Sober Sisters

Sisters in Christ, Sisters in Sobriety. Sharing Faith, Hope and Love. 1 Cor. 13:13

Friday, August 05, 2005

The 12 Steps to Total and Complete Insanity

The way some people approach AA, present company excepted :-)!

1. We admitted we were powerless over nothing. We could manage our lives perfectly and we could manage those of anyone else that would allow it.

2. Came to believe that there was no power greater than ourselves, and the rest of the world was insane.

3. Made a decision to have our loved ones and friends turn their wills and their lives over to our care.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of everyone we knew.

5. Admitted to the whole world at large the exact nature of their wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to make others straighten up and do right.

7. Demanded others to either "shape up or ship out".

8. Made a list of anyone who had ever harmed us and became willing to go to any lengths to get even with them all.

9. Got direct revenge on such people whenever possible except when to do so would cost us our own lives, or at the very least, a jail sentence.

10. Continued to take inventory of others, and when they were wrong promptly and repeatedly told them about it.

11. Sought through nagging to improve our relations with others as we couldn't understand them at all, asking only that they knuckle under and do things our way.

12. Having had a complete physical, emotional and spiritual breakdown as a result of these steps, we tried to blame it on others and to get sympathy and pity in all our affairs.

From The ACA Communicator - March 1990 - Omaha, Council Bluffs Area Intergroup

A priest who's been there eases the pain for alcoholics

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

By JOHN CHADWICK
STAFF WRITER

The priest began the Mass with an unusual introduction.

"My name is Jim, and I'm an alcoholic."

Jim is the Rev. James McKenna, who made his declaration on a recent Saturday afternoon from the altar of a Roman Catholic parish in Ramsey.

His admission wasn't news to the several hundred casually dressed people in the pews. Most were also alcoholics. They, or people like them, have been following McKenna to monthly Masses around Bergen County for two decades.

That's because in his hands, the traditional Catholic Mass becomes a healing, meditative respite for alcoholics battling their demons.

"Lord in heaven, your son Jesus accepted suffering," McKenna said at the recent service. "May all of us who suffer pain, illness or disease know that we are joined to Christ in suffering."

He prayed aloud for several local men who've wound up in jail because of their drinking problems. He preached a homily about the virtue of patience during recovery. And he invited audience members to receive Communion by reminding them that Jesus came to heal the sick.

When it was over, McKenna and dozens of churchgoers went to the parish hall for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

"I don't know anybody who does what Father Jim does," said Joanne O'Neill, a Hackensack resident who isn't an alcoholic but has a relative who is. "This is an oasis for people."

McKenna, sober for 23 years, draws as many as 800 people to the Saturday afternoon "recovery Masses." About 400 showed up for July's Mass - the first one he celebrated at St. Paul's Church after a decade at a Closter parish 15 miles away.

The diverse crowd reflected both McKenna's broad appeal and the indiscriminate reach of alcoholism: Catholics, both practicing and lapsed; many Protestants, and some Jews filled the pews.

They were just as varied in their professions: construction workers, retired police officers, business executives.

Ken Restel, a construction worker from Hackensack, said attending the Masses has helped him return to his faith after a long battle with the bottle. His understanding of God, he said, has evolved from the punishing God of his Catholic school youth to a compassionate, merciful God who restores broken lives.

"Going to church wasn't something that I initially thought would go hand in hand with recovery," he said. "But Father Jim knows where we've been, and he knows the pain we go through. He is not just an ordinary person who doesn't understand."

For some, the Mass is their sole spiritual outlet - besides 12-step meetings.

Others already attend a house of worship. But they also long to be part of a community of believers struggling to turn their lives around.

"My regular church is nice, but it's quite formal," said a woman from Leonia whose husband is an alcoholic. "Father Jim gives us that human feeling We can be stupid. We can make mistakes. And he always relates to us. That's the wonderful feeling."

McKenna, a Cliffside Park native, took his first drink at age 30, egged on by fellow priests and Catholic brothers at a 1965 party for the faculty at Marist High School in Bayonne.

Within a few years, he was drinking alone in bars. And by the late 1970s, he was ready to quit the priesthood.

"It was a quick descent," he said.

The Newark Archdiocese sent him to a church-run psychiatric center near Boston, where doctors told him that he was depressed. But then he met a psychologist, Vincent Billotti, who offered a different diagnosis.

"He told me, 'Jim, you're not psychotic, you're an alcoholic,'Ÿ" McKenna said. "It was a life-changing moment - the beginning of my realization that I was depressed because I was drinking."

After a stay at an alcohol rehabilitation clinic, McKenna came back to North Jersey and turned his life around, creating a new ministry from the ashes of his past.

He knew from the start exactly what he wanted to accomplish: spread the word that alcoholism was a disease, not a moral failing, and provide a distinctly Catholic framework to complement the |12-step recovery program that stresses the need for a higher power.

"I thought I could provide the spiritual care for the type of deprivation that alcoholics go through," McKenna said. "When you're unable to stop drinking, there's a feeling that you're beyond redemption and there's no hope. You feel completely bereft of salvation. There's not even the slightest inkling of light on the horizon."

Now 70, McKenna is trim, bald and wears glasses. He looks like a monk; in fact, he once spent a year in a monastery. But he is also genial and talkative, with a penchant for self-deprecating humor.

He was influenced early on by the writings of Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk and popular 20th century theologian. McKenna still buys Merton's books and gives them away.

"He saw God in the reality of the human condition," McKenna said. "That's what I liked about Merton."

At each Mass, McKenna blends his life experience and spirituality into a seamless approach. He started the July service with a stark warning about isolation.

"Alcohol likes us when we're alone, because it kill us when we're alone," he said.

But he also told bittersweet stories, like the one about his inebriated uncle staring through the window of a Catholic school and being scolded by a stern nun. McKenna, who was in the class, was embarrassed. But he realized later there was another boy who felt even worse - the uncle's son.

"I thought later, 'My God, what must he be feeling?'Ÿ" McKenna said.

The Mass had some familiar touches for those who attend 12-step meetings. At McKenna's behest, audience members rose and told how many years they have been sober, triggering robust applause.

O'Neill, the woman from Hackensack, said the Masses deepened her sense of solidarity with people she saw at 12-step meetings.

"I was Catholic, I was attending meetings and the two things came together," she said. "It took what we shared in the rooms and connected it to my faith, and it was Father Jim who made it possible."

The Masses end with everyone joining hands for a prayer.

Charles Lynch, a retired police officer, said it was in that moment that he once experienced an epiphany. Lynch, of Rockland County, said he felt a powerful sensation that entered one clasped hand, passed through his body and out the other hand.

"There I was, looking up at the stained-glass window of Jesus and the blessed mother, and I had this sudden chill," Lynch said. "It's not the kind of thing I could talk about outside of this group. I told one of the other guys, and he said, 'Charlie, that's your high power.' "

E-mail: chadwick@northjersey.com

Copyright © 2005 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

Alcoholics Anonymous: America's State Religion?

The new front line in the battle for separation (three-part series)

N.Y. Court Lets Inmate Refuse Alcohol Program by James Barron

Rational Recovery Founder Responds by Jack Trimpey

Proceed to Alcoholics Anonymous: A Religion in Denial by Cliff Walker

Bill W. & Dr. Sam: 12 Steps to Freedom

With millions set free from the ravages of uncontrollable drinking, who among us cannot be thankful for the gift of Alcoholics Anonymous? Many of us have friends, family, and co-workers who are alive and well today because of the miracle of the 12 Steps. Over the years, I have had the privilege of doing a number of ‘5th Steps’ with people in recovery. I have always come away from those experiences with a deepened sense of gratitude for the amazing gift of life.

One of the perhaps unexpected spin-offs of AA has been the dozens of recovery groups who apply the 12 Steps to all kinds of addictions and challenges, including overeating, narcotics, sexual brokenness, emotional dysfunctions, and gambling dependencies. One of the fastest-growing spin-offs is the ACOA movement for Adult Children of Alcoholics.

Where did these amazing 12 Steps come from, in the first place? They were written by Bill W who had been mentored towards a life-changing faith by the Rev. Samuel Shoemaker. Dr. Sam, as he was known affectionately in AA circles, had a profound impact on the spiritual awakening of Bill W.

As Bill W tells it in ‘AA Comes of Age’, he went with his friend Ebby to Dr. Sam’s Calvary Church Mission. "There were some hymns and prayers. Then Tex, the leader, exhorted us. Only Jesus could save, he said. Somehow this statement did not jar me. Certain men got up and gave testimonials. Numb as I was, I felt interest and excitement rising. Then came the call. Some men were starting forward to the rail. Unaccountably impelled, I started too…I knelt among the shaking penitents. Maybe then and there, for the first time, I was penitent too. Something touched me. I guess it was more than that. I was hit. I felt a wild impulse to talk. Jumping to my feet, I began…Ebby, who at first had been embarrassed to death, told me with relief that I had done all right and had ‘given my life to God.’"

Bill W said that ‘It was from Sam that co-founder Dr. Bob and I in the beginning absorbed most of the principles that were afterwards embodied in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, steps that express the heart of AA’s way of life.’ Bill W went on to say that Dr. Sam ‘gave us the concrete knowledge of about what we could do about (alcoholism)’ and that Dr. Sam ‘passed on the spiritual keys by which we were liberated’. Dr Sam, according to Bill W, ‘has been the connecting link’. Dr Sam even hosted the first AA meetings in his Calvary Episcopal (Anglican) Church Hall in New York.

