the neuropathways in your brain. This is done through writing, journaling, drawing, or listening. Some of the exercises will include graphics that you can download and print. Another way to promote a neurological change in our brain is by working through activities that use our five senses—sight, touch, hear, taste, and smell. To delve deeper in the sciences, you will be directed to websites, podcasts, articles, and addiction readings that provide details on how recovery work helps the brain to heal.

What can I expect?

Each Principle will be discussed over ninety days, or twelve weeks, and on each of those ninety days an email will be sent to you with readings and instructions for the work that particular day. The twelve weeks will be systematically divided as follows:

Week 1: Introduction to the Principle of that quarter
Weeks 2–3: Focus on the domain of Sex
Weeks 4–5: Focus on the domain of Money
Weeks 6–7: Focus on the domain of Work
Weeks 8–9: Focus on the domain of Intimacy
Weeks 10–11: Focus on the domain of Lifestyle
Week 12: Summarization of the current quarter and introduction to the next

At the beginning of each week, you will be given an overview of the week ahead, along with goals for the week.
You will be provided a list of books for recommended and suggested reading.

Does it cost to join The Twelve Principles’ Online Recovery Program?

There are no financial obligations to join the Twelve Principles’ Online Recovery Program. The only cost to you will be time…time to read, to meditate, to write, to reflect and to work through exercises and activities.

However, in addition to Dr. Carnes’ vision that this website process be built for intense study of recovery and the principles, he also hoped that it would be used to raise funds for AFAR (although the site is to be free but those who wish to donate can). Plus there would be a dedicated community of recovering people who wish to help make things better for everyone. The more people understand how it works and get involved, the more we can help public policy, science, and the culture impact the enormous addiction problems we face. The other goal is to collect the best writing on issues related to the Principles and organize it in a systematic way. That way you do not have to wait ten years to read something in your recovery that would have really been useful to find in your second year. Creating this curriculum is an ambitious challenge. Out of it has come this Twelve Principles Program.

In summary, Dr. Carnes’ goals for The Twelve Principles Online Recovery Program are:

  1. Expand your knowledge of the Twelve Steps and the Spirit of Recovery
  2. Create a platform that houses materials which can be used to enhance your personal recovery program by living the values of the Twelve Steps.
  3. To provide an opportunity to support AFAR (American Foundation for Addiction Research). All of the work for building the Twelve Principles Program, its related website and emails plus the staff to keep it running comes from the generous donations to AFAR. If you find that you are able to give back through financial support to the program, please go to https://thetwelveprinciples.com/support-us.

NOTE: In the beginning, please consider a small donation of $30 per month for the Twelve Principles Online Recovery Program: only $1.00 per day. This one dollar will support the cost involved with the maintenance and implementation of the daily curriculum delivered to your personal and approved email account. In addition, throughout the Twelve Principles program some materials will have a reference of making a “small suggested donation”.

The Twelve Principles Online Recovery Program is FREE, You are under no obligations to donate; this is for a suggested (and very much appreciated) donation.

What do I need before starting?

You will need:
  • Access to a computer and printer
  • A preferred email address for the Twelve Principles Program
  • A login name and password for your secured entry into the daily work
  • A journal and pen
  • Artist pad
  • Colored pencils or pens

What is the purpose of the reading materials?

As an integral part of the Twelve Principles’ curriculum, Dr. Carnes has developed a reading program that is designed to promote and educate you throughout the course. The books and articles are meant as reading for pleasure, for inspiration, for knowledge and encouragement. But in order for you to receive the full benefits of the Twelve Principles Recovery Program, some of the readings will be mandatory throughout this course.

