‘Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple programme, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.’
‘We find it a waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you.’
‘Some men cannot or will not get over alcoholism.’
‘But if you cannot or will not stop drinking, I think you ought to resign.’
‘If he cannot or does not want to stop, he should be discharged.’
‘At the same time you will feel no reluctance to rid yourself of those who cannot or will not stop.’
It is interesting that the book seems repeatedly to conflate those who ‘cannot’ and those who ‘will not’ get over drinking. It could be because they keep relapsing; it could be because they steadfastly refuse to follow instructions given to them. Either way, it’s impossible to tell from the outside whether the person lacks the capacity or willingness, and maybe the person himself does not know. What is clear is that AA works for those who take the actions indicated.
I didn’t need faith in God to take the actions, or faith in myself. I needed to be willing to take actions I did not believe in because the people who suggested them were doing better than me. On 24 July 1993, I fired myself from the board of directors of my life. What I thought and felt no longer mattered; what mattered was following the instructions my sponsor gave me, namely to work the steps and engage in fellowship and service in the spirit outlined in the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’. My doubts and fears were irrelevant. They were a nuisance but nothing more; they no longer advised the board of directors of my life. From that point on, I started to recover. I have spent over half my life sober in AA. The actions did not care why I took them but worked anyway to put me in touch with a power greater than myself, which solved my alcohol problem, and all my other ones, too.