Even though Dr. Sam was not an alcoholic, he had unusual insights into the human condition that drew alcoholics to him. Reminiscing about the first time that he met Dr. Sam, Bill W said: ‘I can still see him standing there before the lectern. His utter honesty, his tremendous forthrightness, struck me deep. I shall never forget it.’ According to Bill W, Dr. Sam ‘always called a spade a spade, and his blazing eagerness, earnestness, and crystal clarity drove home his message point by point…Here was a man quite as willing to talk about his own sins as about anybody else’s.’

The author of twenty-eight books, Dr. Sam was named as one of the ten greatest preachers in North America. He challenged all of the backward failings of humanity with fierceness, wit and relevancy. But Dr. Sam was never pessimistic or despairing.

Upon Dr. Sam’s death, Billy Graham said: ‘Words cannot express adequately the sense of personal loss I have felt at the home-coming of our beloved Sam. What a blessing it has been for me to talk and especially pray with this giant among men. I doubt that any man in our generation has made a greater impact for God on the Christian world than did Sam Shoemaker’.

Many 12 Step groups around the world pray both the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s prayer. Both prayers are about ‘letting Go and letting God’. According to Bill W, breakthroughs happen when "…we can surrender and truly feel, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done’". It is so hard to let go. Yet as we work the twelve steps, as we admit our powerlessness, as we turn our lives and will over to the care of God, as we seek only for the knowledge of God’s will, then miracles can happen.

As Dr. Sam said to the 20th Anniversary AA Convention, "Prayer is not trying to get God to change His will. It is trying to find out what His will is, to align ourselves or realign ourselves with His purpose for the world and for us. When we let willfulness cool out of us, God can get His will across to us as far as we need to see ahead of us. Dante said, ‘In His will is our peace’."

Dr. Sam concluded his address to the 20th Anniversary AA Convention by saying: "I thank God that the church has so widely associated itself with AA, because I think AA people need the church for personal stabilization and growth, but also because I think that the church needs AA as a continuous spur to greater aliveness and expectation and power." "Perhaps the time has come", said Dr. Sam, "for the church to be reawakened and revitalized by the insights and practices found in AA."

My prayer for those reading this article is that as with Bill W and Dr. Sam, God may make each of us a channel of his peace, his serenity and his sobriety.

The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church

I WAS A PAGAN

by VC Kitchen

"I Was a Pagan tells the story of Kitchen’s failed attempts to make his life meaningful and his transformative encounter with the Oxford Group."

Bookmark or Read Now!

WHAT IS THE OXFORD GROUP?

"While Soul Surgery outlines the Group’s method of personal work, What is the Oxford Group? examines the Group’s full range of practices. In the book’s discussion of the Four Absolutes, we find the precursor of inventory. Likewise, the chapters on surrender, restitution, and Guidance are clearly what AA adopted as the Third Step, amends, and the Eleventh Step, respectively."

Bookmark or Read It Now!

SOUL SURGERY

"Originally published in 1919, this book is the result of collaboration between Frank Buchman and Howard Walter, Buchman’s associate and a missionary in India . The subject of Soul Surgery is ‘personal work,’ also called ‘personal evangelism.’ It criticizes mass evangelism as superficial, and contends that real religious change happens only when two people sit down together and are totally honest with one another."

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What the Church has to Learn from Alcoholics Anonymous

by Sam Shoemaker

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by two struggling alcoholics who needed a spiritual program to attain and sustain ongoing recovery. Out of the efforts of Bill W and Dr Bob, the program known as Alcoholics Anonymous was developed based on living a lifestyle of twelve steps. The principles of A.A.'s twelve steps were a direct outgrowth of the Oxford Group, based at Calvary Episcopal Church in New York NY. The Reverend Samuel M. Shoemaker, Rector of Calvary Church and spiritual leader of the Oxford Group, provided the early inspiration for the spiritual aspects of twelve-step programs.

The following is from a speech given by Rev. Shoemaker at the twentieth anniversary convention of A.A. in St. Louis, Missouri. In this timeless address, Rev. Shoemaker reflects on four points that the Church must always remember in helping members to live into their own personal Christian experience.

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong... I Corinthians 1:26


During the weekend of the Fourth of July last, I attended one of the most remarkable conventions I ever expect to attend. It was a gathering in St. Louis of about five thousand members of the movement called Alcoholics Anonymous. The occasion was the celebration of their twentieth anniversary, and the turning over freely and voluntarily of the management and destiny of that great movement by the founders and "old timers" to a board which represents the fellowship as a whole.

As I lived and moved among these men and women for three days, I was moved as I have seldom been moved in my life. It happens that I have watched the unfolding of this movement with more than usual interest, for its real founder and guiding spirit, Bill-, found his initial spiritual answer at Calvary Church in New York, when I was rector there, in 1935. Having met two men unmistakable alcoholics, who had found release from their difficulty, he was moved to seek out the same answer for himself. But he went further. Being of a foraging and inquiring mind, he began to think there was some general law operating here, which could be made to work, not in two men's lives only, but in two thousand or two million. He set to work to find out what it was. He consulted psychiatrists, doctors, clergy, and recovered alcoholics to discover what it was.

The First Alcoholics Anonymous Group
The first actual group was not in New York, but in Akron, Ohio. Bill was spending a weekend there in a hotel. The crowd was moving towards the bar. He was lonely and felt danger assailing him. He consulted the church directory in the hotel lobby, and found the name of a local clergyman and his church. He called him on the telephone and said, "I am an alcoholic down here at the hotel. The going is a little hard just now. Have you anybody you think I might meet and talk to?" He gave him the name of a woman who belonged to one of the great tire manufacturing families. He called her, she invited him out at once and said she had a man she wanted to have meet him while he was on his way, she called Dr. Bob S- and his wife, Anne. Dr. Bob said he'd give her five minutes. He stayed five hours and told Bill, "You're the only man I've ever seen with the answer to alcoholism." They invited Bill over from the hotel to stay at their house. And there was begun, twenty years ago, the first actual Alcoholics Anonymous group.

The number of them now is beyond count. Some say there are 160,000 to 200,000 recovered alcoholics, but nobody knows how many extend beyond this into the fringes of the unknown. They say that each alcoholic holds within the orbit of his problem an average of fourteen persons who are affected by it. This means that conservatively two and a half million people's lives are different because of the existence of Alcoholics Anonymous. There is hardly a city or town or even hamlet now where you cannot find a group, strong and well-knit, or struggling in its infancy. Prof. Austin McCormick, of Berkeley, California, former Commissioner of Correction in the city of New York, who was also with us at the St. Louis Convention said once in my hearing that AA may "prove to be one of the greatest movements of all time." That was years ago. Subsequent facts support his prophecy.

On the Sunday morning of the convention, I was asked to talk to them, together with Fr. Edward Dowling S.J., a wonderful Roman Catholic priest who has done notable service for AA in interpreting it to his people, and Dr. Jim S., a most remarkable colored physician of Washington, on the spiritual aspects of the AA program. They are very generous to non-alcoholics, but I should have preferred that it be a bona fide alcoholic that did the speaking.

In the course of what I said to them, I remarked that I thought it had been wise for AA to confine its activity to alcoholics. But, I added, "I think we may see an effect of AA on medicine, on psychiatry, on correction, on the ever-present problem of human nature; and not least on the Church. AA indirectly derived much of its inspiration from the Church. Now perhaps the time has come for the church to be re-awakened and re-vitalized by those insights and practices found in AA."

The Church ... Re-awakened and Re-vitalized
I think some of you may be a little horrified at this suggestion. I fear you will be saying to yourself, "What have we, who have always been decent people, to learn from a lot of reconstructed drunks?" And perhaps you may thereby reveal to yourself how very far you are from the spirit of Christ and the Gospel, and how very much in need of precisely the kind of check-up that may come to us from AA.

If I need a text for what I say to you, there is one ready to hand in I Corinthians 1:26, "... God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong." I need not remind you that there is a good deal of sarcasm in that verse; because it must be evident that anything God can use is neither foolish nor weak, and that if we consider ourselves wise and strong, we may need to go to school to those we have called foolish and weak.

1. Recognition of Need
The first thing I think the Church needs to learn from AA is that nobody gets anywhere till he recognizes a clearly-defined need. These people do not come to AA to get made a little better. They do not come because the best people are doing it. They come because they are desperate. They are not ladies and gentlemen looking for a religion, they are utterly desperate men and women in search of redemption without what AA gives, death stares them in the face. With what AA gives them, there is life and hope. There are not a dozen ways, there are not two ways, there is one way; and they find it, or perish. AA's each and all have a definite, desperate need. They have the need, and they are ready to tell somebody what it is if they see the least chance that it can be met.

Is there anything as definite for you or me, who may happen not to be alcoholics? If there is, I am sure that it lies in the realm of our conscious withholding of the truth about ourselves from God and from one another, by pretending that we are already good Christians. Let me here quote a member of AA who has written a most amazing book: his name is Jerome Ellison, and the book is Report to the Creator. In this (p .210) he says,

The relief of being accepted can never be known by one who never thought himself unaccepted. I hear of 'good Christian men and women' belonging to 'fine old church families.' There were no good Christians in the first church, only sinners. Peter never let himself or his hearers forget his betrayal in the hour the cock crew. James, stung by the memory of his years of stubborn resistance, warned the church members: 'Confess your faults to one another.' That was before there were fine old church families. Today, the last place where one can be candid about one's faults is in church. In a bar, yes; in a church, no. I know; I've tried both places
.