Each quarter will be focused on one principle. Each Principle will have its own list of required readings, recommended readings and additional (or suggested) readings for the specific focus of each quarter. Each day you will receive something to supplement what you find in the principles book. In addition, there is a directed reading program which interacts with your daily package. The readings will all relate to the Principle being studied. We recommend that you select from the list presented. Some of which you may have already read but you may wish to reread. Some books on the master list are worthy of reading again at different times in your life and some books and articles are so rich they can be used as part of your meditation process. Others are worth reading simply for their knowledge. We recommend certain recovery classics which are important to know about. Read a chapter or a few pages or even paragraphs depending how the work strikes you.

Every quarter we recommend a book on the brain because addiction and codependency are problems of the brain. These are not technical books but really informative about how to transform our brains. Our brain replaces all their cells every two years and your reading can impact how it improves. Our brain also gets better with age and it is important to understand that. Early in the Gentle Path Through the Twelve Principles book Dr. Carnes describes why the Twelve Steps work so well from the point of view of science. Every health problem requires that we become good consumers of health information. Recovering people need to understand what happens when our brains go awry and how we improve that.

In addition, sometimes the readings will involve articles or selected reading out of an author’s work because it so effectively captures the Principle for that quarter. Also there are books that relate to specific issues such as sexuality, money, or work. The point of the program is to make recovery and the Principles a focus. When we bring that focus to our groups we all become better. When we implement them in our lives we lead the way to help our culture respond to addiction and its ripple effect through our families and lives. Bottom line – we structure it so every day you are learning.

Why read Big Books from a Twelve Step fellowship other than my own?

Dr. Carnes uses the story of Thomas Einstein’s early graduate students. After the first year of school, Einstein’s final exam was a challenge. At the end of the second year, his students were surprised to see that the exam contained the same questions. Einstein’s response was to observe, “Of course. The questions are always the same. It is your answers that have to be better.” The steps always present the same question. And our answers need to be better.

Dr. Carnes believes all the twelve step fellowships can teach each other. They are also responding to the same questions. Thus those in codependency recovery (CODA) can learn from the Debtors Anonymous (DA) groups about “vagueness” or pressure groups. And the DA people can learn about managing sadness. The greatest irony is that with time we find ourselves attending more than one kind of meeting. The jest here is that if “we went to all the meetings we qualify for we wouldn’t have a life”. By using the perspective of principles the knowledge that can be shared by all can be distilled and made better – especially with everyone contributing.

In addition, you are encouraged to read other books that you feel will expand your knowledge how the original Twelve Steps have been adapted to become applicable to the various Twelve Steps programs such as support groups that specifically beneficial to the reader. Through are hundreds of these types of books to choose from but require you searching and exploring what fits for you. Some examples include organized religions and spiritual practices, genders, specific addictions, cultures, etc.

Let’s use the first quarter as an example. We highly encourage you to read as many “Big Books” as you wish. If, for example, you are not a member of AA, and have not read the book that started it all, it is a very useful exercise. If you are a sex addict and attend SAA, but have not read the core texts of Sexaholics Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts you will find it very useful. Probably everyone would find the Big Books from CODA, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and Alanon expanding. Currency of Hope (Debtors Anonymous) is well written, insightful and fit two of the categories we concentrate on, money and work. If it is on the list it is worth it. We could go on for pages and hopefully eventually will about the contributions of each fellowship.

We have also the biographies of Bill W. and Lois W. which provide incredible perspective on how this all started. We highly recommend Dark Night of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way through Life’s Ordeals, by Thomas Moore as a focus book and The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, by Norman Doidge as your quarterly book on the brain. We also highlight some of the resources from the next quarter so you can maximize your selection.

Your challenge will be to organize your reading and your work to fit your life rhythms. It will consume time but the dividends are huge and long lasting. Take it in bite size pieces. Create regular times and rituals to do your work. Learning how to do focus work is first intentionally integrating into your life and making it a priority. In that sense it is like exercise and other health habits. One way to keep the motivation in front of you is to read carefully the neuroscience introduction of the principles book. Take the long view. At three books or more a quarter plus articles and readings, consider what you will have accomplished in three years and how you will have deepened your recovery.