Twelve Steps to Salvation: Analyzing the Role of Spirituality in Twelve-step Recovery Programs


In 1935, twelve-step programs were founded with religious undertones in an attempt to encourage sobriety amongst American citizens. Originally, these programs were based in the ideology of Christianity and included a major focus on worship of God. Growing alongside the temperance movement and following the prohibition era, these programs were heavily influenced by ideas surrounding drugs and alcohol in society. As the programs gained popularity and saw various successes and failures among minority communities, twelve-step programs attempted to shift their principles to better serve individuals outside of the Christian faith. This research explores the origins of twelve-step programs and the evolution of their doctrines from hyper-religious to more accommodating. In particular, this presentation analyzes the varied success of twelve-step programs among queer, Black, impoverished, and non-religious individuals, among others. For those who are most at-risk of addiction, these programs seem to be a fast track to sobriety. However, they often isolate and demonize those most in need of help. This paper also looks at adjacent recovery programs without a religious emphasis and compare recovery rates. The fundamental question within this analysis is whether or not those who live on the margins of society are considered worthy or able to achieve salvation.


Emma Stewart
Student, History, University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma, United States

Hannah Ash Hannah
Student, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies , University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Religious Community and Socialization


Alcohol, Twelve steps, Recovery programs, Drugs, Temperance, Spirituality, Religion, Salvation

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