Don't beat yourself up over slips; they are simply data- taking episodes to prove Step One. My very best got me to the doors of AA.
I like Dr. Phil's question to someone going-it-alone: "How's that working out for you?"
my first meeting i barely heard let alone understood them when they read how it works..i was too distraught. but i knew i was in the right place, my gut told me. i knew i was done drinking and i was in a place where people all around me went through what i went through. that was the most important thing to me. just knowing i wasnt alone. i havent had a drink since that first meeting just over a year ago. i have a friend though, who started coming to meetings with me but couldnt swallow any of the AA rhetoric. he continues to drink. not like he did before, but he does. he says its the ''God thing'' that puts him off, and since the 12 steps are spiritual in essence, i think that the steps dont appeal to him. but to me A.A is the 12 steps. if it doesnt appeal to a newcomer, it doesnt appeal to them. they can and should go back out there and keep drinking. eventually they'll be back when they dont know what to do with themselves...besides if its Gods will that a newcomer should find a place in A.A they will be back. i dont think that not letting on what a newcomer is really in for is the wisest approach. if A.A lays its cards out on the table a person can choose for themselves, knowing what will be asked of them. if they dont want, they dont want, my hunch is eventually they will be back. its not up to us to play God with the newcomer. we talk about rigorous honesty, well lets be honest with the newcomer...this is the program, this is how it works...the ball is in your court. period.
Hi, you shared, “but to me A.A is the 12 steps. if it doesnt appeal to a newcomer, it doesnt appeal to them. they can and should go back out there and keep drinking.” Huh? You said “Should Go?” This kind of thinking is detrimental to AA as a whole. We are not in the business of telling someone to keep drinking. The next drink could be their last. The next drink could lead them into a hostile rage where they come back and take it out on you or your group members. I’ve seen it happen. Just because you may feel or think AA is the 12 steps, doesn’t make that thought right. AA is a Fellowship. AA is not a 12-Step Program which is a common false belief that many people have even at the media level. We offer a 12-Step Solution but, not all members in recovery choose that solution. The members that work the steps aren’t more sober or better than the ones that do. Some fine other ways. If a newcomer is not interested in the 12-Step Program we should tell them its fine, it’s not necessary to work the steps for sobriety. I never heard the only requirement for membership is to obey the order to work the 12-Steps.
Well said. To me AA is, first a Fellowship, and the 12 steps are a part of the fellowship that I chose to follow (do) at my own rate of speed. Never have I felt that it is something that I must accomplish to be a part of the fellowship. For me sobriety was and is my driving force. Easy does it and one day at a time. When a new member is ready there are plenty of good sponsor ready and available to take them through the steps.
Thanks for a great share.
Thanks for the message. Most of today's A.A. members
have heard and read the first two and a half pages of
chapter five so many times that they do believe that
Alcoholics Anonymous is a TWELVE STEP PROGRAM. And they
are correct. Alcoholics Anonymous today is a Twelve
Step Program, only one of many such programs. But
Alcoholics Anonymous was never intended to become a
TWELVE STEP PROGRAM. A.A. began as a fellowship and
the fellowship was very successful in helping other
alcoholics and their families. Our membership doubled
in number about every ten years. "Each one reach one"
was the theme of A.A. Today's A.A. members, help each
other and themselves, but fail to help those approaching
us. They simply do not know how to help them. Most A.A.
members today do not know how the A.A. message is
transferred from a sober alcoholic to an alcoholic who
is looking desperately for help. Most members think they
know how to carry the message. It is a common false
Bill W. describes how this message is carried from
one alcoholic to another. The attitude of the carrier
of the message is of paramount importance. If we respond
to those approaching us with spiritual pride and arragance
we push them away. If we present humility, weakness,
and gratitude we gain another sober A.A. member.
If our TWELVE STEP PROGRAM failed everyone it would
be obvious that it is not working. But it does work for
some alcoholics and seems to work very well. That accounts
for the one group out of four which gains one member each
year. That is our average for the past three years. We
gain about 15,000 new members each year in the US and
Canada. I am convinced that as a "fellowship of men and
women", we could/should/would save 150,000 a year, minimum.
Generally the fellowship invites them in;, the TWELVE STEP
PROGRAM we present pushes them away. You seem very close
to an understanding of how the message is carried successfully. Bill W. explains it further in our A.A. history book "Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age Page 70.
Any A.A. member who is truly concerned with how to help
his brother or sister sufferer ought to read it, and the
related material. ANONYMOUS
I appreciate your comments on what AA is and isn’t. The original AA was the text book “Alcoholics Anonymous”. Until the book was published the Fellowship was a nameless group of drunks, sometimes called the alcoholic squad of the oxford groups.
To show others precisely how they recovered is the purpose of the big book, as the forward to the first edition states on page xiii in the fourth edition. On page xxiv it says “While our literature has preserved the integrity of the AA message……” To me this is why using the big book is so important. We all have our own ideas of what AA is and isn’t. If we don’t suggest using our basic text, how can we expect newcomers to know what AA is and isn’t?
The comment of “we are not in the business to tell someone to continue drinking”, leads me to believe you have been misled as to what the program of AA suggests. On page 31 of the big book it says, “We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition.”
So YES, the program of Alcoholics Anonymous does suggest you try some controlled drinking. And yes the big book is the basic text for our society and the first portion of the book does describe the AA recovery program (see page xi in the 4th edition).
