PREFACE Because this book has become the basic text for
our Society and has helped such a large numbers of alcoholic
men and women to recovery, there exists a sentiment against
any radical changes being made in it.
Pg. xiii FOREWARD TO FIRST
EDITION We of Alcoholics
Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have
recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered
is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages
prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary.
Pg. xvi FOREWARD TO SECOND
EDITION Prior to his
journey to Akron, the broker had worked hard with many alcoholics
on the theory that only an alcoholic could help an alcoholic,
but he had succeeded only in keeping sober himself.
He suddenly realized that in
order to save himself he must carry his message to another alcoholic.
Pg. xvi, xvii
This seemed to prove that one alcoholic could affect another
as no nonalcoholic could. It also indicated that strenuous work,
one alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent recovery.
Pg. xxii FOREWARD TO THIRD
EDITION In spite of
the great increase in the size and span of this Fellowship,
at its core it remains simple and personal. Each day, somewhere
in the world, recovery begins when one alcoholic talks with
another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope.
Pg. xxvi THE DOCTOR'S OPINION
We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action
of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of
an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this
class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These
allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all;
and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break
it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon
things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly
difficult to solve.
In nearly all cases, their
ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves,
if they are to re- create their lives.
We feel, after many years
of experience, that we have found nothing which has contributed
more to the rehabilitation of these men than the altruistic*
movement now growing up among them.
interest in the welfare of others
Men and women drink essentially
because they like the effect produced by alcohol.
They are restless, irritable
and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense
of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks----drinks
which they see others taking with impunity.
After they have succumbed to
the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving
develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree,
emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again.
This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience
an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.
On the other hand--and strange
as this may seem to those who do not understand--once a psychic
change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed,
who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them,
suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for
alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow
a few simple rules.
One feels that something more
than human power is needed to produce the essential psychic
All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they
cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving.
This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation
of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them
apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment
with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only
relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.
I earnestly advise every alcoholic
to read this book through, and though perhaps he came to scoff,
he may remain to pray.
William D. Silkworth, M.D.
Pg. 12 BILL'S STORY
It was only a matter of
being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing
more was required of me to make my beginning.
I saw that growth could start from that point.
My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating
these principals in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative
to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without
works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic!
For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual
fe through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not
survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not
work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would
Pg. 17 THERE IS A SOLUTION
The tremendous fact for every
one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have
a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we
can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great
news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.
Highly competent psychiatrists
who have dealt with us have found it sometimes impossible to
persuade an alcoholic to discuss his situation without reserve.
Strangely enough, wives, parents and intimate friends usually
find us even more unapproachable than do the psychiatrist and
But the ex-problem drinker
who has found the solution, who is properly armed with facts
about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another
alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached,
little or nothing can be accomplished.
Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant
thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.
If you are an alcoholic who
wants to get over it, you may already be asking--"What do I
have to do?"
It is the purpose of this
book to answer such questions specifically.
But what about the real alcoholic?
He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become
a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking
career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption,
once he starts to drink.
We know that while the alcoholic keeps away from drink, as he
may do for months or years, he reacts much like other men. We
are equally positive that once he takes any alcohol whatever
into his system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental
sense, which makes it virtually impossible for him to stop.
The experience of any alcoholic will abundantly confirm this.
These observations would be academic
and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby
setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem
of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.
At a certain point in the drinking
of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful
desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. This tragic
situation has already arrived in practically every case long
before it is suspected.
The fact is that most alcoholics,
for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink.
Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We
are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness
with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation
of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against
the first drink.
The alcoholic may say to himself
in the most casual way, "It won't burn me this time, so here's
When this sort of thinking
is fully established in an individual with alcoholic tendencies,
he has probably placed himself beyond human aid, and unless
locked up, may die or go permanently insane.
There is a solution. Almost
none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of pride,
the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for
its successful consummation.
The great fact is just this,
and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual
experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward
life, toward our fellows and toward God's universe. The central
fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator
has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed
miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for
us which we could never do by ourselves.
We were in a position where
life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the
region from which there is no return through human aid, we had
but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting
out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we
could; and the other, to accept spiritual help.
Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered.
Each individual, in the personal
stories, describes in his own language and from his own point
of view the way he established his relationship with God.