Let that sting you and me just as it should, and make us miserable with our church Pharisaism till we see it is just as definite and just as hideous as anybody's drunkenness can ever be, and a great deal more really dangerous.

2. Redeemed in Life-Changing Fellowship
The second thing the Church needs to learn from AA is that men are redeemed in a life changing fellowship. AA does not expect to let anybody who comes in stay as he is. They know he is in need and must have help. They live for nothing else but to extend and keep extending that help. Like the Church, they did not begin in glorious Gothic structures, but in houses or caves in the earth, wherever they could get a foot-hold, meet people, and gather. It never occurs to an AA that it is enough for him to sit down and polish his spiritual nails all by himself, or dust off his soul all by himself, or spend a couple of minutes praying each day all by himself. His soul gets kept in order by trying to help other people get their souls in order with the help of God. At once a new person takes his place in this redeeming, life-changing fellowship. He may be changed today, and out working tomorrow - no long, senseless delays about giving away what he has got. He's ready to give the little he has the moment it comes to him. The fellowship that redeemed him will wither and die unless he and others like him get in and keep that fellowship moving and growing by reaching others. Recently I heard an AA say that he could stay away from his Veteran's meeting, his Legion, or his Church, and nobody would notice it. But if he stayed away from his AA meeting, his telephone would begin to ring the next day.

"A life-changing fellowship" sounds like a description of the Church. It is of the ideal Church. But the actual? Not one in a hundred is like this. The laymen say this is the minister's job, and the ministers say it is the evangelist's job, and everybody finds a rationalized excuse for not doing what every Christian ought to be doing, i.e. bringing other people into the redeeming, life-changing fellowship.

3. Definite Personal Dealing with People
The third thing the Church needs to learn from AA is the necessity for definite personal dealing with people. AA's know all the stock excuses - they've used them themselves and heard them a hundred times. All the blame put on someone else - my temperament is different - I've tried it and it doesn't work for me - I'm not really so bad, I just slip a little sometimes. They've heard them all, and know them for the rationalized pack of lies they are. They constitute, taken together, the Gospel of Hell and Failure. I've heard them laboring with one another, now patient as a mother, now savage as a prizefighter, now careful in explanation, now pounding in a heavy personal challenge, but always knowing the desperate need and the sure answer.

Are we in the Church like that? Have you ever been drastically dealt with by anybody? Have you ever dared to be drastic in love with anybody? We are so official, so polite, so ready to accept ourselves and each other at face value. I went for years before ever I met a man that dared get at my real needs, create a situation in which I could be honest with him, and hold me to a specific Christian commitment and decision. One can find kindness and even good advice in the Church. That is not all men need. They need to be helped to face themselves as they really are. The AA people see themselves just as they are. I think many of us in the Church see ourselves as we should like to appear to others, not as we are before God. We need drastic personal dealing and challenge. Who is ready and trained to give it to us? How many of us have ever taken a "fearless moral inventory" of ourselves, and dared make the depth of our need known to any other human being? This gets at the pride which is the hindrance and sticking-point for so many of us, and which, for most of us in the Church, has never even been recognized, let alone faced or dealt with.

4. Necessity for a Real Change of Heart
The fourth thing the Church needs to learn from AA is the necessity for a real change of heart, a true conversion. As we come Sunday after Sunday, year after year, we are supposed to be in a process of transformation. Are we? The AA's are. At each meeting there are people seeking and in conscious need. Everybody is pulling for the people who speak, and looking for more insight and help. They are pushed by their need. They are pulled by the inspiration of others who are growing. They are a society of the "before and after," with a clear line between the old life and the new. This is not the difference between sinfulness and perfection, but it is the difference between accepted wrongdoing and the genuine beginning of a new way of life.

How about us? Again, I quote Jerome Ellison, in his report to God (p .205): "...I began to see that many of the parishioners did not really want to find You, because finding You would change them from their habitual ways, and they did not want to endure the pain of change... For our churchman-like crimes of bland, impenetrable pose, I offer shame..." I suppose that the sheer visibility of the alcoholic problem creates a kind of enforced honesty; but surely if we are exposed again and again to God, to Christ, to the Cross, there - should be a breaking down of our pride and unwillingness to change. We should know by now that this unwillingness, multiplied by thousands and tens of thousands, is what is the matter with the Church, and what keeps it from being what God means it to be on earth. The change must begin somewhere. We know it ought to begin in us.

One of the greatest things the Church should learn from AA is the need people have for an exposure to living Christian experience. In thousands of places, alcoholics (and others) can go and hear recovered alcoholics speak about their experiences and watch the process of new life and outlook take place before their eyes. There you have it, the need and the answer to the need, right before your eyes. They say that their public relations are based, not on promotion, but on attraction. This attraction begins when you see people with problems like your own, hear them speaking freely of the answers they are finding, and realize that such honesty and such change is exactly what you need yourself.

No ordinary service of worship in the Church can possibly do this. We need to supplement what we do now by the establishment of informal companies where people who are spiritually seeking can see how faith takes hold in other lives, how the characteristically Christian experience comes to them. Some churches are doing this, but not nearly enough of them. One I know where on Sunday evenings laymen and women speak simply about what has happened to them spiritually; it is drawing many more by attraction. This needs to be multiplied by the tens of thousands, and the Church itself awakened.

As I looked out over that crowd of five thousand in Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, I said to myself, "Would that the Church were like this - ordinary men and women with great need who have found a great Answer, and do not hesitate to make it known wherever they can - a trained army of enthusiastic, humble, human workers whose efforts make life a different thing for other people!"

Let us ask God to forgive our blindness and laziness and complacency, and through these re-made people to learn our need for honesty, for conversion, for fellowship and for honest witness!

Twelve Steps to Power

by Sam Shoemaker

Sam Shoemaker, in one of his most helpful articles, first published nearly twenty years ago, shows how "the program" so effective for alcoholics can work for all of us.

One of the most remarkable phenomena of our time is the growth of the movement called Alcoholics Anonymous. My interest in it is personal as well as objective, for the men who set it in motion first found the spiritual experience which changed their lives in my own church, though the first actual group of Alcoholics Anonymous was formed in Akron, Ohio.

You must go yourself to an "open" meeting, and listen to what recovered men and women say of what they used to be, what happened to them when they came into touch with AA, and what life is like now that they look to the Higher Power, which AA calls God so as to include all in their program. Somewhere about 120,000 men and women* are now in their ranks, sober, industrious, God-fearing, happy, useful citizens.

The AA program has twelve clearly defined steps. These have been built up out of experience. They work. Shrewd observation and insight have gone into their making. They contain eternal truths -- truths that are valuable and necessary for the rest of us, whether or not we are actual or potential alcoholics. Let me list each step, then comment on what seems its universal significance.

(1) "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable."

As you read those words, you may be thinking, "I never touch alcohol," or "I can handle it all right." But does it take a great step of imagination to see that first step as applying to a very much wider range of problems than alcohol? What about the people with an ungoverned temper, who make a hell out of their home, or their office, because they have never learned to manage their own dispositions? What about the men and women whose passions drive them to wrong expressions of human love, and who are as much slaves to sex as anyone was ever a slave to drink?

What about those in whose lives fear reigns like a tyrant -- fear of people, fear of the future, fear of want, fear of death, fear of failure, fear so deep-seated and widespread within them that it seems to pervade everything? Are not their lives also "powerless" and "unmanageable," just as much so as if they got drunk? Are they not drunk on fear?

Or think of the people in whose lives hate and resentment are found. I heard the other day of a family where a mother and son have ganged up on a daughter and her husband, and no offers of reconciliation on their part meet with anything but rebuff. Are not their lives quite as unmanageable, really, as any drunkard's? Do they not drink in great, self-destroying draughts of hate and bitterness quite as real, quite as devastating to one's self and others, as alcohol ever was? Make the transfer!

I remember the first time I ever went into a rescue mission. God forgive me, my first thought was to be glad I was not like those men. But it was not long till I came to know that Christ was much harder on the sins of righteous and respectable people than He was on harlots and prodigals. Your life and mine can be quite as unmanageable as an alcoholic's may be through liquor.

(2) "We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

AA often calls God or Christ a "Power greater than ourselves" because many people have formed unhappy associations with organized religions, and they do not want to stir up needless antagonisms. They want to draw needy men and women within the range of cure and recovery. Perhaps we all ought to be drawn to God by the fact that He is God, by the beauty of His perfection and the power of His love. But the simple fact is, most of us do not seek God till we need Him.

We find out through bitter experience that life does not come out when you ignore Him. You find you get into difficulties you cannot solve by yourself. So you begin seeking for God.

How do we come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity? By looking at some people who have had the experience. Faith is better caught by contagion than taught by instruction. It is an amazing thing to come into a company of Alcoholics Anonymous and hear testimony to the difference that has been wrought in their lives. It should be an amazing thing to come into a company of Christians in church, and at times it is. Beside its worship services, every church should also have informal gatherings where people seeking faith can hear personal witness from believers, and where they can ask questions and have them answered.

(3) "We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him."

Do you know what most people do who think they believe in God? They stand right where they are and ask God to bless what they are doing. They do not turn their wills and lives over to God, tell Him they are willing to change and be different and ask Him what He wants them to do. That is why many professing Christians are not converted and why they have no power. It is also why AA is such a challenge to the rest of us.