In some areas of the world, maybe some AA groups have gotten away from the program of AA, but many have not. The book “Alcoholics Anonymous” has sold over 30 million copies and averages about 1 million copies per year. What is amazing still is that the book is 100% free online and still sells 1 million copies per year!
Thank you for distinguishing for me the difference between opinion and fact. Opinions are what we think we know about this program and are often spoken about in meetings, the facts are stated in our literature, especially the big book!
Good luck and God, as you understand him, bless you
A million copies of the Big book are sold annually. Plus
the book is free to anyone who has a computer. Yet our
membership has increased than less than two percent per
year for the past three years.
I don't believe that many people buy the BB for
casual reading. These books are in the hands of alcoholics and those individuals who care for them.
We see an increase of about 15,000 members annually.
Are we to be content with that small increase, when
alcoholism is at an epidemic in the world today?
Why did Bill W. write that the book Alcoholics
Anonymous was meant to be suggestive only? Don't you
think in all the following years more has been
I personally feel that the Big Book, Alcoholics
Anonymous, is the work of a genius. But the rest of
the solution was hammered out over the following
25 years. If we ignore the "anvils of experience"
of that quarter of a century, the future of A.A. is doomed.
I just do not believe that any caring member of A.A.
would point out the sentence in the Big Book which tells
them to drink some more. Let the newcomer find that and
read it himself. We don't have to convince him/her to
come to A.A. They are already here. ANONYMOUS
"If the steps don't appeal to them, they can and should
go back out there and keep drinking." That is just bad
advice. The steps are offered, and are suggestions. You
are making them requirements. We take the steps when we
are ready, not when someone tells us we have to take them.
Attraction, not promotion. If our own lives are in order,
and the newcomer sees that that steps have helped us,
maybe they will be encouraged to study and practice them.
None of the steps are done because another member tells
us we have to do them. We do them of our own volition.
Bill W. explains in a grapevine article Sept 1945,
Page 8 in The Language of the Heart, that Rules are
Dangerous but Unity is Vital.
Making the steps rules, and cramming them down other
members throats is a violation of our first tradition
of Unity. I do ask you to reconsider. ANONYMOUS
"If the steps don't appeal to them, they can and should
go back out there and keep drinking."
That's pretty close to the text in step one.
"Why don't you try some more controlled drinking, keeping in mind bearing in mind what we have told you about alcoholism".
Or the Big Book - More About Alcoholism
"Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking."
I finally read carefully. The twelve steps are one suggestion for a program of recovery not twelve suggestions.
I have heard members at meetings say they were told this
when they came into A.A. (in the good-old days): If you
don't want what we offer, take this five dollar bill and
go drink some more. Note: no one ever offered me $5.00.
There is a big difference in reading this in a book and
telling a newcomer at a meeting to go out and do more research. If they haven't read it in the book, offer them
a copy of the book. Let the text give them the bad news.
I've been living a sober life since the mid-seventies. When I came to AA, not one person threatened me with reading the Big Book or working the steps. The rooms were packed with hopeful people driven to stay sober for one day and to help others. I received handshakes, smiles and a warm cup of coffee. The hostile ego-driven age of the dogmatic big book and 12-step guru, which dominates the AA discourse today in so many areas, had not come into fruition. The majority of AA meetings were speaker meetings which focused on the fellowship as described by the Preamble. I think I was sober 8 months before I new what the big book was. I asked my sponsor about it and he quickly down played the book. He said something to the effect, "It’s a recorded history of the earlier members. If you read it, take it with a grain of salt. It was written years ago and it doesn’t truly reflect the broad range of alcoholics in recovery today.” He supported me when I said I wasn’t interested in finding God. He said something like “God is not for everyone in AA. A handful of principals will suit you find. Follow some of those and you’ll see a change.” Today, I sit through meetings quietly. AA does not look like the AA of my early days. I’ve moved to different states and all my close AA friends have died. Despite the lack of tolerance I feel and the extreme nature of many members inside the AA rooms; it’s the AA principals living inside me which gave me the opportunity to live in that place where I’ve always wanted to get to. Thanks for you open mind.
Bill W. wrote in a message to the membership via the
AA GRAPEVINE September 1945, about the danger of rules.
The "few simple rules" mentioned by Dr. Silkworth had
nothing to do with the 12 steps. The "little doctor who
loved drunks" was talking about the the A.A. principles
of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love.
I don't believe there is any way I could have gotten
sober in today's A.A. As much as I wanted to stop
drinking and stay stopped, I was not desperate enough to follow
the requirements made of newcomers today. Thank God I
was given the freedom and opportunity you write about.
We were the fortunate ones. I don't know about you,
but I was very much a part of the destruction of our
fellowship. Some of it was apathy, not wanting to get
involved but I was a pusher of the steps, and a pounder
of the Big Book. I simply did not know that this was the
approach that did not work for Bill W. in his first
six months of sobriety. He pushed drunks away, just
like we do today. Spiritual pride is nauseating to
drinking alcoholics. It makes me sick today, now that
I recognize it.
The sad truth is apparent in our membership numbers,
our lack of growth over the past two decades.