Pg. 30 MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM
The idea that somehow,
someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great
obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this
illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity
We learned that we had to
fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics.
This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are
like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.
We alcoholics are men and
women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We
know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control.
We are convinced to a man
that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive
illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.
Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree 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. By every form of self-deception and experimentation,
they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore
To be gravely affected, one does not necessarily have to drink
a long time nor take the quantities some of us have.
Certain drinkers, who would
be greatly insulted if called alcoholics, are astonished at
their inability to stop.
As we look back, we feel we had gone on drinking many years
beyond the point where we could quit on our will power. If anyone
questions whether he has entered this dangerous area, let him
try leaving liquor alone for one year. If he is a real alcoholic
and very far advanced, there is scant chance of success.
But the actual or potential alcoholic,
with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop
drinking on the basis of self-knowledge. This is a point
we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our
alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter
Many doctors and psychiatrists
agree with our conclusions.
Once more: The alcoholic at
certain times has no effective mental defense against the first
drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other
human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come
from a Higher Power.
Pg. 44 WE AGNOSTICS
If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely,
or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount
you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you
may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience
Lack of power, that was our dilemma.
We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to
be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where
and how were we to find this Power?
Well, that's exactly what
this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find
a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.
We found that as soon as we were
able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to
believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get
results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully
define or comprehend that Power, which is God.
As soon as we admitted the
possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the
Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed
of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other
simple steps. We found that God does not make too hard terms
with those who seek Him.
Pg. 47 WE AGNOSTICS
We needed to ask ourselves
but one short question. "Do I now believe or am I even willing
to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?" As soon
as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe,
we emphatically assure hem that he is on his way.
In our personal stories you will
find a wide variation in the way each teller approaches and
conceives of the Power which is greater than himself.
On one proposition, however,
these men and women are strikingly agreed. Every one of them
has gained access to, and believes in, a Power greater than
himself. This Power has in each case accomplished the miraculous,
the humanly impossible.
When we saw others solve their
problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe,
we had to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not
work. But the God idea did.
When we became alcoholics, crushed
by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we
had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything
or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn't. What was
our choice to be?
Actually we were fooling ourselves,
for deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental
idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship
of other things, but in some form or other it is there. For
faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations
of that power in human lives, are facts as old as man himself.
Pg. 58, 59, 60 HOW IT WORKS
Rarely have we seen
a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who
do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely
give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women
who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.
If you have decided you want
what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it--
then you are ready to take certain steps.
With all the earnestness at
our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from
the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old
ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
Without help it is too much
for us. But there is One who has all power--that One is God.
May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing.
1. We admitted we were powerless
over alcohol---that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a
Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn
our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood
4. Made a searching and fearless
moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves,
and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to
have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove
8. Made a list of all persons
we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such
people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure
them or others.
10. Continued to take personal
inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer
and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God
as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His
will for us, and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual
awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this
message to alcoholics, and to practice these principals in all
Our description of the alcoholic,
the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before
and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
(a) That we were alcoholic
and could not manage our own lives.
(b) That probably no human
power could have relieved our alcoholism.
(c) That God could and would
if He were sought.
The first requirement is that
we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be
a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with
something or somebody, even though our motives are good.
That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred
forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we
step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes
they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably
find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based
on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles, we think,
are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves,
and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot,
though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics
must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God
makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely
getting rid of self without His aid.
We had to have God's help.
This is the how and why of
it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn't work.
Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was
going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents.
He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are
simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant
arch through which we passed to freedom.
We were now at Step Three. Many
of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: "God,
I offer myself to Thee--to build with me and to do with me as
Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better
do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them
may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love,
and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!"
This was only a beginning,
though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very
great one, was felt at once.
Pg. 63, 64
Next we launched out on a course
of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning,
which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was
a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect
unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to
be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us.
Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes
and conditions. Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory.
This was Step Four.
First, we searched out the
flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced
that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated
us, we considered its common manifestations. Resentment is the
"number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything
else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have
been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually
In dealing with resentments,
we set them on paper.
We went back through our lives.
Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty.
Pg. 66 HOW IT WORKS
It is plain that a
life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and
unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do
we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But
with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth
of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely
grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings
we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity
of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink
is to die.
