(12) AA Promises: What They Are & Why They’re Essential (PDF Included)

AA Promises

AA Promises

The Twelve Promises

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.

  1. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
  2. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
  3. We will comprehend the word serenity.
  4. We will know peace.
  5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
  6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
  7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
  8. Self-seeking will slip away.
  9. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.
  10. Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us.
  11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
  12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

What Is Alcoholics Anonymous? – just in case you don’t know!

Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as “The AA Program,” is built upon the principles of 12-Steps. They are pitched in the Big Book as a “design for living that works.” 

What Are The Twelve Steps?

“A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”

How To Alcoholics Anonymous Start?

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in Akron, Ohio by a fully loaded alcoholic physician and a newly sober hanging-on for dear life stockbroker. 

They discovered that using the Oxford Group’s principles in conjunction with unfailing service to other alcoholics they were empowered to remain sober. 

What Were The Early AA Principles?

The “Four Absolutes” of the Oxford Group were considered “yardsticks” in the earliest days of the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program —standards for determining appropriate behavior as measured through God’s eyes. The Four Absolutes are Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love.

the four absolutes of aa

Additionally, per AA archivist Wallp P, the majority of Oxford Group followed the following steps:

  1. Surrender
  2. Sharing
  3. Restitution
  4. Guidance

It’s easy to see how these morphed into what would eventually be codified in the Big Book and formally known as The 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Since AA began, an army of other 12-step groups has formed to combat compulsive substance use and/or behaviors, including Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA), and Codependents Anonymous (CoDA).

My Interpretation of The 12 AA Promises

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. 

Not much commentary necessary for this one. Isn’t it obvious? 

Folks that start to exercise the AA Program in their lives – with sincerity of mind and heart – find that immense change has occurred before they even conclude all 12 Steps.

AA Promises

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. 

This promise acknowledges that the natural outflow of the 12-Steps is a radical change in perception. 

It’s not just freedom from addiction, it’s a lifestyle that is free from monumental self-absorption and relentless self-condemnation. 

We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. 

This promise exemplifies the revolutionary self-acceptance of the 12-step lifestyle. 

It’s a clean break with needing to control everything. Phew! Let something else manage the affairs of the world!

Most importantly, it’s the ability to learn from the past rather than be emotionally enslaved by it.

AA Promises

We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace. 

Addiction is characterized by constant internal and external chaos and turmoil. 

The AA Program promises rest from the madness; a rest most addicts have never known. 

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. 

In Alcoholics Anonymous we move from a position of self-seeking to contribution.

Note that it’s not just that our experience is useful to other recovering alcoholics. Actually, it’s extremely beneficial to those who have emotional problems in general. 

As can be imagined, this is all human beings! 

Therefore, this promise discloses that each person’s individuality is their gift from God and how they apply it is their gift to humanity.

AA Promises

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. 

In the dismal ghetto of addiction, the 12-Step process enables us to see the multilayered purpose, meaning, value, and direction in life.

AA Promises - nietzche quote

This is particularly true of the service-oriented nature of recovery. 

As the old saying goes, “we can only keep what we have by giving it away!”

AA Promises

We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. 

The 12-Steps move us from a position of self-centered fear to people-centered faith. 

To be frank, the more we focus on others the less our own little problems appear. It’s common sense – the less me, the fewer problems!

Self-seeking will slip away. 

Not sure if you’re picking up on the cascade of awesomeness that’s happening here, but it’s basic cause and effect. 

The broken tunnel vision of addiction shifts to the wide-angled lens of recovery. 

It’s amazing what can happen when you take away the “I” and plug in the “we.”

You’ll transition from illness to wellness.

AA Promises - what is wellness?

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. 

As can be imagined, a life saturated with wellness and void of illness sure as hell looks a lot different than active addiction.

A lifestyle informed by values has amongst other things a degree of predictability and security. Two attributes vaguely understood by the addict!

Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. 

Narcotics Anonymous has a pyramid symbol that is representative of the recovery process; it brilliantly demonstrates this promise. 

“The square base denotes Goodwill, the ground of both the Fellowship and the member of our society. Its the four pyramid sides which rise from this base in a three dimensional figure that are the Self, Society, Service and God. All rise to the point of Freedom.

“All Parts thus far are closely related to the needs and aims of the addict seeking recovery and the purpose of the Fellowship seeking to make recovery available to all. The greater the base, as we grow in unity, in number and in Fellowship, the broader the sides and the higher the point of freedom.”

The about sums it up!

We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. 

As we begin to operate from more resourceful states we can handle and adapt to a wide variety of situations. 

