Having made your personal inventory, what shall
you do about it? You have been trying to get a
new attitude, a new relationship with your Creator,
and to discover the obstacles in your path. You
have admitted certain defects; you have ascertained
in a rough way what the trouble is; you have put
your finger on the weak items in your personal
inventory. Now these are about to be case~ out.
This requires action on your part, which, when
completed, will mean that you have admitted to
God, to yourself, and to another human being,
the exact nature of your defects. This brings
us to the fifth step in the Program of Recovery
mentioned in the preceding chapter.
This is perhaps difficult - especially discussing
your defects with another person. You think you
have done well enough in admitting these things
to yourself, perhaps. We doubt that. In actual
practice, we usually find a solitary self-appraisal
insufficient. We strenuously urge you to go much
further. But you will be more reconciled to discussing
yourself with another person if we offer good
reasons why you should do so. The best reason
first: if you skip this vital step, you may not
overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have
tried to keep to themselves certain facts about
their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience,
they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably
they got drunk. Having persevered with the rest
of the program, they wondered why they fell. The
answer is that they never completed their housecleaning.
They took inventory all right, but hung on to
some of the worst items in stock. They only thought
they had lost their egoism and fear; they only
thought they had humbled themselves. But
they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness
and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary,
until they told someone else all their
More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double
life. He is very much the actor. To the outer
world he presents his stage character. This is
the one he likes his fellows to see. He wants
to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his
heart he doesn't deserve it.
The inconsistency is made worse by the things
he does on his sprees. Coming to his senses, he
is revolted at certain episodes he vaguely remembers.
These memories are a nightmare. He trembles to
think someone might have observed him. As fast
as he can, he pushes these memories far inside
himself. He hopes they will never see the light
of day. He is under constant fear and tension
- that makes for more drinking.
Psychologists agree with us. Members of our group
have spent thousands of dollars for examinations
by psychologists and psychiatrists. We know but
few instances where we have given these doctors
a fair break. We have seldom told them the whole
truth. Unwilling to be honest with these sympathetic
men, we were honest with no one else. Small wonder
the medical profession has a low opinion of alcoholics
and their chance for recovery!
You must be entirely honest with somebody if you
expect to live long or happily in this world.
Rightly and naturally, you are going to think
well before you choose the person or persons with
whom to take this intimate and confidential step.
If you belong to a religious denomination which
requires confession, you must, and of course,
will want to go to the properly appointed authority
whose duty it is to receive it. Though you have
no religious connection, you may still do well
to talk with someone ordained by an established
religion. You will often find such a person quick
to see and understand your problem. Of course,
we sometimes encounter ministers who do not understand
If you cannot, or would rather not do this, search
your acquaintance for a close-mouthed, understanding
friend. Perhaps your doctor or your psychologist
will be the person. It may be one of your own
family, but you should not disclose anything to
your wife or your parents which will hurt them
and make them unhappy. You have no right to save
your own skin at another person's expense. Such
parts of your story you should tell to someone
who will understand, yet be unaffected. The rule
is you must be hard on yourself, but always considerate
Notwithstanding the great necessity for discussing
yourself with someone, it may be that you are
so situated that there is no suitable person available.
If that is so, you may postpone this step, only,
however, if you hold yourself in complete readiness
to go through with it at the first opportunity.
We say this because we are very anxious that you
talk to the right person. It is important that
he be able to keep a confidence; that he fully
understand and approve what you are driving at;
that he will not try to change your plan. But
don't use this as a mere excuse to postpone.
When you decide who is to hear your story, waste
no time. Have a written inventory. Be prepared
for a long talk. Explain to your partner what
you are about to do, and why you have to do it.
He should realize that you are engaged upon a
life-and-death errand. Most people approached
in this way will be glad to help; they will be
honored by your confidence.
Pocket your pride and go to it! Illumine every
twist of character, every dark cranny of the past.
Once you have taken this step, witholding nothing,
you will be delighted. You can look the world
in the eye. You can be alone at perfect peace
and ease. Your fears will fall from you. You will
begin to feel the nearness of your Creator. You
may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now
you will begin to have a spiritual experience.
The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared
will come strongly. You will know you are on the
Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit
of the Universe.