If we were to live, we had
to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not
for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for
alcoholics these things are poison.
Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs
others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes.
Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened?
Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried
to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were
we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other man's. When
we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in
black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing
to set these matters straight.
We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even
though we had no resentment in connection with them.
The verdict of the ages is
that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They
trust their God. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our
attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence
to outgrow fear.
Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble? Does
this mean we are going to get drunk? Some people tell us so.
But this is only a half-truth. It depends on us and our motives.
If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire
to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven
and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our
conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink.
We are not theorizing. These are facts out of our experience.
Pg. 70, 71
In this book you read again and
again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will
has blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision,
and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a
good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested
some big chunks of truth about yourself.
Pg. 72 INTO ACTION
We have admitted certain
defects; we have ascertained in a rough way what the trouble
is; we have put our finger on the weak items in our personal
inventory. Now these are about to be cast out. This requires
action on our part, which when completed, will mean that we
have admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being,
the exact nature of our defects. This brings us to the Fifth
Step in the program of recovery mentioned in the preceding
In actual practice, we usually
find a solitary self-appraisal insufficient. Many of us thought
it necessary to go much further. We will be more reconciled
to discussing ourselves with another person when we see good
reasons why we should do so. The best reason first: If we skip
this vital step, we may not overcome drinking. Time after time
newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about
their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they
have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk.
Pg. 73, 74
We must be entirely honest with
somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world.
It may be one of our own family,
but we cannot disclose anything to our wives or our parents
which will hurt them and make them unhappy. We have no right
to save our own skin at another person's expense.
The rule is we must be hard
on ourselves, but always considerate of others.
Once we have taken this step,
withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world
in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears
fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator.
We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin
to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem
has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on
the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the
Carefully reading the first
five proposals we ask if we have omitted anything, for we are
building an arch through which we shall walk a free man at last.
If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at Step
Six. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable.
Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which
we have admitted are objectionable?
When ready, we say something
like this: "My Creator, I am now willing that you should have
all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me
every single defect of character which stands in the way of
my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I
go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen." We have then completed
Now we need more action, without
which we find that "Faith without works is dead." Let's look
at Steps Eight and Nine.
Now we go out to our fellows
and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep
away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live
on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven't the will
to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at
the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over
Pg. 77, 78
Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service
to God and the people about us.
It is harder to go to an enemy
than a friend, but we find it much more beneficial to us. We
go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit, confessing our
former ill feeling and expressing our regret.
Under no condition do we criticize
such a person or argue. Simply we tell him that we will never
get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten
out the past. We are there to sweep off our side of the street,
realizing that nothing worth while can be accomplished until
we do so, never trying to tell him what he should do.
Sometimes we hear an alcoholic
say that the only thing he needs to do is to keep sober. Certainly
he must keep sober, for there will be no home if he doesn't.
But he is yet a long way from making good to the wife or parents
whom for years he has so shockingly treated.
So we clean house with the family,
asking each morning in meditation that our Creator show us the
way of patience, tolerance, kindliness and love.
The spiritual life is not
a theory. We have to live it.
Pg. 83, 84
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we
will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going
to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret
the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend
the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far
down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience
can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity
will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and
gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our
whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people
and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively
know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will
suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not
do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises?
We think not. They are being fulfilled among us--sometimes quickly,
sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for
them. This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests
we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right
any new mistakes as we go along.
This is not an overnight matter.
It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness,
dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask
God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately
and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely
turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance
of others is our code.
And we have ceased fighting
anything or anyone--even alcohol. For by this time sanity will
It is easy to let up on the spiritual
program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for
trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured
of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent
on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is
a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of
our activities. "How can I best serve Thee--Thy will (not mine)
be done." These are thoughts which must go with us constantly.
We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish.
It is the proper use of the will.
suggests prayer and meditation.
It works, if we have the proper
attitude and work at it.
When we retire at night, we
constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest
or afraid? Do we owe an apology?
After making our review we
ask God's forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should
On awakening let us think
about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for
the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking,
especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest
or self-seeking motives.
We usually conclude the period
of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the
day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we
need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom
from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves
only. We may ask for ourselves however, if others will be helped.
We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many
of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn't work.
You can easily see why.
