Monday, 25 February 2013

How about a real review?

On a daily basis, am I doing a plan for the day?
Am I getting done what is on the plan?
If not, why not?
Am I behind schedule or leaving things undone with family; friends; home; AA service; exercise; work; other activities?
How would others say I am treating them?
Would others say my attitude is positive or negative?
How do I talk about people who are not there?
Am I exercising?
Am I eating properly?
Am I getting enough sleep?
How is my behaviour with caffeine and sugar?
How much time is going on Step Eleven on a daily basis?
Am I communicating daily with people in the programme?
Am I falling foul of any of the following Big Book 'death threats':
(1) Resentment
(2) Ongoing harm to others
(3) Secrets
(4) Apologies not made
(5) Anything owed, financial or otherwise
(6) Complacency
(7) Not sacrificing self for others?
When did I last talk to God?
When did I last sit for fifteen minutes in silence and ask God to talk to me?

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Concept VII

Short form:

The Charter and Bylaws of the General Service board are legal instruments, empowering the trustees to manage and conduct world service affairs. The Conference Charter is not a legal document; it relies upon tradition and the AA purse for final effectiveness.

Long form:

The Conference recognizes that the Charter and the Bylaws of the General Service Board are legal instruments: that the Trustees are thereby fully empowered to manage and conduct all of the world service affairs of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is further understood that the Conference Charter itself is not a legal document: that it relies instead upon the force of tradition and the power of the AA purse for its final effectiveness.

Questions in service

·         Do I discharge my duties as an AA member, making sure I am fully informed for group consciences about matters affecting AA as a whole (e.g. questions for Conference)?
·         In service, do I actively listen to the guidance, experience, and observation of the group conscience?

Questions in life

·         Do I take responsibility for the decisions in my life or do I try and get others to take responsibility for my decisions?
·         Do I actively listen to the guidance, experience, and observation of others—colleagues, bosses, partners or spouse, friends, etc.—to determine where I am going wrong or what direction I should move in?
·         Do I place any one person on a pedestal and disregard the guidance, experience, and observation of the group in favour of that one person?
·         How do I handle situations where I have the technical, legal, or official power (e.g. as a homeowner, teacher, boss) but need the backing of others (e.g. in the home, classroom, workplace) to be effective?
·         When the situation is reversed, do I take responsibility for expressing my views where relevant for the benefit of everyone, even where I am not practically in charge?
·         Has there ever been a time where I have to exercise my power in a trustee-like fashion, for the good of all, against the direct wishes of others?


·         The reason Conference effectively represents AA as a whole is that the majority of its members are Delegates, and thus chosen by groups.
·         As Conference can withhold funds, it has ultimate power over the Board, even though the Board technically has the power to take whatever action it sees fit.
·         The Trustees are not salaried, which means that they have no financial interest in resisting the conscience of AA as a whole.
·         The Trustees cannot have complete and final authority over AA's funds and services—they cannot have an unqualified right to appoint their own successors.
·         The Trustees are, however, best place to appoint their successors, although these may be rejected by Conference.
·         Because the 'legal buck' stops with the Trustees, they have a technical right of veto over any Conference action—this should be used sparingly, however.


'This means that the practical power of the Conference will nearly always be superior to the legal power of the Trustees. This superior power in the Conference flows from the powerful traditional influence of the Charter itself. It derives from the large majority of group-chosen Delegates in the Conference. And finally, in any great extremity, it would rest upon the undoubted ability of the Delegates to deny the General Service Board the monies with which to operate—viz., the voluntary contributions of the AA groups themselves. Theoretically, the Conference is an advisory body only, but practically speaking, it has all of the ultimate rights and powers that it may ever need.'

'By then we knew for sure that complete and final authority over our funds and services should never continue to reside in an isolated Board of Trustees who had an unqualified right to appoint their own successors. This would be to leave AA world services in the hands of a paternalistic group, something entirely contradictory to the "group conscience" concept of Tradition Two. If the Trustees were to be our permanent service administrators and the guardians of AA's Twelve Traditions, it was evident that they must somehow be placed in a position where they would necessarily have to conform to our Traditions, and to the desires of our Fellowship.'

