EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity
from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.
It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth
suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!
You can help when no one else can. You can secure their
confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill.
Life will take on
new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help
others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship
grow up about you, to have a host of friendsóthis is an
experience you must not miss. We know you will not want
to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each
other is the bright spot of our lives.
Perhaps you are not
acquainted with any drinkers who want to recover. You
can easily find some by asking a few doctors, ministers,
priests or hospitals. They will be only too glad to assist
you. Donít start out as an evangelist or reformer. Unfortunately
a lot of prejudice exists. You will be handicapped if
you arouse it. Ministers and doctors are competent and
you can learn much from them if you wish, but it happens
that because of your own drinking experience you can be
uniquely useful to other alcoholics. So cooperate; never
criticize. To be helpful is our only aim.
you discover a prospect for Alcoholics Anonymous, find
out all you can about him. If he does not want to stop
drinking, donít waste time trying to persuade him. You
may spoil a later opportunity. This advice is given for
his family also. They should be patient, realizing they
are dealing with a sick person.
If there is any indication
that he wants to stop, have a good talk with the person
most interested in himóusually his wife. Get an idea of
his behavior, his problems, his background, the seriousness
of his condition, and his religious leanings. You need
this information to put yourself in his place, to see
how you would like him to approach you if the tables were
Sometimes it is wise
to wait till he goes on a binge. The family may object
to this, but unless he is in a dangerous physical condition,
it is better to risk it. Donít deal with him when he is
very drunk, unless he is ugly and the family needs your
help. Wait for the end of the spree, or at least for a
lucid interval. Then let his family or a friend ask him
if he wants to quit for good and if he would go to any
extreme to do so. If he says yes, then his attention should
be drawn to you as a person who has recovered. You should
be described to him as one of a fellowship who, as part
of their own recovery, try to help others and who will
be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you.
If he does not want
to see you, never force yourself upon him. Neither should
the family hysterically plead with him to do anything,
nor should they tell him much about you. They should wait
for the end of his next drinking bout. You might place
this book where he can see it in the interval. Here no
specific rule can be given. The family must decide these
But urge them not to be over-anxious, for that might spoil
Usually the family
should not try to tell your story. When possible, avoid
meeting a man through his family. Approach through a doctor
or an institution is a better bet. If your man needs hospitalization,
he should have it, but not forcibly unless he is violent.
Let the doctor, if he will, tell him he has something
in the way of a solution.
When your man is better,
the doctor might suggest a visit from you. Though you
have talked with the family, leave them out of the first
discussion. Under these conditions your prospect will
see he is under not pressure. He will feel he can deal
with you without being nagged by his family. Call on him
while he is still jittery. He may be more receptive when
See your man alone,
if possible. At first engage in general conversation.
After a while, turn the talk to some phase of drinking.
Tell him enough about your drinking habits, symptoms,
and experiences to encourage him to speak of himself.
If he wishes to talk, let him do so. You will thus get
a better idea of how you ought to proceed. If he is not
communicative, give him a sketch or your drinking career
up to the time you quit. But say nothing, for the moment,
of how that was accomplished. If he is in a serious mood
dwell on the troubles liquor has caused you, being careful
not to moralize or lecture. If his mood is light, tell
him humorous stories of your escapades. Get him to tell
some of his.
When he sees you know
all about the drinking game, commence to describe yourself
as an alcoholic.
him how baffled you were, how you finally learned that
you were sick. Give him an account of the struggles you
made to stop. Show him the mental twist which leads to
the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as
we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism. If he is
alcoholic, he will understand you at once. He will match
your mental inconsistencies with some of his own.
If you are satisfied
that he is a real alcoholic, begin to dwell on the hopeless
feature of the malady. Show him, from your own experience,
how the queer mental condition surrounding that first
drink prevents normal functioning of the will power. Donít,
at this stage, refer to this book, unless he has seen
it and wishes to discuss it. And be careful not to brand
him as an alcoholic. Let him draw his own conclusion.
If he sticks to the idea that he can still control his
drinking, tell him that possibly he canóif he is not too
alcoholic. But insist that if he is severely afflicted,
there may be little chance he can recover by himself.
Continue to speak
of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal malady. Talk about
the conditions of body and mind which accompany it. Keep
his attention focussed mainly on your personal experience.
Explain that many are doomed who never realize their predicament.
