I'd like to add that steps are really what keep them on the straight and narrow, though normally people relapse when they quit going to meetings. This is usually due to a mixture of lack of support and not keeping spiritually fit.
1-Admitting they have a problem and haven't found any other solutions that worked
4-Making a list of harm done, fears, harms done to them (reconciling the past and resentments)
5-Telling someone be it another person in recovery or a spiritual leader like a priest of what's on the 4th step list
8-Making a list of people they've harmed (lied to, cheated on, stolen from, neglected, abused, etc)
9-Making amends to those people, eventually (more than just saying "I'm sorry."
12- They are supposed to help other alcoholics find sobriety for purpose of getting out of self and giving back what they were freely given
The in-between steps are for those who are into praying to a Higher Power for help, removal of character defects and all that jazz.
Basically, the whole shebang is a way to make peace with ones self, others, and Higher Power (which is annoyingly only referred to as God in the "Big Book" of AA). It is a restoration of self and self esteem.