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Promises of NOT working the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

If we are NOT painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be drunk before we leave the parking lot.
We are going to know a new pain and a new misery.
We will regret our deeds and repeat them over and over.
We will comprehend the word chaos and we will know calamity. No matter how far down the road we stagger, we will still wonder where we are going.
That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will intensify.
We will lose interesting things and gain relations with strange fellows.
Self-seeking will be constant.
Our whole attitude will be on the lookout for the cops.
Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us – homeless. We will intuitively know how to stay drunk with little or no money. We will suddenly begin to think that God does not exist.
Are these extravagant promises?
Probably not.
They are being practiced daily, sometimes insanely, sometimes deadly.
They will continue to happen if we keep drinking.

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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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Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid…

In the forward to the second edition on page xx of the Big Book, it shares with us the recovery statistics from the first 16 years of AA. They tell of a 75% success rate. These facts came from the New York office. Lois kept a list as well at 66%. Sister Ignatia also kept track at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron and recorded 700 out of the first 1000 admitted to the hospital there. Some of the early groups in Cleveland and Akron in the 1940’s reported over 90%. Regardless of the which number to use to compare to today, it seems we are not doing a good job at carrying the message. Why? Probably several reasons. We have strayed from the basics in the Big Book in favor of discussion meetings. We have forgotten what sponsorship means; what working with others means. It means intensive work with another alcoholic. However, there are a couple of key words on page xx. It says:

“Of alcoholics who came to AA, and really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that way; 25% sobered up after some relapses and among the remained those who stayed on with AA showed improvement. Other thousands came to a few AA meetings and at first decided they didn’t want the program. But a great number of these – about two out of every three – began to return as times passed”.

Those two thirds went back through the same rate of success.

So what does really tried mean. Perhaps that is following the 14 directions on page 58 in the Big Book, that are there before we even get to the 12 steps. Maybe this can be thought of as step 0.
In order as the directions appear on page 58 in question form written for me to answer honestly every day.
1) Am I thoroughly following our path, the path as precisely laid out in the Big Book? Remember, rarely have we seen a person fail who does this.
2) Am I completely giving myself to this simple program? Remember, those who do not or will not will not recover.
3) Am I being honest with myself? Remember, those who fail are constitutionally incapable of doing so, usually are those who do not recover.
4) Am I grasping and developing a manner of living which demand rigorous honesty? Am I becoming or am I now capable of being rigorously honest with myself?
5) If I have other mental and emotional issues, am I being honest so that I can and will recover?
6) Does my story disclose in a general way what I used to be like, what happened, and what I am now?
7) Am I willing to go to any length to get it? Am I willing to go to any length to be ready to take certain steps and remain sober?
8) Am I still trying to find an easier softer way?
9) Am I being fearless and thorough from the very start?
10) Am I holding onto my old ideas? Am I willing to let go absolutely?
11) Do I accept and remember that alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful?
12) Do I accept that to recover is too much for me alone, and accept that there is One Power? That one is God and ask for help now.
13) Half measures availed us nothing. Am I still doing half measures?
14) Am I asking for His protection and care with complete abandon?

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For Those Who Say “A.A. Doesn’t Work”

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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It’s Not About Me

All of the years I’ve suffered from fears and said what in the hell did I do?

The train in my brain spins circles, insane and wonders Hey what’s wrong with you?

Numbing the real, not wanting to feel, the emotions that seeth in my gut

Then alcohol came, turned into my game and helped me get out of my rut.

The demon brew, well, it turned on me too and wanted to take me away.

Tried putting it down, the whirlwind I’d found but no matter how wrong it would stay.

Then came the day when battered and frayed the misery had taken its toll.

The demon had won and it was no longer fun and I found I was losing my soul.

It was time to get real, no matter the feel and surrender to that which I knew.

Too admit to myself it had always been me, all those years that I believed it was you.

Self seeking fears, drowning in tears of selfish and ego, I know.

