HAVE we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed
our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot
or will not completely give themselves to this simple
program, usually men and women who are constitutionally
incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such
unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have
been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping
and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous
honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are
those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental
disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the
capacity to be honest.
Our stories disclose
in a general way what we used to be like, what happened,
and what we are like now. If you have decided you want
what we have and are willing to go to any length to get
it--then you are ready to take certain steps.
At some of these we
balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way.
But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command,
we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very
start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas
and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
Remember that we deal
with alcohol--cunning, baf-
powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there
is One who has all power--that One is God. May you find
Half measures availed
us nothing. We stood at the turning point. we asked His
protection and care with complete abandon.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our
lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than our-selves
could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over
to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human
being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became
willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were
wrong promptly admitted it.
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.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these
steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics,
and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
of us exclaimed, “What an order! I can’t go through with
it.” Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able
to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles.
We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to
grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set
down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress
rather than spiritual perfection.
Our description of
the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal
adventure before and after make clear three pertinent
That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
That God could and would if He were sought.
convinced, we were at step three, which is that
we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as
we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just
what do we do?
The first requirement
is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will
can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always
in collision with something or somebody, even though our
motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion.
Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole
show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet,
the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way.
arrangements would only stay put, if only people would
do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody,
including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful.
In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes
be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient,
generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other
hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest.
But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have
What usually happens?
The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think
life doesn't treat him right. He decides to exert himself
more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding
or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does
not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault,
he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes
angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble?
Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be
kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can
wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if
he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest
of the players that these are the things he wants? And
do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate,
snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not,
even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather
Our actor is self-centered--ego-centric,
as people like to call it nowadays. He is like the retired
business man who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the
winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the
minister who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century;
politicians and reformers who are sure all would be
the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw
safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and
the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever
our protestations, are not most of us concerned with
ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?
That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven
by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking,
and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and
they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without
provocation, but we invariably find that at some time
in the past we have made decisions based on self which
later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles,
we think, are basically of our own making. They arise
out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example
of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think
so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this
selfishness. We must, or it kill us! God makes that
possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting
rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and
philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live
up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither
could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing
or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.
This is the how
and the why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing
God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter
in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director.
He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father,
and we are His children. Most Good ideas are simple,
and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant
arch through which we passed to freedom.
we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable
things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful,
He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him
and performed His work well. Established on such a footing
we became less and less interested in ourselves, our
little plans and designs. More and more we became interested
in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt
new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we
discovered we could face life successfully, as we became
conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear
of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.
We were now at Step
Three. Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood
Him: “God, I offer myself to Thee—to build
with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of
the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may
bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy
Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
We thought well before taking this step making sure
we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves
utterly to Him.
We found it very
desirable to take this spiritual step with an understanding
person, such as our wife, best friend, or spiritual
adviser. But it is better to meet God alone than with
one who might misunderstand. The wording was, of course,
quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing
it without reservation. This was only a beginning, though
if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a
very great one, was felt at once.
Next we launched
out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of
which is a personal housecleaning,
many of us had never attempted. Though our decision
was vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent
effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort
to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which
had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom.
So we had to get down to causes and conditions.
Therefore, we started
upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four.
A business which takes no regular inventory usually
goes broke. Taking commercial inventory is a fact-finding
and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover
the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to
disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them
promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business
is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values.
We did exactly the
same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First,
we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused
our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in
various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered
its common manifestations.
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 principle with who 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
sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. We were
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?
We were usually as
definite as this example:
attention to my
my wife of my
may get my
at the office.
v e r b e a r i n g-
|| Threatens to
padding my ex-
r i d e--P e r s o n a l
e x r e l a t i o n s--
|| Wants house
went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness
and honesty. When we were finished we considered it carefully.
The first thing ap-
was that this world and its people were often quite wrong.
To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most
of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued
to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse
and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought
and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got.
As in war, the victor only Seemed to win. Our moments
of triumph were short-lived.
It is plain that a
life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility
and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit
these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth
while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance
and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of
resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal.
For when harboring such feeling we shut ourselves off
from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol
returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to
If we were to live,
we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm
were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal
men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.
We turned back to
the list, for it held the key to the future. We were prepared
to look for it from an entirely different angle. We began
to see that the world and its people really dominated
us. In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied
or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape?
We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how?
We could not wish them away any more than alcohol.
This was our course:
We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps
we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed
us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God
to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience
that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person
offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How
can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry.
Thy will be done.”
We avoid retaliation
or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If
we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot
be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us
how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every
Referring to our list
again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had
done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where
had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened?
Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we
tried to disregard the other person involved entirely.
Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the
other man’s. When we saw our faults we listed them. We
placed them before us in black and white. We admitted
our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters
Notice that the word
“fear” is bracketed alongside the difficulties with Mr.
Brown, Mrs. Jones, the employer, and the wife. This short
word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives.
It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our
existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains
of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we
didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball
think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems
to cause more trouble.
We reviewed our fears
thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no
resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves
why we had them. Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed
us? Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn’t
go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence,
but it didn’t fully solve the fear problem, or any other.
When it made us cocky, it was worse.
Perhaps there is a
better way--we think so. For we are now on a different
basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite
God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world
to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we
do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him,
does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.
We never apologize
to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh
at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically,
it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is
that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage.
They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead
we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We
ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to
what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow
Now about sex. Many
of us needed an overhauling there. But above all, we tried
to be sensible on this question. It’s so easy to get way
off the track. Here we find human opinions running to
extremes--absurd extremes, perhaps. One set of voices
cry that sex is a lust of our lower nature, a base necessity
Then we have the voices who cry for sex and more sex;
who bewail the institution of marriage; who think that
most of the troubles of the race are traceable to sex
causes. They think we do not have enough of it, or that
it isn’t the right kind. They see its significance everywhere.
One school would allow man no flavor for his fare and
the other would have us all on a straight pepper diet.
We want to stay out of this controversy. We do not want
to be the arbiter of anyone’s sex conduct. We all have
sex problems. We’d hardly be human if we didn’t. What
can we do about them?
We reviewed our own
conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish,
dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we
unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness?
Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead?
We got this all down on paper and looked at it.
In this way we tried
to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life.
We subjected each relation to this test--was it selfish
or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to
live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers
were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used
lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed.
Whatever our ideal
turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it.
We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm,
provided that we do not bring about still more harm in
so doing. In other words, we treat sex as we would any
other problem. in meditation, we ask God what we should
do about each specific matter. The right answer will come,
if we want it.
God alone can judge
our sex situation. Counsel with
is often desirable, but we let God be the final judge.
We realize that some people are as fanatical about sex
as others are loose. We avoid hysterical thinking or advice.
Suppose we fall short
of the chosen ideal and stumble? Does this mean we are
going to get drunk. Some people tell us so. But this is
only a half-truth. It depends on us and on our motives.
If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest
desire to let God take us to better things, we believe
we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson.
If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm
others, we are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing.
These are facts out of our experience.
To sum up about sex:
We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in
each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength
to do the right thing. If sex is very troublesome, we
throw ourselves the harder into helping others. We think
of their needs and work for them. This takes us out of
ourselves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield
would mean heartache.
If we have been thorough
about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot.
We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun
to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have
commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have
begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward
all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick
people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our
conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if
In this book you read
again and again that faith did
us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope you are
convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has
blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision,
and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made
a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and
digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.
for chapter 5 of the pre-1939 Original Manuscript.