Overcoming Fear & Fear of Death
Out of the problem into the solution.
Out of the problem into the solution.
Bill Wilson co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote the phrase “resentment is the number one offender” in the Big Book.
Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. We were “burned up.”
On our grudge list we set opposite each name our injuries. Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with?
It means that if we hold onto resentments then we will relapse and resentment is the cause of our relapse. But really how true is that? Well at face value it appears that resentment toward others and anger is the cause of our relapse. It seems to be the most dominant emotion addicts have when going back out.
However, I am not so sure the resentment for others has taken the relaps-er back out. I rather think anger and blame in the form of resentment is the survival skill which helps us live with ourselves when we step back into a life we know will kill us. There is actually only one resentment that sends us back out if you look deeper into our hearts, which is a resentment toward self.
But what lies underneath our self loathing? Our self loathing is at the core of all our other resentments. Ask any addict in the midst of a relapse and he will most likely deny to you his self-hate. Addicts carry much shame and shame is at the core of our deception to self and others. Un-processed shame, and hurt are at the core of our addiction. These are the feelings stuck in our crawl. These are what carries us to the dope man.
Bill W. touched on it when he mentions “emotional disorder” he just didn’t elaborate or realize that emotional constipation which is disorder was at the core of most addictions. (At least that’s my theory.)
Hurt transforms into anger and we can’t cope with hating ourselves so we bury the hate into a thing called blame. We are constantly on the look-out for new people, places and things to blame for the way we feel deep inside. We deceive us and others. We must resent people and blame them to deal with and cover up the way we actually feel about ourselves. The only true resentment that sends us back out is the resentment toward ourselves.
Why do people claim they have a cure for addiction? Why are some people cured and others sign on to the belief “once an addict always an addict”. Simply because they don’t know the cure. Or they have done one part of the cure and left off another.
Find the core issues of the original hurt and pain, usually stemming from a very early age, and emotionally process them. (cry, scream, write, share). Transcendental meditation will show us our core issues. While at the same time we must develop new routines, new habits, new people, places, and things. Find new goals and a new purpose for life that is healthy. Work the twelves steps and learn how to use the steps when needed including the fear list and steps three, four, eleven, and twelve. Work step twelve for several years or some kind of service work to build self-esteem. And the big one (included in the steps) get a Higher Power by seeking with your heart and stay in contact with that Higher power as much as possible.
That all sounds like allot. Isn’t there an easier softer way? YES AS A MATTER OF FACT THERE IS AN ‘EASIER SOFTER WAY’. But it’s not something you can buy or special order. You can put yourself in a position to get it but there are no guarantees if you do get it how long it will last as your only source of recovery. The white light experience straight from God is the only easier softer way. Usually people who receive white light experiences go on to carry the message of Jesus Christ or God while not doing any of the 12 step work on their character flaws. And why would they? They are riding a pink cloud. But pink clouds don’t last. God will remove some flaws during this experience but seldom, well I have never ever seen God make anybody perfect…ever. So usually these people fall into some flavor of character flaw. Most likely they delve into judging others, get their resentment back and relapse. Then they really hate themselves even more because now they are turning their back on a God they know exists.
I know, sad story…I am talking about myself during my first bout of recovery. And I have seen this same pattern manifest often in others, usually Christians in recovery. Never the less it does not mean God fails or Jesus has abandon us somehow. It just means God clearly WILL NOT TAKE A HUMAN’S SELF-WILL. He will enlighten us, but it’s up to us to go out and get fulfillment once we are enlightened. Hence step eleven and why it works, it fulfills us spiritually. Step twelve builds our self worth, and fulfills us spiritually. Step Ten, well I have found that Ten really isn’t enough, but instead it’s step four that I need to revisit every six months to a year and do thoroughly. When fear of relapse slips in, I remember two things, I have turned my life and will over to the care of God. And the program works, I can turn to the program, work a step. This is what keeps me sober after countless lapses. Sure if I rely on me I will fail. I rely on God, the steps, and the fact that I am being healed and healing by processing core issues.
So can I really call this a cure? ABSOLUTELY! There are many things that humans have to do to stay well. Such as eating, sleeping, nurturing and being nurtured. We do not call ourselves sick because we require food. why would I call myself sick because I require a spiritual program?
NO. I WAS AN ADDICT FOR 35 YEARS I KNOW WHAT SICK IS. I WILL NO LONGER CALL MYSELF SICK UNDER THE ILLUSION AND FEAR THAT IF I SAY I AM HEALED I WILL RELAPSE. THAT IS A.A. SUPERSTITION AND LORE WHICH IS DERIVED FROM FEAR.
The 12 Steps- every resentment, shame, every guilt, every hate, every prejudice, every intense hurt, every theft. We do this till a light goes off and we then recognize our character defect patterns. I recommend at least 1 page of writing for each offense. Repeat the process every year and when we get bungled up.
New fellowship either church, AA people, somewhere we can start a new social life.
Therapy honest and thorough, we must go back and feel the pain and process it out in an emotional way.
God-find your God
We can change who we are but it takes work. So what Life is work.
That is provided we do a certain amount of spiritual maintenance. I suppose technically it is a cure that requires maintenance and action. “Cured” does not mean we can drink normally, it means now we have no desire to drink and we do not consider alcohol a solution to anything.
So why is it that people in AA so often have the attitude that they are chronically ill and will never be “recovered”. The only CHRONIC part of this disease that cannot be healed is the allergy. We will always get a different reaction from alcohol than normal people get.
But the real reason for the apprehension to say “cured” is that most of us have relapsed so many times before we reached AA that we feel it is a disease that we are powerless over. And just after the paragraph where Bill W. writes “the problem has been removed it does not exist for us” he also writes “We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”
Personally being a recovered addict/alcoholic I think it’s a negative fail-safe constructed by the addicts reasoning like..waiting for the other shoe to drop. If we don’t accept that we are “well” then we won’t relapse because we are always working toward getting better. Therefore hypothetically we never “rest on our laurels because we never get well enough to lighten up. I guess the theory has it’s advantages. This attitude is clearly akin to the fear of success and sprouts from the low self-worth that repeated relapse ingrains. BUT NOW we rely on the program NOW we rely on God. THE PROGRAM WORKS! So as long as we work our program and rely on God we are good. ANYBODY can grow into a complete and miraculous recovery if they learn the program and work on core issues. You gotta feel to heal.
We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fight it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality–safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.
Title Page: “ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS. The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism” (I totally agree with him on this one we absolutely do recover, at least I have.)
Page 20, paragraph 2: “Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. (here, here!)
Ok then what is a “fit spiritual condition” and how do we attain it? The Program is simple not complicated, simple but not easy. “Fit spiritual condition” does not mean I am happy all the time or my life is perfect. I am a human with human emotions. I did not come to AA to learn how to further repress my emotions, put on a mask of happy joyous and free, and walk around saying “life is good” every three seconds. NO THAT IS TOTAL BULLSHIT! Life is not good all the time and just because I am sober it doesn’t mean that it’s a good day.