Return home and find a place where you can be
quiet for an hour. Carefully review what you have
done. Thank God from the bottom of your heart
that you know Him better. Take this book down
from your shelf and turn to the page which contains
the twelve steps. Carefully read the first five
proposals and ask if you have omitted anything,
for you are building an arch through which you
will walk a free man at last. Is your part of
the work solid so far? Are the stones properly
in place? Have you skimped on the cement you have
put into the foundation? Have you tried to make
mortar without sand?
If you can answer to your satisfaction, look at
step six. We have emphasized willingness as being
indispensable. Are you now perfectly willing to
let God remove from you all the things which you
have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take
them all - every one? If you yet cling to something
you will not let go, ask God to help you be willing.
When you are ready, say something like this: "My
Creator, I am now willing that you should have
all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove
from me every single defect of character which
stands in the way of my usefulness to you and
my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from
here, to do your bidding. Amen.~ You have then
completed step seven.
Now you need more action without which you will
find that "Faith without works is dead." Look
at steps eight and nine. You have a list of all
persons you have harmed and to whom you are willing
to make complete amends. You made it when you
took inventory. You subjected yourself to a drastic
self-appraisal. Now you are to go out to your
fellows and repair the damage you did in the past.
You are to sweep away the debris which has accumulated
out of your effort to live on self-will and run
the show yourself. If you haven't the will to
do this, ask until it comes. Remember you agreed
at the beginning you would go to any lengths
for victory over alcohol.
You probably still have some misgivings. We can
help you dispel them. As you look over the list
of business acquaintances and friends you have
hurt, you will feel diffident about going to some
of them on a spiritual basis. Let us reassure
you. To some people you need not, and probably
should not emphasize the spiritual feature on
your first approach. You might prejudice them.
At the moment you are trying to put your own life
in order. But this is not an end in itself. Your
real purpose is to fit yourself to be of maximum
service to God and the people about you. It is
seldom wise to approach an individual, who still
smarts from your injustice to him, and announce
that you have given your life to God. In the prize
ring, this would be called leading with the chin.
Why lay yourself open to being branded a fanatic
or a religious bore? You may kill a future opportunity
to carry a beneficial message. But he is sure
to be impressed with a sincere desire to set right
the wrong. He is going to be more interested in
your demonstration of good will than in your talk
of spiritual discoveries.
Don't use this advice as an excuse for shying
away from the subject of God. When it will serve
any good purpose, you should be willing to announce
your convictions with tact and common sense. The
question of how to approach the man you have hated
will arise. It may be he has done you more harm
than you have dome~ him and, though you may have
acquired a better attitude toward him, you are
still not too keen about admitting your faults.
Nevertheless, with a person you dislike, we advise
you to take the bit in your teeth. He is an ideal
subject upon which to practice your new principles.
Remember that he, like yourself, is sick spiritually.
Go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit. Be
sure to confess your former ill feeling and express
your regret of it.
Under no condition should you criticize such a
person or be drawn into an argument with him.
Simply tell him that you realize you will never
get over drinking until you have done your utmost
to straighten out the past. You are there to sweep
off your side of the street, realizing that nothing
worth while can be accomplished until you do so.
Never try to tell him what he should do. Don't
discuss his faults. Stick to your own. If your
manner is calm, frank, and open, you will be gratified
with the result.
In nine cases out of ten the unexpected happens.
Sometimes the man you are calling upon admits
his own fault; so feuds of years' standing melt
away in an hour. Rarely will you fail to make
satisfactory progress. Your former enemies will
sometimes praise what you are doing and wish you
well. Occasionally, they will cancel a debt, or
otherwise offer assistance. It should not matter,
however, if someone does throw you out of his
office. You have made your demonstration, done
your part. It's water over the dam.
Most alcoholics owe money. Do not dodge your creditors.
Tell them what you are trying to do. Make no bones
about your drinking; they usually know it anyway,
whether you think so or not. Never be afraid of
disclosing your alcoholism on the theory it may
cause you financial harm. Approached in this way,
the most ruthless creditor will sometimes surprise
you. Arrange the best deal you can and let these
people know you are sorry your drinking has made
you slow to pay. You must lose your fear of creditors
no matter how far you have to go, for you are
liable to drink if you are afraid to face them.
