Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly
followed our directions. 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 way of
life 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 follow directions.
At some of these you may balk. You may think
you can find an easier, softer way. We doubt
if you can. 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 you are dealing with alcohol -
cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it
is too much for you. But there is One who has
all power - That One is God. You must find Him
Half measures will avail you nothing. You stand
at the turning point. Throw yourself under His
protection and care with complete abandon.
Now we think you can take it! Here are the steps
we took, which are suggested as your Program
- Admitted we were powerless
over alcohol - that our lives had become
- Came to believe that
a Power greater than ourselves could restore
us to sanity.
- Made a decision to
turn our will and our lives over to the
care and direction of God as we understood
- 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 willing
that God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly, on our knees,
asked Him to remove our shortcomings - holding
- Made a list of all
persons we had harmed, and became willing
to make complete 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
- Sought through prayer
and meditation to improve our contact with
God, praying only for knowledge of His will
for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual
experience as the result of this course
of action, we tried to carry this message
to others, especially alcoholics, and to
practice these principles in all our affairs.
You may exclaim, "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
Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter
to the agnostic, and our personal adventures
before and after, have been designed to sell
you three pertinent ideas:
- (a) That you are alcoholic
and cannot manage your own life.
- (b) That probably no
human power can relieve your alcoholism.
- (c) That God can and
If you are not convinced on these vital issues,
you ought to re-read the book to this point
or else throw it away!
If you are convinced, you are now at step three,
which is that you make a decision to turn your
will and your life over to God as you understand
Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just
what do we do?
The first requirement is that you see that any
life run on self-will can hardly be a success.
On that basis we are almost always in collission~
with something or somebody, even though our
motives may be 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. If his arrangements would only stay put,
if only people would do as he wishes, 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 varied traits.
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
some 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 than harmony?
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 preacher who sighs
over the sins of the twentieth century; politicians
and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia
if 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 their protestations,
are not these people mostly concerned with themselves,
their resentments, or their self-pity?
Selfishness - self-centeredness! 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 almost the most extreme
example that could be found 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 kills us! God makes
that possible. And there is no way of entirely
getting rid of self without Him. You may have
moral and philosophical convictions galore,
but you can't live up to them even though you
would like to. Neither can you reduce your self-centeredness
much by wishing or trying on your own power.
You must have God's help.
This is the how and why of it. First of all,
quit playing God yourself. It doesn't work.
Next, decide that hereafter in this drama of
life, God is going to by your Director. He is
the Principal; you are to be His agent. He is
the Father, and you are His child. Get that
simple relationship straight. Most good ideas
are simple and this concept is to be the keystone
of the new and triumphant arch through which
you will pass to freedom.
When you sincerely take such a position, all
sorts of remarkable things follow. You have
a new Employer. Being all powerful, He must
necessarily provide what you need, if you keep
close to Him and perform His work well. Established
on such a footing you become less and less interested
in yourself, your little plans and designs.
More and more you become interested in seeing
what you can contribute to life. As you feel
new power flow in, as you enjoy peace of mind,
as you discover you can face life successfully,
as you become conscious of His presence, you
begin to lose your fear of today, tomorrow,
or the hereafter. You will have been reborn.
Get down upon your knees and say to your Maker,
as you understand 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!" Think well before taking
this step. Be sure you are ready; that you can
at last abandon yourself utterly to Him.
It is very desirable that you make your decision
with an understanding person. It may be your
wife, your best friend, your spiritual adviser,
but remember it is better to meet God alone
that~ with one who might misunderstand. You
must decide this for yourself. The wording of
your decision is, of course, quite optional
so long as you express the idea, voicing it
without reservation. This decision is only a
beginning, though if honestly and humbly made,
an effect, sometimes a very great one, will
be felt at once.
Next we launch out on a course of vigorous action,
the first step of which is a personal housecleaning,
which you have never in all probability attempted.
Though your decision is a vital and crucial
step, it can have little permanent effect unless
at once followed by a strenuous effort to face,
and to be rid of, the things in yourself which
have been blocking you. Your liquor is but a
symptom. Let's now get down to basic causes
Therefore, you start upon a personal inventory.
This is step four. A business which takes
no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking
a commercial inventory is a fact-finding and
a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover
the truth about the stock-in-trade. Its 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 do exactly the same thing with our lives.
We take stock honestly. First, we search out
the flaws in our make-up which have caused our
failure. Being convinced that self, manifested
in various ways, is what has defeated us, we
consider 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. List people,
institutions or principles with whom you are
angry. Ask yourself why you are angry. In most
cases it will be found that your self-esteem,
your pocketbook, your ambitions, your personal
relationships, (including sex) are hurt or threatened.
So you are sore. You are "burned up."
On your grudge list set opposite each name your
injuries. Is it your self-esteem, your security,
your ambitions, your personal, or your sex relations,
which have been interfered with?
Go on through the list back through your
lifetime. Nothing counts but thoroughness and
honesty. When you are finished consider it carefully.
The first thing apparent to you is that this
world and its people are often quite wrong.
