"Next he can be assured that you do not intend to lecture, moralize, or condemn; that if this was done formerly, it was because of misunderstanding. If possible express a lack of hard feeling toward him. At this point, it might be well to explain alcoholism, the illness. Say that you believe he is a gravely-ill person, with this qualification—being perhaps fatally ill, does he want to get well? You ask, because many alcoholics, being warped and drugged, do not want to quit. But does he? Will he take every necessary step, submit to anything to get well, to stop drinking forever?
If he says yes, does he really mean it, or down inside does he think he is fooling you, and that after rest and treatment he will be able to get away with a few drinks now and then? We believe a man should be thoroughly probed on these points. Be satisfied he is not deceiving himself or you.
Whether you mention this book is a matter for your discretion. If he temporizes and still thinks he can ever drink again, even beer, he might as well be discharged after the next bender which, if an alcoholic, he is almost certain to have. He should understand that emphatically. Either you are dealing with a man who can and will get well or you are not. If not, why waste time with him? This may seem severe, but it is usually the best course." ('Alcoholics Anonymous, 142:1–3)
This was written for employers but it sets out very clearly what tack the founders of AA took towards prospects.
There are some striking points:
(1) "Will he take every necessary step, submit to anything to get well, to stop drinking forever?"
Note we are not interested in stopping drinking one day at a time; we're interested in facing the cold, hard fact that our drinking will never be normal. If we cannot accept this, we need to experiment more to assure ourselves.
(2) "We believe a man should be thoroughly probed on these points."
It is perfectly acceptable at this point in the sponsorship question to ask difficult questions until the truth has been proffered. If such matters are not dealt with here and now, problems are stored up for later, because there will not be sufficient willingness to take the necessary action.
(3) "Either you are dealing with a man who can and will get well or you are not. If not, why waste time with him?"
It not my job as a sponsor to induce willingness or confer ability. If the person lacks one or the other (and it can be impossible to determine which from the outside), I cannot remedy the situation.