'It thus became obvious that new Trustee choices—subject to Conference approval—would still have to be left pretty much to the Trustees themselves. Only they would be capable of understanding what the Board needed. Except in a time of reorganization, this method of selection would have to continue—certainly as to the larger part of the Board's membership. Otherwise the Board could not be held accountable for management results. We might wind up with no effective management at all. For these reasons, the Conference was given the right to reject, but not to elect, new Trustee candidates.'

'Trusted servants at all AA levels are expected to exercise leadership, and leadership is not simply a matter of submissive housekeeping. Of course leadership cannot function if it is constantly subjected to a barrage of harassing directives.'

'Just as the Conference should avoid the overuse of its traditional authority, so should the Trustees avoid overuse of their legal rights.'

'Clearly, then, our Board of Trustees does reserve a veto power over any Conference action; this is legally necessary and right in principle, even though the veto will seldom be used.'

'No person can see his or her own shadow. I cannot correct myself as easily as others can. If I as to give good service, I need to be able to improve it. I cannot improve unless I become accountable to the group conscience. The group conscience most often speaks to me through my sponsor and my friends. Sometimes when I am hard of hearing, the group conscience has to get my attention more dramatically.' (Dennis F.)

'I have always resisted the group conscience. I have never had a trusting attitude toward it. I regarded the group as a threat to my liberty. I see now though, that I was wrong.' (Dennis F.)

'In fact, when I am unsure of the course I should take, I seek out the opinion of several people in order to hear the voice of the group conscience. I now regard the group conscience as my ally, not my enemy.' (Dennis F.)

Friday, 22 February 2013

Step 11 Review

What the Book says
My experience
When we retire at night, …
I am often too tired to do a constructive review at night and will sometimes pick a different time, e.g. immediately after the end of the working day or early in the morning.
It does not matter when during the day I do the review, as long as I do it.
The advantage of doing the review in the evening or at night is that I often sleep better and wake up 'cleared' of yesterday's garbage.
… we constructively review our day.
Note: this is a constructive review of the day, not a constructive review of my whole life. Also, this is constructive, not destructive. The aim is not to pull myself down but to clear the junk out of the way so that I can build something better with God's help tomorrow.
Were we resentful,
This is not carte blanche to let rip about everyone and everything. If I have been resentful, I have been at fault. I may or may not mention, here, the object of the resentment. This part of the inventory, though, is about where I am wrong, not where others are wrong.
If I am resentful, I have demands or expectations. What have my demands or expectations been? What is the truth of the situation? What should my attitude have been? When I started to become resentful, what actions did I take—practically and mentally—to rid myself of this 'number one offender? Did I wallow or did I immediately turn to God and spiritual ideas or literature to fill my mind with so that I would not be overcome or weighed down with the resentment?
… selfish, …
Where did I take action that favoured me over others? What should I have done instead?
… dishonest …
Where did I hide a bad motive under a good one?
Where did I lie where I should have told the truth?
or afraid?
If I am afraid, I have an attachment to something in the world, and the world is constantly in flux, so anything I have in the world could be taken away and anything I want in the world could be withheld.
What is my attachment? What am I not trusting?
To make this constructive: how, instead, could I trust God? That even if I lose my job, God will find me a way to be useful and to be provided for in this world? That even if I lose this person or that person, God will provide enough people to supply me with opportunities to love and serve be loved and helped in return?
Do we owe an apology?
This is straightforward. If I have an outstanding apology, it must be made as soon as practicable once the review has been completed.
Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once?
Here, I will make a note of what needs to be discussed, of whom I will discuss it with, and when I will discuss it.
Were we kind and loving toward all?
In response to this question, I cast my mind back over the day and examine thought, word, and deed.
What could we have done better?
This is straightforward. We usually know the answer to this.
Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life?
This question, it should be noted, is not about whether we were packing lots into the stream of life but about whether we were thinking about that or whether we were thinking about ourselves.
Was I concentrating about input or output?
What I am doing or what others are doing?
Action or results?
Giving or getting?
We can have a life full of good activity but still be obsessed with how much we are achieving or what we are getting out of all of the activity. It is easy, when we are busy being constructive, to fail to spot selfish motives underlying it all.
But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse, or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others.
Beating ourselves up or exaggerating how bad we have been does no good: the purpose of this review is to clear away the rubbish, not become transfixed by it.
After making our review we ask God’s forgiveness …
This is a simple prayer. 'God, please forgive me.' Footnote: God has forgiven us already, but it is a good practice to express that willingness to be forgiven, because this prepares us for what is next—it underlines our recognition that there is room for growth.
… and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.
This is the most underused part of the review.
Many reviews contain long litanies of resentments and gloomy reflections about life in general, then stop.
Corrective measures fall into two categories:
Corrective measures of thought;
Corrective measures of action.
Regarding thought, it is will to consider what activities or people we found 'triggering' and identify what attitude we should take instead; to consider, when resentment or fear strike, how we are going to use the tools of programme to banish them immediately; to consider what the focus of our thought must be throughout the day to come.
Regarding action, this is the starting point of our plan for the next day: what tasks have been left undone and need to be started, continued, or completed? How are we going to prioritise? What are we going to do differently tomorrow? How are we going to use our time more constructively? How will we respond practically to anticipated trying situations or people?

