Sunday, 31 December 2017

Problems other than alcohol: adapting the checklist

(From 3095 Younger People in AA)

Once you're in AA for a while, problems other than alcohol can arise. Sometimes one does not realise how much a behaviour pattern is causing difficulties until this is thrown into stark relief using the above questions.

The method is simple: substitute for instance 'my sexual behaviour' or 'my eating beahviour' for 'drinking' etc., as appropriate, in the above 20 questions. This can be very revealing.

Wood and trees; carts and horses

In sponsorship, we often focus on sets of instructions, both for the arc of Steps One to Nine and for the daily arc of Steps Ten to Twelve. The danger is that we can miss the point. The purpose of these actions is not merely to sprinkle them across a life based essentially on self and on the material world but to embody the desire to live on a higher plane and abandon everything that manifests a self-centred life.

To recover and stay recovered, the whole basis must be different, and the actions we take and instructions we follow reflect this rather than inducing this. The actions and instructions will not induce a permanent spiritual awakening if there is a fundamental loyalty to self remaining; eventually, self will become resurgent and peep through like an underlying colour when a thin coat of cheap paint is applied to a wall or door.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Does it taste nice?

(Taken from the pamphlet: 3095 Younger People in AA)

I didn't always like the taste. I hated whisky but would drink it if there was nothing else. I drank for effect not for taste. The actions of AA are the same. Whether the 'taste nice' is irrelevant: it's effect we're after. Medicine doesn't always taste nice.

'I don't want to work the programme'

Sometimes I think, 'I don't want to go to a meeting', 'I don't want to do my review', 'I don't want to answer the phone'. Sometimes I think 'I do want to go to a meeting', 'I do want to do my review', 'I do want to answer the phone'. Sometimes I accordance with the former; sometimes, with the latter.

It would appear that I am unstable! As the mind changes, one of two things might happen: I might do the wrong thing (by following the 'I want to do a bad thing'/'I don't want to do a good thing'-voice), in which case my spirit is dejected, or I might do the wrong thing, in which case my ego rebels. Either way, conflict is created.

There is a way out.

I am neither of the two voices. I am the chooser between the two voices. There is a voice for God and a voice for the ego. Just because the voices are in my mind does not make the voices mine, any more than an avocado in my presence is necessarily my avocado, and any more than I am the avocado just because I am next to the avocado.

So, throughout the day, I am presented with voices that are merely in my presence, are certainly not me, and are not mine either.

My choice is this: which will I believe and which will I follow? Both can't be right as they are mutually contradictory and mutually exclusive.

First, I choose the sort of day I want: peaceful, productive, and harmonious.

Then I choose the beliefs and the path that are consistent with these qualities.

The other beliefs and the path that the other beliefs promise is smoke that dissolves into the air.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

How to form a sub-committee

To get work done, AA may form sub-committees (Tradition IX).

For example, if an Intergroup is very large, the public information (PI) officer may not be able to cover the entire Intergroup. A sub-committee might be formed to take care of PI for a particular remote area.

How would this be done? Set out below is one option.

First of all the sub-committee has to be constituted. The sponsoring body (in this case the Intergroup), acting through the PI officer, agrees that the sub-committee be established.

Now, people must be appointed to the sub-committee. There are three ways: the PI officer could be authorised by the Intergroup to handpick trusted and experienced members; the Intergroup could request volunteers from amongst its number; or the posts could be advertised more broadly (with the usual process of AA CV-submission, maybe an interview of some sort, and vote by the Intergroup). At any rate, this is merely to establish who the initial members are. Once these are selected, they vote amongst themselves for a chair (to run the meetings) and a secretary (to maintain records). An agenda can be drafted by the chair, and the sub-committee can start its work.

There are two types of work on sub-committees: the job of devising and organising the work (for instance PI work), and the job of actually performing the work. The committee-members may do both, or maybe volunteers may be attracted to perform the work. These could but need not necessarily sit in on the sub-committee meetings, participate, and vote. There is precedent for both options in AA. For instance, on some convention sub-committees, all those involved attend the sub-committee meetings and vote. At others, this would be unwieldy (if the convention is very large), and certainly all telephone line volunteers do not attend and participate in meetings concerning how the telephone service is to be run.

The sub-committee must also establish its terms of reference. These may be adopted or adapted from other sub-committees or formulated from scratch. They could be simple, defining the scope of the work, the regularity and content of meetings, and the guidelines for rotation.