The effort by some members to form athestic and
agnostic groups is just as harmful as the religious
groups. Without unity, future generations of suffering
humans hold very little hope in us. ANONYMOUS
Thanks so much for talking about your experience. I wish I got sober in your AA era. I can't find a sponsor like yours who is open minded so right now I am staying sober alone. No one in my area will sponsor me because I do not believe in God and because of thsi other members follow suit and treat my like I have the plague. I get told repeatly I will drink again and I'm a punk. I was yelled at once by a guy "Its God or the Highway" And I thought, I know I'm new but, what a sick thing to say. I've learned to sit quietly and not fight them. My heart tells me they're wrong. I've read about and heard stories of other people like me on this site and this tells me I belong. I'm here to stay sober with or without the help of the members. So far its lonely but, in a strange way being not liked has ignited a part of me that wants whats good in life and that to me is sobriety. With no help from anyone accept myself I am sober 9 months.
You aren't alone! There are lots of agnostics and atheists who have struggled with this sort of thing. There are agnostic and atheist groups in a number of cities and there are resources online. Google and you'll find some, including a really great site run by some folks from Toronto, aaagnostica.org. I don't have a sponsor yet for the same reasons you do, and I use the God-pushing and Big Book thumping as an opportunity to practice serenity. You're right that the guy who yelled at you was being sick -- I find that a lot of people are a lot less serene in their sobriety than you'd think, and that defensiveness is where some of that behaviour comes from. Other people really believe that the way they got sober is the only way because it's the only way it worked for them, and they're trying to help the only way they know how. Take care, breathe, stay centred, reach out for the help that's out there. You don't have to do this alone.
The following is an excerpt from the big book, page 44 the chapter We Agnostics-
You may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.
To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster, especially if he is an alcoholic of the hopeless variety. To be doomed to an alcoholic death (step 1) or to live on a spiritual basis (step 2)are not always easy alternative to face.
But it isn’t so difficult. About half our original fellowship were of exactly that type. At first some of us tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life-or else. Perhaps it is going to be that way with you. But cheer up, something like half of us thought we were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted.
In 1939 there was one AA. It was the book Alcoholics Anonymous. There was a nameless group of drunks that some called the alcoholic squad of the oxford groups.
In 1938 when these drunks numbered about 40 recovered hopeless cases, the group thought it was time to put the formula for sobriety down in book form to reach more drunks and to prevent their message from being garbled.
In 1939 when the book was published the groups began to call themselves Alcoholics Anonymous after the book that showed precisely how those first 100 maintained sobriety.
In 1944 Dr. Collier noted that AA had a proven recovery rate of 50-60%
In 1955 the forward to the second edition of the big book has a recovery rate of 50% for those who came and really tried and 25% got sober after some relapses. So even in 1955 AA had a 75% recovery rate! In 1955 the fellowship was also pyramiding at a rate of 20% a year.
That pyramiding process as stopped! I believe in 1992 AA worldwide had 2.4 million members. In 2011 AA worldwide had 2.4 million members.
I think from 1939 to 1970 or so the program of AA as described in our basic text Alcoholics Anonymous and the fellowship was one and the same. Those members of AA practiced the program of AA. Today the fellowship of AA is far from the program of AA. So far that if you know or mention the big book of AA you are labeled a big book thumper. It’s too bad. When we used the book as a program of recovery we had a 75% recovery rate. Today if 1 in 100 that came to AA found sobriety we would break our arms patting ourselves on the back. It is a shame what we have done to this wonderful program.
Let’s remember our alcoholic problem is 3 fold. We have a mental obsession with alcohol (mental), a physical allergy to alcohol (physical), and a spiritual malady. On page 64 of AA’s basic text, the original AA, it says when the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. How do we straighten out spiritually? We apply the 12 steps of the AA recovery program to our lives.
If you don’t believe in the twelve steps, please don’t come to our AA meetings with your own program under the disguise that it is the AA program. I almost died because I was willing to work the program of AA but when I came to the fellowship of AA it was nothing close to the AA as described in the big book. Thank God as I understand him for giving our founders the vision to put the AA message of recovery in book form so as to keep it from being distorted beyond recognition and so a hopeless alcoholic like me could pick up a book and follow it’s suggestions and recover.
I would like to thank all who post comments. The more I read, the more I am convinced of the need to practice the AA program as outlined in the big book to the best of my ability, which at times is not very good, but I continue to trust God, clean house, and live happy, joyous, and free!
Good luck to you all and God bless you!
Corey, I, too believe that the 1939 A.A. was still
intact in 1970. I am grateful that I got sober in 1970.
But A.A. started slowly to change. We continued to
grow on the momentum of the first great years of success.
In 1992 we had almost two and a half million members worldwide Our membership had doubled about every ten years.
We have fewer members today than we had two decades ago.
Why do you think that is? Did something happen? What
happened? I saw what happened. I lived through the
mistakes as we were making them. I was very much a part
of the distortion of the fellowship of 1970. I watched
it take place. I watched from the sidelines. Like most
A.A. members I thought Alcoholics Anonymous was "alive
You are aware that something is wrong. When only one
group out of four (US and Canada) could claim ONE new
member in years 2010, 2011 and 2012 (each year), there
is something horribly wrong.
The mistakes we made have been listed over and over
on this bulletin board, by others and myself. I know
what I observed over the years, and today I see the
results of those mistakes (Bill called them blunders).
Bill warned us of the dangers of spiritual pride, and
the power driven EGO. I see no humility in A.A. today.