God has got us well (or better) not so we can have a lovely time and bask in our own glory but so we can be constructive and useful and make the most of the skills and potential God has given us and the opportunities surrounding us in the world. If we do that, we will have a lovely time, but that is a by-product, not the primary aim.

It should be remembered that the purpose of the review—as with everything else in the programme—is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to others, and it is with this in mind that we should approach it.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Managing emotions or serving God?

The maintenance of an agreeable emotional state cannot be and is not my primary purpose. The whole programme rests on the premise that this approach fails, leading as it does to short-termism (the most witless example of which being active addiction): almost anything worthwhile will involve short-term discomfort; a life based on short-term comfort will never achieve anything and will result in long-term discomfort of a particularly tenacious variety. If emotional comfort is my aim, I will drink or use in some other way before long; if I am drinking or using in some other way, emotional comfort is my aim.

The abandonment the programme suggests means, brutally, that I waive the right to manage my emotional life myself, and trust instead a set of principles which, if applied, will look after my long-term emotional health better than I can. Behind those principles is God, or, rather, the principles are one expression of God.

Instead, the alternative offered is total service to God and therefore others, and my role is to uncover, discover, and discard what stands in the way of my service (Steps Four to Nine) and to envision and build the new life consecrated to making fruitful use of the internal raw material and external opportunities afforded to me (Steps Ten to Twelve).

Now, of course, maximum usefulness requires attendance to certain personal matters: health, exercise, and mental and emotional well-being. If we do not take active steps to take care of these, we cannot be of service.

A caveat though: taking care of emotional health, even, may require short-term emotional discomfort. Calling a friend and admitting difficulties will temporarily be harder than bottling it up, but it will serve us and others better. Don P. would say 'don't pray for relief; pray for strength: sometimes relief comes only in a bottle'.

Furthermore, we can become so consumed with achieving emotional equilibrium or even buoyancy, we forget what the ultimate purpose of that is supposed to be: the ability to serve God unimpeded by emotional handicaps.

Step Eleven aims to place us on a higher plane not because it is more pleasant than the lower planes we would once inhabit but because it is from there we can better survey the work that must be done.

We can be like soldiers who so enjoy the physical training, honing of skills, and maintenance of perfectly tuned technical preparedness for war that we never actually leave the barracks and go and fight.

God did not save us from the waves to beat us up on the beach. He also did not save us from the waves to lounge around on said beach.

Obedience to the god of emotion is easy to spot.
(1) When the opportunity to resent presents itself, do I indulge or recoil as if from a hot flame?
(2) Do I illegitimately alter or ditch my constructive plan for the day if I become emotionally disturbed?
(3) What is the primary focus of my thoughts: constructive action and God's will for me, or what I am getting out of the deal I have with God?