Perhaps you have committed a criminal offense
which might land you in jail if known to the authorities.
You may be short in your accounts and can't make
good. You have already admitted this in confidence
to another person, but you are sure you would
be imprisoned or lose your job if it were known.
Maybe it's only a petty offence such as padding
your expense account. Most of us have done that
sort of thing. Maybe you have divorced your wife.
You have remarried but haven't kept up the alimony
to number one. She is indignant about it, and
has a warrant out for your arrest. That's a common
form of trouble too.
Although these reparations take innumerable forms,
there are some general principles which we find
guiding. Remind yourself that you have decided
to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience.
Ask that you be given the strength and direction
to do the right thing, no matter what the personal
consequence to you. You may lose your position
or reputation, or face jail, but you are willing.
You have to be. You must not shrink at anything.
Usually, however, other people are involved. Therefore,
you are not to be the hasty and foolish martyr
who would needlessly sacrifice others to save
himself from the alcoholic pit. A man we know
had remarried. Because of resentment and drinking,
he had not paid alimony to his first wife. She
was furious. She went to court and got an order
for his arrest. He had commenced our way of life,
had secured a position, and was getting his head
above water. It would have been impressive heroics
if he had walked up to the Judge and said, "Here
We thought he ought to be willing to do that if
necessary, but if he were in jail, he could provide
nothing for either family. We suggested he write
his first wife admitting his faults and asking
forgiveness. He did, and also sent a small amount
of money. He told her what he would try to do
in the future. He said he was perfectly willing
to go to jail if she insisted. Of course she did
not, and the whole situation has long since been
If taking drastic action is going to implicate
other people, they should be consulted. Use every
means to avoid wide-spread damage. You cannot
shrink, however, from the final step if that is
clearly indicated. If, after seeking advice, consulting
others involved, and asking God to guide you,
there appears no other just and honorable solution
than the most drastic one, you must take your
medicine. Trust that the eventual outcome will
This brings to mind a story about one of our friends.
While drinking, he accepted a sum of money from
a bitterly-hated business rival, giving him no
receipt for it. He subsequently denied having
taken the money and used the incident as a basis
for discrediting the man. He thus used his own
wrong-doing as a means of destroying the reputation
of another. In fact, his rival was ruined.
He felt he had done a wrong he could not possible
make right. If he opened that old affair, he was
sure it would destroy the reputation of his partner,
disgrace his family and take away his own means
of livelhood~ . What right had he to involve those
dependent upon him? How could he possibly make
a public statement exonerating his rival?
He finally came to the conclusion that it was
better to take those risks than to stand before
his Creator guilty of such ruinous slander. He
saw that he had to place the outcome in God's
hands or he would soon start drinking again, and
all would be lose~ anyhow. He attended church
for the first time in many years. After the sermon,
he quietly got up and made an explanation. His
action met widespread approval, and today he is
one of the most trusted citizens of his town.
This all happened three years ago.
The chances are that you have serious domestic
troubles. We are perhaps mixed up with women in
a fashion you wouldn't care to have advertised.
We doubt if, in this respect, alcoholics are fundamentally
much worse than other people. But drinking does
complicate sex relations in the home. After a
few years with an alcoholic, a wife gets worn
out, resentful, and uncommunicative. How could
she be anything else? The husband begins to feel
lonely, sorry for himself. He commences to look
around in the night clubs, or their equivalent,
for something besides liquor. You may be having
a secret and exciting affair with "the girl who
understands me." In fairness we must say that
she may understand, but what are you going to
do about a thing like that? A man so involved
often feels very remorseful at times, especially
if he is married to a loyal and courageous girl
who has literally gone through hell for him.
Whatever the situation, you usually have to do
something about it. If you are sure your wife
does not know, should you tell her? Not always,
we think. If she knows in a general way that you
have been wild, should you tell her in detail?
Undoubtedly you should admit your fault. Your
wife may insist on knowing all the particulars.
She will want to know who the woman is and where
she is. We feel you ought to say to her that you
have no right to involve another person. You are
sorry for what you have done, and God willing,
it shall not be repeated. More than that you cannot
do; you have no right to go further. Though there
may be justifiable exceptions, and though we wish
to lay down no rule of any sort, we have often
found this the best course to take.
