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If Life is a Game, These are the Rules

The Simple Approach to the 12 Steps!

  1. There’s a power that will kill me.
  2. There’s a power that wants me to live.
  3. Which do I want? (If you want to die, stop here. If you want to live, go on.)
  4. Using examples from your own life, understand that selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear control your actions.
  5. Tell all your private, embarrassing secrets to another person.
  6. Decide whether or not you want to live that way any more.
  7. If you want your life to change, ask a power greater than yourself to change it for you. (If you could have changed it yourself, you would have long ago.)
  8. Figure out how to make right all the things you did wrong.
  9. Fix what you can without causing more trouble in the process.
  10. Understand that making mistakes is part of being human (When you make a mistake, fix it, immediately if you can.)
  11. Ask for help to treat yourself and others the way you want your higher power to treat you.
  12. Don’t stop doing 1 through 11, and Pass It On!!
    –Author Unknown
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Twelve Warnings

The book Alcoholics Anonymous contains a series of propositions and proposals, the successful outcome of these depends upon the actions of the reader.

The book directs us as to what we must start doing, what we must stop doing, what happens when we fulfill the propositions and proposals and what will happen if we fail to fulfill them.

These are the Twelve Warnings as to what will happen if we fail to heed the directions.

  1. For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. (p14)
  2. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined. (p17)
  3. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness, we must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. (p62)
  4. Though our decision (Step 3) was a vital and crucial Step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face and be rid of, the things in our lives which had been blocking us. (p64)
  5. 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 with us to drink is to die. (p66)
  6. Concerning sex. 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 a 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 about our experience. (p70)
  7. If we skip this vital Step (5), 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. (p.72)
  8. We must lose our fear of creditors no matter how far we have to go, for we are liable to drink if we are afraid to face them. (p78)
  9. We feel that a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. (p.82)
  10. 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. (p.85)
  11. Our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there. That includes bars, nightclubs, dances, receptions, weddings, even plain ordinary whoopee parties. To a person who has had experience with an alcoholic, this may seem like tempting Providence , but it isn’t. You will note that we made an important qualification. Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, “Have I a good social, business, or personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places?” If you have answered these questions satisfactorily, you need have no apprehension. 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! (p.101)
  12. 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. (p127)
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No More Fun

When I first joined the fellowship, I had a few concerns
Not knowing much about AA, was fearful when I learned
That if I wanted what they had, I’d really have to change
And rid myself of my old ways, completely rearrange

The first thing I heard someone say, I did not comprehend
He said that they had found a way to never drink again
Not ever, ever drink again, that’s not why I came here
To get the wife off of my back and moderate my beer

The next thought that caused me to fret, enticing me to run
If I could never drink again, a life with no more fun
Life would be dull, enjoyment gone, the good times never more
For life without my alcohol, I’d turn into a bore

I’d think about the many times where drinking was a part
Those fishing trips and football games, a drink the way to start
Or sitting on my favorite bar and drinking with my friends
I’d miss all that and think of how I wished it would not end

But while I sat and reminisced about those fun filled days
Some other thoughts came in my mind and real concerns were raised
Like when I went to watch a game, some guys I went to meet
When half time came, I looked the fool, passed out there in my seat

I thought about another time, a fun time at the bar
On my way home, I hit a tree and ruined my new car
Police arrived, they checked me out, I knew they could not fail
To see that I was very drunk, away I went to jail

It took some time for me to see and finally realize
That what I thought was having fun was trouble in disguise
And at that time, a light came on, and then I understood
My drinking I could not control and knew I never would

Back in the rooms I took to heart what others had to say
Keep coming back, put in the work, get on your knees and pray
And before long, to my surprise, things did begin to change
The stuff that once had baffled me now did not seem so strange

I came to see a different way to live, my life at peace
And with that came a benefit, my troubles start to cease
Now when I’m at a football game or fishing on the sea
I’m there to just enjoy the day, sober, calm and free

When I think back to those first days, I find myself amused
No fun, I thought, but now I laugh, how I was so confused
It’s not the booze that made times great, the good times just begun
Enjoy each day, the things you do, a sober life IS FUN.