Doctors are rightly loath to tell alcoholic patients the
whole story unless it will serve some good purpose. But
you may talk to him about the hopelessness of alcoholism
because you offer a solution. You will soon have your
friend admitting he has many, if not all, of the traits
of the alcoholic. If his own doctor is willing to tell
him that he is alcoholic, so much the better. Even though
your protégé may not have en-
admitted his condition, he has become very curious to
know how you got well. Let him ask you that question,
if he will. Tell him exactly what happened to you.
Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic
or atheist, make it emphatic that He does not have
to agree with your conception of God. He can choose
any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him.
The main thing is that he be willing to believe in
a Power greater than himself and that he live by spiritual
When dealing with
such a person, you had better use everyday language to
describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing
any prejudice he may have against certain theological
terms and conceptions about which he may already be confused.
Donít raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions
Your prospect may
belong to a religious denomination. His religious education
and training may be far superior to yours. In that case
he is going to wonder how you can add anything to what
he already knows. But he well be curious to learn why
his own convictions have not worked and why yours seem
to work so well. He may be an example of the truth that
faith alone is insufficient. To be vital, faith must be
accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive
action. Let him see that you are not there to instruct
him in religion. Admit that he probably knows more about
it than you do, but call to his attention the fact that
however deep his faith and knowledge, he could not have
applied it or he would not drink, Perhaps your story will
help him see where he has failed to practice the very
precepts he knows so well. We represent no
faith or denomination. We are dealing only with general
principles common to most denominations.
Outline the program
of action, explaining how you made a self-appraisal, how
you straightened out your past and why you are now endeavoring
to be helpful to him. It is important for him to realize
that your attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital
part in your recovery. Actually, he may be helping you
more than you are helping him. Make it plain he is under
no obligation to you, that you hope only that he will
try to help other alcoholics when he escapes his own difficulties.
Suggest how important it is that he place the welfare
of other people ahead of his own. Make it clear that he
is not under pressure, that he neednít see you again if
he doesnít want to. You should not be offended if he wants
to call it off, for he has helped you more than you have
helped him. If your talk has been sane, quiet and full
of human understanding, you have perhaps made a friend.
Maybe you have disturbed him about the question of alcoholism.
This is all to the good. The more hopeless he feels, the
better. he will be more likely to follow your suggestions.
Your candidate may
give reasons why he need not follow all of the program.
He may rebel at the thought of a drastic housecleaning
which requires discussion with other people. Do not contradict
such views. Tell him you once felt as he does, but you
doubt whether you would have made much progress had you
not taken action. On your first visit tell him about the
Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. If he shows interest,
lend him your copy of this book.
your friend wants to talk further about himself, do not
wear out your welcome. Give him a chance to think it over.
If you do stay, let him steer the conversation in any
direction he like. Sometimes a new man is anxious to proceed
at once, and you may be tempted to let him do so. This
is sometimes a mistake. If he has trouble later, he is
likely to say you rushed him. You will be most successful
with alcoholics if you do not exhibit any passion for
crusade or reform. Never talk down to an alcoholic from
any moral or spiritual hilltop; simply lay out the kit
of spiritual tools for his inspection. Show him how they
worked with you. Offer him friendship and fellowship.
Tell him that if he wants to get well you will do anything
If he is not interested
in your solution, if he expects you to act only as a banker
for his financial difficulties or a nurse for his sprees,
you may have to drop him until he changes his mind. This
he may do after he gets hurt some more.
If he is sincerely
interested and wants to see you again, ask him to read
this book in the interval. After doing that, he must decide
for himself whether he wants to go on. He should not be
pushed or prodded by you, his wife, or his friends. If
he is to find God, the desire must come from within.
If he thinks he can
do the job in some other way, or prefers some other spiritual
approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience.
We have no monopoly on God; we merely have an approach
that worked with us. But point out that we alcoholics
have much in common and that you would like, in any case,
to be friendly. Let it go at that.
not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at
once. Search out another alcoholic and try again. You
are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with
eagerness what you offer. We find it a waste of time to
keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you.
If you leave such a person alone, he may soon become convinced
that he cannot recover by himself. To spend too much time
on any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an
opportunity to live and be happy. One of our Fellowship
failed entirely with his first half dozen prospects. He
often says that if he had continued to work on them, he
might have deprived many others, who have since recovered,
of their chance.