The great philosopher and psychologist William James said, "The crisis, of self-surrender has always been and must always be regarded the vital turning-point of the religious life." Self-surrender is man's part in his own conversion. We cannot and do not convert ourselves; we offer ourselves to God in surrender, and He does the converting by His Holy Spirit, bringing us forgiveness and new life.

How many persons have I seen make that decision, take that step, and as a result find God and His power in their lives! Have you ever done that? Will you do it now?

(4) "We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." How does one do that?

If we compare ourselves with other people. we shall probably come off advantageously. But if we take the Ten Commandments, or Jesus' commandments in the Sermon on the Mount, we shall see the vast difference between what they enjoin and what we are and do. Let us look fearlessly at that very difference; for that difference is the measure of the sin in us which needs to be repented of by us and forgiven by God.

Many of us stand aghast at the mounting corruption in this land, the dishonesty, graft, chiseling, using high place for personal advantage, the increase in narcotics and crime among young people. I wonder in how many instances these people have ever heard the claims of Christ placed squarely and tellingly before them? How many of them have ever heard anyone witness about what Christ has done for him? How many have ever faced themselves morally, and found out exactly what their needs are?

The place to begin spiritually is not with our virtues. That makes us prigs and Pharisees. It is with our sins and needs, for that gives us an honest basis on which to proceed.

(5) "We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to one other human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

We can easily understand confessing to God, but why include another human being? Why include him? I think it is because the deepest need of our hearts is our pride, especially the pride of thinking we can manage our own lives without human help. When you go a priest, a counselor, or just an understanding Christian friend, and open up to him the exact nature of your wrongdoings, you then know you are sincere in wanting to overcome them.

Some kind of confession is good and necessary for us all. If we took such action in time, many of us would avoid the necessity to seek psychiatric help later on. It is a cleansing, releasing experience to talk out one's whole situation with another human being, omitting nothing of the facts. Something left untold can stay in the mind to break out later in defeat. Let us be fearlessly honest in our inventory and in our admissions to another human being.

(6) "We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."

Most of us justify our wrongdoings and excuse them. Even when we admit them, we do not quite want to give them up. Would that we could come to the point of desperation which alcoholics reach, where they are ready to do anything to get victory!

Sin hides behind immaturity. We keep up a fence of protection, then when we are found out we whimper like babies. But when we take down the fence of protection, and let another know us well, we are through with shams and seIf-deception and the attempt to deceive others, and even God.

It will take some prayer to get to this place, where we want God to take the sin out of us, all of it, and for good. We will wrestle with ourselves a good deal, before it happens. It will not happen in a day, but the decision that we want it to happen can take place in five minutes.

(7) "We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

There is, I dare say, no moment of comparable importance in the soul's history to this, when in humility and honesty we tell God in prayer that we want Him to take us over, remove our sins, and change our lives. Lots of life-long Christians have avoided the challenge of doing this because they wanted to play safe. There is prayer that means little; we say the words, but do not back them up by our real intentions. Then there is prayer in which we hurl our lives after our prayers, and mean what we say.

When you have isolated that pride, that fear, that contemptuousness, that resentment, that lust, called it by name, and asked God to remove it from your life, meaning what you say with all the resolve you can command, then you mean business and you are on the way.

(8) "We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."

Jesus once said, "If a man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" We certainly never can get into right relations with God while we are in the wrong relations with somebody else.

In a human tangle and conflict, there are usually two sides. Some people see only their side. Some are ready to admit wrong in themselves as well as in their opponent. But the world is full of people waiting for somebody else to come and make an apology to them. They say they will not make up until they do. But what about making apology yourself first? How about telling the other person, not where he is wrong, but where you have been wrong?

When I first tried to face the issues of Christian conversion in my own life, there was someone right in my family against whom I held a deep resentment. When I began to face God honestly, I knew I had to get right with this other person. The whole relationship stood up before me and I could not avoid it. But, I said to God, "He is nine-tenths responsible for the situation." And do you know what I think God said back to me? He said, "What are you going to do about the one-tenth for which you are responsible.

Deeply imbedded in my first total Christian decision was the necessity to make amends to someone who had done some things toward me that were wrong, but to whom I needed to confess my own bitterness and lack of love. Is it so with you?

(9) "We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

One of the first things I had to do after my initial surrender was to write a letter of restitution. There was a kind of warm glow about getting ready to do that; but when I came to the doing of it, it was just plain hard work. Yet it had to be done.

We have no right in squaring ourselves with another to confess the sins of a third party or bring him into it. In rare cases, to confess in all honesty will hurt the person to whom we confess, and we should not do it. But this must not be taken as an excuse for not doing it when we know perfectly well he deserves to know, and we cannot right the relationship until we tell him.

Pray about it. Pray for the right time and the right spirit. Pray for him to receive it in the right spirit, so that it provides an occasion for spiritual advance for you both. Be honest with the family, or with the company about padding the expense account. Apologize to that person with whom you lost your temper. Sometimes people are dead before we see the need to make restitution to them. Put it in God's hands. Ask Him if possible to make known to them our sorrow, and leave the matter there.

(10) "We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it."

Even the greastest of all Christian conversions is just a beginning; it must be continued and renewed all the time. The grit of sin gets into our machinery and stops it. Sometimes we even get all the way back into the old ways of self-will and various kinds of sin. So the inventory must go on. Sometimes clear victory comes that is relatively permanent. Sometimes we are fighting thirty years afterward the same old sins as we fought in the beginning.

Daily confession to God, periodical confession to others, for our own clearing or to keep the record straight, are needed and will always be needed. Alcoholics always say, "I am an alcoholic," not "I was an alcoholic." Christians must learn to believe and to say, "I am a sinner" -- not "I was a sinner," but "I am a sinner."

If we really feel that, we will avoid the pride of grace which makes some people think that because they have been Christians a long time they do not sin. And we will much more easily admit our wrongs to others when they arise.

(11) "We 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."

Religion is relationship with God, and we must give something to it if we would deepen and enrich a relationship. Prayer, Bible study, and participation in Christian worship are the three classical ways of keeping in touch with God. It is astonishing when you think of it, that we finite, sinful human beings can come into contact with Almighty God. But we can through the introduction Jesus Christ has given us to Him.

Time was when prayer was unreal to me, and the Bible dull; but then came the experience of finding Christ with power, and both things began to be real. When I got them into focus, as means by which one could grow in a life that by then I really wanted to live, they came alive.

We must set apart time each day for this, first thing in the morning. Half an hour is not too much. Then renew it every time you can remember by brief prayers to God through the day. And don't forget: God sometimes sends His own direct word to us for our encouragement and guidance.

(12) "Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs."

So often you hear AAs speak about being out on "twelfth-step work." That means getting what they have found across to others. They take no money for it, but they will go any hour of the day or night to people who honestly want to learn "the program." The reason these men and women keep going is partly that their friends in AA are willing and ready to give them time, encouragement, challenge. Every member of AA is a carrier of AA.

In none of these twelve steps do the rest of us need to learn from them more than in this one. A Christian who is not enthusiastic about Christ, who does not love to speak about Him and relate His power to the needs of others, is hardly a Christian at all.

In AA everybody is a one-man awakening, wherever he can touch another alcoholic. Let us promise God that we will let Him use us in this way. And let us follow these twelve steps faithfully, that through them we may become effective people for Christ in His world.

Is There a Christian Program?

by Sam Shoemaker


If you have known anyone in Alcoholics Anonymous, you may have been struck by the rapidity with which men and women catch on to what they often call "The Program." A new person will come into a meeting and listen to two or three talks by alcoholics who tell about what life was like before they met AA, what happened to them through AA, and what life is like now. As one hears several such talks, it emerges that there is a kind of program which seems to consist of knowledge and experience.

The truth they take in is a kind of experimental truth, a truth that is only really seen and understood by participation. The upshot is that sometimes men or women are speaking cogently and persuasively about their experience of AA only a few days after it has begun. One way of learning more is to articulate and express for others what you are beginning to know yourself. I have heard people speak with a remarkably mature knowledge of what they were saying, only a few days after they have made a beginning.

If we contrast this with what often happens in the Church, we must be impressed with the difference. Take two men in a typical congregation. I asked one of them about trying to carry his faith to others, and he said it would take him a long time to learn enough to do such a thing. I said to him, "Would you please tell me what on earth you've been doing in this church for twenty years?" Another man said to me one day, "I have been coming to this church all my life and I still don't know what it's all about."

Now both these men said the Creed, and I think they believed it. They believed in the institution of the Church, supported it, came to it with considerable regularity. But no one could say that either of them had "got the program." For all their exposure to church services and church work, nothing had pulled the whole thing together, made it seem practical, and given them a working method of growing in the Christian life.

A working program is a technique, a set of spiritual habits one can adopt and pursue regularly to keep his spiritual life growing. When Jesus told Nicodemus, a churchgoing, religious man, that he needed a life so different from the one he had that it was like being born all over again, and that unless this happened he would not see the Kingdom of God, Nicodemus' first question was, "How ...?" He didn't ask "Why" and he didn't ask "What," he asked "How." The Church has, on the whole, given people more answers to "why" and to "what" than it has to "how." Yet the "how" is the practical method that gets us going and keeps us going.

