'… scarce an evening passed that someone's home did not shelter a little gathering of men and women, happy in their release, and constantly thinking how they might present their discovery to some newcomer. In addition to these casual get-togethers, it became customary to set apart one night a week for a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life. Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems. …
Many a man, yet dazed from his hospital experience, has stepped over the threshold of that home into freedom. Many an alcoholic who entered there came away with an answer. He succumbed to that gay crowd inside, who laughed at their own misfortunes and understood his. Impressed by those who visited him at the hospital, he capitulated entirely when, later, in an upper room of this house, he heard the story of some man whose experience closely tallied with his own. …
The very practical approach to his problems, the absence of intolerance of any kind, the informality, the genuine democracy, the uncanny understanding which these people had were irresistible. He and his wife would leave elated by the thought of what they could now do for some stricken acquaintance and his family. They knew they had a host of new friends; it seemed they had known these strangers always. …
No one is too discredited or has sunk too low to be welcomed cordially—if he means business. Social distinctions, petty rivalries and jealousies—these are laughed out of countenance. Being wrecked in the same vessel, being restored and united under one God, with hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others, the things which matter so much to some people no longer signify much to them. How could they?'
Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 159
'Little clusters of twos and threes and fives of us have sprung up in other communities, through contact with our two larger centres. Those of us who travel drop in as often as we can. This practice enables us to lend a hand, …
Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but one man with this book in your hand. We believe and hope it contains all you will need to begin.
We know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself: 'I'm jittery and alone. I couldn't do that.' But you can. You forget that you have just now tapped a source of power much greater than yourself. To duplicate, with such backing, what we have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience and labour.'
Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 162
'Still you may say: "But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who wrote this book." We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to create the fellowship you crave.
Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others.'
Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 164
'It is an historical fact that practically all groupings of men and women tend to become more dogmatic; their beliefs and practices harden and sometimes freeze. This is a natural and almost inevitable process. All people must, of course, rally to the call of their convictions, and we of AA are no exception. Moreover, all people should have the right to voice their convictions. This is good principle and good dogma. But dogma also has its liabilities. Simply because we have convictions that work well for us, it becomes very easy to assume that we have all the truth. Whenever this brand of arrogance develops, we are certain to become aggressive; we demand agreement with us; we play God. This isn't good dogma; it's very bad dogma. It could be especially destructive for us of AA to indulge in this sort of thing.
Newcomers are approaching AA at the rate of tens of thousands yearly. They represent almost every belief and attitude imaginable. We have atheists and agnostics. We have people of nearly every race, culture and religion. In AA we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a common suffering. Consequently, the full individual liberty to practise any creed or principle or therapy whatever should be a first consideration for us all. Let us not, therefore, pressure anyone with our individual or even our collective views. Let us instead accord each other the respect and love that is due to every human being as he tries to make his way toward the light. Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive; let us remember that each alcoholic among us is a member of AA, so long as he or she so declares.'
Language of the Heart, p. 333
'Let's look for a moment at a single AA member. Faith alone does not save him. He has to act, do something. He must carry his message to others, practise AA principles in all his affairs. Else he slips, he withers, and he dies. Look now at an AA group. Can pure faith, mere belief in right principle and sound tradition, make the group a going concern? Not in the least. Each AA group, as such, must also function, do something. It must serve its appointed purpose, or it, too, withers and falls apart.'
Language of the Heart, p. 129
'During nine years in AA I have observed that those who follow the Alcoholics Anonymous programme with the greatest earnestness and zeal not only maintain sobriety, but often acquire finer characteristics and attitudes as well. One of these is tolerance. Tolerance expresses itself in a variety of ways: in kindness and consideration toward the man or woman who is just beginning the march along the spiritual path; in the understanding of those who perhaps have been less fortunate in educational advantages, and in sympathy toward those whose religious ideas may seem to be at great variance with our own. I am reminded in this connection of the picture of a hub with its radiating spokes. We all start at the outer circumference and approach our destination by one of many routes. To say that one spoke is much better than all the other spokes is true only in the sense of its being best suited to you as an individual. Human nature is such that without some degree of tolerance, each one of us might be inclined to believe that we have found the best or perhaps the shortest spoke. Without some tolerance we might tend to become a bit smug or superior—which of course is not helpful to the person we are trying to help, and may be quite painful or obnoxious to others. No one of us wishes to do anything which might act as a deterrent to the advancement of another—and a patronising attitude can readily slow up this process. Tolerance furnishes, as a by-product, a greater freedom from the tendency to cling to preconceived ideas and stubbornly adhered-to opinions. In other words it often promotes an open-mindedness which is vastly important—in fact a prerequisite to the successful termination of any line of search, whether it be scientific or spiritual. These, then, are a few of the reasons why an attempt to acquire tolerance should be made by each one of us.'
Dr Robert Smith, co-founder of AA
'The meeting was dying. But the two people decided they would fight to keep it alive, that they would show up every week no matter what, and that they would study the Big Book. The format was simple: read a couple of paragraphs, then comment on what was read.
A strange thing happened. The few people who did show up started to come back—every week. Within a few months, attendance was close to a dozen. After the first year the group had grown to over twenty regular attendees.
