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12 Steps as Ego Deflating Devices
does Surrender Mean?
reasons still obscure, the program and the fellowship
of AA could cause a surrender which in turn would lead
to a period of no drinking. It became ever more apparent
that in everyone's psyche there existed an unconquerable
ego which bitterly opposed any thought of defeat. Until
that ego was somehow reduced or rendered ineffective,
no likelihood of surrender could be anticipated.
still very much in its infancy, was celebrating a third
or fourth anniversary of one of the groups. The speaker
immediately preceding me told in detail of the efforts
of his local groupwhich consisted of two mento
get him to dry up and become its third member. After
several months of vain efforts on their part and repeated
nose dives on his, the speaker went on to say: "Finally,
I got cut down to size and have been sober ever since,"
a matter of some two or three years. When my turn came
to speak, I used his phrase "cut down to size"
as a text around which to weave my remarks. Before long,
out of the corner of my eye, I became conscious of a
disconcerting stare. It was coming from the previous
was perfectly clear: He was utterly amazed that he had
said anything which made sense to a psychiatrist. The
incident showed that two people, one approaching the
matter clinically and the other relying on his own intuitive
report of what had happened to him, both came up with
exactly the same observation: the need for ego reduction.
It is common knowledge that a return of the full-fledged
ego can happen at any time. Years of sobriety are no
insurance against its resurgence. No AA's, regardless
of their veteran status, can ever relax their guard
against a reviving ego.
function of surrender in AA is now clear. It produces
that stopping by causing the individual to say, "I
quit. I give up on my headstrong ways. I've learned
my lesson." Very often for the first time in that
individual's adult career, he has encountered the necessary
discipline that halts him in his headlong pace. Actually,
he is lucky to have within him the capacity to surrender.
It is that which differentiates him from the wild animals.
And this happens because we can surrender and truly
feel, "Thy will, not mine, be done."
that ego will return unless the individual learns to
accept a disciplined way of life, which means the tendency
toward ego comeback is permanently checked.
is not news to AA members. They have learned that a
single surrender is not enough. Under the wise leadership
of the AA "founding fathers" the need for
continued endeavor to maintain that miracle has been
steadily stressed. The Twelve Steps urge repeated inventories,
not just one, and the Twelfth Step is in itself a routine
reminder that one must work at preserving sobriety.
Moreover, it is referred to as Twelfth Step workwhich
is exactly what it is. By that time, the miracle is
for the other person.
Harry M. Tiebout, M.D.
with permission from Alcohol Research Documentation,
Inc., publisher of the Quarterly Journal of Studies
on Alcohol (now the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and
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