Alcoholics Anonymous has Twelve Steps. These grew out of a knowledge of spiritual disciplines past and present, of psychology, and of the growing experience of AA itself. I am going to repeat them because they have a bearing on our question, "Is there a 'Christian program'?":

The Twelve Steps

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 wills and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
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 our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of 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 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 experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Anyone can see that these are not in the nature of hazy and impractical ideals, like generally being "honest" or "unselfish," but definite, realizable ways of living, available to all. Most of them are applicable to non-alcoholics--though we admit that the definiteness of the problem of alcoholism inclines people more to definiteness of ways that point to solution.


I believe there are four fundamental and universal factors in what we can call a Christian Program.
These four subdivide into some others.

1. Conversion

The first step is conversion, turning our lives over to God through faith in Christ and surrender to Him. To all people in all ages who have in any thorough way become Christians, there has been a turning point, a place of departure from the old life and a beginning of the new.

We need to be converted because we are in sin. Sin means specific wrongdoing, like cruelty, bitterness, uncleanness, tale-bearing, crookedness. It also means the state of being estranged from God. The reason people begin to grow so soon in AA is that they honestly face their own wrongdoing and what it does to other people. The reason many of the rest of us grow so slowly, or never really grow at all, is that we camouflage our own sins, point to the sins of others, excuse ourselves by pointing to our virtues, and refuse to be specific about the "nature of our wrongs." How many of us admit that our lives have become unmanageable? And if we are "decent, respectable folk," how about the sin of spiritual ineffectiveness in making faith real to others? A man told me once his friends couldn't make him drunk; but neither could be make them sober.

We are converted from sin, and to Christ. Christ is only an ideal to some of us. Begin where you are. Be honest about your needs. The great need is for Someone to help us, to save us. You can't do it by willpower. No human ideal can do it, for it needs supernatural grace. You may say you don't know whether Christ is supernatural. Begin reading about Him in the New Testament. Come hear Him talked about in church. Read books about the faith as it comes to people in experience. Give as much of yourself as you can to as much of God as you understand. This way you will begin to understand more.

2. Prayer

The second step is prayer. When we begin to be converted, we want God's will more than we want our sin. Prayer is seeking God's will and plan--it is not trying to persuade Him to adopt ours. More and more we learn to pray at all times about everything. Prayer becomes not requests so much as communion, cooperation. This is how we find strength.

But there are other ways besides prayer to draw this strength. The Bible speaks to us. What used to be dry becomes interesting, even exciting, because at last we are committed to the life which it talks about.

The Church forms another source of strength. When we seriously get into the Christian life, we come for worship and for fellowship with each other as a kind of refill. Especially through Holy Communion do we find God coming to us with grace. In prayer we reach up to Him; in the sacraments He reaches down to us. Here is constant help for those who have honestly begun to take seriously the Christian life. Too many of us got into the Church too cheaply. No change was expected of us, and consequently not much of it took place.

3. Fellowship

The third step is fellowship. A child is normally born into a family. A Christian is born into the Christian family, the Church. Conversion is not only a line between Christ and us, it is also many lines between us and Christ's people. If you have not found out that the Christian life is a profoundly corporate experience, you have little understood it.

We need the friends we make in Christ to help us when we are down, and to rejoice with us when the sun is shining. We need the corrective and perspective of the ages of the Church's life. We may find Christ alone; we can only truly "abide" in Him in His company.

The Church is both the formal service, such as those on Sunday mornings, and also the informal gathering of small groups. Services may be so formal that they are not the best places for some of us to experience our first exposure to Christ; the smaller, more informal company may be better. In any case, we need places where we can become familiar with the various kinds of Christian experience, talk out some of our difficulties, ask questions, compare experiences.

All of us together, with different gifts and functions, make up the whole Church. It may take other people to draw us out and give us courage to open our mouths or take responsibility. The formal Church terribly needs to be supplemented by these small, informal companies.

4. Witness

The fourth step is witness. Christ told us we were to be His witnesses. The early Church burned like a fire, and spread rapidly, because of the contagion of its people. They had found a risen Christ, and they were excited about Him. They couldn't keep quiet. They witnessed by what they were, what they did, and what they said. People saw a change in them because of Christ--a change for the better--and they wanted this faith and new life. The early Christians had somehow learned how to get their faith over to others. They met a pagan world, they met daily life, they met martyrdom, with a radiant faith. They were different from any other people on earth.

If what you love is horse racing, or clothes, or the stock market, or your grandchildren, that is what you'll talk about. If what you love is Christ, you will find ways to talk about Him to other people. You can't make half-dead church members enthusiastic witnesses, and you can't keep people who have begun to know Christ from beginning to live for Him and talk about Him. So does the great contagion grow and spread.

One summer "boy meets girl." They like each other very much. Girl is even more interested in Christ. They talk about Him together. Boy is a fine lad but religion has been rather a side issue. He begins taking an interest and tries it for himself. This fall he goes to college. He begins talking with his friends about Christ as the girl talked with him. He writes, "Success! I have gotten a prayer group together and everything is coming along fine. Have five boys who are really interested in the idea; first meeting is Thursday night. Have a perfect place to meet over in the chapel at the dormitory next to ours. John has started a group in his house. We are working together, have different meeting places, and will eventually join up. I am so wound up in this new approach to life--the Christian approach--it is all I can think about!" A little later they have forty men in the combined groups. In such ways do young people begin finding and living and sharing their faith.

One final word: there is a progression in these four steps. One unfolds out of the other. There is no real prayer except as we are getting converted, no real fellowship except as we seek conversion and steady prayer, no witness till people in the process of being converted, and praying, and trying to live in fellowship, manifest this new life in Christ by what they are, by what they do, and by what they say. The four belong together.

From the beginning, and I think until the end of time, these four steps are stages through which all Christians, of whatever persuasion, must pass--four experiences which all Christians should have. I think they constitute our Christian Program.

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The Reverend Samuel M. Shoemaker, founded Faith At Work while serving as Rector of Calvary Church and spiritual leader of the Oxford Group for many years, provided the early inspiration for the spiritual aspects of twelve-step programs.


Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by two struggling alcoholics who needed a spiritual program to attain and sustain ongoing recovery. Out of the efforts of Bill W and Dr Bob, the program known as Alcoholics Anonymous was developed based on living a lifestyle of twelve steps. The principles of A.A.'s twelve steps were a direct outgrowth of the Oxford Group, based at Calvary Episcopal Church in New York NY.

WHAT'LL I DO ABOUT MY LIFE?

by Samuel M. Shoemaker, AA Spiritual Leader and Co-founder


Three big questions confront every young person. They are: What shall I make out of Existence? Whom shall I marry? And, where shall I invest my life? They are all questions that make you come down off the fence of objectivity where modern education has often encouraged you to sit. You need to be as wise as you can in deciding all three of those issues, but in answering them you can't go on being tentative and sitting on the fence. One. What shall I make of existence? All of us who intend to live at all must make some choice between the negatives of skepticism and the positives of some kind of faith. You re- member H. L. Mencken's famous credo: "The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10, 000 revolutions a minute; man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it; religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride. 11 But the great Spanish philosopher, Unamuno, says, "to believe in God is to long for His existence. Further it is to act as if He existed. And it is to live by this longing and to make it the inner spring of our action." G. K. Chesterton once said, "I had it in the beginning and I'm more and more coming back to it in the end--my original and almost mystical conviction of the miracle of all existence and the essential excitement of all experience." Which will you have--Mencken or Unamuno or Chesterton? The choice has to be made. You can choose one view or the other, but you've got to take one of them if you're going to live, not merely observe life. Try to assess it by what other people make of it who do dare to live.

And, Second. Whom should I marry, if any? At first this looks like a very personal subjective matter. Shall it be Mary or Jane? Shall it be Joe or Bill? It turns out to be really another question--on what basis shall I make my choice? And on what basis do I want my partner to make a choice? Human love and attraction are very powerful and very joyful realities in life. But from within that relationship, however close, you're going to have to make a decision- -decisions that will depend, not on love and loyalty to one another only, but on the values in which you really believe. The decisions are going to be more difficult as you diverge in your basic values. The real reason why marriages contracted on a Christian basis succeed rather better than those that are on a purely natural basis is that Christians have a place of reference in which inevitable differences can be resolved by prayer and the search for God's Will.

And, Third. Where shall I invest my life? This is the third and big question and it's primarily about this that I want to talk with you now. We must begin, I think, with two great urgencies today and let them play upon the decision we make about our life's work. The first urgency is the one that lies always in the heart of God. If the Christian gospel is true, God is a loving God, He cares for people--for all people, everywhere. He cares for people in America and He cares for people in Africa. Wherever people have been moved by the passion of concern for other people that was within Christ they have gone out to seek and meet every kind of human need; they've gone out to non-Christian peoples, not only with the beliefs of the gospel, but also with the services and the kindnesses of the gospel. A few years ago some of us got together and formed a movement called "World Neighbors" which seeks to carry out our Western know-how to underprivileged peoples overseas- -carrying it in the Christian spirit- -packaging the religious elements, as it were, in deeds. Dr. Frank Laubach, the apostle to the world's illiterates was the inspiration behind this. We're at work now in more than 1200 villages, mostly in Egypt and India. This is not a program of relief; this is a program of self-help. If we had done enough of this in time past the communists would not have made such appeal to the underprivileged masses. And if we set out to do this even now on a huge scale we would both fulfill our Christian duty and save millions of people from the false promises of communism.