If people die or get sick it sucks. If I break my toe it sucks. If my lover has an affair IT HURTS! Crying is a healthy emotion to relieve emotional pain. Tears are a sign that my emotions are balanced and I allow myself to feel what my heart is saying. Fit spiritual condition means that I have an on-going relationship with my Higher Power and I have learned to rely on Him/Her/It. It also means that I have worked on my core issues and learned what to do with my intense emotions when they do surface. It means that I have worked the 12 steps and know how to implement them when I need to. I know how to revisit step three and remember God has my back. I know how to do a step four and five when I get a resentment. I know how to make amends if I hurt someone. I recognize when I am slipping into complacency or insanity so I formally work all 12 steps again. I take time to connect with nature and I get peace from that. I eat right and show others the respect that I desire. The wreckage of the past must be processed I must not hold on to the worst offences. No secrets. We are as sick as the secrets we keep.
The three things that cure addiction are this= 1. therapy, working on the core issues that made me want to numb myself in the first place, 2. The 12 Steps combined with the fellowship and service work, learning and recognizing my dysfunctional patterns so I can guard against them in the now, furthermore the steps teach me humility, honesty, and more 3. spirituality= a relationship with my Higher Power to RELY on God and soak up God’s strength and Love.
Leaving out any aspect of this healing recovery recipe could result in a return to addiction, dry drunk-ism, possible eventual suicide or hurting others.
“Continued to take personal inventory and
when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
AS we work the first nine Steps, we prepare ourselves for
the adventure of a new life. But when we approach Step
Ten we commence to put our A.A. way of living to practical
use, day by day, in fair weather or foul. Then comes the
acid test: can we stay sober, keep in emotional balance, and
live to good purpose under all conditions?
A continuous look at our assets and liabilities, and a real
desire to learn and grow by this means, are necessities forWe alcoholics have learned this the hard way. More experienced
people, of course, in all times and places have
practiced unsparing self-survey and criticism. For the wise
have always known that no one can make much of his life
until self-searching becomes a regular habit, until he is able
to admit and accept what he finds, and until he patiently
and persistently tries to correct what is wrong.
When a drunk has a terrific hangover because he drank
heavily yesterday, he cannot live well today. But there is
another kind of hangover which we all experience whether
we are drinking or not. That is the emotional hangover, the
direct result of yesterday’s and sometimes today’s excesses
of negative emotion—anger, fear, jealousy, and the like. If
we would live serenely today and tomorrow, we certainly
need to eliminate these hangovers. This doesn’t mean we
need to wander morbidly around in the past. It requires an
admission and correction of errors now. Our inventory enables
us to settle with the past. When this is done, we are
really able to leave it behind us. When our inventory is
carefully taken, and we have made peace with ourselves,
the conviction follows that tomorrow’s challenges can be
met as they come.
Although all inventories are alike in principle, the time
factor does distinguish one from another. There’s the spotcheck
inventory, taken at any time of the day, whenever we
find ourselves getting tangled up. There’s the one we take at
day’s end, when we review the happenings of the hours just
past. Here we cast up a balance sheet, crediting ourselves
with things well done, and chalking up debits where due.
Then there are those occasions when alone, or in the company
of our sponsor or spiritual adviser, we make a careful
review of our progress since the last time. Many A.A.’s go
in for annual or semiannual housecleanings. Many of us
also like the experience of an occasional retreat from the
outside world where we can quiet down for an undisturbed
day or so of self-overhaul and meditation.
Aren’t these practices joy-killers as well as time-consumers?
Must A.A.’s spend most of their waking hours?
drearily rehashing their sins of omission or commission?
Well, hardly. The emphasis on inventory is heavy only because
a great many of us have never really acquired the
habit of accurate self-appraisal. Once this healthy practice
has become grooved, it will be so interesting and profitable
that the time it takes won’t be missed. For these minutes
and sometimes hours spent in self-examination are bound
to make all the other hours of our day better and happier.
And at length our inventories become a regular part of everyday
living, rather than something unusual or set apart.
Before we ask what a spot-check inventory is, let’s look
at the kind of setting in which such an inventory can do its
It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed,
no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the
wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What
about “justifiable” anger? If somebody cheats us, aren’t we
entitled to be mad? Can’t we be properly angry with selfrighteous
folk? For us of A.A. these are dangerous exceptions.
We have found that justified anger ought to be left to
those better qualified to handle it.
Few people have been more victimized by resentments
than have we alcoholics. It mattered little whether our resentments
were justified or not. A burst of temper could
spoil a day, and a well-nursed grudge could make us miserably
ineffective. Nor were we ever skillful in separating
justified from unjustified anger. As we saw it, our wrath
was always justified. Anger, that occasional luxury of more
balanced people, could keep us on an emotional jag indefinitely.
These emotional “dry benders” often led straight to
the bottle. Other kinds of disturbances—jealousy, envy,
self-pity, or hurt pride—did the same thing.
A spot-check inventory taken in the midst of such disturbances
can be of very great help in quieting stormy
emotions. Today’s spot check finds its chief application to
situations which arise in each day’s march. The consideration of long-standing difficulties had better be postponed,
when possible, to times deliberately set aside for that purpose.
The quick inventory is aimed at our daily ups and
downs, especially those where people or new events throw
us off balance and tempt us to make mistakes.
In all these situations we need self-restraint, honest
analysis of what is involved, a willingness to admit when
the fault is ours, and an equal willingness to forgive when
the fault is elsewhere. We need not be discouraged when
we fall into the error of our old ways, for these disciplines
are not easy. We shall look for progress, not for perfection.
Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint.
This carries a top priority rating. When we speak or
act hastily or rashly, the ability to be fair-minded and tolerant
evaporates on the spot. One unkind tirade or one willful
snap judgment can ruin our relation with another person for
a whole day, or maybe a whole year. Nothing pays off like
restraint of tongue and pen. We must avoid quick-tempered
criticism and furious, power-driven argument. The same
goes for sulking or silent scorn. These are emotional booby
traps baited with pride and vengefulness. Our first job is to
sidestep the traps. When we are tempted by the bait, we
should train ourselves to step back and think. For we can
neither think nor act to good purpose until the habit of selfrestraint
has become automatic.
Disagreeable or unexpected problems are not the only
ones that call for self-control. We must be quite as careful
when we begin to achieve some measure of importance and
material success. For no people have ever loved personal
triumphs more than we have loved them; we drank of success as of a wine which could never fail to make us feel
elated. When temporary good fortune came our way, we indulged
ourselves in fantasies of still greater victories over
people and circumstances. Thus blinded by prideful selfconfidence,
we were apt to play the big shot. Of course,
people turned away from us, bored or hurt.
