IS A.A. FOR ALCOHOLICS ONLY?
Our most enthusiastic friends think Alcoholics Anonymous is a
modern miracle. So they ask, "Why can't A.A.
principles be applied to any personal problem?" The
world today is a problem world because it is full of problem
people. We are now on the greatest emotional bender of all
time; practically no one of us is free from the tightening coils
of insecurity, fear, resentment and avarice. If A.A. can
revive an alcoholic be removing these paralyzing liabilities
from him, it must be strong medicine. Perhaps the rest of
us could use the same prescription.
Not being reformers, nor representing any particular sectarian
or medical point of view, we A.A.'s can only tell the story of
what has happened to us and suggest the simple (but not easy)
principles upon which, as ex-drinkers, our very lives now
Fifty thousand alcoholics [today A.A. has nearly two million
members and 100,000 groups worldwide] - the men and women
members of A.A. - have found release from their fatal compulsion
to drink. Each month two thousand more set foot on the A.A.
high road to freedom from obsession so subtly powerful that once
engulfed, few alcoholics over the centuries have ever survived.
We alcoholics have always been the despair of society and,
as our lives became totally unmanageable, we despair of
ourselves. Obsession is the word for it.
But now, largely through A.A., this impossible soul sickness is
being banished. Each recovering alcoholic carries his tale
to the next. In a brief dozen years the A.A. message has
spread, chain letter fashion, over the United States, Canada and
a dozen foreign lands. Obsession is being exorcised
What then, is this message whose power can restore the alcoholic
his sanity and thenceforth enable him to live soberly, happily
and usefully in a very confused world? The A.A. Recovery
Program relates it as follows:
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
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the
of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing
amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever 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 understand Him, praying
only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry
12. 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 of our affairs.
Simple, these principles, yet a large order indeed. When
one tries to apply them he is bound to collide with a most heavy
obstacle. That obstacle is one's own pride.
Who, for example, cares to admit complete defeat? Who
wishes to admit to himself and others his serious defects of
character? Who relishes forgiving his enemies and making
amends to people he has harmed? Who would like to give
freely of himself without ever demanding reward? How many
can really bow before "the God of their own
understanding" in real faith that a Higher Power will do
for them what they cannot do for themselves?
Yet A.A.'s find that if we go "all out" in daily
practice of our 12 Steps we soon commence to live in a new,
unbelievable world. Our pride yields to humility and our
cynicism to faith. We begin to know serenity. We
learn enough patience, tolerance, honesty and service to subdue
our former masters - insecurity, resentment and unsatisfied
dreams of power. We find that God can be relied upon; that
our strength can come out of weakness; that perhaps only those
who have tasted the fruits of dependence on a Higher Power can
understand the true meaning of personal liberty, freedom of the
For us of A.A. these are not theories; they are the prime facts
of our very existence. The average A.A. member feels that
he deserves little personal credit for his new way of life.
He knows he might never have achieved enough humility to
find God unless he had been beaten to his knees by alcohol.
He was once that egocentric, but in the end it had to be
Yet we of A.A. cannot but feel that great things certainly await
those who earnestly try our 12 Steps substituting their own
distressing problem for that of alcohol. Nor do we think
everyone needs to be so completely beaten as we were. To
us, grace is an infinite abundance which surely can be shared by
all who will renounce their former selves enough to truly seek
it out. We often feel like shouting this ancient charter
of men's liberty from the rooftops of thousands of our homes -
A.A. homes that would never have been, but for the grace of God.
WHO IS HE?
Bill is a Vermonter, tall, lanky and homespun. He learned
to drink in the First World War when he was in France. On
his return home, it took him tormented years to realize what was
obvious to others - that he had not learned how to drink and
could not trust himself not to drink.
Being a canny, shrewd New Englander, Bill achieved a fairly
immediate success on Wall Street, but all the adroitness and
luck in the world could never hold up against his alcoholic
obsession. Nothing and nobody could hold up against it -
except Lois, the childhood sweetheart and wife who had sent an
idealistic lad to war and had got herself back a two-headed
problem. Often hospitalized, Bill had been pronounced incurable
by Dr. William D. Silkworth, a well-known authority on
alcoholism, who in recent years has become a sort of patron
saint of A.A. On his last visit to the hospital, Bill was
seen by a friend who had himself recovered from alcoholism by
spiritual means. This friend urged Bill to confess his
faults, make restitution to those he had injured, turn to God
for relief from alcoholism and help others.
Bill rebelled for he was an agnostic. But, fully realizing
his hopeless condition, alone and despairing in his hospital
room, he said to himself, "At last I'm ready to try
anything" and then with little hope and no faith at
all, he cried out, "If there is a God, will he show
himself?" This was the beginning of A.A. -
For God did answer.
Editor-in-Chief, Guideposts, 1947
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