But there's a-second urgency today and it is our world situation. For all who believe in freedom, the situation couldn't be more serious. And yet, most Americans are at this moment lulling themselves almost to insensibility as to what's happening. They will not remember that dictators tell the world what they're going to do and as they gain power they do it. Hitler did that. The communists have done it on a much wider scale. The world never before saw any



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thing like the combination of political and scientific power that is in the hands of the Russians today. Many countries have been able to plant a few spies and saboteurs in other countries to work for their own interests, but never before has a country trained and sent out tens of thousands of agents dedicated to world revolution and planted them almost everywhere on the glob(!. With our inveterate optimism, the deep-rooted belief that America could whip anybody on earth, we keep saying hopeful things and we go about our materialistic way of life as if nothing were happening. I'm not sure that our leaders or the press or a great deal of our education is giving us the real low-down. Everybody had his head down pursuing his own course. And who's giving us the real big picture and asking us to gage our lives to the crisis and the needs which it represents? I talked a while ago with a Roman Catholic Monsignor who has held a very high position in one of the now-occupied countries of Europe and he said to me soberly that he thought the communists would either take the world or destroy it. I hope he's wrong, but I'm not sure he is. I believe that we are where we find ourselves today partly because we have misused two of the greatest human blessings people can have- -freedom and peace. We misuse freedom because to our forefathers freedom was a philosophy and a passion and a crusade. But freedom is for us precisely adopting no philosophy- -feeling no passion--taking part in no crusade. In such freedom conditions develop which make the emergence of some kind of force necessary. And generally that force lessens the freedom. Some time ago TIME had a quotation from Helmut Thielicke of West Germany when he spoke to a group of students and he said, "Are we still worth our freedom? We who do nothing but consume freedom instead of producing it?" You see, we've forgotten that freedom primarily means freedom to obey God. Actually we try to obey God or else we obey ourselves. Luther said, "Men serve God or an idol. 11 And we have misused peace. We thought peace was normal--war abnormal. We thought peace was meant to be a time to get ours--to build up power or reputation or fortune for our- selves. Our technical civilization and our secularistic education have made material success the dream of the average American youth. And so, thus misguided, American youth has had to spend years in military service. Many have given their lives. Many more will yet be forc ed to do so because we have used peace selfishly. There ought to have been pouring out of our schools and colleges men and women animated by the desire to serve and meet urgent human needs driven by the Christian motive. We needed, not scores of them, but thousands of them. Doctors, agriculturists, engineers, teachers. They should have been sent out, not by the church boards only, but by foundations and private industry and corporations also. We need people here at home who realize that Christianity is the only faith and philosophy that freedom has. Democracy presupposes a Divine Being to whom we owe loyalty and obedience. Now we believe this is best worked out by the separation of church and state, but this does not mean that the real well-being of the Nation is not almost wholly dependent upon what voluntary organizations, notably education and the church, can do to create sound and honest and industrious and responsible people. We need to use whatever is left to us of time and of peace to pour out our concern and our help to the more helpless peoples of the world and to establish our own people at home in Christian faith and character and service. We face a world crisis. I don't think it will be resolved in our lifetime. We need to live on a crisis basis, not on a comfort basis. We are forced to take part in one of two revolutions --the communist revolution based on atheism and materialism proceeding by lies and by force --or the Christian revolution based on faith in God, and the Christian view of man and proceeding by service and by persuasion. The late Archbishop of Canterberry said that there are only two kinds of people in the world who know what they're after- -the communist and the convinced Christian. The rest of the world, he said, are amiable non-entities. You can't make up your mind what to do with your life in a vacuum of personal desire or even aptitude divorced from these facts in the world. Now it's the Christian faith that God has a plan for our lives. It isn't going to be imposed on us but we can seek and find it--we can also ignore it and miss it. It's like the architect's blue-print for the way things ought to be-- plumber may put the pipes in the wrong place- -carpenter may use rotten wood--that's up to the builder and to them. God is the architect- -we Ire the builders. If we follow the plan we get order and rightness. If we depart from it--well, we get what we've got in the world now. God has a Will for every life and every situation.





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Lincoln once said," I Find that when the Almighty wants me to do or not, He has a way of letting me know it." Now I don't believe God's a bit more interested in my being a minister than another man being a farmer or a stockbroker if they are His Will for him. I believe He is interested in all men and all life. I think He is concerned about people, about how they live, about what courage they come by, what they make out of life by faith. It's a common fallacy to think a man has to be called to the ministry or some kind of Christian service, but if he wants to sell bonds or practice law or run a factory, that's his own business. Why? Is that a mature tested view? I think it's half-baked. If our job is to obey God and serve mankind as He wants us to do, I think you'd better be just as sure that God wants you in business or teaching or manufacture, as I must be sure God wants me to go in the ministry. I think God is interested in life, just the same--no, not just in religion. And yet I must remind you that religion is a very important part of life.

Our real warfare today is a spiritual warfare for men's minds and loyalties. If there are tens of thousands of devoted and determined missionaries for communism all over the globe as there are, we need some mighty good men and women holding up the other side. With all the privileges some of us have had--and the great relative strength and wealth of America--I think a great many of young people that may be listening in at this moment ought to wind up in some kind of specific Christian service, including the ministry of the church. Somebody has got to be dedicated to spreading the very tangible so-called intangibles of God and faith. If I had a thousand lives I'd put them all in the same place where I've put the one I do have. Not only because I think I've had about as glorious a time of living as anybody I know, but because the primary need for men who can help other men to find God and faith is so great. Now that takes time and individual attention--lots of it. You think you're going to do this in your off time but are you?

Now, how does one know what he should do? Let me make some suggestions: One, put yourself in God's hands with as deep a self-surrender as you know how to make. Offer to Him Let go of whatever hinders think. Look life square in the face. See and talk with people who know God and who know life. Don't ask them to decide for you, but learn from them. And fourth, pray to know God's will for your life. Follow it where you know it in small things and you'll be much surer about it when it comes to life in-vestment. Fifth, ask Him to make His will and His call known to you. The call is often a recognition of need. A while ago a very lively missionary from Africa was in Pittsburgh talking about his work. A young engineer was listening and he said, "how do you recognize a call to this kind of work?" And the missionary said, "you've got your orders from the Commander-in-Chief, are you 4-F?" That young man's out there with him today building roads and air strips and buildings. Sixth, when the course seems reasonably clear, --nothing else pressing—and having used all the lights you've have, launch into it with all you've got. The work given you by God is your parish just as my church is my parish. And you're meant to do the same things in it. Care for people and serve them and help them to find God and faith. Seventh, Keep your eye all the while on the Big Picture. Few are out for materialistic success--they just find there isn't any world left for them to be selfish in. "He that saves his life shall lose it. He that loses life for Christ's sake the same shall save it.

I know what some of you people are looking forward to--a little white house with green shutters. A little two-car garage; nice little wife; four little children; nice little retirement plan when you're fifty-five so you can take nice little trips you've always wanted to take, then come home and sit in a nice little chair on the porch in summer and by the fireside in winter. You know what the end of -that story is? Its a nice little mound on a hillside with a couple of nice little stones and some names and dates on it. You've pampered yourself into mediocrity when you might have forgotten yourself into immortality. Don't make it necessary for God to say to you when it's all over what King Henry IV of France said to one of his generals who had missed a battle: "Hang yourself brave Crillon. We fought at Arques and you were not there."

KENT COUPLE DAYLIGHTS A RARELY DISCUSSED REALITY

Editor´s note: this article first appeared in the March 2002 issue of High and Dry, newsletter of Seattle Alcoholics Anonymous.

Blacks have to be tough to stay sober in a white world.

Just ask Ken and Deborah J. of Kent, who say that white and black relations need to change in the South County. The African-American couple moved to Kent 8 ½ years ago when they bought a house there. That was a big deal for both of them, coming as they did from a long history of alcohol and drug abuse and eight years of sobriety in Seattle.

For their first eight years, they had been fixtures at the 23rd and Cherry Fellowship in Seattle. They´d had their troubles there, but not about race. That Fellowship was founded to meet the needs of the city´s blacks who felt uncomfortable and/or unwelcome elsewhere.

But the new house in Kent meant a long commute to Seattle, so they decided to get involved locally. "That was a cultural shock for me," Deborah recalled. "Not for me," said her husband. "I kept goin´ to 23rd and Cherry, but I was cuttin´ down on meetings ´cause I was trippin´ on the house, trippin´ on the kids (they have four between them). I decided to do a little research, and found a meeting just three blocks from my house. Well, Lord have mercy! It almost reminded me of Bellevue-´My dog died, so I got drunk.´ I couldn´t go to meetings like that. I found that people didn´t have the knowledge or ability to approach me. The only ones that were accepting me were people with time in the program.

"Finally, I said to myself, ´I have to go to any lengths to stay sober,´ so he settled into the Kent environment. "It´s not just AA, it´s a societal problem," Ken said. "People haven´t had any experience with blacks."

Deborah says, "I´ve been around this program for a long time. When I sit down, I feel I´ve earned my spot. People need to have their arms open. Yes, I´m talking about race, but I´m also talking about AA as a whole. As a culture, AA is standoffish. There´s good talk around the tables, but after the meeting there´s no follow-through." Her husband echoed her comment. "People in AA are afraid to come to my house or invite me over."