Now that we’re in A.A. and sober, and winning back the
esteem of our friends and business associates, we find that
we still need to exercise special vigilance. As an insurance
against “big-shot-ism” we can often check ourselves by remembering
that we are today sober only by the grace of
God and that any success we may be having is far more His
success than ours.
Finally, we begin to see that all people, including ourselves,
are to some extent emotionally ill as well as
frequently wrong, and then we approach true tolerance and
see what real love for our fellows actually means. It will become
more and more evident as we go forward that it is
pointless to become angry, or to get hurt by people who,
like us, are suffering from the pains of growing up.
Such a radical change in our outlook will take time,
maybe a lot of time. Not many people can truthfully assert
that they love everybody. Most of us must admit that we
have loved but a few; that we have been quite indifferent to
the many so long as none of them gave us trouble; and as
for the remainder—well, we have really disliked or hated
them. Although these attitudes are common enough, we
A.A.’s find we need something much better in order to keep
our balance. We can’t stand it if we hate deeply. The idea
that we can be possessively loving of a few, can ignore the
many, and can continue to fear or hate anybody, has to be
abandoned, if only a little at a time.
We can try to stop making unreasonable demands upon
those we love. We can show kindness where we had shown
none. With those we dislike we can begin to practice justice
and courtesy, perhaps going out of our way to understand
and help them.
Whenever we fail any of these people, we can promptly
admit it—to ourselves always, and to them also, when the
admission would be helpful. Courtesy, kindness, justice,
and love are the keynotes by which we may come into harmony
with practically anybody. When in doubt we can
always pause, saying, “Not my will, but Thine, be done.”
And we can often ask ourselves, “Am I doing to others as I
would have them do to me—today?”
When evening comes, perhaps just before going to
sleep, many of us draw up a balance sheet for the day. This
is a good place to remember that inventory-taking is not always
done in red ink. It’s a poor day indeed when we
haven’t done something right. As a matter of fact, the waking
hours are usually well filled with things that are
constructive. Good intentions, good thoughts, and good acts
are there for us to see. Even when we have tried hard and
failed, we may chalk that up as one of the greatest credits of
all. Under these conditions, the pains of failure are converted
into assets. Out of them we receive the stimulation we
need to go forward. Someone who knew what he was talking
about once remarked that pain was the touchstone of all
spiritual progress. How heartily we A.A.’s can agree with
him, for we know that the pains of drinking had to come
before sobriety, and emotional turmoil before serenity.
As we glance down the debit side of the day’s ledger,
we should carefully examine our motives in each thought
or act that appears to be wrong. In most cases our motives
won’t be hard to see and understand. When prideful, angry,
jealous, anxious, or fearful, we acted accordingly, and that
was that. Here we need only recognize that we did act or
think badly, try to visualize how we might have done better,
and resolve with God’s help to carry these lessons over into
tomorrow, making, of course, any amends still neglected.
But in other instances only the closest scrutiny will reveal
what our true motives were. There are cases where our
ancient enemy, rationalization, has stepped in and has justified
conduct which was really wrong. The temptation here
is to imagine that we had good motives and reasons when
we really didn’t.
We “constructively criticized” someone who needed it,
when our real motive was to win a useless argument. Or,
the person concerned not being present, we thought we
were helping others to understand him, when in actuality
our true motive was to feel superior by pulling him down.
We sometimes hurt those we love because they need to be
“taught a lesson,” when we really want to punish. We were
depressed and complained we felt bad, when in fact we
were mainly asking for sympathy and attention. This odd
trait of mind and emotion, this perverse wish to hide a bad
motive underneath a good one, permeates human affairs
from top to bottom. This subtle and elusive kind of self-righteousness
can underlie the smallest act or thought.
Learning daily to spot, admit, and correct these flaws is the
essence of character-building and good living. An honest
regret for harms done, a genuine gratitude for blessings received,
and a willingness to try for better things tomorrow
will be the permanent assets we shall seek.
Having so considered our day, not omitting to take due
note of things well done, and having searched our hearts
with neither fear nor favor, we can truly thank God for the
blessings we have received and sleep in good conscience.
PRAYER and meditation are our principal means of conscious
contact with God.
We A.A.’s are active folk, enjoying the satisfactions of
dealing with the realities of life, usually for the first time in
our lives, and strenuously trying to help the next alcoholic
who comes along. So it isn’t surprising that we often tend to
slight serious meditation and prayer as something not really
necessary. To be sure, we feel it is something that might
help us to meet an occasional emergency, but at first many
of us are apt to regard it as a somewhat mysterious skill of
clergymen, from which we may hope to get a secondhand
benefit. Or perhaps we don’t believe in these things at all.
To certain newcomers and to those one-time agnostics
who still cling to the A.A. group as their higher power,
claims for the power of prayer may, despite all the logic and
experience in proof of it, still be unconvincing or quite objectionable.
Those of us who once felt this way can
certainly understand and sympathize. We well remember
how something deep inside us kept rebelling against the
idea of bowing before any God. Many of us had strong log-
ic, too, which “proved” there was no God whatever. What
about all the accidents, sickness, cruelty, and injustice in the
world? What about all those unhappy lives which were the
direct result of unfortunate birth and uncontrollable circumstances?
Surely there could be no justice in this scheme of
things, and therefore no God at all.
Sometimes we took a slightly different tack. Sure, we
said to ourselves, the hen probably did come before the
egg. No doubt the universe had a “first cause” of some sort,
the God of the Atom, maybe, hot and cold by turns. But
certainly there wasn’t any evidence of a God who knew or
cared about human beings. We liked A.A. all right, and
were quick to say that it had done miracles. But we recoiled
from meditation and prayer as obstinately as the scientist
who refused to perform a certain experiment lest it prove
his pet theory wrong. Of course we finally did experiment,
and when unexpected results followed, we felt different; in
fact we knew different; and so we were sold on meditation
and prayer. And that, we have found, can happen to anybody
who tries. It has been well said that “almost the only
scoffers at prayer are those who never tried it enough.”
Those of us who have come to make regular use of
prayer would no more do without it than we would refuse
air, food, or sunshine. And for the same reason. When we
refuse air, light, or food, the body suffers. And when we
turn away from meditation and prayer, we likewise deprive
our minds, our emotions, and our intuitions of vitally needed
support. As the body can fail its purpose for lack of
nourishment, so can the soul. We all need the light of God’s
reality, the nourishment of His strength, and the atmosphere
of His grace. To an amazing extent the facts of A.A. Life
confirm this ageless truth.
There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation,
and prayer. Taken separately, these practices can
bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically
related and interwoven, the result is an unshakable foundation
for life. Now and then we may be granted a glimpse of
that ultimate reality which is God’s kingdom. And we will
be comforted and assured that our own destiny in that realm
will be secure for so long as we try, however falteringly, to
find and do the will of our own Creator.
