The Unwritten Twelve Steps

Orrin Onken
2 min readOct 18, 2023

Written rules can be waived or amended. The unwritten ones are enforced to the letter.

AI Art. Prompt by Autor

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are what the initial members did to get and remain sober. They are suggestions. The Unwritten Twelve Steps are what modern members must do to feel fully a part of their twelve-step group. They are mandatory.

To know in your heart you are a member of your AA home group, you must at some point,

  1. Be convinced that everybody in the meeting is talking about you.
  2. Be bubbling with things to say and forget every one of them when called upon.
  3. Spill a full cup of coffee during a meeting.
  4. Despite being reminded three times, have your phone ring in the middle of a meeting.
  5. Make a last-minute stop at a supermarket so you don’t show up empty-handed at the group potluck.
  6. Quote the Big Book and get it wrong.
  7. Develop such a powerful resentment against someone in your home group you can barely tolerate being in the same room with them.
  8. Do or say something so objectionable that you have to make amends to the group.
  9. Conclude that the members of your home group are all morons.
  10. Conclude that your sponsor is a moron.
  11. Chair a meeting and forget the names of everyone in the room.
  12. Learn that something you said — but don’t remember saying — kept another person sober that day.



Orrin Onken

I am a retired elder law attorney who lives near Portland, Oregon. I write legal mysteries for Salish Ponds Press and articles about being old.