“We A.A.s do not stay away from drinking,
we grow away from drinking [one day at a time].”
(Al-Anon, “Lois Remembers“, page 168, quoting Bill)
“We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 132)
— recover, recovered, recoveries, recovering, recovers, recovery —
Preface to Third Edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous”
Because this book has become the basic text for our Society and has helped such large numbers of alcoholic men and women to recovery, there exists a sentiment against any radical changes being made in it. Therefore, the first portion of this volume, describing the A.A. recovery program, has been left untouched in the course of revisions made for both the second and the third editions.
Foreword to First Edition
We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.
…[since] our first printing of this book… Alcoholics Anonymous has mushroomed into nearly 6,000 groups whose membership is far above 150,000 recovered alcoholics.
…when the broker (Bill W.) gave him (Dr. Bob) Dr. Silkworth’s description of alcoholism and its hopelessness… It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent recovery.
Hence the two men set to work… Their very first case, a desperate one, recovered immediately and became A.A. number three. -Foreword (Second Edition)
By the end of 1939 it was estimated that 800 alcoholics were on their way to recovery.
…the large numbers of recoveries…
Foreword to Third Edition
The basic principles of the A.A. program, it appears, hold good for individuals with many different lifestyles, just as the program has brought recovery to those of many different nationalities. The Twelve Steps…they trace exactly the same path to recovery that was blazed by the earliest members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
…Each day, somewhere in the world, recovery (not mere sobriety) begins when one alcoholic talks with another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope.
The Doctor’s Opinion
We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the reader will be interested in the medical estimate of the plan of recovery described in this book.
In the course of his (Bill W.’s) third treatment (late 1934) he acquired certain ideas concerning a possible means of recovery… This man and over one hundred others appear to have recovered.
NoNameYet comment: Dr. Silkworth risked his medical reputation by saying anything at all, and that is why we see “a possible means” (mere speculation) and “appear to have” (no certainty presented) in his first-and-brief letter of two.
…unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.
Though the aggregate of recoveries resulting from psychiatric effort is considerable, we physicians must admit we have made little impression upon the problem as a whole.
He had but partially recovered from a gastric hemorrhage and seemed to be a case of pathological mental deterioration.
Chapter 1: Bill’s Story
…the market had gone to hell again…would recover, but I wouldn’t. (page 6)
Chapter 2: There Is A Solution
…thousands of men and women… Nearly all have recovered…solved the drink problem. (page 17)
Many (dropping into oblivion every day) could recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. (page 19)
Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. (page 20)
…So he returned to this doctor (Carl Jung), whom he admired, and asked him point-blank why he could not recover. (page 26)
The doctor said: “… I have never seen one single case recover, where the state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you.” (page 27)
Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered. (page 29)
Chapter 3: More About Alcoholism
We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery.
…lost the ability to control our drinking…no real alcoholic ever recovers control. (page 30)
We have tried every imaginable remedy (to recover control of our drinking). In some instances there has been brief recovery (normal drinking), followed always by a still worse relapse. (page 31)
We first saw Fred about a year ago in a hospital where he had gone to recover from a bad case of jitters. (page 39)
Chapter 4: We Agnostics
If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered (from ‘chronic’, as in ‘no effective mental defense against the first drink’ (page 43) long ago. (pages 44-45)
Chapter 5: How It Works
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 those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest. (page 58)
NoNameYet comment: The idea of giving oneself over to the ages-old, man-made, ego-driven idea of not drinking one-day-at-a-time and the idea of completely giving oneself over to taking the Twelve Steps to have our problem solved for us are not the same thing! Trying to stay sober one-day-at-a-time is dependent upon human power where the Steps are about trying to grow away – not stay away – from drinking one-day-at-a-time…and we do that by growing along spiritual lines for the remainders of our lives in order for “no effective mental defense” to be and remain completely removed.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery… (page 59)
Chapter 6: Into Action
…the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned in the preceding chapter. (page 72)
Unwilling to be honest… Small wonder many in the medical profession have a low opinion of alcoholics and their chance for recovery! (page 73)
Chapter 7: Working With Others
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 friends – this is an experience you must not miss…
Perhaps you are not acquainted with any drinkers who want to recover. (page 89)
NoNameYet comment: ‘desire to stop drinking’, ‘want to recover’ and ‘wish to recover’ (Tradition Three) all mean the same.