Pg. 87, 88
We constantly remind ourselves
we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves
many times each day "Thy will be done."
It works---it really does.
We alcoholics are undisciplined.
So we let God discipline us in the simple manner we have just
But this is not all. There
is action and more action. "Faith without works is dead."
The next chapter is entirely
devoted to Step Twelve.
Pg. 89 WORKING WITH OTHERS
Practical experience shows
that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive
work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.
This is the twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to
other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can
secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are
Life will take on new meaning.
To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness
vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host
of friends--this is an experience you must not miss.
Frequent contact with newcomers
and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.
When you discover a prospect for Alcoholics Anonymous, find
out all you can about him. If he does not want to stop drinking,
don't waste time trying to persuade him. You may spoil a later
Don't deal with him when he
is very drunk, unless he is ugly and the family needs your help.
Wait for the end of the spree, or at least for a lucid interval.
Then let his family or a friend ask him if he wants to quit
for good and if he would go to any extreme to do so. If he says
yes, then his attention should be drawn to you as a person who
has recovered. You should be described to him as one of a fellowship
who, as part of their recovery, try to help others and who will
be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you.
If he does not want to see
you, never force yourself upon him. Neither should the family
hysterically plead with him to do anything, nor should they
tell him much about you.
Pg. 92, 93
Even though your protege may
not have entirely admitted his condition, he has become very
curious to know how you got well. Let him ask you that question,
if he will. Tell him what happened to you. Stress the
spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist,
make it emphatic that he does not have to agree with your
conception of God. He can choose any conception he likes,
provided it makes sense to him. The main thing is that he
be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that
he live by spiritual principals.
He may be an example of the truth
that faith alone is insufficient. To be vital, faith must be
accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action.
Outline the program of action,
explaining how you made a self-appraisal, how you straightened
out your past and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful
to him. It is important for him to realize that your attempt
to pass this on to him plays a vital part in your own recovery.
Actually, he may be helping you more than you are helping him.
Suggest how important it is
that he place the welfare of other people ahead of his own.
Your candidate may give reasons
why he need not follow all of the program. He may rebel at the
thought of a drastic housecleaning which requires discussion
with other people. Do not contradict such views. Tell him you
once felt as he does, but you doubt whether you would have made
much progress had you not taken action. On your first visit
tell him about the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. If he
shows interest, lend him your copy of this book.
If he is sincerely interested
and wants to see you again, ask him to read this book in the
interval. After doing that, he must decide for himself whether
he wants to go on. He should not be pushed or prodded by you,
his wife, or his friends. If he is to find God, the desire must
come from within.
Do not be discouraged if your
prospect does not respond at once. Search out another alcoholic
and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough
to accept with eagerness what you offer. We find it a waste
of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with
you. If you leave such a person alone, he may soon become convinced
that he cannot recover by himself. To spend too much time on
any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity
to live and be happy.
Helping others is the foundation
stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn't enough.
You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be.
Though an alcoholic does not
respond, there is no reason why you should neglect his family.
You should continue to be friendly to them. The family should
be offered your way of life. Should they accept and practice
spiritual principals, there is a much better chance that the
head of the family will recover. And even though he continues
to drink, the family will find life more bearable.
Some of us have taken very hard
knocks to learn this truth: Job or no job--wife or no wife--we
simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon
other people ahead of dependence on God.
Burn the idea into the consciousness
of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The
only condition is that he trust God and clean house.
When your prospect has made
such reparation as he can to his family, and has thoroughly
explained to them the new principles by which he is living,
he should proceed to put those principles into action at home.
That is, if he is lucky enough to have a home. Though his family
be at fault in many respects, he should not be concerned about
that. He should concentrate on his own spiritual demonstration.
Argument and fault finding are to be avoided like the plague.
Pg. 99, 100
Let no alcoholic say he cannot
recover unless he has his family back. This just isn't so. In
some cases the wife will never come back for one reason or another.
Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon
people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God.
In our belief any scheme of combating
alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation
is doomed to failure.
So our rule is not to avoid
a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate
reason for being there.
Go or stay away, whichever seems
best. But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you
start and that your motive in going is thoroughly good. Do not
think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what
you can bring to it. But if you are shaky, you had better work
with another alcoholic instead!
Your job now is to be at the
place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so
never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful. You should
not hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such
an errand. Keep on the firing line of life with these motives
and God will keep you unharmed.