When I falter, as I surely, regularly do, I remind myself: a life run on self-will can hardly be a success.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Feelings. Possibly.

'I need to feel my feelings'
'I'm just avoiding my feelings'
'I need to learn to sit with my feelings'
'I need to know my feelings are valid'
'I need to honour my experience'

I don't know about you, but I feel a lot. If I stop and ask myself whether I'm feeling something, I probably am. If I concentrate really hard, I can usually find some apprehension, dissatisfaction, something simmering and unnameable somewhere just below the surface like a nascent boil. Of course, I will sometimes be overwhelmed by waves of emotion coming seemingly from nowhere. And sometimes I deliberately ask myself what I 'feel' about a situation as part of the decision-making process.

However, what I feel is not the point.

Yesterday, I was presented with a possible decision to make, and my initial 'emotional' response was one of great apprehension and guilt. For a moment, I thought, 'I just need to "listen" to that "instinct" and take it seriously'. Fortunately, I came to my senses and realised, once I was away from the situation and had time and space to talk to a friend, that the situation required cold analysis, not blind obedience to emotion. I took the situation and, using my feelings as a guide, asked myself what the pros and cons were. Some of the pros and cons were suggested by emotional responses. Others revealed themselves only on objective appraisal of the situation.

Lesson № 1: feelings alone produce a limited navigation system.

What I then observed was that some of the objections were entirely valid (the venture might have little purpose, and may not prove 'value for money'), whilst others essentially boiled down to fear of having my 'buttons pressed', i.e. having to show strength of character in the face of a potentially difficult situation. Cowardice and laziness will very often masquerade as legitimate fear or apprehension.

Lesson № 2: feelings alone produce a skewed navigation system.

'I need to feel my feelings' or 'I'm just avoiding my feelings'

Well, your choice with a feeling is either to feel it and accept that you are feeling or feel it and pretend that you are not feeling it. If you have ever had a bad feeling (fear, guilt, frustration) and tried to command yourself not to feel said feeling (with no other injunction other than to stop feeling), you will have rapidly discovered this to be impossible. Likewise, I have never been successful in prompting feelings of warmth, affection, or enthusiasm by dictate or order. I cannot choose to feel or not to feel.

It is equally useless to pretend I am not feeling something. It is like pretending I do not have diarrhoea. Even if I succeed in deceiving myself, no one else will be in any doubt.

The levers that can be pulled are thought and action. If there a difficult situation in my life, e.g. a past romantic disappointment, I can deliberately think about the negative situation and magnify the emotion through mental concentration. I can pull a Miss Havisham and renounce romantic involvement, thus crystallising my victimhood in perpetuity. Alternatively, I can deliberately think about something else. I can also take action that takes my mind off the situation or indeed moves my life forward such that the romantic disappointment becomes irrelevant (e.g. taking the positive action of joining a dating website and going on a date). By adopting one or other course, I rapidly prove that if I want my feelings to change, I will need to change my thought or my action.

I've heard people assert that engaging in good things (e.g. work, doing things for others, prayer, etc.) is just 'avoiding one's feelings' and a form of 'spiritually acceptable denial'—essentially 'fixing oneself' (as though it were a deleterious drug). This is on the basis that, when one engages in such activities, one quite forgets the earlier upset. This does not mean one has gone into denial: it means merely one has regained perspective and re-accessed the truth of the benignity of the world. When you switch on the light and discover that the ghosts you discerned in the darkness are unreal, you are not in denial; you are in reality.

One caveat: it is possible to use excessive activity to avoid a matter that must be faced: some decision or action that needs to be taken or some fear, resentment, or shame that requires a cognitive adjustment for peace to be achieved or restored.

It is important to discern between this illegitimate avoidance and the decision not to over-indulge negative emotion. It should be noted, in particular, that illegitimate avoidance is avoidance not necessarily of feeling but of inventory, confession, humility before God, restitution, and true service. The problem is not one of feeling but one of resistance to change.