As we have seen, self-searching is the means by which
we bring new vision, action, and grace to bear upon the
dark and negative side of our natures. It is a step in the development
of that kind of humility that makes it possible
for us to receive God’s help. Yet it is only a step. We will
want to go further.
We will want the good that is in us all, even in the worst
of us, to flower and to grow. Most certainly we shall need
bracing air and an abundance of food. But first of all we
shall want sunlight; nothing much can grow in the dark.
Meditation is our step out into the sun. How, then, shall we
The actual experience of meditation and prayer across
the centuries is, of course, immense. The world’s libraries
and places of worship are a treasure trove for all seekers. It
is to be hoped that every A.A. who has a religious connection
which emphasizes m
Well, we might start like this. First let’s look at a really
good prayer. We won’t have far to seek; the great men and
women of all religions have left us a wonderful supply.
Here let us consider one that is a classic.
Its author was a man who for several hundred years
now has been rated as a saint. We won’t be biased or scared
off by that fact, because although he was not an alcoholic
he did, like us, go through the emotional wringer. And as he
came out the other side of that painful experience, this
prayer was his expression of what he could then see, feel,
and wish to become:
As beginners in meditation, we might now reread this
prayer several times very slowly, savoring every word and
trying to take in the deep meaning of each phrase and idea.
It will help if we can drop all resistance to what our friend
says. For in meditation, debate has no place. We rest quietly
with the thoughts of someone who knows, so that we may
experience and learn.
As though lying upon a sunlit beach, let us relax and
breathe deeply of the spiritual atmosphere with which the
grace of this prayer surrounds us. Let us become willing to
partake and be strengthened and lifted up by the sheer spiritual
power, beauty, and love of which these magnificent
words are the carriers. Let us look now upon the sea and
ponder what its mystery is; and let us lift our eyes to the far
horizon, beyond which we shall seek all those wonders still
“Shucks!” says somebody. “This is nonsense. It isn’t
When such thoughts break in, we might recall, a little
ruefully, how much store we used to set by imagination as
it tried to create reality out of bottles. Yes, we reveled in that
sort of thinking, didn’t we? And though sober nowadays,
don’t we often try to do much the same thing? Perhaps our
trouble was not that we used our imagination. Perhaps the
real trouble was our almost total inability to point imagination
toward the right objectives. There’s nothing the matter
with constructive imagination; all sound achievement rests
upon it. After all, no man can build a house until he first envisions
a plan for it. Well, meditation is like that, too; it
helps to envision our spiritual objective before we try to
move toward it. So let’s get back to that sunlit beach—or to
the plains or to the mountains, if you prefer.
When, by such simple devices, we have placed ourselves
in a mood in which we can focus undisturbed on
constructive imagination, we might proceed like this:
This much could be a fragment of what is called meditation,
perhaps our very first attempt at a mood, a flier into
the realm of spirit, if you like. It ought to be followed by a
good look at where we stand now, and a further look at
what might happen in our lives were we able to move closer
to the ideal we have been trying to glimpse. Meditation is
something which can always be further developed. It has
no boundaries, either of width or height. Aided by such instruction
and example as we can find, it is essentially an
individual adventure, something which each one of us
works out in his own way. But its object is always the
same: to improve our conscious contact with God, with His
grace, wisdom, and love. And let’s always remember that
meditation is in reality intensely practical. One of its first
fruits is emotional balance. With it we can broaden and
deepen the channel between ourselves and God as we understand
Now, what of prayer? Prayer is the raising of the heart
and mind to God—and in this sense it includes meditation.
How may we go about it? And how does it fit in with meditation?
Prayer, as commonly understood, is a petition to
God. Having opened our channel as best we can, we try to
ask for those right things of which we and others are in the
greatest need. And we think that the whole range of our
needs is well defined by that part of Step Eleven which
says: “. . . knowledge of His will for us and the power to
carry that out.” A request for this fits in any part of our day.
In the morning we think of the hours to come. Perhaps
we think of our day’s work and the chances it may afford us
to be useful and helpful, or of some special problem that it
may bring. Possibly today will see a continuation of a serious
and as yet unresolved problem left over from yesterday.
Our immediate temptation will be to ask for specific solutions
to specific problems, and for the ability to help other
people as we have already thought they should be helped.
In that case, we are asking God to do it our way. Therefore,
we ought to consider each request carefully to see what its
real merit is. Even so, when making specific requests, it
will be well to add to each one of them this qualification: “.
. . if it be Thy will.” We ask simply that throughout the day
God place in us the best understanding of His will that we
can have for that day, and that we be given the grace by
which we may carry it out.
As the day goes on, we can pause where situations must
be met and decisions made, and renew the simple request:
“Thy will, not mine, be done.” If at these points our emotional
disturbance happens to be great, we will more surely
keep our balance, provided we remember, and repeat to
ourselves, a particular prayer or phrase that has appealed to
us in our reading or meditation. Just saying it over and over
will often enable us to clear a channel choked up with
anger, fear, frustration, or misunderstanding, and permit us
to return to the surest help of all—our search for God’s will,
not our own, in the moment of stress. At these critical moments,
if we remind ourselves that “it is better to comfort
than to be comforted, to understand than to be understood,
to love than to be loved,” we will be following the intent of
Of course, it is reasonable and understandable that the
question is often asked: “Why can’t we take a specific and
troubling dilemma straight to God, and in prayer secure
from Him sure and definite answers to our requests?”
This can be done, but it has hazards. We have seen
A.A.’s ask with much earnestness and faith for God’s explicit
guidance on matters ranging all the way from a
shattering domestic or financial crisis to correcting a minor
personal fault, like tardiness. Quite often, however, the
thoughts that seem to come from God are not answers at
all. They prove to be well-intentioned unconscious rationalizations.
The A.A., or indeed any man, who tries to run his
life rigidly by this kind of prayer, by this self-serving demand
of God for replies, is a particularly disconcerting
individual. To any questioning or criticism of his actions he
instantly proffers his reliance upon prayer for guidance in
all matters great or small. He may have forgotten the possibility
that his own wishful thinking and the human
tendency to rationalize have distorted his so-called guid-
ance. With the best of intentions, he tends to force his own
will into all sorts of situations and problems with the comfortable
assurance that he is acting under God’s specific
direction. Under such an illusion, he can of course create
great havoc without in the least intending it.
We also fall into another similar temptation. We form
ideas as to what we think God’s will is for other people. We
say to ourselves, “This one ought to be cured of his fatal
malady,” or “That one ought to be relieved of his emotional
pain,” and we pray for these specific things. Such prayers,
of course, are fundamentally good acts, but often they are
based upon a supposition that we know God’s will for the
person for whom we pray. This means that side by side
with an earnest prayer there can be a certain amount of presumption
and conceit in us. It is A.A.’s experience that
particularly in these cases we ought to pray that God’s will,
whatever it is, be done for others as well as for ourselves.