The same thing is true in his neighborhood. "When we moved in , the neighbors couldn´t understand what a black man was doing there. It was like I was a rapist or murderer or something."

Later in the conversation, they lightened this grim picture. They went out to dinner with another AA couple the other night, and they´re gradually making more friends. "Yep, and I´m looking for more," said Ken. "I´ve found good people in Kent. Some of the problem is my own fears. I just have to listen harder. The message is the same, but at 23rd and Cherry it came more naturally. I have to put my hand out. When I do, somebody grabs it."

Deborah: "I don´t worry about being accepted anymore. I´m glad I have some time under my belt. I´ve stopped thinking about what others are thinking ´cause that kind of thinking will get me drunk. What I´m there for is to stay sober and to reach my potential." Deborah is currently a student at Central Washington´s Seatac campus and at Highline Community College, where she´s working for a degree in accounting and aiming down the road at a CPA license.

Thanks to the intervention of Local 751 of the Machinists Union, Ken has been a diesel mechanic for Boeing for 24 years. Boeing fired him for drinking on the job and not showing up after payday. He´d had a number of near misses with the heavy jacks he worked with, and once smashed his hand with a hammer, but miraculously was never badly hurt. The union went to bat for him and got his job back on condition he go to treatment.

He did, and entered treatment June 26, 1986. That is his sobriety date. Nine days later, Deborah entered treatment in the same place, and the rest, as they say, is history. July 4, 1986 is her sobriety date. They had known each other as children at T.C. Minor Elementary School in Seattle, but didn´t recognize each other until they started talking in the treatment program. When a romance blossomed, their counselors told them it would never work, and are amazed they are still together. Against all the odds, they have never had a slip since they entered treatment. "I´ve been sober this long only by God´s grace," Deborah said.

Deborah followed the classic alcoholic pattern. Every time she drank, she got drunk. From booze, she worked her way through marijuana and cocaine. "Drinking every day was the normal thing that people did," she recalled. "I loved cocaine." Working for the state, she had access to money which she routinely stole to support her habits. On payday, she put it back, so she was never caught. Later, when she sobered up, she was so ashamed she quit her job.

"I couldn´t pay my bills. I was raising my son by myself, and I couldn´t afford to buy an eight dollar cap and gown for his graduation from kindergarten. It got so bad me and a friend were going to blow our brains out. Another time, I was gonna kill me and my son. I was stopped only by God´s grace. I was drinking anything I could find that had alcohol, even cough syrup, but that stuff wasn´t good enough. I´d get so high on cocaine I´d take a big hit with the phone in my hand so I could call 911 if I started to pass out."

Finally, a loving friend brought her to treatment and since then she´s turned her world around.

Ken did some heavy drinking in the Marine Corps between 1972 and 1974, then drifted into a chaotic marriage that produced two children and a costly cocaine habit.. Pretty soon, there was nothing left to pay the bills, and the city shut off the water supply.

One of his painful memories is of teaching his children to flush the toilet after they´d used it. Then, with the water shut off, he was stealing water from his neighbor and had to tell the kids not to flush anymore.

Eventually, the couple divorced, and with what he felt was his new freedom, Ken went all out on the party circuit. To save money, he´d hide a bottle behind his favorite night club, then cruise the bar for women before going back outside for another belt. When Boeing fired him, he took his last paycheck of $2600 and blew the whole thing. At 4 a.m., he was on the floor looking for a cocaine rock he might have dropped on the rug. "I smoked a lot of icing from cupcakes and rug lint that I thought were rocks, trying to get high," he recalled ruefully.

With sobriety, he gained custody of his two children in a bitter court battle, and Deborah went into counseling to work out her problems with her son. "We were just one big happy counseling family," she said. "We´ve had to learn how to meld three families together-hers, mine and ours," Ken said. They have one child together, now 14 and the only one still at home.

"It was no easy road to learn how to stay sober while we were raising kids and learning how to live like ordinary people," Deborah said. "Why, he didn´t even know how to rent a video. We had to learn to live all over again."

"I´m loving it," Ken said. "I mean life itself. I think back to how it was then and how it is today, and it´s just amazing. The simple things: renting movies, playing golf. Most of all, buying a house, and being able to wake in the morning and tell that person in the mirror that I love him."

Dealing with dual addiction has been an issue for both Ken and Deborah all through their sobriety. It started when Ken first got out of treatment and an oldtimer at the Big Hall told him he should only talk about his alcoholism. "Well, I´ll be damned," I said. "In the treatment center, they told us a drug is a drug is a drug. I didn´t think I was an alcoholic those first two years because it was cocaine that took me down the fastest. When the counselor told me I had to decide whether to call myself a dope fiend or an alcoholic, I decided I´d be a Base Head Alcoholic, and that´s still my M.O. today. They got pissed at me in both AA and Narcotics Anonymous, saying I wanted to be special. It´s not as bad as it used to be, but I´m still fighting it. But I´ve decided that if anybody doesn´t like it, they can kiss my ass."

Deborah echoes his view. "Wherever I go, I´m going to pronounce what I am. It´s unfortunate there´s this controversy. When we came into this program, cocaine was flooding the halls and dual addiction became common. And to tell the truth, most of the oldtimers were drug addicts too. I´m going to do what it takes to stay sober. I´m not leaving any meeting. I can´t let people, places or things interfere with my sobriety."

"I want to respect AA," Ken said. "If I know it´s a sensitive meeting, I only talk about alcohol. The bottom line is: don´t get a resentment and turn against AA. We´re here to help anybody who´s out there suffering."

23rd and Cherry was in transition when the couple became active there in the early days of their sobriety. Many newcomers like them, they said, were drug addicts as well as alcoholics, and they campaigned to include narcotics in the program. After many internal battles, Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings were added to the club´s curriculum. Ken says that today, about 80 per cent of the meetings there are AA.

Over time, the couple became leaders at 23rd and Cherry. Both served terms as chairman of the board, Deborah as the first woman chair.

It´s been a struggle, but they´ve had a lot of fun too. They attended the 1990 national AA convention here, and the 1995 convention in San Diego. Ken is a speaker at various meetings, but Deborah says he´s too long-winded.

Both expressed deep gratitude for this program.

Ken: "I was ready to give up my life before I found AA. Working the steps, taking it one day at a time, my life is totally different and good."

Deborah: "I´m glad that when I came to AA, there were people who took me under their wings till I was ready to fly."

Interviewed and written by Dick S.

Jim's Story: They Nearly Lost It All

Jim's Story

Jim S., Washington, D.C.
(p. 471 in 2nd edition, p. 483 in 3rd edition.)

They Lost Nearly All

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"This physician, the originator of A.A's first black group, but badly caught in the toils, tells of his release and of how freedom came as he worked among his own people."

Jim was born in a small town in Virginia, the son of a country physician. They lived just a few doors from the First Baptist Church and as a small boy Jim would often ask when they had funerals whether the person was good or bad and whether they were going to heaven or hell. His mother, recently converted, was something of a religious fanatic. She was very Puritanical, did not allow card playing, although both parents drank moderately.

His father was from the South and had suffered a great deal there. He was a doctor and wanted to give his son the best, and nothing but being a doctor would suffice. Jim never thought he was as good a doctor as his father, whose medical ability was "a gift." His father also had a mail order business since there was not much money in medicine at the time.

Jim attended elementary and high schools in Washington, D.C. and then attended Howard University. His internship was in Washington. Because of his mothers Puritanical training about sex, he married much younger than he might have otherwise. (His mother didn't like his wife, Vi, in part because she had been married before.) They had three children. After they had their first child his parents became allies, but when Jim became an alcoholic they both turned against him.

Jim's real trouble with alcohol began about 1935 during the Great Depression. He had lost practically all his property except the place they were living. He had to give up a lot of things to which he had been accustomed. His wife expressed concern about his drinking so he started lying about it and hiding bottles.

The in 1940 man whom he had known for years came to his office. He filled a prescription for the man's wife while in a blackout. That frightened him and he talked to a psychiatrist about it, and a minister for whom he had a lot of respect. But nothing seemed to be the answer. He went to work for the Federal Government, while still maintaining evening office hours. Then he went to North Carolina because they told him the county he was going to was "dry." He managed to stay sober there about six months. Vi had secured work with the government in Washington and did not move to North Carolina, as he had expected. So he started drinking again. His physical condition deteriorated (he had his first stomach hemorrhage), and he was in financial difficulties, having borrowed money and drunk it all up, so he decided to return to Washington.

His wife received him graciously, although she was living with the children in a one-room apartment. When he struck her with his fist, she got a court order against him and he went back to his mother. Things continued to get worse for Jim until one day, in a blackout, he stabbed Vi with a penknife. Vi testified that he was basically a fine fellow and a good husband, but that he drank too much. He was committed for thirty days observation. He moved around the country for a time after that but soon went back to Washington.

When repairing an electric outlet for a friend, to earn some drinking money, he met Ella G., whom he had known years before but didn't recognize. Ella arranged for Jim to meet "Charlie G." who became his sponsor. Charlie was a white man. The following Sunday he met with Ella, Charlie, and three or four others at Ella's house. "That was the first meeting of a colored group in A.A.," so far as Jim knew.

Soon Jim began looking for a place for them to hold meetings and was finally allowed to use a room at the YMCA at two dollars a night. In the beginning the meetings were often only Jim and Ella, but gradually the group began to grow. Charlie and many other white members of A.A. came to their meeting and taught them a great deal about how to hold meetings and about Twelve Step work. "Indeed," wrote Jim, "without their help we couldn't possibly have gone on. They saved us endless time and lost motion. And, not only that, but they gave us financial help. Even when we were paying that two dollars a night, they often paid it for us because our collection was so small."

