On Thursday, [artist id="1562979"]DJ AM[/artist] (born Adam Goldstein) will be remembered at a private ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles that will use aspects of the 12-step program in paying tribute to him. The choice of structuring the memorial for the popular celebrity DJ, 36, who died of a suspected overdose on Friday in his New York apartment is fitting, given AM's 11 years of sobriety following a struggle with drugs in his early 20s and his commitment to helping others overcome their addictions through efforts such as his recently wrapped MTV show "Gone Too Far."
But what is a 12-step program and how does it help addicts get back on the right track? "Alcoholism and addiction is chronic, progressive and fatal if untreated," explained Robert Lindsey, president and CEO of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. "One of the things we know is that there are millions of individuals in recovery and, just like those in recovery from chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer, some will die from those illnesses because they relapse. And that is exactly what happened here." (Lindsey has no firsthand knowledge of the AM case, but was speaking about it based on news accounts.)
The 12 steps, which were developed nearly 80 years ago by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, are a guideline for addicts to first stop using, admit their addictions and then commit to making the changes in their life that will keep them drug and alcohol free. "Whether you're a doctor, lawyer, painter or unemployed, at a meeting you're all the same and you're all there for the same purpose," Lindsey said of the many different meetings for people suffering addictions to sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling or other problems. "The reality is that without that first step — admitting you are powerless over alcohol or other drugs — without that, nothing else can happen."
Lindsey said that with 22 million people over the age of 12 addicted to alcohol or drugs in this country, representing 9 percent of the U.S. population, the majority who have managed long-term recovery have done it through participation in an Alcoholics Anonymous-type program where the 12 steps are a key part of the process.
The standard 12 steps are:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous gatherings, the DJ AM memorial will stress anonymity — organizers have requested that what is said and shared there not leave the room, with press barred from attending the event and attendees asked not to bring cameras, cell phones or recording devices.
"To a certain extent, the steps are literally a progressive attempt to work on different parts of changing your life," Lindsey said. "And it's about progress, not perfection ... you can use them to mark that progress."