In A.A. we have found that the actual good results of
prayer are beyond question. They are matters of knowledge
and experience. All those who have persisted have found
strength not ordinarily their own. They have found wisdom
beyond their usual capability. And they have increasingly
found a peace of mind which can stand firm in the face of
We discover that we do receive guidance for our lives
to just about the extent that we stop making demands upon
God to give it to us on order and on our terms. Almost any
experienced A.A. will tell how his affairs have taken remarkable
and unexpected turns for the better as he tried to
improve his conscious contact with God. He will also re-
port that out of every season of grief or suffering, when the
hand of God seemed heavy or even unjust, new lessons for
living were learned, new resources of courage were uncovered,
and that finally, inescapably, the conviction came that
God does “move in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.”
All this should be very encouraging news for those who
recoil from prayer because they don’t believe in it, or because
they feel themselves cut off from God’s help and
direction. All of us, without exception, pass through times
when we can pray only with the greatest exertion of will.
Occasionally we go even further than this. We are seized
with a rebellion so sickening that we simply won’t pray.
When these things happen we should not think too ill of
ourselves. We should simply resume prayer as soon as we
can, doing what we know to be good for us.
Perhaps one of the greatest rewards of meditation and
prayer is the sense of belonging that comes to us. We no
longer live in a completely hostile world. We are no longer
lost and frightened and purposeless. The moment we catch
even a glimpse of God’s will, the moment we begin to see
truth, justice, and love as the real and eternal things in life,
we are no longer deeply disturbed by all the seeming evidence
to the contrary that surrounds us in purely human
affairs. We know that God lovingly watches over us. We
know that when we turn to Him, all will be well with us,
here and hereafter.
THE joy of living is the theme of A.A.’s Twelfth Step, and
action is its key word. Here we turn outward toward our
fellow alcoholics who are still in distress. Here we experience
the kind of giving that asks no rewards. Here we begin
to practice all Twelve Steps of the program in our daily
lives so that we and those about us may find emotional sobriety.
When the Twelfth Step is seen in its full implication,
it is really talking about the kind of love that has no price
tag on it.
Our Twelfth Step also says that as a result of practicing
all the Steps, we have each found something called a spiritual
awakening. To new A.A.’s, this often seems like a very
dubious and improbable state of affairs. “What do you
mean when you talk about a ‘spiritual awakening’?” they
Maybe there are as many definitions of spiritual awakening
as there are people who have had them. But certainly
each genuine one has something in common with all the
others. And these things which they have in common are
not too hard to understand. When a man or a woman has a
spiritual awakening, the most important meaning of it is
that he has now become able to do, feel, and believe that
which he could not do before on his unaided strength and
resources alone. He has been granted a gift which amounts
to a new state of consciousness and being. He has been set
on a path which tells him he is really going somewhere,
that life is not a dead end, not something to be endured or
mastered. In a very real sense he has been transformed, because
he has laid hold of a source of strength which, in one
way or another, he had hitherto denied himself. He finds
himself in possession of a degree of honesty, tolerance, unselfishness,
peace of mind, and love of which he had
thought himself quite incapable. What he has received is a
free gift, and yet usually, at least in some small part, he has
made himself ready to receive it.
A.A.’s manner of making ready to receive this gift lies
in the practice of the Twelve Steps in our program. So let’s
consider briefly what we have been trying to do up to this
Step One showed us an amazing paradox: We found
that we were totally unable to be rid of the alcohol obsession
until we first admitted that we were powerless over it.
In Step Two we saw that since we could not restore ourselves
to sanity, some Higher Power must necessarily do so
if we were to survive. Consequently, in Step Three we
turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we
understood Him. For the time being, we who were atheist
or agnostic discovered that our own group, or A.A. as a
whole, would suffice as a higher power. Beginning with
Step Four, we commenced to search out the things in ourselves
which had brought us to physical, moral, and
spiritual bankruptcy. We made a searching and fearless
moral inventory. Looking at Step Five, we decided that an
inventory, taken alone, wouldn’t be enough. We knew we
would have to quit the deadly business of living alone with
our conflicts, and in honesty confide these to God and another
human being. At Step Six, many of us balked—for
the practical reason that we did not wish to have all our defects
of character removed, because we still loved some of
them too much. Yet we knew we had to make a settlement
with the fundamental principle of Step Six. So we decided
that while we still had some flaws of character that we
could not yet relinquish, we ought nevertheless to quit our
stubborn, rebellious hanging on to them. We said to ourselves,
“This I cannot do today, perhaps, but I can stop
crying out ‘No, never!’” Then, in Step Seven, we humbly
asked God to remove our short comings such as He could
or would under the conditions of the day we asked. In Step
Eight, we continued our housecleaning, for we saw that we
were not only in conflict with ourselves, but also with people
and situations in the world in which we lived. We had to
begin to make our peace, and so we listed the people we
had harmed and became willing to set things right. We followed
this up in Step Nine by making direct amends to
those concerned, except when it would injure them or other
people. By this time, at Step Ten, we had begun to get a basis
for daily living, and we keenly realized that we would
need to continue taking personal inventory, and that when
we were in the wrong we ought to admit it promptly. In
Step Eleven we saw that if a Higher Power had restored us
to sanity and had enabled us to live with some peace of
mind in a sorely troubled world, then such a Higher Power
was worth knowing better, by as direct contact as possible.
The persistent use of meditation and prayer, we found, did
open the channel so that where there had been a trickle,
there now was a river which led to sure power and safe
guidance from God as we were increasingly better able to
So, practicing these Steps, we had a spiritual awakening
about which finally there was no question. Looking at those
who were only beginning and still doubted themselves, the
rest of us were able to see the change setting in. From great
numbers of such experiences, we could predict that the
doubter who still claimed that he hadn’t got the “spiritual
angle,” and who still considered his well-loved A.A. group
the higher power, would presently love God and call Him
Now, what about the rest of the Twelfth Step? The wonderful
energy it releases and the eager action by which it
carries our message to the next suffering alcoholic and
which finally translates the Twelve Steps into action upon
all our affairs is the payoff, the magnificent reality, of Alcoholics
Even the newest of newcomers finds undreamed rewards
as he tries to help his brother alcoholic, the one who
is even blinder than he. This is indeed the kind of giving
that actually demands nothing. He does not expect his
brother sufferer to pay him, or even to love him. And then
he discovers that by the divine paradox of this kind of giving
he has found his own reward, whether his brother has
yet received anything or not. His own character may still be
gravely defective, but he somehow knows that God has en-
abled him to make a mighty beginning, and he senses that
he stands at the edge of new mysteries, joys, and experiences
of which he had never even dreamed.
