Beyond the 12 Steps: Breaking Free from Addiction with the Slight Edge

What is the Slight Edge?

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success, is a fantastic book written by Jeff Olsen, an expert in the field of personal development. For a while, Jeff graciously donated his book as a free PDF and Kindle file. Jeff now sells the book, and I feel it’s still a great investment of your money and time.

The basis of the Slight Edge is simple. Each day, we are given a choice. Our choice is to do something small to get slightly ahead or slightly behind. The choice to eat right one day, or to work out one day, in themselves may seem to be fairly minor, but over time, these choices add up.

Jeff believes that 95% of people will do what’s easy NOT TO DO.  This failure results in bad health, finances, low personal achievement, relationship failures, and career and business failures.


On the other side, it’s the 5% of people who constantly do the small right thing that eventually will enjoy success in the areas of their life where the Slight Edge is applied.

The Slight Edge and Addiction

As I read the book, I immediately noticed how the Slight Edge philosophy can serve to compliment and augment the 12 steps.  I started the outline to this article before I even finished the book, before I read stories of addiction and recovery in the Slight Edge.

Addicts don’t make simple errors in judgment. They make major errors in judgment, which compound greatly over time. The downward slope on the chart above for the addict is even greater than that of a non-addict, and the end result for the addict is a life that has spiraled out of control, hurting themselves and those around them, often leading to the direst of consequences.

The model of the Slight Edge is the inverse of the model of addition. The addict chooses instant gratification, risking long term destruction in the process. As time passes, this gratification decreases, and the addict fruitlessly risks more and more to get that high. Eventually, the addict loses control over the addiction, and is unable to stop his personal destruction.

The Slight Edge practitioner chooses short term sacrifices in pursuit of long term gain. These sacrifices compound over time, providing not only rewards but a greater degree of control in one’s life.


Benefits of the 12 Steps

There are ways out for those addicts who wish to remove themselves from the cycle of destruction. Many addicts recover through detox centers and therapy. Arguably the most well-known way that addicts recover is through the use of a 12 step program. The 12 Steps allow the addict to escape the cycle of dependency and rebuild their lives:

Steps 1 through 3 involve acknowledging powerlessness over the addiction, and turning the addiction and the will of the addict over to God.

Steps 4 through 7 involve the repair of the addict, by taking inventory of the addict’s character defects, and asking the Higher Power to remove these defects.

Steps 8 and 9 involve repairing the lives of others, by making amends, directly when possible, indirectly when not.

Steps 10 and 11 involve continuing to manage the addict’s faults, and deepening the relationship with God.

Step 12 involves passing the message on to others.

The 12 Steps serve to reverse the path of destruction of the addict, and bring them back to a state of recovery. Like the Slight Edge, this change is incremental, taking “One Day at a Time”

But the 12 Steps Could Be Better


The 12 Step Model is designed for recovery, getting the addict back to a “normal” life, one free of addiction. While this in itself is extraordinary, the 12 Step Model doesn’t pursue moving from an ordinary life to one that is extraordinary. Where the 12 Steps stop, the Slight Edge picks up.
The Slight Edge can take the recovered addict, and propel her into a “super recovery”.  Adding the Slight Edge principles to those of the 12 Steps compliments recovery for the addict.

The Slight Edge contains a series of 7 principles, when followed, moves the follower to success. It’s easy to see, when lined up, how these 7 Slight Edge principles line up with the principles of sobriety given in the 12 Steps.

Principle 12 Steps
1: SHOW UP Often, the addict comes to his first meeting because he has to. Life has gotten to such a point where the only way he can possibly save himself is by walking in the doors of a 12 step meeting. Just walking in the door takes a major effort, and that effort is the first step on the road to recovery.
2: BE CONSISTENT   Perhaps no phrase in 12 step programs is more universally known than “One Day at a Time” 12 step programs change lives radically, but that change is done incrementally.Sobriety involves working a program. Attending meetings, working the steps, and reaching out to other recovering addicts consistently is essential to maintaining sobriety.
3: HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE The acceptance of a Higher Power in one’s life is the substitution of negative for positive thoughts.
4: BE COMMITTED FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME Sobriety is a journey, not a destination. The addict must commit themselves each day to be sober.
5: HAVE FAITH AND A BURNING DESIRE 12 Step programs are about submitting an addiction to a higher power, and using that faith and a burning desire to accomplish what was once thought impossible.
6: BE WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE There is a big cost to sobriety. It involves fully implementing the principles of the 12 steps into every facet of the recovering addict’s life. The addict knows that this investment is far less costly than continuing the life that she led.
7: PRACTICE SLIGHT EDGE INTEGRITY In order to be successful, an addict must shed themselves from the world of lies. Practicing rigorous honesty is a cornerstone of the 12 steps.


The 12 Steps are about recovery from addiction, hopelessness, and pain. Committing to the 12 steps with fullness of mind and spirit will make the addict whole. But once whole, can the addict become even better, even more than just normal.

The Slight Edge provides a path from a normal life to an optimal one. It’s a great compliment to continue on the path given by the 12 steps.

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