Suppose now you are
making your second visit to a man. He has read this volume
and says he is prepared to go through with the Twelve
Steps of the program of recovery. Having had the experience
yourself, you can give him much practical advice. Let
him know you are available if he wishes to make a decision
and tell his story, but do not insist upon it if he prefers
to consult someone else.
He may be broke and
homeless. If he is, you might try to help him about getting
a job, or give him a little financial assistance. But
you should not deprive your family or creditors of money
they should have. Perhaps you will want to take the man
into your home for a few days. But be sure you use discretion.
Be certain he will be welcomed by your family, and that
he is not trying to impose upon you for money, connections,
or shelter. Permit that and you only harm him. You will
be making it possible for him to be insincere.
may be aiding in his destruction rather than his recovery.
Never avoid these
responsibilities, but be sure you are doing the right
thing if you assume them. Helping others is the foundation
stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isnít
enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day,
if need be. It may mean the loss of many nightsí sleep,
great interference with your pleasures, interruptions
to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your
home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable
trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails
and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of
the day or night. Your wife may sometimes say she is neglected.
A drunk may smash the furniture in your home, or burn
a mattress. You may have to fight with him if he is violent.
Sometimes you will have to call a doctor and administer
sedatives under his direction. Another time you may have
to send for the police or an ambulance. Occasionally you
will have to meet such conditions.
We seldom allow an
alcoholic to live in our homes for long at a time. It
is not good for him, and it sometimes creates serious
complications in a family.
Though an alcoholic
does not respond, there is no reason why you should neglect
his family. You should continue to be friendly to them.
The family should be offered your way of life. Should
they accept and practice spiritual principles, there is
a much better change that the head of the family will
recover. And even though he continues to drink, the family
will find life more bearable.
For the type of alcoholic
who is able and willing to
well, little charity, in the ordinary sense of the word,
is need or wanted. The men who cry for money and shelter
before conquering alcohol, are on the wrong track. Yet
we do go to great extremes to provide each other with
these very things, when such action is warranted. This
may seem inconsistent, but we think it is not.
It is not the matter
of giving that is in question, but when and how to give.
That often makes the difference between failure and success.
The minute we put our work on a service plane, the alcoholic
commences to rely upon our assistance rather than upon
God. He clamors for this or that, claiming he cannot master
alcohol until his material needs are cared for. Nonsense.
Some of us have taken very hard knocks to learn this truth:
Job or no jobówife or no wifeówe simply do not stop drinking
so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead
of dependence on God.
Burn the idea into
the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless
of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God
and clean house.
Now, the domestic
problem: There may be divorce, separation, or just strained
relations. When your prospect has made such reparation
as he can to his family, and has thoroughly explained
to them the new principles by which he is living, he should
proceed to put those principles into action at home. That
is, if he is lucky enough to have a home. Though his family
be at fault in many respects, he should not be concerned
about that. He should concentrate on his own spiritual
demonstration. Argument and fault-finding are to be avoided
like the plague. In many homes this is a
thing to do, but it must be done if any results are to
be expected. If persisted in for a few months, the effect
on a manís family is sure to be great. The most incompatible
people discover they have a basis upon which they can
meet. Little by little the family may see their own defects
and admit them. These can then be discussed in an atmosphere
of helpfulness and friendliness.
After they have seen
tangible results, the family will perhaps want to go along.
These things will come to pass naturally and in good time
provided, however, the alcoholic continues to demonstrate
that he can be sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless
of what anyone says or does. Of course, we all fall much
below this standard many times. But we must try to repair
the damage immediately lest we pay the penalty by a spree.
If there be divorce
or separation, there should be no undue haste for the
couple to get together. The man should be sure of his
recovery. The wife should fully understand his new way
of life. If their old relationship is to be resumed it
must be on a better basis, since the former did not work.
This means a new attitude and spirit all around. Sometimes
it is to the best interests of all concerned that a couple
remain apart. Obviously, no rule can be laid down. Let
the alcoholic continue his program day by day. When the
time for living together has come, it will be apparent
to both parties.
Let no alcoholic say
he cannot recover unless he has his family back. This
just isnít so. In some cases the wife will never come
back for one reason or another. Remind the prospect that
his recovery is not depend-
upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with
God. We have seen men get well whose families have not
returned at all. We have seen others slip when the family
came back too soon.