'I need to learn to sit with my feelings'

Whether or not this is valid depends on the situation.

If it means, 'I need to stop rushing round for long enough to admit the truth of what I feel, examine objectively the thoughts and actions that have given rise to it, and make a decision to trust God with regard to what I cannot change and seek God's guidance and strength with regard to what I can change', then this is wonderful advice. Very often, I can trace my defective thinking (for from this flows all evil) only through negative emotion as the gateway. It is no accident that the first two inventories forming part of Step Four in the Big Book concern resentment (disturbance at what was or is) and fear (disturbance at what may be): we are most acutely aware of emotion, and it might only be via emotion that we can access the cognitive culprits in the recesses of our minds: the ideas, attitudes, and beliefs (cf. page 27 of Alcoholics Anonymous) that need to change.

If it means simply retreating from outward-turned action and refraining from the mental discipline of turning thoughts towards the positive, instead indulging the emotion, replaying past and future scenarios of doom, and refusing to pick up the critical scalpel of the Steps to actually address the underlying causes, it is deadly.

Sadly, this injunction all too often means the latter: a friend, who was going through a difficult time a few years ago, asked an acquaintance what to do. The acquaintance suggested sitting with her feelings … and nothing else. I have never found this effective as a cure-all.

Postscript: one must certainly not berate oneself for feeling something. Whether one feels this or that is a matter not of the will but of cause and effect: if I think and act in a certain way, I will feel a certain way; target for criticism, if anything, the thought and action, not the feeling.

'I need to know my feelings are valid' or 'I need to honour my experience'

An AA member memorably recalls her sponsor saying, 'We're not going to be talking about emotions. Cuz they're based on a delusional mindset. They're based on something that isn't there. Let's talk about delusion,' (anyone who was at Stateline in 2010 may remember who this was!)
This is the rub: whatever events occur or circumstances prevail in my life, what I feel is not a direct response to such. Before I feel anything, there is cognitive processing. My ideas, attitudes, and beliefs condition what I feel. My feelings are neither valid nor invalid: they just are. What I can legitimately judge as valid or invalid are my ideas, attitudes, and beliefs. Are these rational? Are these to be trusted or disregarded? Do they help or hinder? Do they move me forward or hold me back? Do they leave me paralysed by self-pity or render me useful to others?
Some of us have had very bad experiences. I suffered some particularly unpleasant events as a child. The events were real, and the feelings were real. If a feeling is there, it is real; there is no question of that. I also drew conclusions about myself based on these events: 'I'm a bad person', 'I'm sick', 'I'm different than others', 'I'm spoiled forever'. These conclusions, too, prompted plenty of emotion. Was that emotion valid? Wrong question: the emotion was real, but based on invalid interpretations. To examine critically the false ideas, attitudes, and beliefs is not to disrespect the person or pretend the foul event or circumstance is not there but to create the conditions in which the evil spell can be lifted.
To conclude: I will continue to feel whatever I feel, but I must be careful not to navigate solely by emotion, and I must not balk at questioning the underlying ideas, attitudes, and beliefs, if I am to get and stay well.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

False analogies

'AA has an X% success rate' (some people say). The 'X' is often very low, sometimes in single digits.

The false analogy is the concept of success rate in terms of, say, pharmacotherapy.

If a medicine has a 5% success rate, that might mean that 5% of the people taking it in accordance with the regimen show a statistically significant improvement compared to the control group, whose members are not taking said drug but are taking a placebo, for instance.

The key is 'in accordance with the regimen'.

Let's look at a more suitable analogy.

Say state flood insurance is available. You have to pay your flood insurance premiums every week, for the insurance cover to apply. After a particularly bad flood, almost everyone, except for a few crazies, takes out the flood insurance. Proudly, they all display their insurance certificates on their walls, and if asked, they will report that they have indeed taken out flood insurance.

In fact, almost all of the townspeople take out the insurance.