We boast of our achievements. We preach humility,
but no longer practice it.
What we have lost is that unique technique of passing
the message to other alcoholics. Alcoholics have a rebellous
nature. "Nobody is going to tell me what to do!" We must
stop telling them what to do, what they must do. If we
just talk about ourselves, how can we go wrong. If we
are attractive enough (have our own house in order),
maybe they will want what we have.
You have been here 20 years. It was at year 35 when
my head was pulled out of the sand. I ask you again to
study Dr. Silkworth's advice to Bill W. in the spring
of 1935. Bill obeyed that advice when he met Dr. Bob.
It was years later when Bill actually realized that he had followed that advice. Bill was there to save himself.
He needed another alcoholic to talk to to keep from
going down the drain. That is just not the way we
try to help newcomers today. We tell them to Find God
and find Him NOW! Thanks for all your work and dedication.
Read again that page 70 in A.A.C.A, please ANONYMOUS
Each AA group follows its group consciousness and as a result, every AA group is a little bit different. Some groups have a narrower spiritual focus than others do. If you have to look farther afield to find a group where you are comfortable, keep looking. There are groups all over the world, there are groups that meet on the internet using chat rooms and e-mail lists, and if you feel like you just can't find a group anywhere, write to Loners and Internationalists Meeting lim @ aa dot org. Staying sober by yourself is very hard, and while it isn't totally impossible, it is really unpleasant. Lots of people get and stay sober in AA, and are happy, too, without having "God" as their higher power. The higher power in Step 3 is not limited to one person's idea or even one religion's. Keep looking for a sponsor, even though your sponsor may live a long way from you. That's what telephones and e-mail are for!!! Don't give up!
Thanks for your message. My last drink was in January 83. I am grateful that someone else's brand of recovery was not crammed down my throat. I was illiterate and could not read. I told my sponsor I was not interested in the god stuff or praying because prayer seemed foreign to me. He made a list of principals and wrote them on cue cards. I memorized each word and discussed what each principal meant. He assured me if I applied them to my life I could stay sober and have a chance at life again. After that I memorized the slogans. I asked him if I could be a member of AA if I did not work the steps or believe in God. He said yes of course. After a few years I went back to school and got a GED. Eventually, I continued and earned a Masters Degree and now am working on a PhD. Without love and tolerance I would of been finished. Without a room full of open minded and kind people I would of been dead. As I learned, AA is big enough for everyone. Sobriety was not handed to me on a silver platter, I had to work for it through my actions and decisions. Even though I did not need the AA program, I support those who feel it has been their saving grace. My faith was trusting in another person and relying on all the accumulative wisdom within the AA fellowship. Thanks again for your experience.
"The steps are offered, and are suggestions."
Is that so?
"Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a PROGRAM OF RECOVERY."
The steps, all twelve of them, are offered as a program, not as a list of suggestions.
"A.A.'s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if PRACTICED A S WAY OF LIFE, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole." (23&12, page 15.)
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."
Those who haven't taken steps one through eleven have no business trying to carry a message they never got. As a speaker said many years ago, "Trying to teach what you've never learned is like trying to come back from where you've never been.
It takes real arrogance to devise one's own program and pass it off as AA.
Out of respect, I just want to know why you care so much if someone works the steps or not? Why a need to defend yourself. Will the opposing viewpoint cause you to drink again? The women in my group taught me I am free to choose the things I need to do to stay sober. I was taught to love and not to push God, argue with people or control what other AA friends are doing. I work the steps and pray but, I will never take a superior position because I think I am getting sober the proper way. I sponsor an atheist and her needs are different than mine. She’s been sober nine years now and doing quite well. I have to be flexible in recovery. Rigidity will lead to relapse is what I believe. Quoting pages out of context is a style evangelicals use to try and win discussions about religion. I was taught that AA is a fellowship that offers a suggested program. If someone is not interested in the suggested 12-step program or reading a book written in the 1930’s, I'm okay with that. My faith in God does not guarantee I will suffer in AA or relapse. The women’s group I attend would be boring if all we did was sit around and quote pages from the big book. We are not the “Stepford Wives.” My sponsor said years ago,“If all there was to getting sober was reading the book and praying, I could buy the book, stay at home and never talk to another alcoholic again.” In my experience, the women in my group with the different points of view have helped me the most and I am grateful for them.
yes, if all you did was "read" the big book, at best the seed would be planted. to me the big book is the directions for the AA program. It has been said there are no musts, one requirment, and no directions in AA. I read this morning on page 85 of the big book (I read 84-88 daily to help me do my 10 & 11 steps) " if we have carefully followed directions".......
I do far more than read the big book, I use it as a text book or manual to show me precisely how to work the program of AA.
"Out of respect, I just want to know why you care so much if someone works the steps or not?"
Personally, I feel it's none of my business whether or not someone is working the steps or not. What is my business is whether someone is passing on his/her own version of sobriety and calling it AA. The twelve steps as given to us by the founders and early members via the Big Book are AA's program of recovery.
"If someone is not interested in the suggested 12-step program or reading a book written in the 1930’s, I'm okay with that."
So am I, 100%. My father, an admitted alcoholic, quit drinking and died after thirty-six years without a drink. He never attended a meeting or worked a step and he said he was working the AA program. And he never tried to encourage anyone else to get sober without the steps. He was much more honest than those who call their own brand of sobriety AA.
