If you want to stop,
(01) Twelve Steps » cont
THE TWELVE STEPS
of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS.
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
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.
entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
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 wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them
to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
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 principles in all our affairs.
Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a
drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, nondenominational,
multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or
education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something
about his or her drinking problem.
DOES A.A. DO?
members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem;
they give person-to-person service or “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming
to A.A. from any source.
2. The A.A.
program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a
satisfying life without alcohol.
program is discussed at A.A. group meetings.
Open speaker meetings—open to alcoholics and nonalcoholics. (Attendance at an
open A.A. meeting is the best way to learn what A.A. is, what it does, and what
it does not do.) At speaker meetings, A.A. members “tell their stories.”
They describe their experiences with alcohol, how they came to A.A., and how
their lives have changed as a result of A.A.
discussion meetings—one member speaks briefly about his or her drinking
experience, and then leads a discussion on A.A. recovery or any drinking-related
problem anyone brings up. Closed meetings are for A.A.s or anyone who may
have a drinking problem.)
discussion meetings—conducted just as open discussions are, but for alcoholics
or prospective A.A.s only.
meetings (usually closed)—discussion of one of the Twelve Steps.
members also take meetings into correctional and treatment facilities.
f. A.A. members may be asked to conduct the informational meetings about A.A. as a part of A.S.A.P. (Alcohol Safety Action Project) and D.W.I. (Driving While Intoxicated) programs. These meetings about A.A. are not regular A.A. group meetings.
(03) Group Meetings » cont
The local group meeting is the center
and heart of the A.A. Fellowship. It is, in many ways, a unique type of
gathering and one that is likely to seem strange to the newcomer. The questions
and answers that follow suggest how the A.A. meeting functions and how the
newcomer fits into the group picture.
How does a person join A.A.?
No one “joins” A.A. in the usual
sense of the term. No application for membership has to be filled out. In fact,
many groups do not even keep membership records. There are no initiation fees,
no dues, no assessments of any kind.
Most people become associated with A.A.
simply by attending the meetings of a particular local group. Their introduction
to A.A. may have come about in one of several ways. Having come to the point in
their drinking where they sincerely wanted to stop, they may have gotten in
touch with A.A. voluntarily. They may have called the local A.A. office fisted
in the phone book, or they may have written to the General Service Office, Box
459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163.
Others may have been guided to a local
A.A. group by a friend, relative, doctor, or spiritual adviser.
Usually, a newcomer to A.A. has had an
opportunity to talk to one or more local members before attending the first
meeting. This provides an opportunity to learn how A.A. has helped these people.
The beginner gets facts about alcoholism and A.A. that help to determine whether
he or she is honestly prepared to give up alcohol. The only requirement for
membership is a desire to stop drinking.
There are no membership drives in A.A.
If, after attending several meetings, the newcomer decides A.A. is not for him
or for her, no one will urge continuation in the association. There may be
suggestions about keeping an open mind on the subject, but no one in A.A. will
try to make up newcomers’ minds for them. Only the alcoholic concerned can
answer the question “Do I need Alcoholics Anonymous?”
What is an ‘open’ meeting?
An open meeting of A.A. is a group
meeting that any member of the community, alcoholic or nonalcoholic, may attend.
The only obligation is that of not disclosing the names of A.A. members outside
A typical open meeting will usually
have a “leader” and other speakers. The leader opens and closes the meeting
and introduces each speaker. With rare exceptions, the speakers at an open
meeting are A.A. members. Each, in turn, may review some individual drinking
experiences that led to joining A.A. The speaker may also give his or her
interpretation of the recovery program and suggest what sobriety has meant
personally. All views expressed are purely personal, since all members of A.A.
speak only for themselves.
Most open meetings conclude with a
social period during which coffee, soft drinks, and cakes or cookies are served.
Wat is a ‘closed’ meeting?
A closed meeting is limited to members
of the local A.A. group, or visiting members from other groups. The purpose of
the closed meeting is to give members an opportunity to discuss particular
phases of their alcoholic problem that can be understood best only by other
These meetings are usually conducted
with maximum informality, and all members are encouraged to participate in the
discussions. The closed meetings are of particular value to the newcomer, since
they provide an opportunity to ask questions that may trouble a beginner, and to
get the benefit of “older” members’ experience with the recovery program.
May I bring relatives or friends to an A.A. meeting?
In most places, anyone interested in
A.A., whether a member or not, is welcome at open meetings of A.A. groups. * Newcomers,
in particular, are invited to bring wives, husbands, or friends to these
meetings, since their understanding of the recovery program may be an important
factor in helping the alcoholic to achieve and maintain sobriety. Many wives and
husbands attend as frequently as their spouses and take an active part in the
social activities of the local group.
(It will be recalled that “closed”
meetings are traditionally limited to alcoholics.)
* Consult the group for local custom.
How often do A.A. members have to attend meetings?
Abraham Lincoln was once asked how long
a man’s legs should be. The classic answer was: “Long enough to reach the
A.A. members don’t have to
attend any set number of meetings in a given period. It is purely a matter of
individual preference and need. Most members arrange to attend at least one
meeting a week. They feel that is enough to satisfy their personal need for
contact with the program through a local group. Others attend a meeting nearly
every night, in areas where such opportunities are available. Still others may
go for relatively long periods without meetings.
The friendly injunction “Keep coming
to meetings,” so frequently heard by the newcomer, is based on the experience
of the great majority of A.A.s, who find that the quality of their sobriety
suffers when they stay away from meetings for too long. Many know from
experience that if they do not come to meetings, they may get drunk and that if
they are regular in attendance, they seem to have no trouble staying sober.