If he says yes (he wants to quit for good and if he would go to any extreme to do so), then his attention should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered…one of a fellowship who, as part of (maintaining and sharing) their own recovery, try to help others and who will be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you. (page 90)
…insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be little chance he can recover by himself. (page 92)
It is important for him to realize that your attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in your own recovery. Actually, he may be helping you more than you are helping him. (page 94)
NoNameYet comment: Thinking of “strenuous work, one alcoholic with another” as “vital to permanent recovery” occasionally leads some of us to the erroneous conclusion that “strenuous work, one alcoholic with another” is more like “how it works” (as some kind of ‘service work’ effectively replacing Steps One through Nine) than part of Step Twelve taking us back to the beginning for the sake of the suffer where we find “You can help when no one else can – You can secure their confidence when others fail” (page 89) actually making the difference…and here is more of that overall perspective:
…if your prospect does not respond at once…[not] desperate enough…leave such a person alone [as] he may soon become convinced he cannot recover [on human power. Do not spend ‘too much time’ there and thus] deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy (same as ‘recover‘). 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. (page 96)
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…the program of recovery. (page 96)
Permit [a man to impose upon you for money, connections, or shelter] and you only harm him… You may be aiding in his destruction rather than his recovery. (pages 96-97)
Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. (page 97)
Should [the family] accept and practice spiritual principles, there is a much better chance that the head of the family will recover. (page 97)
…no undue haste for the couple to get together. The man should be sure of his recovery…
Let no alcoholic say he cannot recover unless he has his family back…his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God. (pages 99-100)
Chapter 8: To Wives
He knows that thousands of men, much like himself, have recovered. But don’t remind him of this after he has been drinking…for the more you hurry him the longer his recovery may be delayed. (page 113)
…spectacular and powerful recoveries. (page 113)
The slightest sign of fear or intolerance may lessen your husband’s chance of recovery. (page 120)
Chapter 9: The Family Afterward
Our women folk have suggested certain attitudes a wife may take with the husband who is recovering (as in ‘becoming recovered‘). (page 122)
At the beginning of recovery a man will take, as a rule, one of two directions. (page 125)
He is striving to recover fortune and reputation and feels he is doing very well. (page 126)
Although financial recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we could not place money first. (page 127)
We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others. (page 132)
A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling… We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. (page 133)
Whether the family goes on a spiritual basis or not, the alcoholic member has to if he would recover. (page 135)
Chapter 10: To Employers
…accepted the principles and procedure that had helped us. He is undoubtedly on the road to recovery. (page 139)
After satisfying yourself that your man wants to recover and that he will go to any extreme to do so, you may suggest a definite course of action. (page 142)
To get over drinking will require a transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place recovery above everything, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business.
Can you have every confidence in his ability to recover? (page 143)
NoNameYet note: “Those who do not recover are people who cannot (they seem mentally incapable of) or will not (become intellectually willing to) completely give themselves to this simple program…constitutionally (mentally or intellectually) incapable of being honest with themselves.” (page 58)
Naturally this sort of thing decreased the man’s chance of recovery. (page 145)
An alcoholic who has recovered, but holds a relatively unimportant job, can talk to a man with a better position. (page 146)
If he is [drunk], and is still trying to recover, he will tell you about it even if it means the loss of his job. (page 146)
If he is conscientiously following the program of recovery he can go anywhere your business may call him. (page 147)
The right kind of man, the kind who recovers, will not want [a disproportionate amount of time and attention]. (page 149)
Chapter 11: A Vision For You
The age of miracles is still with us. Our own recovery proves that! (page 153)
He has helped other men recover, and is a power in the church from which he was long absent. (page 158)
Understanding our work, [the doctor] can [suggest our approach to a patient] with an eye to selecting those who are willing and able to recover on a spiritual basis. (page 162)
When a few men in this city have found themselves, and have discovered the joy of helping others to face life again, there will be no stopping until everyone in that town has had his opportunity to recover – if he can and will. (pages 163-164)
Appendix I: The A.A. Tradition
Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity. (Tradition One)
…we may refuse none who wish to recover. (Tradition Three)
Appendix II: Spiritual Experience
…the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms.
…many alcoholics have [incorrectly] concluded that in order to recover they must acquire an immediate and overwhelming “God-consciousness” followed at once by a vast change in feeling and outlook…
Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual concepts…
Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery.
Introduction to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
…collective experience within the Fellowship on how A.A. members recover, and how our society functions.
…because the book (“Alcoholics Anonymous”) has helped so many alcoholics find recovery, there exists strong sentiment within the Fellowship against any change to it.
Foreword to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide fellowship of more than one hundred thousand alcoholic men and women who are banded together to solve their common problems and to help fellow sufferers in recovery from that age-old, baffling malady, alcoholism.
This book…presents an explicit view of the principles by which A.A. members recover and by which their Society functions.
…after a large amount of failure in getting alcoholics to recover, three successful groups emerged…[yet] it was hard to find two-score of sure recoveries in all three groups (collectively).
…in April 1939…the recoveries numbered about one hundred…[new] book was called “Alcoholics Anonymous”…the spiritual ideas of the Society were codified…the application…was made clear. The remainder of the book…described their drinking experiences and recoveries.
…in 1939…the recovered alcoholics carried their message…
Proof that alcoholics could recover had been made.
Step One in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
…a statistical fact that alcoholics almost never recovered on their own resources.
Step Twelve in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
…if these are facts of life for the many alcoholics who have recovered in A.A., they can become the facts of life for many more.
Tradition One in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Our Twelve Steps to recovery are suggestions…
The A.A. member has to conform to the principles of recovery. His life actually depends upon obedience to spiritual principles.
…most individuals cannot recover unless there is a group.
[Just as] we had once struggled and prayed for individual recovery, just so earnestly did we commence to quest for the principles through which A.A. itself might survive.
Tradition Three in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
How could we know thousands of these sometimes frightening people were to make astonishing recoveries and become our greatest workers and intimate friends?
Tradition Five in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
The unique ability of each A.A. to identify himself with, and bring recovery to the newcomer in no way depends upon his learning, eloquence, or on any special individual skills… These legacies of suffering and of recovery are easily passed among alcoholics, one to the other.
Finally, he saw that I wasn’t attempting to change his religious views, that I wanted him to find the grace in his own religion that would aid his recovery.
Tradition Eight in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Almost no recovery from alcoholism has ever been brought about by the world’s best professionals, whether medical or religious.
Tradition Nine in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant.
Tradition Ten in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Since recovery from alcoholism is life itself to us, it is imperative that we preserve in full strength our means of survival.
Tradition Twelve in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Enthusiastic over the spectacular recovery of a brother alcoholic, we’d sometimes discuss those intimate and harrowing aspects of his case meant for his sponsor’s ear alone.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, by permission of AAWS