Larry R.

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The Power of The Pause

We hear about a kit of tools to help us to get by
When life decides to intervene, our peace to nullify
A tool that is most useful, no matter what the cause
Is one that we have learned to use, the one that’s called the pause

While drinking most of us rejected turning from a fight
Weather physical or verbal since we knew that we were right
Our first instinct was to lash out and make them understand
That we were right and they were wrong, we made it a demand

The bad part of this action was it always made things worse
Tempers flared, bad things were said, we’d yell and start to curse
Then walk away and carry a resentment in our brain
And drink to help forget our way of thinking was insane

Once we turned the corner and our drinking days were through
We started to think differently, a better path pursue
When faced with situations that would cause us to react
We stop and think, before we speak, some words we can’t take back

By pausing when confronted by a person, place or thing
That sets us up to lash out, makes us want to take a swing
We take the time to contemplate and let our minds rehearse
If striking back will really help or only make things worse

This does not mean we must accept what others do or say
But we have learned, most times it’s best, to put those thoughts at bay
Restrain the natural impulse to avenge what we conceive
An offence directed towards us or insensitivity

By taking time to let things cool we often realize
The thing that had upset us melts away, desensitizes
Refusing to engage what would had been an altercation
We did not add to feelings that would harm future relations

A friend or spouse just sometimes may be having a bad day
Makes a careless comment, hurts our feelings, cause dismay
They may not have meant to say it, we decide to let it pass
We think of other times when we’re the one that was the ass

So, taking time to pause before we jumped into the fray
We avoided confrontation with our defect on display
Pausing gives us power just to do the next right thing
Practice what we have been taught, serenity is king.

Larry R.

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When “Yet” Becomes “Now”

He told himself it was ok, to have a bit of fun
He could stop at any time, just now he was not done
He drank more than his friends at times, did things he would regret
Sometimes he thought of stopping, but he wasn’t quite there yet

His first exposure to the law was from a DUI
While driving home one evening, no doubt that he was high
He came upon a traffic check, was motioned to pull over
It ended in a room that night, an eight-by-eight enclosure

Was just bad luck that got him there, he tried to justify
The reason he was in this mess; misfortune his reply
Had he drove home another way this would not have occurred
Denying drinking was the cause, the only voice he heard

He lost his license for a year and had to do without
Rely on friends or call a cab, it made him want to shout
Mostly he would stay at home with nothing much to do
So, he turned to the bottle, have himself a drink or two

Before long two turned into three, consumption was increasing
Take uber to the liquor store, desire never ceasing
But once he got his license back, he’d quit for sure, he thought
When that day came sobriety was the last thing that he sought

When I must drive, I will not drink, he made himself a promise
It was not long before this vow was totally demolished
The same routine he had before was playing out again
He wrecked the car, was badly hurt, took months for him to mend

He knew he’d lost control, he felt he had to find a way
To moderate the way he drank, he’d heard about AA
Perhaps those folks could show him how to manage how he drank
Education was his need, an alcohol think tank

But when he went into the rooms, he got a big surprise
They said that he could never drink, there was no compromise
That’s not what he had bargained for, this place he’d soon forget
These folks were truly hard-core drunks, he was not that bad yet

As always does, things just got worse, the bottle was his master
Lost his job, lost his home, his life was a disaster
The ending of his story was played out in a motel
With empty bottles all around, the sound a lonely knell

Most of us had been like him, it’s easy to forget
How many times we told ourselves that “we’re not that bad yet”
Us lucky ones, fore it’s too late, had found the will somehow
To realize the time had come and YET had become NOW

Larry R.

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A Laugh Regarding “Sponsorship”

A man in a hot air balloon realized that he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted another man below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The man below replied, “You’re in a hot air ball hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

“You must be a sponsor,” said the balloonist. “I am,” replied the man, “how did you know?” “Well,” answered the balloonists, “everything you told me is, technically correct, but I’ve no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help at all. If anything, you’ve delayed my trip.”