Our design for living is not a one-way street.
It is as good for the wife as for the husband.
If you can forget, so can she. It is better, however,
that you do not needless~ name a person upon whom
she can vent her natural jealousy.
There are some cases where the utmost frankness
is demanded. Perhaps yours is one of them. No
outsider can appraise such an intimate situation.
It may be you will both decide that the way of
good sense and loving kindness is to let by-gones
be by-gones. Each of you might pray about it,
having the other one's happiness uppermost in
mind. Keep it always in sight that you deal with
that most terrible human emotion - jealousy. Good
generalship may decide that you and your wife
attack the problem on the flank, rather than risk
face-to-face combat. You have to decide about
that alone with your Creator.
Should you have no such complication, there is
still plenty you should do at home. Sometimes
we hear an alcoholic say that the only thing he
needs to do is to keep sober. Certainly he needs
to keep sober, for there will be no home if he
doesn't. But he is yet a long way from making
good to the wife or parents whom for years he
has so shockingly treated. Passing all understanding
is the patience mothers and wives have had with
alcoholics. Had this not been so, many of us would
have no homes today, would perhaps be dead.
The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way
through the lives of others. Hearts are broken.
Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have
been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits
have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is
unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough.
He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone
cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he
remarked, "Don't see anything the matter here,
Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped blowin'?"
Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction
ahead. You must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling
that you are sorry won't fill the bill at all.
You ought to sit down with your family and frankly
analyze your past as you now see it, being very
careful not to criticize them. Never mind their
defects. They may be glaring, but the chances
are that your own actions are partly responsible.
So clean house with the family, asking each morning
in meditation that your Creator show you the way
of patience, tolerance kindliness and love.
The spiritual life is not a theory. You have to
live it. Unless your family expresses a desire
to live upon spiritual principles, however, we
think you ought to leave them alone. You should
not talk incessantly about spiritual matters to
them. They will change in time. Your practice
will convince them more than your words. Remember
that ten or twenty years of drunkenness would
make a skeptic out of anyone.
There may be some wrongs you can never fully right.
Don't worry about them if you can honestly say
to yourself that you would right them if you could.
Some people you cannot see - send them an honest
letter. And there may be a valid reason for postponement
in some cases. But don't delay if it can be avoided.
Be sensible, tactful, and considerate. Be humble
without being servile or scraping. As one of God's
people you are to stand on your feet; don't crawl
on your belly before anyone.
If you are painstaking about this phase of your
development, you will be amazed before you are
half through. You are going to know a new freedom
and happiness. You will not regret the past nor
wish to shut the door on it. You will comprehend
the word serenity and know peace. No matter how
far down the scale you have gone, you will see
how your experience can benefit others. That feeling
of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. You
will lose interest in selfish things and gain
interest in your fellows. Self-seeking will slip
away. Your whole attitude and outlook upon life
will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity
will leave you. You will intuitively know how
to handle situations which used to baffle you.
You will suddenly realize that God is doing for
you what you could not do for yourself.
You say these are extravagent promises. They are
not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes
quickly, sometimes slowly. They will materialize
in you if you work for them.
This thought brings us to step ten, which suggests
you continue to take personal inventory and continue
to set any new mistakes right as you go along.
You vigorously commenced this way of life as you
cleaned up your past. You have entered the world
of Spirit. Your next function is to grow in understanding
and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter.
It should continue for your life time. Continue
to watch yourself for selfishness, dishonesty,
resentment, and fear. When these crop up, ask
God at once to remove them. Discuss them with
someone immediately. Make amends quickly if you
have harmed anyone. Then resolutely turn your
thoughts to someone you can help. Love and tolerance
of others is your code.
And you have ceased fighting anything or anyone
- even alcohol. For by this time your sanity will
have returned. You will seldom be interested in
liquor. If tempted, you will recoil from it as
you would from a hot flame. You will react sanely
and normally. You will find this has happened
automatically. You will see that your new attitude
toward liquor has been given you without any thought
or effort on your part. It just comes! That is
the miracle of it. You are not fighting it, neither
are you avoiding temptation. You feel as though
you had been placed in a position of neutrality.
