Understanding the Daily Reprieve

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The concept of a daily reprieve was developed in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). According to the tenets of AA, those in recovery remain sober one day at a time contingent on a daily reprieve.

Peer support groups, whether 12-step programs like AA or science-based alternatives like SMART Recovery, are not a substitute for addiction treatment. Rather, support groups offer supplementary help. The success of 12-step programs like AA, though, has led notions like the AA daily reprieve to find their way into other forms of support and treatment that do not utilize the 12-step methodology.

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What is a Daily Reprieve?

A reprieve is defined as a delayed punishment or a commuted sentence. 

Daily reprieve is a concept outlined on p85 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The author states that those in recovery “are not cured of alcoholism”, instead benefiting from “a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” 

AA holds that it is through a spiritual connection that you can allow your thoughts and your behaviors to be directed by your conception of a higher power. Alcoholism is a disease according to AA – and a chronic, relapsing brain condition per NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). You can allow yourself to be directed by a higher power rather than relying on flawed or selfish decision-making using methods like prayer or meditation. 

Daily reprieve is a concept that can also take the form of holistic therapies in alcohol addiction treatment programs. Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga are practices that allow you to disengage and focus on your spiritual nourishment. 

According to AA, continuing to follow the 12 steps while handing over the direction of your life to a higher power allows those in recovery to remain sober one day at a time.

An image of a man learning to understand the daily reprieve

Daily Reprieve and AA

Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1935, considers alcoholism to be a disease of a three-fold nature. According to AA, alcoholism affects you physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Alcohol for those in AA is likened to a physical allergy, meaning that it cannot be safely used in any form, and its use cannot be controlled. 

The mental aspect of alcoholism manifests itself in cravings for alcohol, thoughts about trying to moderate or control alcohol use, or recurrent negative thoughts and memories. The psychological component of alcohol addiction is one of the primary drivers for relapse, with up to 60% of those in recovery relapsing at least once. 

Alcoholics Anonymous labels the spiritual aspect of the disease a spiritual malady. The first of the 12 steps in AA states that: 

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” 

According to AA, life becomes unmanageable due to a spiritual malady – a deep-seated internal conflict that can manifest in various ways, including: 

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Sense of disconnection
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Discontentment
  • Resentment

The solution offered by AA is to work through the 12 steps of the program, granting yourself a daily reprieve from the disease of alcoholism. 

For those in recovery who participate in AA, the process is spiritual, but that does not mean it needs to be religious. Instead, spirituality is a connection to yourself, to others, and to something greater that is loving and caring. How you conceptualize this higher power is entirely personal. 

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that “thoughts which must go with us constantly” involve “the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” 

Surrendering daily to a higher power as you see them is a core spiritual practice. This does not need to be an involved process. It can be as simple as starting the day by stating, “Please help me to stay sober today and to do your will.” 

Viewed more broadly, practicing gratitude in any form is a spiritual practice. 

Other spiritual practice include: 

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Spiritual reading
  • Support groups
  • Prayer
  • Daily reflections
  • Affirmations

Even for those new to Alcoholics Anonymous, it is possible to perform daily reprieve steps. These include: 

  • Step 1: Admitting you were powerless and that your life has become unmanageable.
  • Step 10: Continuing to take inventory and admitting when you are wrong.
  • Step 11: Improve your connection with a higher power as you see them through meditation and prayer.
  • Step 12: Having a spiritual awakening as a result of working through the 12 steps and carrying the message to others in recovery.

Ultimately, your daily reprieve will be personal and will involve whatever makes you feel more connected to your recovery, your higher power, and those around you. In essence, your daily reprieve allows you to thrive rather than survive in sobriety, to commute a death sentence into a life sentence.

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Get Help for Addiction at California Detox

We can help you address the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of recovery from alcohol addiction here at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA. 

Alcoholism is a progressive condition, so we offer treatment programs at all levels of intensity as follows: 

  • Inpatient programs (residential rehab)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • Virtual IOPs (remote rehab programs)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs (for co-occurring disorders)

Before you engage with an appropriate treatment program at California Detox, you can take advantage of our supervised medical detox program. Those with more severe alcohol use disorders can minimize the chance of developing delirium tremens – the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. Access medications and benefit from continuous emotional clinical care as you detox from alcohol. 

You will get a personalized treatment plan for alcohol addiction that includes: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

When you are ready to begin your daily reprieve from alcoholism, reach out to California Detox for evidence-based inpatient or outpatient treatment in Laguna Beach. Call 949.390.5377 for immediate assistance and supervised detoxification.


In the context of 12-step recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, those in recovery enjoy a daily reprieve from alcoholism, meaning that recovery is an ongoing process rather than a time-limited event like detox or rehab.
The AA definition of daily reprieve is “contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” You can make your daily reprieve whatever you like that makes you feel connected to a higher power as you see them and grateful for your recovery. This could be volunteering at a local homeless shelter, calling friends or family members, walking the beach, or expressing compassion for others. All of these activities can provide spiritual nourishment.


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