Jim S. "Here are the steps we took, which are suggested
as a program of recovery." So there it is! The first
100 members took the steps. and now are offering them
to us for our consideration. They are not telling us
that we have to take them, only offering us the
same way out that they had found. It is not really
that complicated. attraction NOT promotion.
A teacher of mine stated that "A little learning
can be a dangerous thing". Trust me, I have been there.
It is comforting that we do agree on several points.
We seem to agree that alcoholics and addicts must be
separated. And some other similar concerns.
We do have a serious difference in understanding
the definition of suggestion. ANONYMOUS
It also takes real arrogance to assume you have the answer(s). There is no wrong way to stay sober, though trying to practice the principles the AA program tries to teach me has made getting and staying sober easier for me. What are those principles? According to Dr. Bob, they are two-fold: love and service. The remainder are just variations on a theme.
Anonymous, If you want to continue to believe as you do, make sure you NEVER read pages 23 and 23 from the 12x12, AA conference approved liturature.
pages 23 and 24 state clearly what the true AA message is in regards to the steps and alcohol consumption.
Like I said, if you want to keep believing what you think you know about AA, don't read pages 23 and 24 from the 12x12. That way you can continue to carry YOUR message instead of AA's.
God Bless you
I love the first three steps as Bill writes them.
To the questions on page 24 I usually add: Who wants to
go out in the middle of the night on a 12 step call so
that someone can puke on our shoes? I heard that from one
of our celebrity speakers.
The message is pure and simple. You and I are looking
at the same solution. Of course the steps are the answer
and have been the solution for you and me, and I believe
they are the answer for most suffering alcoholics.
It is not the message that you and I differ on.
We save a few alcoholics by telling them what to do.
But I think we push most of them away by telling them
what to do. Most alcoholics have a rebellious nature.
We can carry the message to them without giving them
any reason to rebel. If we just share own story, our
own ESH, how can they rebel? We simply lay the tools
at their feet. They can pick up the tools or not. It is
their personal choice. If we tell them to pick up
the tools or they will never make it, we are going
too far. Let them make that decision without ANY
I went to my first A.A. meeting in Dec 1968. I was
still drinking and was drunk at the meeting. I knew
there was something of great value in the room that
night. I stayed sober a week until New Years Eve and
drank about another 14 months. I thought of A.A.
every time I got drunk. Maybe those A.A. have something
which will help. The question in my mind was: "How can
sitting around with a bunch of alcoholics help me to
stop drinking? I am not sure if I can fully answer that
question even today. But I know that it works. If I
don't drink for another month, it will have worked for
me for 43 years. (I did the steps and still practice them)
At about 35 years, I felt that I knew all I needed
to know about Alcoholics Anonymous. Today I know that I
had only scratched the surface. Sometimes I wish I could
return to that state of blissful ignorance. I had the
belief that A.A. is "alive and well". Today I see our
fellowship as folding, barely alive. The "proof" is
in the numbers. We have fewer members in A.A. today
than we had two decades ago. Something is dreadfully
wrong. What happened in the 1980's to cause our
near collapse in the early 1990's. What was the cause
and what can we do about it? Can it be repaired?
You have a passion for A.A. which very few members
ever will have. I am just trying to convince you that
we can save hundreds of thousands more each year by
attraction, with no promotion or coercion of any kind.
What suffering alcoholic could refuse the offer of
a new life? We just have to know how to make it attractive
enough to be desirable, and we must understand this
unique method of delivering the message. ANONYMOUS
I believe the method to 12 stepping is laid out in the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”. The unique technique employed by the founders of AA and the millions to come after is described precisely in chapter 7 “working with others”. I think most of us fail to see the directions on page 92 that say “show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done in the chapter on alcoholism”. I believe they are referring to chapter 3 “More About Alcoholism”, pages 30-43 in the big book.
When on a 12th step call or speaking at an AA meeting (I think that’s the way most members of AA do the 12th step), the authors of the big book describing precisely how to carry out a 12th step call. Here is what we are supposed to say according to the chapter on alcoholism - “the idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking……….we learned we had to fully concede………we know no real alcoholic ever recovers control………over any considerable period we get worse, never better………we are like men who have lost their legs……..there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic………despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class…………..here are some of the methods we have tried………….step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking………once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic………to be gravely affected, one does not necessarily have to drink a long time…………let him try leaving liquor alone for a year………….so we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem…………. Then the book describes alcoholics putting whiskey in milk……..some insanely trivial excuse for drinking………being absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge………….an example of Fred who put up no fight whatever against the first drink….then the prophesy, that if you have an alcoholic mind, the time and place would come-you would drink again……Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink……….His defense must come from a Higher Power. Please read pages 30-43 to fill in the blanks.
This too me is the “idea” Silkworth suggested to Bill W. If this is not the “idea” that is so important, why would Bill refer us back to pages 30-43 in chapter 7? If the description of the “idea” were so critical Bill would surely be clear if it were somewhere else.
My opinion only!