To conclude that others are wrong is as far
as most of us ever get. The usual outcome is
that people continue to wrong you and you stay
sore. Sometimes it is remorse and then you are
sore at yourself. But the more you fight and
try to have your way, the worse matters get.
Isn't that so? As in war, victors only seem
to win. Your moments of triumph are short-lived.
It is plain that a way of 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 only
hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual
experience, this business of resentment is infinitely
grave. We find that it is fatal. For when harboring
such feelings 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 die.
If we are to live, we must be free of anger.
The grouch and the brainstorm are not for us.
They may be the dubious luxury of normal men,
but for alcoholics these things are poison.
Turn back to your list, for it holds the key
to your future. You must be prepared to look
at it from an entirely different angle. You
will begin to see that the world and its people
really dominate you. In your present state,
the wrongdoing of others, fancied or real, has
power to actually kill you. How shall you escape?
You see that these resentments must be mastered,
but how? You cannot wish them away any more
This is our course: realize at once that the
people who wrong you are spiritually sick. Though
you don't like their symptoms and the way these
disturb you, they, like yourself, are sick,
too. Ask God to help you show them the same
tolerance, pity, and patience that you would
cheerfully grant a friend who has cancer. When
a person next offends, say to yourself "This
is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him?
God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."
Never argue. Never retaliate. You wouldn't treat
sick people that way. If you do, you destroy
your chance of being helpful. You cannot be
helpful to all people, but at least God will
show you how to take a kindly and tolerant view
of each and every one.
Take up your list again. Putting out of your
mind the wrongs others have done, resolutely
look for your own mistakes. Where have you been
selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened?
Though a situation may not be entirely your
fault, disregard the other person involved entirely.
See where you have been to blame. This
is your inventory, not the other man's. When
you see your fault write it down on the list.
See it before you in black and white. Admit
your wrongs honestly and be willing to set these
You will notice that the word fear is bracketed
alongside the difficulties with Mr. Brown, Mrs.
Jones, your employer, and your wife. This short
word somehow touches about every aspect of our
lives. It is an evil and corroding thread; the
fabric of our existence is shot through with
it. It sets in motion trains of circumstances
which bring us misfortune we feel we don't deserve.
But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling?
Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed
with stealing as a sin. It seems to cause more
Review your fears thoroughly. Put them on paper,
even though you have no resentment in connection
with them. Ask yourself why you have them. Isn't
it because self-reliance has failed you? 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
Perhaps there is a better way - we think so.
For you are now to go on a different basis;
the basis of trusting and relying upon God.
You are to trust infinite God rather than your
finite self. You are in the world to play the
role he assigns. Just to the extent that you
do as you think He would have you, and humbly
rely on Him, does He enable you to match calamity
You must never apologize to anyone for depending
upon your Creator. You 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. Never
apologize for God. Instead let Him demonstrate,
through you, what He can do. Ask Him to remove
your fear and direct your attention to what
He would have you be. At once, you will commence
to outgrow fear.
Now about sex. You can probably stand an overhauling
there. We needed it. But above all, let's 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 of procreation.
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
Review your own conduct over the years past.
Where have you been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate?
Whom did you hurt? Did you unjustifiably arouse
jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where you
were at fault, what should you have done instead?
Get this all down on paper and look at it.
In this way you can shape a sane and sound ideal
for your future sex life. Subject each relation
to this test - is it selfish or not? Ask God
to mould your ideals and help you to live up
to them. Remember always that your sex powers
are God-given, and therefore good, neither to
be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised
Whatever your ideal may be, you must be willing
to grow toward it. You must be willing to make
amends where you have done harm, provided that
you will not bring about still more harm in
so doing. In other words, treat sex as you would
any other problem. In meditation, ask God what
you should do about each specific matter. The
right answer will come, if you want it.
God alone can judge your sex situation. Counsel
with persons is often desirable, but let God
be the final judge. Remember that some people
are as fanatical about sex as others are loose.
Avoid hysterical thinking or advice.
Suppose you fall short of the chosen ideal and
stumble. Does this mean you are going to get
drunk? Some people will tell you so. If they
do, it will be only a half-truth. It depends
on you and your motive. If you are sorry for
what you have done, and have the honest desire
to let God take you to better things, you will
be forgiven and will have learned your lesson.
If you are not sorry, and your conduct continues
to harm others, you are quite sure to drink.
We are not theorizing. These are facts out of
To sum up about sex: 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,
throw yourself the harder into helping others.
Think of their needs and work for them. This
will take you out of yourself. It will quiet
the imperious urge, when to yield would mean
If you have been thorough about your personal
inventory, you have written down a lot by this
time. You have listed and analyzed your resentments.
You have begun to comprehend their futility
and their fatality. You have commenced to see
their terrible destructiveness. You have begun
to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward
all men, even your enemies, for you know them
to be sick people. You have listed the people
you have hurt by your conduct, and you are willing
to straighten out the past if you can.
In this book you read again and again that God
did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
We hope you are convinced now that He can remove
the self-will that has blocked you off from
Him. You have made your decision. You have made
an inventory of the grosser handicaps you have.
You have made a good beginning, for you have
swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth
about yourself. Are you willing to go on?