Both you and the new
man must walk day by day in the path of spiritual progress.
If you persist, remarkable things will happen. When we
look back, we realize that the things which came to us
when we put ourselves in Godís hands were better than
anything we could have planned. Follow the dictates of
a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and
wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances!
When working with
a man and his family, you should take care not to participate
in their quarrels. You may spoil your chance of being
helpful if you do. But urge upon a manís family that he
has been a very sick person and should be treated accordingly.
You should warn against arousing resentment or jealousy.
You should point out that his defects of character are
not going to disappear over night. Show them that he has
entered upon a period of growth. Ask them to remember,
when they are impatient, the blessed fact of his sobriety.
If you have been successful
in solving your own domestic problems, tell the newcomerís
family how that was accomplished. In this way you can
set them on the right track without becoming critical
of them. The story of how you and your wife settled your
difficulties is worth any amount of criticism.
Assuming we are spiritually
fit, we can do all sorts of things alcoholics are not
supposed to do. People have said we must not go where
liquor is served; we
not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink;
we must avoid moving pictures which show drinking scenes;
we must not go into bars; our friends must hide their
bottles if we go to their houses; we mustnít think or
be reminded about alcohol at all.
We meet these conditions
every day. An alcoholic who cannot meet them, still has
an alcoholic mind; there is something the matter with
his spiritual status. His only chance for sobriety would
be some place like the Greenland Ice Cap, and even there
an Eskimo might turn up with a bottle of scotch and ruin
everything! Ask any woman who has sent her husband to
distant places on the theory he would escape the alcohol
In our belief any
scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield
the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure. If
the alcoholic tries to shield himself he may succeed for
a time, but usually winds up with a bigger explosion than
ever. We have tried these methods. These attempts to do
the impossible have always failed.
So our rule is not
to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have
a legitimate reason for being there. That includes
bars, nightclubs, dances, receptions, weddings, even plain
ordinary whoopee parties. To a person who has had experience
with an alcoholic, this may seem like tempting Providence,
but it isnít.
You will note that
we made and important qualification. Therefore, ask yourself
on each occasion, ďHave I any good social, business, or
personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting
to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere
If you answer these questions satisfactorily, you need
have no apprehension. Go or stay away, whichever seems
best. But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before
you start and that your motive in going is thoroughly
good. Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion.
Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are shaky,
you had better work with another alcoholic instead!
Why sit with a long
face in places where there is drinking, sighing about
the good old days. If it is a happy occasion, try to increase
the pleasure of those there; if a business occasion, go
and attend to your business enthusiastically. If you are
with a person who wants to eat in a bar, by all means
go along. Let your friends know they are not to change
their habits on your account. At a proper time and place
explain to all your friends why alcohol disagrees with
you. If you do this thoroughly, few people will ask you
to drink. While you were drinking, you were withdrawing
from life little by little. Now you are getting back into
the social life of this world. Donít start to withdraw
again just because your friends drink liquor.
Your job now is to
be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness
to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can
be helpful. You should not hesitate to visit the most
sordid spot on earth on such an errand. Keep on the firing
line of life with these motives and God will keep you
Many of us keep liquor
in our homes. We often need it to carry green recruits
through a severe hangover. Some of us still serve it to
our friends provided they are not alcoholic. But some
of us think we should not serve liquor to anyone. We never
argue this ques-
We feel that each family, in the light of their own circumstances,
ought to decide for themselves.
We are careful never
to show intolerance or hatred of drinking as an institution.
Experience shows that such an attitude is not helpful
to anyone. Every new alcoholic looks for this spirit among
us and is immensely relieved when he finds we are not
witchburners. A spirit of intolerance might repel alcoholics
whose lives could have been saved, had it not been for
such stupidity. We would not even do the cause of temperate
drinking any good, for not one drinker in a thousand likes
to be told anything about alcohol by one who hates it.
Some day we hope that
Alcoholics Anonymous will help the public to a better
realization of the gravity of the alcoholic problem, but
we shall be of little use if our attitude is one of bitterness
or hostility. Drinkers will not stand for it.
After all, our
problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol.
Besides, we have stopped fighting anybody or anything.
We have to!
for chapter 7 of the pre-1939 Original Manuscript.