I think the ineffectiveness of certain AA groups is based on poor sponsorship and lack of using AA literature, especially the big book when carrying the message to newcomers. I use the big book and have been very successful. In 1998 I purchased 10 one year medallions at Dr Bob’s home in Akron Ohio. I ran out last spring and purchased more. It hit me then that through using the big book as a basis of personal recovery and directions to carry the AA message, I personally had given away 10 one year medallions to hopeless alcoholics over the past 14 years. I have given out more from my home group,I just don'have the exact number. It had very little to do with me, and a lot to do with the big book. It really works! A sponsee and I just wrapped up working the steps together out of the big book. He had been going to AA meetings since 1980 and had never stayed sober longer that 6 months or worked the steps as described in the big book. He has about two months now and has begun working with other alcoholics. I have already seen the personality change in him. I’ll let you know next year if he gets one of the new one year medallions!
Corey, I ask you again to thoroughly study Dr. Silkworth's
IDEA. Bill wrote several times that without that advice,
A.A. could never have been born. That idea had nothing
to do with the steps.
That advice the "little doctor who loved drunks" gave
Bill W. was in the spring of 1935. All the material you
reference was not printed until 1939.
The advice to Bill was to stop preaching to prospects,
and focus on his (Bill's) own story, exactly what happened
to himself. Bill had been telling drunks to find God and
find Him now. Drunks wanted to get well, but Bill was
pushing them away with that approach.
If we can understand that approach, I believe you
can hand out ten twenty or thirty year medallions on
a regular basis. Very few members remain with us
more than a year. Our growth rate is just not acceptable.
We ought to be doubling ever ten years, as we did in the
1970's and 1980'S. ANONYMOUS
sometimes for me God is a group Of Drunks
For too may years I trusted in a "Group Of Drunks." They had the answers to all my problems, they comforted me when I was sad and rejoiced with me when I was happy.
I could find such a group in any gin mill in town.
I wish there were some simple way to explain my sadness
at reading your message. I believe it could have been written by most of today's A.A. members. I could have written it myself until my closed mind was finally opened
by another tragic death about five years ago. A tragedy
which could have been avoided.
Sure, your friend may sink to a new bottom and become
more "ready". But most die before they get a second
chance to return.
We have closed the door in the face of your friend
and hundreds of thousands like him. The door to freedom
which our founders vowed never to close.
You are an example of those who are "ready to do
anything" when they arrive at our door. Many are not
at that place yet. It is our responsibility to let them
become ready. We do not do that by telling them to
"find God and find him now." If we fellowship with them
and allow every alcoholic approaching us full freedom,
without shame or guilt, to find their own way to
sobriety, they will remain with us. When we display
spiritual pride and an atttitude of "do it my way or
you will never get it", we turn suffering alcoholics
away from what may be their last ray of hope.
Sure our cards ought to be "on the table", but they
must be placed face down. Let the new member turn them
over at their own pace, little by slowly.
Again, I wish there were some simple way to explain
my concerns. I believe if we could just develop some
self-control, and simply share our own experience, without
telling anyone else what to do, we could return Alcoholics
Anonymous to an acceptable degree of effectiveness. A
negative growth for two decades is appalling. ANONYMOUS
Your discussion of your friend's reaction to AA lends some credence to those that argue that reading "How It Works" from Chapter 5 of the big book can turn a newcomer off. I was desperate to get sober, and was concerned that if it took belief in god to do so, I was in trouble, but in time came to realize that sobriety was possible in AA without "the god thing." In fact, there are countless folks in AA in my area and around the world who do not share the rather narrow conception of god initially described in the big book, and the "lip service" paid by Dr. Bob and other early AA members to the "of your understanding language. Bill's view on the topic softened over the years after seeing atheists and agnostics embrace the AA program and become whole and useful again, and perhaps Dr. Bob would have had he survived another 10 years or so. Today I read "How it works" and recite the Lord's prayer more as a universal appeal for sanity in me and others as opposed to as an effort to engage a deity. But that is just how it works for me today.
I have been into AA since 15 years and a half...and Iam just starting to make my 4th step. I found a pryest for a help, I will let you know how it will help me to be a better person.
One of the things I have been wondering about is the focus of the 12 steps on 'character flaws'.
I wonder how helpful this really is. By speculating on how the person was before they became addicted to alcohol - self assessing for many 'character flaws' - I wonder how the reality of how the addiction changes behavior really should be addressed. Alcoholicism is still has a social stigma, as do most addictive behaviours. And yet they are treatable, as most on this forum will attest.
There is a danger of course in using the crutch of 'I was destined for this..etc.".
So complex. Do we do ourselves a disservice by beating ourselves up? Do we discourage others from trying to gain sobriety by telling them they have to abase themselves even more?
I like doing inventories of myself from time to time usually 4th steps because in the process of figuring out what my character defects are, I can keep working the steps and have my character defects removed. I'm grateful for that. Does it put me in a good light? Usually becoming aware of my character defects puts me in a bad light I feel. But for me that's part of the process of getting honest. Then God removes the defect and it's a bright and clear new day. I am grateful.
"Do we discourage others from trying to gain sobriety
by telling them they have to abase themselves even more?"
Of course we do, and by the hundreds of thousands every
year. We have completely turned away from the final advice
left by Dr. Bob to keep this thing simple.
Bill W. and Dr. Bob left us a unique technique (method)
of getting sober and staying sober. We get sober by
following the suggestions in the Big Book. We stay sober
by trying to pass this message on to others. We pass
the recovery message on to others by sharing our
own experience, EXACTLY. We don't tell anyone what to
do. We only tell them what we did and what happened to
us. How much more simple can it be?