Jim was unemployed at the time and being supported by Vi. So he devoted all his time to the building of that group. Jim had found this new "something," and wanted to give it to everybody who had a problem. "We didn't save the world, but we did manage to help some individuals," he wrote.

Jim spoke at the "God as We Understand Him" meeting held Sunday morning at the International Convention in St. Louis in 1955. Bill wrote in "A.A. Comes of Age":

"Deep silence fell as Dr. Jim S., the A.A. speaker, told of his life experience and the serious drinking that led to the crises which had brought about his spiritual awakening. He re-enacted for us his own struggle to start the very first group among Negroes, his own people. Aided by a tireless and eager wife, he had turned his home into a combined hospital and A.A. meeting place, free to all. He told how early failure had finally been transformed under God's grace into amazing success, we who listened realized that A.A., not only could cross seas and mountains and boundaries of language and nation but could surmount obstacles of race and creed as well."

Note: Jim Scott, author of the article above ("Traveler, Editor, Scholar" -- 1st Edition) edited all of the Akron stories (except Dr. Bob's) for the book. Several of these original stories pre-editing are stored at the Stepping Stones Archives. We don't know if Jim got paid for his editing expertise and work.

70 Years Of Sobriety and Blacks in AA

Celebrating 70 Years Of Sobriety
By Courtland Milloy & The Washington Post
Published on 6/9/2005

When Alcoholics Anonymous marks its 70th anniversary Friday, the late Wall Street stockbroker William G. Wilson and Akron, Ohio, physician Robert H. Smith will be remembered for founding a self-help movement that has saved millions from the ravages of alcoholism.

Virtually anyone recovering from chemical dependency through a 12-step program can appreciate the importance of what happened when the man known in AA as Bill W., believing that he could beat his alcohol problem by helping another alcoholic stay sober, went to work on a physician who'd been hospitalized for alcohol-related disorders. A month later, on June 10, 1935, the physician — known in AA as Dr. Bob — took his last drink, and a miraculous fellowship was formed.

Among those who followed in their footsteps were three pioneers from the Washington area — John Henry Fitzhugh Mayo, who helped start the first AA meeting in Washington in 1939 and later took AA to Richmond, Va.; James Burwell, who helped establish AA in Baltimore and later in Philadelphia; and Jim Scott, a Howard University graduate and African-American physician, who started the first AA meeting for black people, in Washington, 60 years ago, in April 1945.

“When AA started, the city was racially segregated, and blacks were not welcome in AA,” said a member of the archives project of the Washington Area Intergroup Association, an information clearinghouse for AA in Washington. “Some of the groups eventually decided to let them come in but not stay for the social part after the meetings.”

Black or white, most alcoholics were viewed as dirty, angry, hopeless, ungrateful and untreatable. In 1935, the Census Bureau reported that the District of Columbia had the second-highest death rate due to alcoholism in the United States.

A 1993 report by the AA archives project noted of the era before AA: “One distinguished Washingtonian had been arrested over 250 times and had served 197 jail sentences for drunkenness. Several others could count well over 100 each. The numbers showed that throwing alcoholics into the drunk-tanks — even a great many times — did not solve the problem.”

But Alcoholics Anonymous could — and did.

Mayo, Burwell, Scott and others went about the 12-step work with evangelical fervor, scouring the streets of the city and outlying areas in search of drunks to help.

“Fitz and Jim would actually bring drunks home off the streets to help them get sober,” a member of AA who knew both men recalled. “You rarely see that kind of outreach anymore.”

The group that Burwell helped start in Philadelphia was the subject of an article on AA written in 1941 by Jack Alexander for the Saturday Evening Post. The story, which told of the humility and service of newly sober AA members, created a surge of interest in the fellowship around the world.

Scott, with the help of a white AA member known only as Charlie G., started the Washington Colored Group, which later changed its name to the Cosmopolitan Group to indicate that all alcoholics are welcomed, regardless of race. Scott went on to help start AA groups for blacks in Georgia and other parts of the South.

Mayo and Burwell helped Wilson write “Alcoholics Anonymous,” commonly referred to in AA as “the Big Book,” first published in 1939. Their personal stories of recovery from alcoholism, along with Scott's, are recounted in it — anonymously, of course. But which story is which is well known. Mayo's is titled “Our Southern Friend”; Burwell's, “The Vicious Cycle”; and Scott's, “Jim's Story.”

AA now claims a worldwide membership of about 2 million. Today, there are more than 1,800 AA meetings in the Washington area. And although no one knows how many people attend those meetings, what is certain is that AA has helped multitudes of all races and creeds achieve sobriety.

Resources Popular With Early AA Members

The Greatest Thing In The World
by Henry Drummond
First Published c1880
http://silkworth.net/henry_drummond/hd_tablecontents.htm


As A Man Thinketh
by James Allen
http://silkworth.net/james_allen/ja_tablecontents.html


The Common Sense of Drinking
by Richard R. Peabody
http://silkworth.net/pdf/CommonSenseDrinkPeabody.pdf


In His Steps
written in 1896 by Charles M. Sheldon
http://silkworth.net/charles_sheldon/his_steps_contents.html


John Barleycorn
by Jack London Published by Macmillan, 1913
http://silkworth.net/jack_london/jl_tablecontents.html

Why Study A.A. History?

Why study, or for that matter, even discuss the history of Alcoholics Anonymous? What difference would it make? How could it affect how we live and work our own individual recovery? Who cares?

In a quote attributed to Carl Sandburg, he summed it up when he wrote; "Whenever a civilization or society declines (or perishes) there is always one condition present - they forgot where they came from."

This quote, often used by Frank M., Archivist for AA General Services gives a warning to present and future generations of AA members to "Keep It Green."

The Washingtonians, The Oxford Group and others forgot where they came from. They watered-down and made changes to their respective movements which eventually led to their demise. AA members could take notice and begin to learn their roots. The history of AA can be both educational and fascinating and help in making the recovery process a fruitful one.

Bill W. stated in 1940 that of those entering AA, 50 percent never drank again. 25 percent remained sober throughout their lives after experiencing some early difficulties and the remaining 25 percent could not be accounted for. Bill stated that 75 percent of AA members back then got well -- they recovered.

Group records indicate that in Cleveland, Ohio there was a 93 percent success rate for recovery in the early 1940's. Could these astounding figures be attributed to the fact that only low-bottom alcoholics came into AA? Could they be attributed to the lack of multiple addictions? We think not.

Early records indicate that though a great number of early members were considered as low-bottom, there were many who entered AA before losing everything. Both Dr. Bob and Bill had difficulties with drugs other than alcohol. Bill struggled with these problems until his death in 1971.

Why did they stay sober?
The original members of AA, between 1935 and 1939 went to only one meeting per week, and that meeting wasn't an AA meeting - they were Oxford Group meetings. They got well and they recovered. Why?


There was no 90-in-90 back then. It is not even mentioned in the first 164 pages of the Big Book. There were no conventions, retreats or treatment centers as we know them today. There weren't even the 12 Steps until 1938. Why did they stay sober, on a continuous basis until their deaths?

People in AA state that it takes time to get through the Steps. "A Step a year," some even say. This writer has even heard some in AA say that after two years in the Program, they are still working on Step One, or Two or Three.

For those who are in that position, or listening to those who state that it can take up to 12 months, or longer, to go through the Steps, I urge you to read from the last paragraph on page 290 through the end of the first paragraph on page 293 in the Big Book. After reading these important pages, ask yourself why it was suggested that you take your time, remaining in the problem and not fully celebrating the solution?

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the way of life described within its pages is probably the most sane way of living possible. It promises a changed life, removal of obsesion, removal of fear and being "rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we have not even dreamed."

No daily meetings
Were these people who wrote the book long-term members of AA? Did they have decades of recovery behind them which gave them the wisdom to write such a "prescription for a miracle?"

What they did have was a program of recovery and determination to do whatever it took to stop drinking forever. The longest term of sobriety for those who wrote this book was justover four years. The average was about eighteen months. All were relative newcomers, those who wrote and described what this writer and many others describe as the greatest spiritual movement of the 20th Century.

They didn't have the benifit of daily meetings, many didn't have telephones and there were no 28-day treatment centers. What they did have was a program of recovery and determination to do whatever it took to stop drinking forever.

The study of the history of AA will show you what it was that worked so many wonders which resulted in so many miracles. Learning about where AA came from and what they did will give you an idea of what they had. Remember, "If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any lengths to get it..."

Strengthening the fellowship
It is this writer's hope and prayer that a continuing dialogue and forum be made available to study the history of AA. Hopefully, this continuing open discussion will not only serve to strengthen your personal recovery but also begin the serve to strengthen AA as a whole.


For the sake of the future generations of alcoholics and those addicted to other drugs, I pray that AA remain strong. Revolving Door Recovery will eventually lead AA towards the fate of the Washingtonians and the Oxford Group. For the sake of the future generations of alcoholics and those addicted to other drugs, I pray that AA remain strong.

I invite any questions, answers and even debates from those on the Internet. Let us together delve into the history of AA and share our experience, strength and hope with each other so that we can stay sober and help others to recover.

This article is written by nationally recognized historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.