Practically every A.A. member declares that no satisfaction
has been deeper and no joy greater than in a Twelfth
Step job well done. To watch the eyes of men and women
open with wonder as they move from darkness into light, to
see their lives quickly fill with new purpose and meaning,
to see whole families reassembled, to see the alcoholic outcast
received back into his community in full citizenship,
and above all to watch these people awaken to the presence
of a loving God in their lives—these things are the substance
of what we receive as we carry A.A.’s message to the
Nor is this the only kind of Twelfth Step work. We sit in
A.A. meetings and listen, not only to receive something
ourselves, but to give the reassurance and support which
our presence can bring. If our turn comes to speak at a
meeting, we again try to carry A.A.’s message. Whether our
audience is one or many, it is still Twelfth Step work. There
are many opportunities even for those of us who feel unable
to speak at meetings or who are so situated that we cannot
do much face-to-face Twelfth Step work. We can be the
ones who take on the unspectacular but important tasks that
make good Twelfth Step work possible, perhaps arranging
for the coffee and cake after the meetings, where so many
skeptical, suspicious newcomers have found confidence
and comfort in the laughter and talk. This is Twelfth Step
work in the very best sense of the word. “Freely ye have received;
freely give . . .” is the core of this part of Step
We may often pass through Twelfth Step experiences
where we will seem to be temporarily off the beam. These
will appear as big setbacks at the time, but will be seen later
as stepping-stones to better things. For example, we may
set our hearts on getting a particular person sobered up, and
after doing all we can for months, we see him relapse. Perhaps
this will happen in a succession of cases, and we may
be deeply discouraged as to our ability to carry A.A.’s message.
Or we may encounter the reverse situation, in which
we are highly elated because we seem to have been successful.
Here the temptation is to become rather possessive
of these newcomers. Perhaps we try to give them advice
about their affairs which we aren’t really competent to give
or ought not give at all. Then we are hurt and confused
when the advice is rejected, or when it is accepted and
brings still greater confusion. By a great deal of ardent
Twelfth Step work we sometimes carry the message to so
many alcoholics that they place us in a position of trust.
They make us, let us say, the group’s chairman. Here again
we are presented with the temptation to overmanage things,
and sometimes this results in rebuffs and other consequences
which are hard to take.
But in the longer run we clearly realize that these are
only the pains of growing up, and nothing but good can
come from them if we turn more and more to the entire
Twelve Steps for the answers.
Now comes the biggest question yet. What about the
practice of these principles in all our affairs? Can we love
the whole pattern of living as eagerly as we do the small
segment of it we discover when we try to help other alcoholics
achieve sobriety? Can we bring the same spirit of
love and tolerance into our sometimes deranged family
lives that we bring to our A.A. group? Can we have the
same kind of confidence and faith in these people who have
been infected and sometimes crippled by our own illness
that we have in our sponsors? Can we actually carry the
A.A. spirit into our daily work? Can we meet our newly
recognized responsibilities to the world at large? And can
we bring new purpose and devotion to the religion of our
choice? Can we find a new joy of living in trying to do
something about all these things?
Furthermore, how shall we come to terms with seeming
failure or success? Can we now accept and adjust to either
without despair or pride? Can we accept poverty, sickness,
loneliness, and bereavement with courage and serenity?
Can we steadfastly content ourselves with the humbler, yet
sometimes more durable, satisfactions when the brighter,
more glittering achievements are denied us?
The A.A. answer to these questions about living is “Yes,
all of these things are possible.” We know this because we
see monotony, pain, and even calamity turned to good use
by those who keep on trying to practice A.A.’s Twelve
Steps. And if these are facts of life for the many alcoholics
who have recovered in A.A., they can become the facts of
life for many more.
Of course all A.A.’s, even the best, fall far short of such
achievements as a consistent thing. Without necessarily taking
that first drink, we often get quite far off the beam. Our
troubles sometimes begin with indifference. We are sober
and happy in our A.A. work. Things go well at home and
office. We naturally congratulate ourselves on what later
proves to be a far too easy and superficial point of view. We
temporarily cease to grow because we feel satisfied that
there is no need for all of A.A.’s Twelve Steps for us. We
are doing fine on a few of them. Maybe we are doing fine
on only two of them, the First Step and that part of the
Twelfth where we “carry the message.” In A.A. slang, that
blissful state is known as “two-stepping.” And it can go on
The best-intentioned of us can fall for the “two-step” illusion.
Sooner or later the pink cloud stage wears off and
things go disappointingly dull. We begin to think that A.A.
doesn’t pay off after all. We become puzzled and discouraged.
Then perhaps life, as it has a way of doing, suddenly
hands us a great big lump that we can’t begin to swallow, let
alone digest. We fail to get a worked-for promotion. We
lose that good job. Maybe there are serious domestic or romantic
difficulties, or perhaps that boy we thought God was
looking after becomes a military casualty.
What then? Have we alcoholics in A.A. got, or can we
get, the resources to meet these calamities which come to
so many? These were problems of life which we could never
face up to. Can we now, with the help of God as we
understand Him, handle them as well and as bravely as our
nonalcoholic friends often do? Can we transform these
calamities into assets, sources of growth and comfort to
ourselves and those about us? Well, we surely have a
chance if we switch from “two-stepping” to “twelve-step-
ping,” if we are willing to receive that grace of God which
can sustain and strengthen us in any catastrophe.
Our basic troubles are the same as everyone else’s, but
when an honest effort is made “to practice these principles
in all our affairs,” well-grounded A.A.’s seem to have the
ability, by God’s grace, to take these troubles in stride and
turn them into demonstrations of faith. We have seen A.A.’s
suffer lingering and fatal illness with little complaint, and
often in good cheer. We have sometimes seen families broken
apart by misunderstanding, tensions, or actual
infidelity, who are reunited by the A.A. way of life.
Though the earning power of most A.A.’s is relatively
high, we have some members who never seem to get on
their feet moneywise, and still others who encounter heavy
financial reverses. Ordinarily we see these situations met
with fortitude and faith.
Like most people, we have found that we can take our
big lumps as they come. But also like others, we often discover
a greater challenge in the lesser and more continuous
problems of life. Our answer is in still more spiritual development.
Only by this means can we improve our chances
for really happy and useful living. And as we grow spiritually,
we find that our old attitudes toward our instincts need
to undergo drastic revisions. Our desires for emotional security
and wealth, for personal prestige and power, for
romance, and for family satisfactions—all these have to be
tempered and redirected. We have learned that the satisfaction
of instincts cannot be the sole end and aim of our lives.
If we place instincts first, we have got the cart before the
horse; we shall be pulled backward into disillusionment.
But when we are willing to place spiritual growth first—
then and only then do we have a real chance.