The will, I thought mine had grown selfish with time and I knew that I had to let go.

Surrendering myself, to get something else to comfort and lead me along.

The peace that I get, at times, I don’t fret and try to stay honest and strong.

Rigorous honesty I’m told, that it takes and sadly sometimes only few.

Listening to truth that it’s not about me, that I need make it all about you.

Ginny A.

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The Twelve Steps to a Slip/Relapse

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.)
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The Gorilla In The Room

Most of us tried to just pretend that there was nothing wrong
We tried our best to hide what had been building for so long
That drinking had a hold on us, we found we could not quit
We had to drink, we’d lost control, this we would not admit

Then comes the day when we’re exposed, ignoring time is through
The big gorilla in the room that everybody knew
Had finally been acknowledged and revealed for all to see
An alcoholic needing help, a harsh reality

I heard a member say he felt relief when that day came
The lie that he’d been living took its toll in grief and shame
But I had not experienced that feeling as he had
I tried to make the best of it but really, I was sad

I’d know the grip that alcohol had on me was insane
But how to live without it was a thought filled with disdain
John Barleycorn had been my friend for nearly fifty years
And though I sometimes hated him, to lose him fueled my fears

When my turn came to face the truth, I knew not to debate
The jig was up, it was no use, it would not resonate
So, I agreed to get some help although I’d rather flee
The problem was I acquiesced for them instead of me

The center they had chosen made me feel so out of place
Most of the people there were young and drugs were their embrace
I only stayed in there five nights, convinced that I’d been wronged
My problem’s drink, I don’t use drugs, it’s time I said so long

As a condition for release, I had to join AA
They gave me a small book that listed meetings, times, and days
I said that I would do the deal and started to attend
And in about a month or two, my fences start to mend

But I was not convinced that my past problem was that bad
The stories I heard others tell made me an undergrad
These people had a Ph.D. in drinking 101
So maybe I could grab a drink, one cocktail and be done

It did not work out like I thought, the one turned into six
And like before, I’d sneak around, was back to my old tricks
I hid it well for quite a while but as I always did
I lost control, got very drunk and I began to skid

Away again to get some help, this time for 30 days
And for a while I did not drink, was in the pink cloud phase
But it wore off and sure enough, I heard the Siren’s call
She told me it would be ok, you’ve mastered alcohol

I still attended meetings, most times in but sometimes out
My sponsor told me I could make it, but I still had my doubts
He said if we were to persist, a change had to occur
Stay as you are or do the deal, which one would I prefer

The deal, he said, consisted of a meeting every day
A phone call to a friend or two and kneel and start to pray
And find a Higher Power, one you need not understand
Then join with other members as you carry out this plan

That last thing was the turning point, the piece I had neglected
I’d always tried to right myself, and ended up dejected
I started to do outside things to help avoid a slip
By joining with some new-found friends, this AA Fellowship

When I picked up my last white chip, I did not know for sure
That it would be my final one, I knew there was no cure
But being with this group of men has shown me there’s a way
To live life free of alcohol, stay sober one more day

As years have passed, I seldom think about how it had been
To have to hide and sneak around, alone with my chagrin
Back then I would have never thought or consciously assume
The benefit of facing the gorilla in the room

Larry R.

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16 relapse symptoms to watch out for

For any time, any place, anywhere!