Newcomers particularly seem to benefit
from exposure to a relatively large number of meetings (or other A.A. contacts)
during their first weeks and months in a group. By multiplying their
opportunities to meet and hear other A.A.s whose drinking experience parallels
their own, they seem to be able to strengthen their own understanding of the
program and what it can give them.
Nearly all alcoholics, at one time or
another, have tried to stay sober on their own. For most, the experience has not
been particularly enjoyable — or successful. So long as attendance at meetings
helps the alcoholic to maintain sobriety, and to have fun at the same time, it
seems to be good sense to be guided by the experience of those who “keep
coming to meetings.”
* Consult the group for local custom.
Do A.A.s have to attend meetings for the rest of their lives?
Not necessarily, but — as one member
has suggested — “Most of us want to, and some of us may need to.”
Most alcoholics don’t like to be told
that they have to do anything for any extended period of time. At first glance,
the prospect of having to attend A.A. meetings for all the years of the
foreseeable future may seem a heavy load.
The answer, again, is that no one has
to do anything in A.A. There is always a choice between doing and not doing a
thing — including the crucial choice of whether or not to seek sobriety
The primary reason an alcoholic has for
attending meetings of an A.A. group is to get help in staying sober today
— not tomorrow or next week or ten years from now. Today, the immediate
present, is the only period in life that the A.A. can do something about. A.A.s
do not worry about tomorrow, or about “the rest of their lives.” The
important thing for them is to maintain their sobriety now. They will take care
of the future when it arrives.
So the A.A. who wants to do everything
possible to insure sobriety today will probably keep going to meetings. But
attendance will always be on the basis of taking care of present sobriety. As
long as the approach to A.A. is on this basis, no activity, including attendance
at meetings, can ever resemble a long-term obligation.
How will I be able to find the time for A.A. meetings, work with other alcoholics, and other A.A. activities?
During our drinking days, most of us
somehow managed to minimize the importance of time when there was alcohol to be
consumed. Yet the newcomer to A.A. is occasionally dismayed to learn that
sobriety will make some demands on time, too. If the beginner is a typical
alcoholic, there will be an urge to make up “lost time” in a hurry — to
work diligently at a job, to indulge in the pleasures of a homelife too long
neglected, to devote time to church or civic affairs. What else is sobriety for,
the new member may ask, but to lead a full, normal life, great chunks of it at a
A.A., however, is not something that
can be taken like a pill. The experience of those who have been successful in
the recovery program is worth considering. Almost without exception, the men and
women who find their sobriety most satisfying are those who attend meetings
regularly, never hesitate to work with other alcoholics seeking help, and take
more than a casual interest in the other activities of their groups. They are
men and women who recall realistically and honestly the aimless hours spent in
bars, the days lost from work, the decreased efficiency, and the remorse that
accompanied hangovers on the morning after.
Balanced against such memories as
these, the few hours spent in underwriting and strengthening their sobriety add
up to a small price indeed.
Can newcomers join A.A. outside their own community?
This question is sometimes raised by
persons who seem to have perfectly valid reasons for not wanting to risk
identification as alcoholics by any of their neighbors. They may, for example,
have employers who are totally unfamiliar with the A.A. program and potentially
hostile to anyone who admits the existence of a drinking problem. They may wish
desperately to be associated with A.A. as a means of gaining and maintaining
sobriety. But they may hesitate to turn to a group in their own community.
The answer to the question is that a
person is free to join an A.A. group anywhere he or she may choose. Obviously,
it is more convenient to join the nearest group. It may also be the most
straightforward approach to the individual’s problem. The person who turns to
A.A. for help is usually, but not always, pretty well identified as a drunk.
Inevitably, the good news of this person’s sobriety is bound to spread, too.
Few employers or neighbors are likely to resent the source of their worker’s
or friend’s continued sobriety, whether it centers in a local A.A. group or
one located fifty miles away.
Few people these days are fired from
their jobs or ostracized socially because they are sober. If the experience of
many thousands of A.A.s is a reliable guide, the best approach for the newcomer
is to seek help in the nearest group before beginning to worry about the
reactions of others.
If I come into A.A., won’t I miss a lot of friends and a lot of fun?
The best answer to this is the
experience of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have already come
into A.A. In general, their attitude is that they did not enjoy real friendships
or real fun until they joined A.A. Their point of view on both has changed.
Many alcoholics discover that their
best friends are delighted to see them face up to the fact that they cannot
handle alcohol. No one wants to see a friend continue to hurt.
Naturally, it is important to distinguish between friendships and casual barroom acquaintanceships. The alcoholic is likely to have many acquaintances whose conviviality may be missed for a while. But their place will be taken by the hundreds of A.A.s the newcomer will meet - men and women who offer understanding acceptance, and help in sustaining sobriety at all times.
Few members of A.A. would trade the fun
that comes with sobriety for what seemed to be fun while they were
WHAT DOES A.A. DO?
A.A. members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem.
A.A. members offer person-to-person “sponsorship” to the alcoholic coming to A.A. from any source or referred by any source.
A sponsor helps the new member in working the Twelve Steps and in developing a satisfying life without alcohol.
Important in th[e recovery] process is obtaining a sponsor, even on a temporary basis. Having someone attend his or her first A.A. meeting with a member is desirable, though not a must. Most newcomers have many questions. The sponsor can answer these and reassure the newcomer that others have experienced the same reluctance and fear in taking a first step toward recovery. Sharing experience as peers is the unique service Alcoholics Anonymous offers.