However, over the course of the year, people miss payments. Some people miss a few payments but continue later, thinking they can get away with the gap in payments. Others drift away entirely from making their payments. A few miss payments altogether but make them up later. A tiny proportion make their payments dutifully every week.

After a year, a big flood comes. It turns out that only 5% of those with insurance policies townspeople are up to date with their payments, and only that 5% receive payouts.

This is a much closer analogy to AA. Almost everyone is thrilled with AA initially, but people do not keep up their payments. The Steps are not worked rapidly and thoroughly but slowly, fitfully, and incompletely, if at all. Fellowship comes and goes. Service is sparse. Then, Bang! A slip!

In the insurance example, the insurance is 100% effective, not 5% effective, even though only 5% of the people with the insurance receive payouts: the reason for the 5% lies with the individuals, not with the insurance.

Similarly, in AA: I have never seen someone drink who has completed a Steps Four and Five plus all the amends they can, who is attending regular meetings, who sponsors others, who engages consistently in Steps Ten and Eleven, and who performs regular service.

In fact, I have seen plenty of people stay sober (including myself) on rather less than 100% compliance with the programme as it is set out in the Big Book.

So, to extend the insurance analogy: 100% of people take up the insurance; 5% keep their payments up to date, and they receive payouts, but another good number of people who have made some but not all payments find their claims honoured when the flood comes. Pretty good deal, eh?

Are you fully paid up?

Friday, 15 February 2013

How to contribute at service meetings

It has been around eighteen years since I first attended an Intergroup meeting. Since then I have participated in many meetings at various levels of service in AA. I have observed carefully what helps and what does not. Set out below is a list of tips that help to ensure a smooth, good-natured, and effective service meeting.

1.     Never lose sight of primary purpose.
2.     Base your views on the Traditions and the Concepts as well as common sense.
3.     If you are ignorant of the Traditions, Concepts, and Service Handbook, keep your mouth shut.
4.     If you have no relevant experience, keep your mouth shut.
5.     Do not speak if you’re angry; even if you are right, your contribution will likely not bring progress.
6.     Say only what needs to be said, and by you, and right now.
7.     Do not shoot from the hip; consider what you are saying before you say it.
8.     Keep your contribution to the topic.
9.     Be brief.
10. Do not reiterate points others have made.
11. Allow others to have their turn.
12. Be positive, encouraging, enthusiastic, and cheerful about the endeavour under discussion—the glass is always half full.
13. Do not pick holes for the sake of picking holes; ask yourself 'how important is it?'
14. Be a flexible pragmatist, not a nit-picking lawyer or bleeding deacon.
15. Do not attack, retaliate, or defend.
16. Do not make anything personal; talk about the role and the duties, not the individual.
17. Express no opinion on outside issues.
18. Remember that Tradition Four may mean other groups or areas may legitimately do things differently.
19. Treat everyone as if they had the best of intentions; most do.
20. Take primary purpose, not yourself, seriously.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Problems other than alcohol

I finally stopped relapsing when I decided to endure whatever difficulties sobriety required, because sobriety, itself, was a sufficient goal. When my goal was sobriety plus happiness, sobriety plus usefulness, sobriety plus freedom from pain, sobriety could not be attained, as, the moment the happiness, the usefulness, the freedom from pain faltered or vanished, sobriety seemed a second-rate prize, and the trap-door into another realm offered by alcohol started to beckon once more.

The reason I wanted sobriety and only sobriety (though bonuses in other areas were quite welcome) was because I no longer wanted to drink. It was not that I no longer wanted the consequences—I had not wanted the consequences for quite some time. It was the experience of drinking itself I no longer wanted.

Sometimes people develop other problems, sober. Two years, five years, twenty years in. Food, sex, and romantic indulgence seem the most prevalent and pernicious. The opening conversation with such a person (as the opening conversation was once with me) focuses typically on the consequences. When that's the case, best to wait. The willingness will likely last as long as the consequences. As soon as the consequences abate, so will the willingness.