We are careful never to show
intolerance or hatred of drinking as an institution. Experience
shows that such an attitude is not helpful to anyone.
Some day we hope that Alcoholics
Anonymous will help the public to a better realization of the
gravity of the alcoholic problem, but we shall be of little
use if our attitude is one of bitterness or hostility. Drinkers
will not stand for it. After all, our problems were of our
own making. Bottles were only a symbol. Besides, we have stopped
fighting anybody or anything. We have to!
Pg. 108 TO WIVES
Perhaps your husband has
been living in that strange world of alcoholism where everything
is distorted and exaggerated. You can see that he really does
love you with his better self. Of course, there is such a thing
as incompatibility, but in nearly every instance the alcoholic
only seems to be unloving and inconsiderate; it is usually because
he is warped and sickened that he says and does these appalling
things. Today most of our men are better husbands and fathers
than ever before.
He is remorseful after serious
drinking bouts and tells you he wants to stop. But when he gets
over the spree, he begins to think once more how he can drink
moderately next time. We think this person is in danger. These
are the earmarks of a real alcoholic.
If you and your husband find
a solution for the pressing problem of drink you are, of course,
going to be very happy. But all problems will not be solved
at once. Seed has started to sprout in a new soil, but growth
has only begun. In spite of your new-found happiness, there
will be ups and downs. Many of the old problems will still be
with you. This is as it should be.
Starting from a speck on the
domestic horizon, great thunderclouds of dispute may gather.
These family dissensions are very dangerous, especially to your
husband. Often you must carry the burden of avoiding them or
keeping them under control. Never forget that resentment is
a deadly hazard to an alcoholic.
Your husband knows he owes you
more than sobriety. He wants to make good. Yet you must not
expect too much. His ways of thinking and doing are the habits
of years. Patience, tolerance, understanding and love are the
watchwords. Show him these things in yourself and they will
be reflected back to you from him. Live and let live is the
rule. If you both show a willingness to remedy your own defects,
there will be little need to criticize each other.
We find it a real mistake to
dampen his enthusiasm for alcoholic work. You should join in
his efforts as much as you possibly can. We suggest that you
direct some of your thought to the wives of his new alcoholic
friends. They need the counsel and love of a woman who has gone
through what you have.
You, as well as your husband,
ought to think of what you can put into life instead of how
much you can take out. Inevitably your lives will be fuller
for doing so.
Pg. 122 THE FAMILY AFTERWARD
All members of the family
should meet upon the common ground of tolerance, understanding
Cessation of drinking is but
the first step away from a highly strained, abnormal condition.
A doctor said to us, "Years of living with an alcoholic is almost
sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is,
to some extent, ill."
Henry Ford once made a wise remark
to the effect that experience is the thing of supreme value
in life. That is true only if one is willing to turn the past
to good account. We grow by our willingness to face and rectify
errors and convert them into assets.
This painful past may be of
infinite value to other families still struggling with their
problem. We think each family which has been relieved owes something
to those who have not, and when the occasion requires, each
member of it should be only too willing to bring former mistakes,
no matter how grievous, out of their hiding places. Showing
others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which
makes life seem so worth while to us now. Cling to the thought
that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession
you have--the key to life and happiness for others. With it
you can avert death and misery for them.
We alcoholics are sensitive people.
It takes some of us a long time to outgrow that serious handicap.
The head of the house ought to
remember that he is mainly to blame for what befell his home.
He can scarcely square the account in his lifetime. But he must
see the danger of over-concentration on financial success. Although
financial recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we
could not place money first. For us, material well-being always
followed spiritual progress; it never preceded.
Since the home has suffered
more than anything else, it is well that a man exert himself
there. He is not likely to get far in any direction if he fails
to show unselfishness and love under his own roof.
Though the family does not fully
agree with dad's spiritual activities, they should let him have
his head. Even if he displays a certain amount of neglect and
irresponsibility towards the family, it is well to let him go
as far as he likes in helping other alcoholics. During those
first days of convalescence, this will do more to insure his
sobriety than anything else.
We have come to believe He would
like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that our
feet ought to be firmly planted on earth. That is where our
fellow travelers are, and that is where our work must be done.
These are the realities for us.
Nothing will help the man
who is off on a spiritual tangent so much as the wife who adopts
a sane spiritual program, making a better practical use of it.
