Practical experience shows that nothing will so
much insure your own immunity from drinking as
intensive work with other alcoholics. It works
when other spiritual 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 fatally ill.
The kick you will get is tremendous. To watch
people come back to life, to see them help others,
to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship
grow up about you, to have a host of friends -
this 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 and
hospitals. They will be only too glad to have
your help. Don't start out as an evangelist or
reformer. Unfortunately a lot of prejudice exists.
You will be handicapped if you arouse it. Preachers
and doctors don't like to be told they don't know
their business. They are usually 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 criticise. To be helpful should
be your only aim.
When you discover a prospect for Alcoholics Anonymous,
find out all you can about him. If he does not
want to stop drinking, don't waste time trying
to persuade him. You may spoil a later opportunity.
This advice is given for his family also. They
must 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 him - usually 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 turned.
Usually 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. Don't 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 a 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 things. But urge them not to
be over-anxious, for that might spoil matters.
The family should not try to represent you. 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 tell him he has something
new in the way of a solution.
When your man is better, let the doctor 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 no pressure. He will feel he can deal
with you without being nagged by his family. Call
on him while he is still jittery. He will be more
receptive when depressed.
See your man alone, if possible. At first engage
in general conversation. After a while, turn the
talk to some phase of drinking. Say 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 of 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 preach. If his mood is light, tell him humorous
stories of your escapades. Get him to tell some
When he sees you know all about the drinking game,
commence to describe yourself as an alcoholic.
Tell him how baffled you were, how you finally
learned that you were sick as well as weak. 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. Do this as we have done 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,
you may 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. Don't at this stage refer to this
book, unless he has seen it and wishes to discuss
it. And be careful not to brand him 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 can - if he is not too
alcoholic. But insist that if he is severely afflicted,
there is little chance he can recover by himself.
Continue to speak of alcoholism as a sickness,
a fatal malady. Talk about the conditions of body
and mind which accompany it. Keep his attention
focused mainly on your personal experience. If
doctors or psychiatrists have pronounced you incurable,
be sure and let him know about it. Explain that
many are doomed who never realize their predicament.
Doctors who know the truth 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 protege may not have
entirely admitted his condition, he has become
very curious to know how you got well. Let him
ask you that question, if he will. If he does
not ask, proceed with the rest of your story.
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 principles.
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. Don't
raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions
Your prospect may belong to a religious denomination.
He 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 will be curious to learn why his
own religious convictions have not worked, and
yours have given you victory. 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,
there must be something wrong, or he would not
drink. Say that perhaps you can help him see where
he fails to apply to himself the very precepts
he knows so well. For our purpose you represent
no particular faith or denomination. You are dealing
only with general principles common to most denominations.
Outline our program of action, telling how you
made a self-appraisal, how you straightened out
your past, and why you are now endeavoring to
be helpful to 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. Show 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 needn't see you again, if he
doesn't 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 probably 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 candidate may give reasons why he need not
follow all of your program. He will 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 if 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
Unless 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
likes. Sometimes a new man is anxious to make
a decision and discuss has affairs at once, and
you may be tempted to let him proceed. This is
almost always 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 your 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 to help.
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, drop him
until he changes his mind. This he may do after
he gets hurt again.
If he is sincerely interested and wants to see
you again, ask him to be sure to read this book
in the interval. After doing that, he is to decide
for himself whether he wants to go on. He is not
to 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 spritual~ approach, encourage
him to follow his own conscience. You have no
monopoly on God; you merely have an approach that
worked with you. 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.
Do 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.
It's a waste of time and poor strategy to keep
chasing a man who cannot or will not work with
you. If you leave such a person alone, in all
likelihood he will begin to run after you, for
he will soon become convinced that he cannot recover
alone. 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.
Suggest he make his decision with you and tell
you his story, but do not insist upon it if he
prefers to consult someone else.
He may be broke and homeless. If he is, try to
help him about getting a job. Give him a little
financial assistance, unless it would 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. You will
be aiding in his destruction, rather than his
Never avoid these responsibilities, but be sure
you are doing the right thing if you assume them.