What you're listening for is this: 'I don't even like the thrill these days. It makes me feel sick.' 'Even when it's apparently working, I know it's an illusion. I don't want it anymore.'

It is no good throwing steps at something like this, when the core of the problem is still active, because it will burn through whatever layers of goodness you paste around it, like a hot coal through a ball of tissue paper: if you're still having fun, suck it dry. Come back when you're done. Done not just with the consequences, but with the thing itself.

How might that be brought about more rapidly? Awareness. Before, during, and after. And, if that does not work, try awareness, awareness, awareness.

So, once you think you're really done:

Sometimes people ask whether the whatever-it-is is a bone fide 'other addiction' requiring 'the working of Step One' or whether it can be snappily dealt with in Step Seven by simply asking for it to be removed and getting on with the remaining Steps.

This question is predicated on a false distinction: I am powerless over alcohol. I am powerless, also, over the other defects in my life, whether such consist in catastrophic addictive or compulsive behaviour or a minor but persistent insistence on hurrying everything I do.

And we're not alone in suggesting powerlessness as the root of such problems: I'm not going to go into details here, for this is not a religious blog, but, say, Paul in Romans 7 will talk about the horror of watching yourself do whatever-it-is for the umpteenth time, fully aware of the motion of every cog and piston, but quite powerless to do anything about it.

The principle remains the same in either case: only once the thing itself (not the consequences) is objectionable—to me—will I be truly willing (cf. page 76 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous).

One might validly ask the question whether another twelve-step fellowship is necessary. Perhaps some identification is required. Perhaps that identification is available in one's existing twelve-step fellowship. If you're struggling to find someone to identify with, in relation to the whatever-it-is, you're probably not talking to enough people, however, as AA certainly seems replete with people with other problems clogging up their lives—and with people who've solved those problems. But when you go to the other fellowship, you'll unfortunately discover that they have the same Twelve Steps. The recovery geographical leaves you with the same stark choice: stop whatever it is and decide to live for God, not for self … or continue down the same dark path to which you have become accustomed.

If another twelve-step fellowship is helpful, great! But sometimes the problem is not that we're not attending the right fellowship.

Furthermore, it is as well to remember that you'll likely develop obsessive, compulsive, or persistent problems for which no obvious twelve-step fellowship exists, and the simplicity of the Twelve Steps of AA will have to be applied as they stand. Whether you apply Step One to connect to your powerlessness, in analogy to alcohol, or whether you apply Step Three, conceding you cannot be rid of your selfishness without God's help, is neither here nor there. Both approaches work. What matters is turning to God with empty hands and score cards reading zero.

A note of warning: sometimes, 'going back through the Steps', particularly if some elaborate process is in prospect, will be enticing, because it will delay actually having to change.

You think you're at Step One. Perhaps. Or maybe, you're at Step Seven, and, rather than stopping whatever it is and facing the consequences (withdrawal and the discomfort of learning to fill your life with different activities and learning to fill your mind with different thoughts), you want to engage in another bout of extensive self-examination, thus putting off indefinitely the dreaded moment, under the guise of being a diligent Step-worker.

Rather than 'going back through the Steps', one might validly use the Steps that are already there, waiting for you to apply them. Step Ten. Step Eleven. The second half of Step Twelve. Live just one day for God rather than for self, whatever the emotional consequences.

You can't solve the problem at the level of the problem. You need to go to God and be lifted above the problem to another realm, where the problem does not exist. The problem will then cease to be part of your experience.

This will require courage, however: the courage to feel whatever the first weeks and months of abstinence or separation from the problem-that-seemed-like-a-solution requires.

Friday, 1 February 2013


Short form:

The Conference recognizes that the chief initiative and active responsibility in most world matters should be exercised by the trustee members of the Conference acting as the General Service Board.