After we come into A.A., if we go on growing, our attitudes
and actions toward security—emotional security and
financial security—commence to change profoundly. Our
demand for emotional security, for our own way, had constantly
thrown us into unworkable relations with other
people. Though we were sometimes quite unconscious of
this, the result always had been the same. Either we had
tried to play God and dominate those about us, or we had
insisted on being overdependent upon them. Where people
had temporarily let us run their lives as though they were
still children, we had felt very happy and secure ourselves.
But when they finally resisted or ran away, we were bitterly
hurt and disappointed. We blamed them, being quite unable
to see that our unreasonable demands had been the cause.
When we had taken the opposite tack and had insisted,
like infants ourselves, that people protect and take care of
us or that the world owed us a living, then the result had
been equally unfortunate. This often caused the people we
had loved most to push us aside or perhaps desert us entirely.
Our disillusionment had been hard to bear. We couldn’t
imagine people acting that way toward us. We had failed to
see that though adult in years we were still behaving childishly,
trying to turn everybody—friends, wives, husbands,
even the world itself—into protective parents. We had refused
to learn the very hard lesson that overdependence
upon people is unsuccessful because all people are fallible,
and even the best of them will sometimes let us down, especially
when our demands for attention become unreasonable.
As we made spiritual progress, we saw through these
fallacies. It became clear that if we ever were to feel emotionally
secure among grown-up people, we would have to
put our lives on a give-and-take basis; we would have to
develop the sense of being in partnership or brotherhood
with all those around us. We saw that we would need to
give constantly of ourselves without demands for repayment.
When we persistently did this we gradually found
that people were attracted to us as never before. And even if
they failed us, we could be understanding and not too seriously
When we developed still more, we discovered the best
possible source of emotional stability to be God Himself.
We found that dependence upon His perfect justice, forgiveness,
and love was healthy, and that it would work
where nothing else would. If we really depended upon
God, we couldn’t very well play God to our fellows nor
would we feel the urge wholly to rely on human protection
and care. These were the new attitudes that finally brought
many of us an inner strength and peace that could not be
deeply shaken by the shortcomings of others or by any
calamity not of our own making.
This new outlook was, we learned, something especially
necessary to us alcoholics. For alcoholism had been a
lonely business, even though we had been surrounded by
people who loved us. But when self-will had driven everybody
away and our isolation had become complete, it
caused us to play the big shot in cheap barrooms and then
fare forth alone on the street to depend upon the charity of
passersby. We were still trying to find emotional security by
being dominating or dependent upon others. Even when
our fortunes had not ebbed that much and we nevertheless
found ourselves alone in the world, we still vainly tried to
be secure by some unhealthy kind of domination or dependence.
For those of us who were like that, A.A. had a very
special meaning. Through it we begin to learn right relations
with people who understand us; we don’t have to be
alone any more.
Most married folks in A.A. have very happy homes. To
a surprising extent, A.A. has offset the damage to family
life brought about by years of alcoholism. But just like all
other societies, we do have sex and marital problems, and
sometimes they are distressingly acute. Permanent marriage
breakups and separations, however, are unusual in
A.A. Our main problem is not how we are to stay married;
it is how to be more happily married by eliminating the severe
emotional twists that have so often stemmed from
Nearly every sound human being experiences, at some
time in life, a compelling desire to find a mate of the opposite
sex with whom the fullest possible union can be made
—spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical. This mighty
urge is the root of great human accomplishments, a creative
energy that deeply influences our lives. God fashioned us
that way. So our question will be this: How, by ignorance,
compulsion, and self-will, do we misuse this gift for our
own destruction? We A.A. cannot pretend to offer full answers
to age-old perplexities, but our own experience does
provide certain answers that work for us.
When alcoholism strikes, very unnatural situations may
develop which work against marriage partnership and compatible
union. If the man is affected, the wife must become
the head of the house, often the breadwinner. As matters get
worse, the husband becomes a sick and irresponsible child
who needs to be looked after and extricated from endless
scrapes and impasses. Very gradually, and usually without
any realization of the fact, the wife is forced to become the
mother of an erring boy. And if she had a strong maternal
instinct to begin with, the situation is aggravated. Obviously
not much partnership can exist under these conditions.
The wife usually goes on doing the best she knows how,
but meanwhile the alcoholic alternately loves and hates her
maternal care. A pattern is thereby established that may take
a lot of undoing later on. Nevertheless, under the influence
of A.A.’s Twelve Steps, these situations are often set right.*
When the distortion has been great, however, a long period
of patient striving may be necessary. After the husband
joins A.A., the wife may become discontented, even highly
resentful that Alcoholics Anonymous has done the very
thing that all her years of devotion had failed to do. Her
husband may become so wrapped up in A.A. and his new
friends that he is inconsiderately away from home more
than when he drank. Seeing her unhappiness, he recommends
A.A.’s Twelve Steps and tries to teach her how to
live. She naturally feels that for years she has made a far
*In adapted form, the Steps are also used by Al-Anon Family
Groups. Not a part of A.A., this worldwide fellowship consists of
spouses and other relatives or friends of alcoholics (in A.A. or still
drinking). Its headquarters address is 1600 Corporate Landing
Parkway, Virgina Beach, VA 23456.
better job of living than he has. Both of them blame each
other and ask when their marriage is ever going to be happy
again. They may even begin to suspect it had never been
any good in the first place.
Compatibility, of course, can be so impossibly damaged
that a separation may be necessary. But those cases are the
unusual ones. The alcoholic, realizing what his wife has endured,
and now fully understanding how much he himself
did to damage her and his children, nearly always takes up
his marriage responsibilities with a willingness to repair
what he can and to accept what he can’t. He persistently
tries all of A.A.’s Twelve Steps in his home, often with fine
results. At this point he firmly but lovingly commences to
behave like a partner instead of like a bad boy. And above
all he is finally convinced that reckless romancing is not a
way of life for him.
A.A. has many single alcoholics who wish to marry and
are in a position to do so. Some marry fellow A.A.’s. How
do they come out? On the whole these marriages are very
good ones. Their common suffering as drinkers, their common
interest in A.A. and spiritual things, often enhance
such unions. It is only where “boy meets girl on A.A. campus,”
and love follows at first sight, that difficulties may
develop. The prospective partners need to be solid A.A.’s
and long enough acquainted to know that their compatibility
at spiritual, mental, and emotional levels is a fact and not
wishful thinking. They need to be as sure as possible that
no deep-lying emotional handicap in either will be likely to
rise up under later pressures to cripple them. The considerations
are equally true and important for the A.A.’s who
marry “outside” A.A. With clear understanding and right,
grown-up attitudes, very happy results do follow.
And what can be said of many A.A. members who, for
a variety of reasons, cannot have a family life? At first
many of these feel lonely, hurt, and left out as they witness
so much domestic happiness about them. If they cannot
have this kind of happiness, can A.A. offer them satisfactions
of similar worth and durability? Yes—whenever they
try hard to seek them out. Surrounded by so many A.A.
friends, these so-called loners tell us they no longer feel
alone. In partnership with others—women and men—they
can devote themselves to any number of ideas, people, and
constructive projects. Free of marital responsibilities, they
can participate in enterprises which would be denied to
family men and women. We daily see such members render
prodigies of service, and receive great joys in return.