But like some of the other important things in
life, if we do not know the technique, and are too
stubborn and unwilling to learn, we will seldom get
the desired results. If we learn the technique, and
follow it to the letter, we will rarely fail.
Study Bill W.'s first six months of trying to
help other alcoholics, and the approach he used. He
describes results as being spectacularly unsuccessful.
No alcoholic responded to that approach. Following the
technique, method, offered by Dr. Silkworth, Alcoholics
Anonymous was born.
Yes Friend, I have a lot of thoughts. I think every
day of the hundreds of thousands of suffering alcoholics
who approach A.A. every year. They still come to us
desperate for that last chance of hope. We tell them
at almost every meeting "That One Is God, May you find
Him NOW"! We read the steps to them over and over, even
though Bill W. warns us about this numerous times in our
literature. Page 8 in Language Of the Heart is a good
place to start. We must learn what suggestion means. The
steps are but suggestions. The Big Book was meant to
be suggestive only. We have made the BB a second bible.
This was never meant to be.
We have continued to push suffering human beings from
the A.A. rooms by the way our meetings are conducted.
Soon only the Pushers will remain as A.A. members.
Bill W. wanted Alcoholics Anonymous to be around for
another thousand years. Bill and Dr. Silkworth left us
the means to make this happen. ANONYMOUS
I would suggest reading the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”, particularly page 64. It describes perfectly why AA suggests taking inventory. You will find there no mention of beating oneself up.
If that doesn’t blow your hair back try reading pages 84-88, those pages also suggests how to take inventory in AA.
If you are not a fan of taking inventory, join the club. I wouldn’t have done it if I thought I could stay sober and grow spiritually without it. Just like anything, once I practiced the inventory for awhile, it got easier and easier to take.
Good luck to you and God bless you,
With over a decade of experience working with other
alcoholics, our co-founder tells us how to do the fourth
step. How do I take an inventory of myself? How do I go
about this? Page 50 in the 12 & 12 asks these questions.
This page and the following pages tell us how to do the
Bill wrote pages 84-88 in 1939. I would go with the
later version. Surely, Bill learned much in the
following decade. ANONYMOUS
When reading the introduction to the 12x12 (pg 14) it says AA published the 12x12 in 1953 to share 18 years of collective experience within the Fellowship on how AA members recover and how AA functions.
On page 17 of the 12x12, towards the end of the first full paragraph it states: “The book Alcoholics Anonymous became the basic text of the Fellowship, and it still is. This present volume proposes to broaden and deepen the understanding of the 12 steps as first written in the earlier work”.
That statement as written on page 17 in the 12x12 leads me to believe that the 12x12 was not intended to be a stand alone step study, workbook or replacement for the big book. Possibly the 12x12 is meant to be used after working the 12 steps out of the big book. Although each member has a right to work the steps as they so choose, I believe the 12x12 should be used after having a working knowledge of the program as outlined in the big book (obviously my opinion).
Also your reference to big book pages 84-88 is the location of steps 10 and 11. (which I use daily to guide my practice of steps 10 & 11). In the big book step 4 is located on pages 63-71 (8 pages) In the 12x12, step for is 42-54 (12 pages). So as you can see, the 12x12 uses 50% more paper than the simpler version in the big book (obviously my opinion).
There is much hearsay in AA as to why the 12x12 was even written. Some say because the little red book was popular, some say Bill wrote it to get the traditions out to the groups, knowing he needed more than just the traditions in the book. I really don’t know for sure what is true. I have just emailed GSO to get some archive information on the 12x12.
Thanks for your post, I just wanted to share my experience.
For me, these character flaws were some of the reasons over which I drank. One of the most enlightening aspects of the fourth step for me was the realization that I had a part in all of the resentments I harbored. This is taking responsibility and this part was generally based on a character flaw - like fear. I do not beat myself up, but I recognize this, try to improve and do not drink over it.
So, this is not speculation - it is my history and reality. I know that one of the other benefits that people find is patterns which yield insight into how to change behavior.
I try to focus on the "how" rather than the "why". It does not matter to me whether I was destined for this or not. The fact is that over 25 years, I drank progressively more to the point where my life was out of control endangering myself and others. My experience is that when I drank, it often kicked off a process whereby I kept drinking to the point of blackout or chaos. This is because I am an alcoholic.
So, I try to keep it simple. This is not about abasement, it is about freedom and serenity. By taking an honest look at myself in the mirror, admitting my character defects, asking for their removal and making amends where appropriate, I free myself from guilt and have a shot at serenity. I am very far from perfect and I need to work this on a daily basis because not doing so may lead me to think that escaping from reality through alcohol is a good idea. If I do that, my experience is that I put myself and others at risk of death.
"Our liquor was but a symptom." (Big Book,page 64)
Drinking does not cause alcoholism. If it did more heavy drinkers would become alcoholic. As an example look at the heavy drinking done my college students. After graduation the greater percentage of them go on to lead normal lives without binge drinking at every opportunity.
In my own case I showed the main symptom of alcoholism with my very first drink - the phenomenon of craving. My companion had two drinks and stopped.
While I have been prescribed various addictive drugs over the years I used them as prescribed, not to get high, and haven't become addicted. However I began using another addictive drug to which I became addicted through continued use.