Long form:

On behalf of AA as a whole, our General Service Conference has the principal responsibility for the maintenance of our world services, and it traditionally has the final decision respecting large matters of general policy and finance. But the Conference also recognizes that the chief initiative and the active responsibility in most of these matters should be exercised primarily by the Trustee members of the Conference when they act among themselves as the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Questions in service and in life

·         When delegating chief initiative and active responsibility, do I trust and let go of the results, until it is my time to assess them formally?
·         When receiving delegation, do I take the chief initiative and active responsibility for such matters?
·         When receiving delegation, do I recognise that the final decision concerning general policy (and finance) lies with the ultimate authority?

Questions in life

·         When I am asked for help, do I seek guidance from God on how to respond?
·         When I identify an opportunity for service, do I take up that opportunity or do I leave it to others?
·         Can I delegate where necessary, or do I exhaust myself by doing everything myself?
·         Do I feel guilty for things beyond my active responsibility?
·         Do I worry?
·         Do I make an effort to discharge all my duties, or do I let my duties build up?


'Just as the AA groups find themselves unable to act decisively respecting world service affairs unless they delegate a great amount of active authority and responsibility to their Conference, so must the Conference in turn delegate a liberal administrative authority to the General Service Board, in order that its Trustees may act freely and effectively in the absence of the Conference itself.' (Introduction to Twelve Concepts for World Service by Bill W.)

'While the Trustees must always operate under the close observation, guidance and sometimes the direction of the Conference, it is nevertheless true that nobody but the Trustees and their wholly-owned service corporations could possibly pass judgment upon and handle the very large number of transactions now involved in our total world service operation. In view of this very large responsibility, they must therefore be given a correspondingly large grant of authority and leadership with which to discharge it. We should quite understand, too, that the conduct of our world services is primarily a matter of policy and business. Of course our objective is always a spiritual one, but this service aim can only be achieved by means of an effective business operation. Our Trustees must function almost exactly like the directors of any large business corporation. They must have ample authority to really manage and conduct AA's business.' (Introduction to Twelve Concepts for World Service by Bill W.)

'God has the ultimate responsibility for our service while we have the active responsibility for carrying the message.' (Dennis F.)

'This is one of my favourite concepts of service, because it relieves me of the need to worry. The sixth concept of service clearly delineates the lines of responsibility between my Maker and me. I have the responsibility to carry the message, and God has the ultimate responsibility for my service. God gets people sober; I don't.' (Dennis F.)

It is the same principle in my home and work life. As long as I make the efforts to do what God places in front of me to do, I am fulfilling my relationship with God by taking active responsibility for my life a day at a time. I then release the results of these actions to God, who has ultimate responsibility for all the assignments He gives me. I no longer need to worry about money or any concern as long as I give service in my job.' (Dennis F.)

'When God gives me responsibility, he also gives me the authority or ability to carry out that responsibility. Just as I am not tempted beyond my prayer power, so I am not given burdens without the God-given resources to accomplish them. Bill now describes how the corporate structure of AA is built on the same principle: authority must have equal responsibility. I need to follow this principle in my service relationships with others: I need to give authority to those I give assignments to accomplish if I am to permit them to be of service.' (Dennis F.)

'Either God has the ultimate responsibility for me, or he doesn't. If he doesn't, then I do. And if I have the ultimate responsibility for myself, I can tell you right now that I'm not going to make it. That is why I find this concept of service so reassuring.' (Dennis F.)

'The implications of letting go of the ultimate responsibility for what goes on, extends to other people. If I don't have to hang on to every detail myself, I don't have to hang on to every detail for you either. I can extend to you the same freedom that God gives to me. You have the same right to be happy that I do. You have your own Higher Power, and He has the ultimate responsibility for your life.' (Dennis F.)

'The great obsession of this abnormal drinker in living is to try to control life so I can enjoy it. While I am enjoying life, I am not controlling it. This paradox not only applies to alcohol. It applies to living.' (Dennis F.)

'This is the source of my self worth, which I can state in three words when I'm down on myself: God needs me.' (Dennis F.)

'When I carry the message, I am his mouth, his legs, his arms and his hands. If he wanted to send a message of sobriety another way, he would have sent somebody else. But God needs me so he sends me. He sends each one of us because each one of us has a unique message to give that no one else can.' (Dennis F.)