The man below responded, “You must be a sponsee”

“I am,: replied the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” said the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you expect other people to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault.”  

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Which Wolf Do You Feed?

An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.

One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, and superiority.

The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

This same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too.
The children thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, Which wolf will win?

The old Cherokee simply replied: The one I feed.

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“A.A. doesn’t work” they say…

One of the saddest statements I have ever heard is, “I’ve been to A.A. and it doesn’t work.” There is no way I can count the number of times over the past couple of decades I have found an alcoholic coming off a drunk who made that statement. Just today, one of my protégés called to tell me of a man, holed up in a cheap motel room, he was asked to locate and see if he could help him.

My protégé was successful in locating the suffering alcoholic and did what he had been instructed to do on a Twelve Step call. He told him some of the story of his drinking and how he had come to know it to be an illness over which he had no control nor did the medical profession have a solution.

The suffering alcoholic finally said, “You’re going to try to tell me about A.A. aren’t you?” Jake said, “That is where I found my solution. “The sick one said, “I have gone to A.A. meetings for the last eight 8 months and did what they told me to do. It doesn’t work for me.”

Jake asked, “Did you take the Steps with a sponsor who had been blessed with a spiritual experience as the result of having taken the Steps?” The sick one said, “I think I did but the main thing they told me was just keep coming back and you’ll be OK. When I asked what else I should do, I was told, Don’t drink and keep on going to more meetings. I did what they told me to do and A.A. just doesn’t work.”

A member of Alcoholics Anonymous found me near death in 1964 and told me he could help me. He said to me, “I understand. I have been where you are and I want to help you if you will let me.” I was willing to do anything. He took me to his A.A. club and began sobering me up on orange juice with some honey mixed in it. When I began having delirium tremens, they added some Bay Rum to the mixture. There were no treatment centers in our area at that time and hospitals would not admit us for alcoholism. We either shook and sweat it out in jail or at an A.A. club. By far, most of them made it to the end sober or they still are. I wasn’t one of them. I saw an opportunity to return my ego to its earlier level by getting involved in a new and exciting profession and so I went for it. Sixteen years after my last drink; 11 years after my last meeting, on a day without a cloud in the sky, I thought having a beer would be a good idea, so being in a very dry county, I drove 70 miles for a six-pack. It took me 2 years to make it back to Alcoholics Anonymous very, very drunk.

But what a difference 13 years can make! There were no alcoholics laying around the club with dry heaves. There were no blood shot eyes, sweating faces, no vibrating bodies, the aroma of alcoholism was missing. There was no orange juice in the refrigerator nor honey near the coffee pot. There was no Bay Rum in the file cabinet. It was no longer needed because almost everyone had gone to treatment and been medicated through the process of what is termed de-tox. They had missed those wonderful golden moments of the misery, suffering and pain of sobering up. At first, I thought the new approach was good but then I began to see the results. There was less and less commitment to the group and the action necessary for long term emotional sobriety was being ignored.

There were very few Big Book study or speaker meetings but a large number of discussion/participation meetings where everyone was given an opportunity to talk about whatever was on their mind whether on not they knew anything about alcoholism or recovery from alcoholism. There were even non-alcoholics participating in these meetings. This newer approach of learning to live with alcoholism was beginning to prove to be a dismal failure.

I heard a tape of Joe McQ. and later attended a weekend of Joe McQ. and Charlie P. presenting their Big Book Comes Alive program. It then became very clear why so many were returning to the bottle. Not only were we without sick alcoholics laying around the meeting places, there was so little program in our meetings, it was almost hidden from the newcomers. No wonder so few were finding more than a few months of physical sobriety. They were denied what is required for long term emotional sobriety.

Without the sick alcoholics laying round the meeting place, I had to find a place where I could again see and smell alcoholism. I needed a frequent reminder of where I came from and what was waiting for me if I didn‘t continue to pay the price for emotional sobriety. Over the years since I have been blessed to have been given another opportunity to survive the deadliest disease known to mankind, I have volunteered in many wind-up places where those coming off a drunk are present and available to talk with. Again and again, I heard that sickening statement, “I went to A.A. and it doesn’t work.”