During all but the final year or two of my drinking, the physical craving for alcohol didn't start until I took a drink., and got stronger with every drink I took. During my use of the other substance, the craving disappeared when I used and didn't reappear until the effects had worn off.
C’mon man…to say drinking doesn’t cause alcoholism. Do you have egg on your face? At least give in to the fact it can lead to alcoholism. What made me an alcoholic? Let’s see, I became an alcoholic because I stole money from father when I was seven. No, it must have happened when I drew a mustache on the Virgin Mary when I was an altar boy. Wait, I know, I lied to my high school sweetheart proclaiming I loved her so she would sleep with me. Yes, there is a difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. The medical community states that Alcohol abuse means having unhealthy or dangerous drinking habits, such as drinking every day or drinking too much at a time. Alcohol abuse can harm your relationships, cause you to miss work, and lead to legal problems such as driving while drunk (intoxicated). When you abuse alcohol, you continue to drink even though you know your drinking is causing problems. This does not mean you are an alcoholic but, if you continue to abuse alcohol, it can lead to alcohol dependence. Alcohol dependence is also called alcoholism. You are physically or mentally addicted to alcohol. You have a strong need, or craving, to drink. You feel like you must drink just to get by. If drinking alcohol does not lead to alcoholism what does? Water?
"Drinking does not cause alcoholism". My alcoholism
was caused by drinking. I doubt that I would have become
an alcoholic if I did not drink alcohol. Enough heavy
drinkers develop alcoholism to relate the two. Rose
It don't matter! You are only an alcoholic if you say you are. Whether it was the chicken or the egg that came first, is not important...the were both to be. You may not be have become one but the ISM is what we have to look out for. My prayer is that whomever you are you address them.
Tell me something, Rose, please. When you take a drink, does it start a craving for more?
When you drink can you stop of you feel like it?
If taking a drink starts a craving, did this happen from the time you started drinking?
If the answers are yes, no, yes, then you fit the description of an alcoholic given in "The Doctor's Opinion" and in Chapter Three.
If you answers are no, yes, no, then you fit the description of the problem drinker given in Chapter Three.
I took my first drink, the small glass of liquor,
with a "chaser". As it settled, I was asked if I wanted
another. I said "sure, why not". I took the second drink.
I don't think I "craved" it. So my answer to your questions would be yes, no and no, in that order.
I do not believe that many A.A. members are alcoholics
or problem drinkers when they are first introduced to alcohol.
Any other questions? Rose
Over the years I have heard a some talk in AA meetings and some posts on web pages that you don’t have to work AA’s 12 steps. On occasion I suppose alcoholics can somehow stay dry by not working the steps. I have witnessed many more that drink by not working the steps. I have yet to see an AA member drink while practicing the 12 steps of AA.
If you think about it, after you work the first 9 to clear up you past and get current. You practice step 10 and 11 to live in 24 hour blocks and to develop a relationship with the power that keeps you sober. Finally when working step 12 you take out insurance against a drink, or when you feel disturbed, find another drunk to work with and that relieves the craving.
I know for me I couldn’t stay sober more than 2 weeks without working AA’s steps as best I could. I am still not very good at it. I just know from personal experience that I would never had made the progress I have without them.
So if you find you cannot seem to stay sober, give those steps a try. I did and it’s worked for me. If you haven’t worked the 12 steps, ask yourself if you are happy with the progress you have made. If your good, just keep doing what you are doing. If your not happy, try to apply those steps as a way of life.
Good luck to you and God bless you,
Corey in MN
Have you ever been to meetings in NYC, LA, Jersey City, Chicago, Philadelphia etc? Here you might experience a more diverse brand of AA and not make statements such as, "On occasion I suppose alcoholics can somehow stay dry by not working the steps." I think you are assuming people who do not work the steps are "dry" This is not good logic. Or, "I have witnessed many more that drink by not working the steps. I have yet to see an AA member drink while practicing the 12 steps of AA." Well, not to break you heart but, I have seen people work the steps and still drink. Alcoholism is a complex disease and brain disorder. The solution is not the same for everyone. We should not focus on who does this or who does that. It's not up to me to sit around and tally up who drinks and who doesn't. Working the steps might make one feel secure but, this approach is not the cure-all. People who are threatened by other members recovery probably have a weak foundation. I never sit with my head held high at meetings and think, "My sobriety is better than his or her sobriety because I do this and they do that" Doesn't that sound like kindergarten talk? It does to me. If you find comfort in the steps more power to you but, please let others have the freedom and right to find their own path in AA too.
You're missing the point. How can anyone carry the message of AA if he/she hasn't worked the program of AA? Certainly there are many ways to get and stay sober other than the Twelve Steps. My own father, and admitted alcoholic, died with thirty-nine happy, useful years sober. He never attended AA meetings and didn't take any of AA's steps. Most importantly, he never tried to pass off his program as the AA program. And when I came to AA and he learned about the program, he never tried to tell me I didn't have to take the Steps, believe in God or any of the other things the AA program suggests.
Those who refuse to pray, take any Steps, etc. are certainly free to do what they want. But they are lying to themselves and everyone else when they try to pass off their program as AA.
Oh, by the way, I was introduced to AA in Philadelphia. I've attended meetings several Ohio cities, A few in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, California, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Phillipine Islands. Those backward places still seem to get by with the Twelve Steps.