Where the possession of money and material things
was concerned, our outlook underwent the same revolutionary
change. With a few exceptions, all of us had been
spendthrifts. We threw money about in every direction with
the purpose of pleasing ourselves and impressing other
people. In our drinking time, we acted as if the money supply
was inexhaustible, though between binges we’d
sometimes go to the other extreme and become almost
miserly. Without realizing it we were just accumulating
funds for the next spree. Money was the symbol of pleasure
and self-importance. When our drinking had become much
worse, money was only an urgent requirement which could
supply us with the next drink and the temporary comfort of
oblivion it brought.
Upon entering A.A., these attitudes were sharply reversed,
often going much too far in the opposite direction.
The spectacle of years of waste threw us into panic. There
simply wouldn’t be time, we thought, to rebuild our shattered
fortunes. How could we ever take care of those awful
debts, possess a decent home, educate the kids, and set
something by for old age? Financial importance was no
longer our principal aim; we now clamored for material security.
Even when we were well reestablished in our
business, these terrible fears often continued to haunt us.
This made us misers and penny pinchers all over again.
Complete financial security we must have—or else. We
forgot that most alcoholics in A.A. have an earning power
considerably above average; we forgot the immense goodwill
of our brother A.A.’s who were only too eager to help
us to better jobs when we deserved them; we forgot the actual
or potential financial insecurity of every human being
in the world. And, worst of all, we forgot God. In money
matters we had faith only in ourselves, and not too much of
This all meant, of course, that we were still far off balance.
When a job still looked like a mere means of getting
money rather than an opportunity for service, when the acquisition
of money for financial independence looked more
important than a right dependence upon God, we were still
the victims of unreasonable fears. And these were fears
which would make a serene and useful existence, at any financial
level, quite impossible.
But as time passed we found that with the help of A.A.’s
Twelve Steps we could lose those fears, no matter what of
material prospects were. We could cheerfully perform humble
labor without worrying about tomorrow. If our
circumstances happened to be good, we no longer dreaded
a change for the worse, for we had learned that these troubles
could be turned into great values. It did not matter too
much what our material condition was, but it did matter
what our spiritual condition was. Money gradually became
our servant and not our master. It became a means of exchanging
love and service with those about us. When, with
God’s help, we calmly accepted our lot, then we found we
could live at peace with ourselves and show others who still
suffered the same fears that they could get over them, too.
We found that freedom from fear was more important than
freedom from want.
Let’s here take note of our improved outlook upon the
problems of personal importance, power, ambition, and
leadership. These were reefs upon which many of us came
to shipwreck during our drinking careers.
Practically every boy in the United States dreams of becoming
our President. He wants to be his country’s number
one man. As he gets older and sees the impossibility of this,
he can smile good-naturedly at his childhood dream. In later
life he finds that real happiness is not to be found in just
trying to be a number one man, or even a first-rater in the
heartbreaking struggle for money, romance, or self-importance.
He learns that he can be content as long as he plays
well whatever cards life deals him. He’s still ambitious, but
not absurdly so, because he can now see and accept actual
reality. He’s willing to stay right size.
But not so with alcoholics. When A.A. was quite
young, a number of eminent psychologists and doctors
made an exhaustive study of a good-sized group of socalled
problem drinkers. The doctors weren’t trying to find
how different we were from one another; they sought to
find whatever personality traits, if any, this group of alcoholics
had in common. They finally came up with a
conclusion that shocked the A.A. members of that time.
These distinguished men had the nerve to say that most of
the alcoholics under investigation were still childish, emotionally
sensitive, and grandiose.
How we alcoholics did resent that verdict! We would
not believe that our adult dreams were often truly childish.
And considering the rough deal life had given us, we felt it
perfectly natural that we were sensitive. As to our grandiose
behavior, we insisted that we had been possessed of nothing
but a high and legitimate ambition to win the battle of
In the years since, however, most of us have come to
agree with those doctors. We have had a much keener look
at ourselves and those about us. We have seen that we were
prodded by unreasonable fears or anxieties into making a
life business of winning fame, money, and what we thought
was leadership. So false pride became the reverse side of
that ruinous coin marked “Fear.” We simply had to be number
one people to cover up our deep-lying inferiorities. In
fitful successes we boasted of greater feats to be done; in
defeat we were bitter. If we didn’t have much of any worldly
success we became depressed and cowed. Then people
said we were of the “inferior” type. But now we see ourselves
as chips off the same old block. At heart we had all
been abnormally fearful. It mattered little whether we had
sat on the shore of life drinking ourselves into forgetfulness
or had plunged in recklessly and willfully beyond our depth
and ability. The result was the same—all of us had nearly
perished in a sea of alcohol.
But today, in well-matured A.A.’s, these distorted drives
have been restored to something like their true purpose and
direction. We no longer strive to dominate or rule those
about us in order to gain self-importance. We no longer
seek fame and honor in order to be praised. When by devoted
service to family, friends, business, or community we
attract widespread affection and are sometimes singled out
for posts of greater responsibility and trust, we try to be
humbly grateful and exert ourselves the more in a spirit of
love and service. True leadership, we find, depends upon
able example and not upon vain displays of power or glory.
Still more wonderful is the feeling that we do not have
to be specially distinguished among our fellows in order to
be useful and profoundly happy. Not many of us can be
leaders of prominence, nor do we wish to be. Service, gladly
rendered, obligations squarely met, troubles well
accepted or solved with God’s help, the knowledge that at
home or in the world outside we are partners in a common
effort, the well-understood fact that in God’s sight all human
beings are important, the proof that love freely given
surely brings a full return, the certainty that we are no
longer isolated and alone in self-constructed prisons, the
surety that we need no longer be square pegs in round holes
but can fit and belong in God’s scheme of things—these are
the permanent and legitimate satisfactions of right living for
which no amount of pomp and circumstance, no heap of
material possessions, could possibly be substitutes. True
ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is
the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the
grace of God.
These little studies of A.A. Twelve Steps now come to a
close. We have been considering so many problems that it
may appear that A.A. consists mainly of racking dilemmas
and troubleshooting. To a certain extent, that is true. We
have been talking about problems because we are problem
people who have found a way up and out, and who wish to
share our knowledge of that way with all who can use it.
For it is only by accepting and solving our problems that
we can begin to get right with ourselves and with the world
about us, and with Him who presides over us all. Understanding
is the key to right principles and attitudes, and
right action is the key to good living; therefore the joy of
good living is the theme of A.A. Twelfth Step.
With each passing day of our lives, may every one of us
sense more deeply the inner meaning of A.A.’s simple