Of course, they are right. Alcoholics Anonymous does not work! We must work it! But they were not told the truth. My basic text reads, “Rarely, have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path” The path being the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as outlined in a book titled Alcoholics Anonymous. My basic text does not read, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of don’t drink and go to meetings.” It reads, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Our real problem is ego driven sponsorship with very little if any real concern for the welfare of the newcomer. Proclaimed members of our fellowship who have never taken the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous will assume the responsibility for the life of a newcomer and will proudly announce the number of sponsees they have. As one of my dear friends said, “The manner in which we now fail our responsibility to the newcomer borders on slaughter.” The demise of our sense of responsibility to those seeking help for alcoholism is one of the greatest tragedies of our time in history. It works only if we work it (working all 12 Steps, meetings/fellowship, and being of service expecting nothing in return)!

Cliff B.

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Emotional Fluency

All feelings are okay, but not all behaviors are. This is the basic guiding principle for our emotional lives. “Emotional fluency” is the ability to be in touch with whatever we are feeling inside and able to communicate those sensations to ourselves—and others—in ways that are life enhancing rather than destructive.

We develop this capacity for emotional fluency gradually, starting in childhood, as we learn to identify and name certain bodily sensations. We then expand the vocabulary we use to express the continuum of each core feeling. Using “I” statements, followed by a feeling word, helps us refine our ability to take responsibility and make these internal sensations our own. I feel scared when I see you drinking so much. I feel upset and angry with myself when I mess up.

Mood storms teach us about the ever-changing tempestuous nature of our emotional life. We all go through times when our emotions seem to have us in their grasp, more than we are having them. Through all these developmental phases, we learn to experience, recognize, name, and then express our internal experience to others. Addictions commonly interrupt this growth and tend to leave us with less mature skills in identifying and revealing our inner states. Sobriety allows us reclaim what we have been missing.

Whatever I am feeling is valid; how I choose to express it needs healthy boundaries.

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The Twelve Steps to a Slip

PERSONS who attain sobriety through the A.A. principles, do so only after a thoughtful application of the 12 Suggested Steps to recovery. They happily find themselves on a level plateau of sanity after ascending these steps, one after another, and they maintain their sobriety by a continuing application of these same steps.

Those unfortunates who lose their sobriety are said to be having a “slip”. I believe this is a misnomer, for it suggests only a momentary adversity that unexpectedly pounces on its unwary victim. A more apt term would be a “glissade,” for a slip is the result of a gradual process, beginning long before its logical termination, and progressing through a series of wrong steps, to a drink, and for us, a drunk.

A slip cannot be said to occur only when it culminates in a drink, for many of us, in our failure to apply the 12 Steps to our living, frequently have slips, which are none the less slips merely because we do not slip as far as a drink.

As one must ascend the 12 Steps gradually, I feel the “slip” is the result of unconsciously descending these Steps. And as descending steps is always accompanied with less effort than ascending them, the steps soon assume the behavior of an escalator.

As the “bottom” is reached it invariably results in taking that “one drink,” which leads, for us, only to all the remorse, terror and unhappiness that follows a binge.

These, then, are in my opinion the “12 Steps to a slip,” and are the direct result of failure to consciously apply to our lives the 12 Suggested Steps to recovery:

  1. We neglect 12th Step work.
  2. We omit contact with the Higher Power.
  3. We forget personal inventory.
  4. We assume grudges against others.
  5. We miss A.A. meetings, and avoid A.A. friends.
  6. We gradually lose humility.
  7. We fall into self pity.
  8. We worry about unalterables.
  9. Our thinkin’ really starts stinkin’.
  10. We become “cocky” and overconfident.
  11. We neglect to ask help from the Higher Power, and take “just one.”
  12. We become a “social drinker.” (Temporarily.)

R. H. Dunkirk, Indiana
Jan. 1949, Grapevine