  1. Exhaustion – Allowing oneself to become overly tired; usually associated with work addiction as an excuse for not facing personal frustrations.
  2. Dishonesty – Begins with pattern of little lies; escalated to self-delusion and making excuses for not doing what’s called for.
  3. Impatience – I want what I want NOW. Others aren’t doing what I think they should or living the way I know is right.
  4. Argumentative – No point is too small or insignificant not to be debated to the point of anger and submission.
  5. Depression – All unreasonable, unaccountable despair should be exposed and discussed, not repressed: what is the “exact nature” of those feelings?
  6. Frustration – Controlled anger/resentment when things don’t go according to our plans. Lack of acceptance. See #3.
  7. Self-pity – Feeling victimized, put-upon, used, unappreciated: convinced we are being singled out for bad luck.
  8. Cockiness – Got it made. Know all there is to know. Can go anywhere, including frequent visits just to hang-out at bars, boozy parties.
  9. Complacency – Like #8, no longer sees value of daily program, meetings, contact with other alcoholics, (especially sponsor!), feels healthy, on top of the world, things are going well. Heck may even be cured!
  10. Expecting too much of others – Why can’t they read my mind? I’ve changed, what’s holding them up? If they just do what I know is best for them? Leads to feeling misunderstood, unappreciated. See #6.
  11. Letting up on disciplines – Allowing established habits of recovery – meditations, prayer, spiritual reading, AA contact, daily inventory, meetings – – to slip out of our routines; allowing recovery to get boring and no longer stimulating for growth. Why bother?!
  12. Using mood-altering chemicals – May have a valid medical reason, but misused to help avoid the real problems of impending alcoholic relapse.
  13. Wanting too much – Setting unrealistic goals: not providing for short-term successes; placing too much value on material success, not enough on value of spiritual growth.
  14. Forgetting gratitude – Because of several listed above, may lose sight of the abundant blessings in our everyday lives: too focused on # 13.
  15. “It can’t happen to me.” – Feeling immune; forgetting what we know about the disease of alcoholism and its progressive nature.
  16. Omnipotence – A combination of several attitudes listed above; leads to ignoring danger signs, disregarding warnings and advice from fellow members.

— Akron Intergroup News, December 1998

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You’re just a drinking dream…

I had a dream of you last night, and when I woke I paused to think…
Something wasn’t feeling right, did I really have that drink???

It seems so real and vivid…now what am I to do???
For a moment I relived it…my love affair with you.

I swore you’d never touch my lips… but there you were my subtle foe…
You had me in your evil grips… In the sordid places we once would go.

You only stalk me while I sleep, you are not welcomed here…
As I softly slumber in you creep, but soon you’ll disappear

I’m not the man you use to know, you’re just a false illusion… The time has come when you must go, retreat from your intrusion.

Upon awakening it’s plain to see, things aren’t the way they seem…
The slip I had was not to be, thank God you’re just drinking dream.

Gordon R.

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10th Step Thoroughness Review

Here are some things we can ask ourselves. You can rate yourself 1 – 10 for each, 1 representing No success in that area and 10 means that you are having habitual success. How am I doing in each of the following areas?

