Let me begin by saying that 12 step recoveries vary, but there are some basics that all agree on who are serious about their recovery, and have a genuine history of addiction/alcoholism that is treatment refractory (i.e. doesn't get better, no matter how hard one tries, that is). I do not believe that recovery is salvation, by the way. However, it sure helps.
Abbreviated for space. I could refer you to an AA/NA website, but I am rather narcissistic, and would like to interject my stuff:
1. Admit powerlessness (there is no such thing as "just one" whatever it is, if I'm an addict. Like the old Lays potato chip slogan. "No one can eat just one.") and life is unmanageable (I resign as the CEO of me).
2. Came to believe that a higher power could restore us to sanity (if a person is of the Atheist bend initially, as I was, group succeeds at doing what the individual cannot do. Hence, a power greater than self).
3. Make a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God as I understand Him. (Decision being the operative word. As the old saying: Three frogs on a log, two decide to jump off. How many are left. Three. The two only decided to jump off.)
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory. This is where action starts. Moral is the key word. Example: If I embrace the moral that all women are pathological liars. This ruins my relationships. I end up lonely. I need to ditch that moral, it doesn't work. Truth is that I may be the pathological liar, and, though some people may be pathological liars, they are not all women. The step is intended to be hard on ourselves and easy on others when completing this written assignment. There is a point to this. Later in the steps. We should have a written, personal, faults list by the end of this step.
5. Admitted to God, Self and another individual the exact nature of our wrongs. Not just the wrongs, but the exact nature, as I see it. Kind of like a confession. Must be with another person, though. I read to another person what I wrote in the previous step.
6. Became willing to have God remove all these defects of character. (mainly done in your head and heart. Not so easy, actually)
7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. Via prayer. Something we have hopefully habituated since step three (eventually in step 10/11 we make this a regular habit). This is where we see that we have some good and some bad (we are average people). Ask God to remove the bad wherever possible.
8. Made a list of all persons we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Amends means specific change, not just a "whatever I did to piss you off, sorry." That's not good enough. Has to be specific, and has to change.
9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. So it would not be a good thing to tell a trusting wife "hey, I've been screwing the secretary for the past 5 years." Instead, stop the behavior completely, and immediately. Confessing to the wife may injure the secretary and devastate the wife. This sounds wrong, but I have seen many try to appease their inner guilt this way and it is rarely effective. Even harms others unnecessarily. Nevertheless, if I have been stealing from my job, even if it threatens my employment, I must be willing to admit it (and pay it back). This is a rather complicated step and really needs an experienced sponsor to help out with it. This is the step where the feeling that the problem is solved is very strong. The promises in recovery are quoted at this point in the AA "Big Book".
10. Continued to take inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admit it. (Who cares what the other did wrong. We keep our side of the street clean).
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry it out. (get out of the habit of insisting that my plan is best, and praying that what I think should happen, happens.)
12. Having had an spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry the message to others and try to practice these principles in all of our affairs.
Basically, it is a surrender, repent, confess, restitution and continued surrender to God, and evangelize (by helping others and carrying the message). Christians (and, yes, other faiths) have been doing it for thousands of years.
I have since converted to Christianity (past 25 years), and there are christian 12 step groups that have formed (Celebrate Recovery), but I just don't seem to fit in all that well. Some of my recovering friends have found them more beneficial, so, I don't know. I enjoy interacting with people who hate Jesus, God and religion only because that is how I lived for a number of years. Heard all the arguments for the past 25 years. One guy in Anxietyzone referred me to Professor Dawkins to enlighten me. Already been there, dude. Nothing is new. Blah, blah, blah... yeah right. I just love of on them patiently like others did with me, and, yes, sometimes they piss me off, as I do others, as well. Anyway. May have misquoted some of the steps, but got the idea right. Those with OCD can jam me up on it, if need be. I am an alcoholic and a dope fiend in recovery. At this point, I do not ascribe to the idea that as a Christian I am healed. If I were healed, I could drink and use normally. I am just not willing to take that risk, however unpopular the belief. I am Dual Diagnosed, as well. Mental Illness with addiction. I use medication, and I have contended with others in 12 step over this. Some folks see it as not a genuine recovery. I can respect that narrow minded point of view (oops! Did I say that?!!!)