The group became a magnet for 'Big Book thumpers'. We call ourselves 'Fifth Traditionists' and constantly remind ourselves and each other than the reason we are here is to help the new person find what we have discovered through the Steps—not to glorify ourselves, not to discuss at nauseating length our own opinions or feelings, but to give to others what has been given to us.
Chairpersons rotate so that no one person influences a meeting for too long. Anniversaries are regular and much celebrated occurrences. There is a great sense of purpose and satisfaction among us. If we could say one thing above all else, it would be that, when we followed the directions given in the book exactly, the newcomer recovered; when we followed the Traditions exactly, the group flourished.'
The Home Group: Heartbeat of AA, p. 66
'A fairly usual idea in some Al-Anon groups is that we attend meetings only to hear other people's tragic stories—blow-by-blow descriptions that we can perhaps identify with. This is one—but only one—of Al-Anon's functions. But when the stories are a continual rehash of the alcoholic's misdeeds, nobody learns anything except that we all go through pretty much the same experiences. Where is the growth in that?
If I want to determine how much help a meeting can give, I should ask myself: "How many of the people here tonight have learned something new about applying Al-Anon principles? How many have given me a constructive idea to take away with me and use?' That is the only measure of a truly valuable meeting.'
One Day At A Time In Al-Anon, p. 329
'There was once an Al-Anon group that never had more than nine members, although there were four AA groups within a couple of miles!
All but three of the nine—the three who had started the group—changed very often. When they dropped out, the old-timers would shrug and say: "What can you do? They just don't realise how Al-Anon could help them."
At meetings there were usually plenty of horror stories about what the alcoholics said and did, and detailed descriptions of sufferings. It was all quite exciting, but nothing much happened to make the newcomers aware of the Al-Anon programme and how they could apply it. Nobody kept in touch between meetings, excepting, of course, the three old-timers.
Al-Anon is a programme of self-improvement. It is nourished by the friendship and concern of all the members for each other and from discussion, in depth, of Al-Anon principles in the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, and the slogans.
"If my life is in chaos, I will look into myself for the cause and cure and use the Twelve Steps to improve my shortcomings. If our group is not a living, functioning unit, we will look for the cause and cure in our Twelve Traditions." '
One Day At A Time In Al-Anon, p. 77
'Today I know that, for unity to exist in my family or in my group, all of us must have a voice. No one voice is more or less important than anyone else's. I have a responsibility to listen, to share, and to accept. Tradition One lifted the burden of control off my shoulders. I no longer had the right to make decisions for everyone. The people in my home deserved to make their own decisions and to be given the same respect that I desired for myself, whether they were in recovery or not.'
Pathways to Recovery (Al-Anon), p. 139
'Tradition One meant the group could set aside time to discuss the issues, and then we could vote. That way, no one forced the rest of us to do anything. During our group conscience meetings, I actually saw people disagree without getting angry. After we voted and made a decision, we held hands and said The Serenity Prayer. Even the people in the minority were pleasant, because they had had their say. In the end, everyone accepted the group's decisions …
I began to understand that … I didn't need to take it personally when we had different opinions. I could state my opinion and let go of the results … I began to detach and not force solutions … Al-Anon taught me that I don't always have to win or lose. Sometimes I can just participate …
Tradition One has taught me that unity does not mean uniformity.'
Pathways to Recovery (Al-Anon), p. 140
'I do not take up too much time sharing, because Tradition One tells me that everyone has the right to share. When I share I try to stick to the topic, because that is how the greatest number will benefit. It is better for me to apply a topic to my life than to dwell on my problems. I try to share my experience, strength, and hope for the good of the group. Even if I am in pain, I can share what I am learning from that pain, because it is part of my experience.
I take responsibility in the group and do various jobs. I find speakers, set up the room, chair meetings. I do not take up too much responsibility, because it is our group, not my group. "Our common welfare" means that everyone needs to pitch in and do their share.'
Pathways to Recovery (Al-Anon), p. 141
'Over the years, I used this story to illustrate how to make an informed group conscience. I discovered from experience that there are at least six possible answers to a question when it is first placed before a group. I knew about "yes" and "no". I also recognised a couple of other possible answers—"I don't know" and "I don't care." It was later that I also found two further answers—"I don't want to discuss it" and "I don't want you to discuss it." I was able to identify several feelings around these six answers—agreement, disagreement, ignorance, apathy, resentment, and anger…
Today, I believe the process of discussion, a review of our literature, and a vote is a good way for our group to make decisions that just about everyone can accept.'
Pathways to Recovery (Al-Anon), p. 149
'Twenty some-odd years ago, I talked on Sunday night in Highland Park, and after the meeting there were four or five of us standing in the middle of the room, with our arms on each other's shoulders. And we were saying to each other, "How lucky can a man be? How fortunate can you be? That a tongue-chewin', babblin' idiot drunk could have a life like this. How fortunate could we be?" And one kid wasn't saying anything, and pretty soon he looked to me and he said, "Chuck, I'm ignorant. I ain't never read no books. There's no sense in me reading books because I don't understand them. I don't know nothin' about God, I don't know nothin' about the Bible, but this programme no man can take away from me. When I do these simple things, one day at a time and to the best of my ability, I feel clean inside, and good things happen in my life." And when I could talk, I said, "Son, don't ever read no books, no time. You said the very essence of all the books that were ever written. That what we want—that we might feel clean inside and have good things happen to us in our lives." '
A New Pair Of Glasses, p. 109