  1. Thankfulness: It is the habit of my life to thank my higher power and others for what they have done…I can honestly say that I am a thankful person and often express my gratitude.
  2. Gentleness: My life is free from all outbursts of selfish anger or rage. I am approachable, quiet in spirit, open to criticism, and don’t get defensive when I am corrected or rebuked.
  3. Humility: I do not have an inflated self-opinion and consistently consider others as equal with myself. I have a teachable spirit and avoid all bragging, name-dropping and spiritual pride.
  4. Pure Attitudes: My lifestyle is one of the right relationships, not just outwardly but inwardly too. I have no hate, ill will, malice or bitterness toward any other person anywhere on this earth.
  5. Acceptance: I refuse to fight back when people criticize, condemn, reject or complain against me, even if they do it with wrong motives. I practice giving a soft answer to turn away their wrath.
  6. Peacemaking: It is my practice to try to bring peace between others who are at odds. I don’t just stand by and allow division to fester without trying to get involved to bring peace.
  7. Boldness: I have been able to launch out and take risks for my recovery and beliefs, keeping fear under control and taking risks when my higher power calls to me to do something. There is nothing now that My Higher Power is asking me to do which I’m resisting because of fear.
  8. Trust: I not only believe, but “act as if” my higher power is guiding my life and situations. My life is one of simple reliance on my Higher Power. I’m free from fretting, worry or anxiety about the future.
  9. Persistence: It is normal for me to hang in there, when I am acting in healthy ways, when things get difficult, stressful and unrewarding, even if I must face suffering difficulty and persecution. My persistence keeps me from giving up too easily and I just keep on keeping on.
  10. Harmony: I’m not a participant in any group evil, like quarreling, dissension, fighting or factions in my family or in my place of worship, fellowship or work.
  11. Submission/Surrender: I do not resist those placed in authority over me, even if they’re less competent or gifted. When I “turn my will and life over” to the care of my Higher Power, it means I follow my H.P.’s direction even if I question it at first.
  12. Right Relationships: Reflecting on all my relationships past and present, I’m able to say there are no broken relationships with anybody, anywhere, which I have not attempted to straighten out.
  13. Giving Living: I regularly practice generous giving to my family, place of worship, AA/NA, and homeless, helpless, widows, orphans, and other needy folk. Generosity is a normal behavior to me.
  14. Family Time: It is the routine of my life to control the amount of time I spend in work, pleasure or other activities which take too much time from my family. I obey my spiritual leading and make my Family time the top priority of my relationship life.
  15. Forgiveness: If there is an individual or group of people who have hurt me in the past, I release my resentment, bitterness or grudge against them. I have fully forgiven everyone who has ever hurt me.
  16. Restoring others: I hurt when temptation overtakes a brother or sister in the fellowship or elsewhere in my life, so I do not avoid or exclude them; rather I often get involved, humbly coming alongside to help them back to their feet spiritually.
  17. Restitution: If I’ve ever taken things which do not belong to me, or hurt people by what I said or did, I have gone back and made restitution for everything my Higher Power has prompted me about so far (knowing that my H.P. would not prompt me to do so if it would cause harm to me or another person).
  18. Resisting Materialism: I resist the grasping materialistic lifestyle of my culture, choosing rather to live a life of contentment and satisfaction with what I have. I’m not always “wanting more”.
  19. Selfish Ambition: I have laid aside all envy and selfish ambition. I have no jealousy of another’s success. I do not eagerly hunger to climb the ladder to gain personal power and position.
  20. Spiritual Intimacy: It is the routine of my life to spend time alone with my Higher Power each day to read spiritual books, meditate and pray…and beyond that I “practice the presence” of my Higher Power all day long. I’m constantly sensing my Higher Power’s surrounding presence in my life like the air I breath.
  21. Thought Life: My thought life is absolutely free from all impure thoughts. I have habitual victory over all tempting sexual fantasies, daydreams, or other selfish thoughts. I never get high on “old highs”.
  22. Living Above Reproach: I painstakingly avoid situations which could feed lustful or selfish desires or even tempt others to gossip about me. I have no dangerous emotional bonds which could lead to trouble. I carefully attend to all my relationships so that not even the hint of impropriety exists.
  23. Truthfulness: My yes is yes, my 200 is 200, my five-point buck is a five-point buck, and the fish is whatever size it is. I totally avoid half-truths, white lies, flattery or exaggeration. I practice absolute honesty both in my relationships with others and myself. I do not lie in order to allow myself or others to avoid unpleasant emotions.
  24. Tongue Stewardship: I abstain from slander, gossip, harshness, unkindness, biting criticism, caustic remarks, obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking. Instead I use my tongue to build others up, giving words of encouragement, comfort, help, inspiration, and challenge. My tongue is completely under my Higher Power’s control.
  25. Living my Recovery: I typically share my recovery with both straight and chemically dependent people every time my Higher Power prompts me to do it. Twelfth stepping is a habit of my life.
  26. Spiritual Passion: I hunger to become more spiritual and take my spiritual growth seriously. I do not ignore, dismiss or excuse areas where I fall short, even those I have listed above, since I have a spiritual passion for becoming more like my Higher Power would have me be, the I AM of Him.