We have been speaking to you
of serious, sometimes tragic things. We have been dealing with
alcohol in its worst aspect. But we aren't a glum lot. If newcomers
could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn't want
it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life. We try not to indulge
in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the
world's troubles on our shoulders.
So we think cheerfulness and
laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked
when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience
out of the past. But why shouldn't we laugh? We have recovered,
and have been given the power to help others.
We are sure God wants us to be
happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that
this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for
many of us. But it is clear that we made our own misery. God
didn't do it. Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery,
but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity
to demonstrate His omnipotence.
Whether the family goes on a
spiritual basis or not, the alcoholic member has to if he would
Pg. 139 TO EMPLOYERS
If you desire to help it might
be well to disregard your own drinking, or lack of it. Whether
you are a hard drinker, a moderate drinker or a teetotaler,
you may have some pretty strong opinions, perhaps prejudices.
Those who drink moderately may be more annoyed with an alcoholic
than a total abstainer would be. Drinking occasionally, and
understanding your own reactions, it is possible for you to
become quite sure of many things which, so far as the alcoholic
is concerned, are not always so. As a moderate drinker, you
can take your liquor or leave it alone. Whenever you want to,
you control our drinking. Of an evening, you can go on a mild
bender, get up in the morning, shake your head and go to business.
To you, liquor is no real problem. You cannot see why it should
be to anyone else, save the spineless and stupid.
Say that you believe he is a
gravely ill person, with this qualification--being perhaps fatally
ill, does he want to get well? You ask, because many alcoholics,
being warped and drugged, do not want to quit. But does he?
Will he take every necessary step, submit to anything to get
well, to stop drinking forever?
Either you are dealing with
a man who can and will get well or you are not. If not, why
waste time with him? This may seem severe, but it is usually
the best course.
Though you are providing him
with the best possible medical attention, he should understand
that he must undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking
will require a transformation of thought and attitude. We all
had to place recovery above everything, for without recovery
we would have lost both home and business.
To return to the subject matter
of this book: It contains full suggestions by which the employee
may solve his problem.
As our work spreads and our numbers
increase, we hope your employees may be put in personal contact
with some of us. Meanwhile, we are sure a great deal can be
accomplished by the use of the book alone.
The greatest enemies of us alcoholics
are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear.
As a class, alcoholics are energetic
people. They work hard and they play hard.
He may wish to do a lot for
other alcoholics and something of the sort may come up during
business hours. A reasonable amount of latitude will be helpful.
This work is necessary to maintain his sobriety.
It boils right down to this:
No man should be fired just because he is alcoholic. If he wants
to stop, he should be afforded a real chance. If he cannot or
does not want to stop, he should be discharged. The exceptions
Pg. 151 A VISION FOR YOU
For most normal folks, drinking
means conviviality, companionship and colorful imagination.
It means release from care, boredom and worry. It is a joyous
intimacy with friends and a feeling that life is good. But not
so with us in those last days of heavy drinking. The old pleasures
were gone. They were but memories. Never could we recapture
the great moments of the past. There was an insistent yearning
to enjoy life as we once did and a heartbreaking obsession that
some new miracle of control would enable us to do it. There
was always one more attempt--and one more failure.
Some day he will be unable to
imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will
know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off
place. He will wish for the end.
We have been shown how we
got out from under. You say, "Yes, I'm willing. But am I to
be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum,
like some righteous people I see? I know I must get along without
liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?"
Yes, there is a substitute
and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics
Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom and
worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something
at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.
Thus we find the fellowship, and so will you.
You are going to meet these
new friends in your own community. Near you, alcoholics are
dying helplessly like people in a sinking ship. If you live
in a large place, there are hundreds. High and low, rich and
poor, these are the future fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Among them you will make lifelong friends. You will be bound
to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster
together and you will commence shoulder to shoulder your common
journey. Then you will know what it means to give of yourself
that others may survive and rediscover life. You will learn
the full meaning of "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
These men had found something
brand new in life. Though they knew they must help other alcoholics
if they would remain sober, that motive became secondary. It
was transcended by the happiness they found in giving themselves
Some day we hope that every alcoholic
who journeys will find a Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous
at his destination. To some extent this is already true.