Self-sacrifice for others is the foundation stone
of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while
isn't enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan
every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of
many nights' 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 will 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.
This sort of thing goes on constantly, but 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
Though an alcoholic does not respond, there is
no reason why you should neglect his family. You
should continue to be friendly to them in every
way. The family should be offered your way of
life. Should they accept, and practice spiritual
principles, there is a much better chance the
head of the family will recover. And even though
he continues to drink, the family will find life
For the type of alcoholic who is able and willing
to get well, little charity, in the ordinary sense
of the word, is needed 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 it is not.
It is not the matter of giving that is in question,
but when and how to give. That makes the difference
between failure and success. The minute we put
our work on a social 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
job - wife or no wife - we simply do not stop
drinking alcohol 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.
No person on this earth can stop his recovery
from alcohol, or prevent his being supplied with
whatever is good for him. The only condition is
that he trust in God and clean house.
Now, the domestic problem: There may be divorce,
seperation~ , or just strained relations. When
your prospect has made such restitution 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 leprosy. In many homes this
is a difficult 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 man's 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 will see their
own defects and admit them. These can then be
discussed in an atmosphere of helpfulness and
After they have seen tangible results, the family
will perhaps want to join in the better way of
life. 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 seperation~ , there should
be no undue haste for the couple to get together.
The man should be sure of his ground. 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 old one 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 new way of life 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 isn't so. In
some cases the wife will never come back for one
reason or another. Remind your prospect that his
recovery is not dependent 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 prospect must day by day
walk in the path of spiritual progress. If you
persist, remarkable things will happen to you.
When we look back, we realize that the things
which came to us when we put ourselves in God's
hands were better for us 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 must
take care not to participate in their quarrels.
You may spoil your chance of being helpful if
you do. But you may urge upon a man's family that
he has been a very sick person and should be treated
accordingly. You should warn them against arousing
resentment or jealousy. You should point out that
his defects of character are not going to disappear
overnight. 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 newcomer's 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 preaching
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 must not have it in our homes; we
must shun friends who drink; we must avoid moving
pictures which show drinking scenes; we mustn't
go into bars; our friends must hide their bottles
if we go to their houses; we mustn't think or
be reminded about alcohol at all. Experience proves
this is nonsense.
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 problem.
Any scheme of combatting 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 will wind up with
a bigger explosion than ever. Our wives and we
have tried these methods. These foolish 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 isn't.
You will note that we made an important qualification.
Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, "Have
I any legitimate social, business, or personal
reason for going to this place? Am I going to
be helpful to anyone there? Could I be more useful
or helpful by being somewhere else?" If you answer
these questions satisfactorily, you need have
no apprehension. You may go or stay away, whatever
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 spiritually
shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic
You are not to 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, no decent person will ask
you to drink. While you were drinking, you were
withdrawing from life little by little. Now you
are getting back into the life of this world.
Don't start to withdraw from life 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 where there is drinking, if you
can be helpful. You should not hesitate to visit
the most sordid spot on earth on such a mission.
Keep on the firing line of life with these motives,
and God will keep you unharmed.
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
in moderation, provided they are people who do
not abuse drinking. But some of us think we should
not serve liquor to anyone. We never argue this
question. We feel that each family, in the light
of their own circumstances, ought to decide for
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 witch-burners. A spirit of intolerance
might repel alcoholics whose lives would have
been saved, had it not been for our stupidity.
We would not even do the cause of temperate drinking
any good, for not one drinker in a thousand is
willing to be told anything about alcohol by one
who hates it.
Someday we hope that Alcoholics Anonymous will
help the public to a better realization of the
gravity of the liquor problem. We shall be of
little use if our attitude is one of bitterness
or hostility. Drinkers will not stand for it.
After all, our troubles were of our own making.
Bottles were only a symbol. Besides, we have stopped
fighting anybody or anything. We have to!