Emotional wellness is the ability to adapt and adjust to our conditions. No longer do we need drugs or alcohol to perform the task. Instead, the steps have made us psychologically flexible and emotionally adaptable. 

acceptance is the answer aa

We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. 

Undoubtedly, this one is difficult to explain, let alone understand. It’s instead something that is largely personal and experiential.

What’s a rose smell like?

It smells like a rose.

How do you know?

Because you’ve smelt it. 

So the best way to comment on this promise is by rereading the above promises – do you want these promises to come true? 

Allow a Higher Power to guide you and provide for you.

Go smell the roses!

AA Promises

The Rewards of 12-Step Recovery

The AA Promises are found on pages 83-84 of Chapter 6, “Into Action” in Alcoholics Anonymous, (also known as the “Big Book”) written by the first one hundred members. 

The 12 AA Promises are presented as a result of working Steps 1-9, which concludes with making amends and restoring damage caused by our addiction. 

However, you can identify additional promises in the Big Book attached to each step. For example:

The Promises of Each of the 12 Steps

AA Promises

Step One Promises

“The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s universe.” Page 25.

AA Promises

We, in our turn, sought the same escape with all the desperation of drowning men. What seemed at first a flimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God. A new life has been given us or, if you prefer, “a design for living” that really works.” Page 28

“Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered.” Page 29

“Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship, and so will you. You will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster together and you will commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey. Then you will know what it means to give of yourself that others may survive and rediscover life. You will learn the full meaning of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Page 152

Step Two Promises

“We found that as soon as we lay aside prejudice and expressed even a willingness to believe in a power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God.” Page 46.

“Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another’s conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with Him.” Page 46.

“As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built.” Page 47.

AA Promises

“With this attitude, you cannot fail. The consciousness of your belief is sure to come to you.” Page 55.

Step Three Promises

“When we sincerely took such a position, all sort of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing, we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt the new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.” Page 63.

AA Promises

Step Four Promises

“Just to the extent that we do what we think He would have of us and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.” Page 68.

“We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people.” Page 70.

AA Promises

Step Five Promises

“Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.” Page 75.

AA Promises

Step Ten Promises

“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically.” Page 84.

AA Promises

“We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.” Page 85.

AA Promises

Step Eleven Promises

“What used to be the hunch, or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.” Page 87.

AA Promises

Step Twelve Promises

“Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” Page 89.

AA Promises

“To watch people, recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.” Page 89.

“When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than anything we could have planned.” Page 100.

“Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful. You should not hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such an errand. Keep on the firing line of life with these motives and God will keep you unharmed.” Page 102.

The 9th step promises are read out loud at the end of AA meetings, usually before the closing prayer.

Interpreting the 12 Promises of AA…the ‘why’

One of my favorite sayings is “where there is vision there is provision.”

Or, as Stephen Covey’s habit states, “Begin with the end in mind.” 

AA Promises - covey quote

The AA Promises provide the inspiration and motivation to move into the uncharted waters of sobriety. 

It’s like going into a gym and seeing people all buff and in shape – they provide inspiration and motivation. Why? Because they demonstrate that if you do what they did you can have what they do!

The 12 Promises of AA are formally referred to (if you’re into technicalities) as the 9th Step Promises. 

The 9th Step is: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Effectively, the AA promises refer to shifts in attitude and perception such as:

  • Feelings of freedom and joy.
  • A richer and deeper perspective.
  • Renewed purpose or direction in life – a reframing.
  • New meaning of ones life – a different story.
  • Unconditional acceptance
  • Hope and faith.
  • Less fear and/or financial worry.
  • Redemption from past actions – leaning from mistakes and fortifying broken relationships

The Big Book mentions that the 12 Promises are “Being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.”

Some AA members report that they experience the promises early on, while others experience them gradually. They certainly are not linear.

Because everyone’s experience is unique, the 9th step promises can occur in different ways and at different times.

According to the AA Promises Big Book, the 12 Promises of AA “Materialize if we work for them.”

Through unfailing and sincere effort, the promises will express themselves in your life.

For your convenience is an AA Promises PDF, use at your discretion:




Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: a Brief History of AA 

Dr. Bob And The Good Oldtimers – A Biography with Recollections Of The Early A.A. In The Midwest

 Wilson, B. (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous (4th ed.). New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

AA.org. Information on Alcoholics Anonymous.

AA.org. What is A.A.?

AMA Journal of Ethics. (2016). Addiction, 12-Step Programs, and Evidentiary Standards for Ethically and Clinically Sound Treatment Recommendations: What Should Clinicians Do?