You feel safe and protected. You have not even
sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed.
It does not exist for you. You are neither cocky,
nor are you afraid. That is our experience. That
is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual
It is easy to let up on the spiritual program
of action and rest on your laurels. You are headed
for trouble if you do, for alcohol is a subtle
foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really
have is a daily reprieve. Every day is a day when
you have to carry the vision of God's will into
all of your activities. "How can I best serve
Thee - Thy will (not mine) be done." These are
thoughts which must go with you constantly. You
can exercise your will power along this line all
you wish. It is the proper use of the will.
Much has already been said about receiving strength,
inspiration, and direction from Him who has all
knowledge and power. If you have carefully followed
directions, you have begun to sense the flow of
His Spirit into you. To some extent you have become
God-conscious. You have begun to develop this
vital sixth sense. But you must go further and
that means more action.
Step eleven suggests prayer and meditation. Don't
by~ shy on this matter of prayer. Better men than
we are using it constantly. It works, if you have
the proper attitude and work at it. It would be
easy to be vague about this matter. Yet, we believe
we can give you some definite and valuable suggestions.
When you awake tomorrow morning, look back over
the day before. Were you resentful, selfish, dishonest,
or afraid? Do you owe an apology? Have you kept
something to yourself which should be discussed
with another person at once? Were you kind and
loving toward all? What could you have done better?
Were you thinking of yourself most of the time?
Or were you thinking of what you could do for
others, of what you could pack into the stream
of life? After you have faced yesterday, ask God's
forgiveness for any wrong. Ask to be shown what
to do. Thus you keep clean as you live each day.
Next, think about the twenty-four hours ahead.
Consider your plans for the day. Before you begin,
ask God to guide your thinking. Especially ask
that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest
or self-seeking motives. Then go ahead and use
your common sense. There is nothing hard or mysterious
about this. God gave you brains to use. Clear
your thinking of wrong motives. Your thought life
will be placed on a much higher plane.
In thinking through your day you may face indecision.
You may not be able to determine which course
to take. Here you ask God for inspiration, an
intuitive thought or a decision. Relax and take
it easy. Don't struggle. Ask God's help. You will
be surprised how the right answers come after
you have practiced a few days. What used to be
the hunch or the occasional inspiration becomes
a working part of your mind. Being still inexperienced
and just making your contact with God, it is not
probable that you are going to be divinely inspired
all the time. That would be a large piece of conceit,
for which you might pay in all sorts of absurd
actions and ideas. Nevertheless you will find
that your thinking will, as time passes, be more
and more on the plane of inspiration and guidance.
You will come to rely upon it. This is not weird
or silly. Most psychologists pronounce these methods
You might conclude the period of meditation with
a prayer that you be shown all through the day
what your next step is to be, that He give you
whatever you need to take care of every situation.
Ask especially for freedom from self-will. Be
careful to make no request for yourself only.
You may ask for yourself, however, if others will
be helped. Never pray for your own selfish ends.
People waste a lot of time doing that, and it
doesn't work. You can easily see why.
If curcumstances~ warrant, ask your wife or a
friend to join you in morning meditation. If you
belong to a religious denomination which requires
a definite morning devotion, be sure to attend
to that also. If you are not a member of a religious
body, you might select and memorize a few set
prayers which emphasize the principles we have
been discussing. There are many helpful books
also. If you do not know of any, ask your priest,
minister, or rabbi, for suggestions. Be quick
to see where religious people are right. Make
use of what they offer.
As you go through the day, pause when agitated
or doubtful. Be still and ask for the right thought
or action. It will come. Remind yourself you are
no longer running the show. Humbly say to yourself
many times each day "Thy will be done." You will
be in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger,
worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. You will
become much more efficient. You will not tire
easily, for you will not be burning up energy
foolishly as you did when trying to arrange life
to suit yourself.
It works - it really does. Try it.
We alcoholics are undisiplined~ . So let God discipline
you in the simple way we have just outlined.
But this is not all. There is action and more
action. "Faith without works is dead." What works?
We shall treat them in the next chapter which
is entirely devoted to step twelve.