Thus we grow. And so can you,
though you be but one man with this book in your hand. We believe
and hope it contains all you will need to begin.
We know what you are thinking.
You are saying to yourself: "I'm jittery and alone. I couldn't
do that." But you can. You forget that you have just now tapped
a source of power much greater than yourself. To duplicate,
with such backing, what we have accomplished is only a matter
of willingness, patience and labor.
Still you may say: "But I will
not have the benefit of contact with you who write this book."
We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must remember
that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you
how to create the fellowship you crave.
Our book is meant to be suggestive
only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly
disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation
what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The
answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously
you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that
your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come
to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact
Abandon yourself to God as
you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows.
Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you
find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of
the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge
the Road of Happy Destiny.
May God bless you and keep
Pg. 569 II SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
The terms "spiritual experience
and "spiritual awakening are used many times in this book which,
upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient
to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself
among us in many forms.
Yet it is true that our first
printing gave many readers the impression that these personality
changes, or religious experiences, must be in the nature of
sudden and spectacular upheavals. Happily for everyone, this
conclusion is erroneous.
In the first few chapters
a number of sudden revolutionary changes are described.
Though it was not our intention
to create such an impression, many alcoholics have nevertheless
concluded that in order to recover they must acquire an immediate
and overwhelming "God-consciousness" followed at once by a vast
change in feeling and outlook.
Among our rapidly growing
membership of thousands of alcoholics such transformations,
though frequent, are by no means the rule. Most of our experiences
are what the psychologist William James calls the "educational
variety" because they develop slowly over a period of time.
Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference
long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has undergone
a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change
could hardly have been brought about by himself alone. What
often takes place in a few months could seldom have been accomplished
by years of self-discipline. With few exceptions our members
find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource which
they presently identify with their own conception of a Power
greater than themselves.
Most of us think this awareness
of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual
experience. Our more religious members call it "God-consciousness."
Most emphatically we wish
to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems
in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does
not close his mind to all spiritual concepts. He can only be
defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial.
We find that no one need have
difficulty with the spirituality of the program.
Willingness, honesty and
open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are
"There is a principle which
is a bar against all information, which is proof against all
arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting
ignorance---that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
Pg. 571 III THE MEDICAL
VIEW ON A.A.
Dr. Foster Kennedy, neurologist:
"This organization of Alcoholics Anonymous calls on two of the
greatest reservoirs of power known to man, religion and that
instinct for association with one's fellows...the 'herd' instinct.
I think our profession must take appreciative cognizance of
this great therapeutic weapon. If we do not do so, we shall
stand convicted of emotional sterility and of having lost faith
that moves mountains, without which medicine can do little."
Dr. G. Kirby Collier, psychiatrist:
"I have felt that A.A. is a group unto themselves and their
best results can be had under their own guidance, as a result
of their philosophy. Any therapeutic or philosophic procedure
which can prove a recovery rate of 50% to 60% must merit our
Dr. W. W. Bauer, broadcasting
under the auspices of The American Medical Association in 1946,
over the NBC network, said, in part: "Alcoholics Anonymous are
no crusaders; not a temperance society. They know that they
must never drink. They help others with similar problems...In
this atmosphere the alcoholic often overcomes his excessive
concentration upon himself. Learning to depend upon a higher
power and absorb himself in his work with other alcoholics,
he remains sober day by day. The days add up into weeks, the
weeks into months and years."
Pg. 574 V THE RELIGIOUS
VIEW ON A.A.
Clergymen of practically every
denomination have given A.A. their blessing.
The Episcopal magazine,
The Living Church, observes editorially: "The basis of the
technique of Alcoholics Anonymous is the truly Christian principle
that a man cannot help himself except by helping others. The
A.A. plan is described by the members themselves as 'self-insurance.'
This self-insurance has resulted in the restoration of physical,
mental and spiritual health and self-respect to hundreds of
men and women who would be hopelessly down and out without its
unique but effective therapy."
Speaking at a dinner given
by John D. Rockefeller Jr. to introduce Alcoholics Anonymous
to some of his friends, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick remarked:
"I think that psychologically
speaking there is a point of advantage in the approach that
is being made in this movement that cannot be duplicated. I
suspect that if it is wisely handled--and it seems to be in
wise and prudent hands--there are doors of opportunity ahead
of this project that may surpass our capacities to imagine."