Once a stable sub-committee has been established and maybe running for while, it is safe to open up membership of the sub-committee to anyone interested by advertising the availability of a post throughout the service structure. Concept XI must be observed: composition, qualifications, induction procedures, and rights and duties are important. This is why it is important that, when a sub-committee is initially set-up, membership is not a free-for-all. The fellowship is responsible for ensuring that stable, experienced, and knowledgeable people establish the sub-committee in such a way at to maximise its chances of success and to establish a sound precedent as leadership rotates.

Finally, the sub-committee is responsible to those who established it, in the example above, the Intergroup. There is no separate and direct line of responsibility to the groups or to AA as a whole, and there is no governance by the sub-committee of the groups or AA as a whole.

A public information sub-committee appointed by Intergroup is responsible to the fellowship through the Intergroup. It is not accountable to local groups directly, but via the Intergroup, and likewise cannot dictate or stipulate to groups: if it formulates public information guidelines to be followed by groups, at the request of Intergroup, it is up to the Intergroup to approve these by gathering the views of AA members via the GSRs and then to implement them (although even then such guidelines have the force of suggestion not law). Sub-committees are thus trusted servants, and governors.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Going to any lengths

In AA, we're asked to go to any lengths.

Why would I do that?

Because I cannot win in single-handed combat against (a) my alcoholism (b) my ego.

I do not like the effects of living with active alcoholism.

I do not like the effects of living with an active ego.

To win, I must surrender.

To surrender, I must drop my own ideas entirely and adopt a new set of ideas entirely.

(Footnote: any of my own ideas that are true and helpful will be returned to me in the new set of ideas, so I needn't fear relinquishing anything of value).

Once I adopt a new set of ideas, all of my thinking and all of my behaviour should be in accordance with this new set of ideas if (a) I am to be successful in the new life and (b) I am to be conflict-free in the process.

Surrender brings about relaxation.

Any state other than complete relaxation suggests incomplete surrender.

What this means in practice is that I surrender to the collective good sense of those who to my mind set a good example, for ideas and the consequential thinking and behaviour.

Instant and complete surrender does not exist, but progress can be made towards it.

I can fail only if, when conflicted between old ideas and new ideas (or old/new thinking/behaviour), I side with the old ideas, thinking and behaviour.

The only question is therefore this: which set of ideas will I side with?

Service structure and back channels

The AA service structure is like a tree with each servant accountable to those he or she serves. For instance, national sub-committee members are accountable to the national sub-committee, which is accountable to the relevant board trustee, who is accountable to the general service board, which is accountable to conference, which is accountable to the delegates at conference, who are accountable to the regions, which are accountable to the intergroups, which are accountable to the general service representatives, who are accountable to the groups, which are accountable to the members.

Most problems in AA service are encountered when this structure is circumvented, and parallel structures are developed.


  • A national public information committee devising guidelines which it then tries to impose directly on groups without the guidelines having been commissioned by conference or the board trustee and without approval from the board or from the conference
  • Groups banding together to form sub-committees between themselves for public information work (in parallel with the integroup's public information work)
  • Groups banding together to sponsor conventions or conferences, outside the AA service structure (instead of having the event sponsored by an integroup or region and thus accountable to AA as a whole)
  • Free-standing conventions or conferences which are not accountable to the fellowship as a whole through the structure but which adopt the AA name
  • Other free-standing committees that are not commisioned by the fellowship as a whole through the service structure
  • Self-appointed committees of any sort
  • Any committee trying to be accountable in two directions at once (e.g. to intergroup and to groups directly or to region and to groups directly).

Another slew of problems arises when backchannels are used.

The way we decide everything in AA is in accordance with the Traditions and Concepts. We hold conscience meetings presided over by God, preferably preceded with a reading of the Traditions and Concepts, and maybe a prayer. The meeting is either of an AA group or of a committee (intergroup, region, conference, board, or sub-committee) that is properly constituted by election or appointment. The meeting has an agenda. This is forwarded at least one week in advance to allow time for thought, research, and discussion. The items are then discussed systematically, and with vote and substantial unanimity (Concept XII) determining the final outcome. This is then implemented, with reporting back to those the group or committee serves.

Examples of backchannels:
  • Internet discussion forums
  • WhatsApp groups
  • Email groups
  • Other discussion in small groups
Of course, a certain amount of discussion of principles and ideas in other contexts is valid, but this must never tip over into formal decision-making, consensus-forming, or other preparatory work that removes any part of the decision-making process from the supervision of God through the conscience of a properly constituted meeting.


In AA, we share our experience, strength, and hope. We offer and explain, rather than attempting to convince or persuade.

In AA, however, there is sometimes discussion about the programme, the Big Book and the interpretation thereof, etc. This discussion takes the forms of exchanges that go back and forth in which each side presents its views, taking up individual points of the other side and contradicting them, all apparently with the view of convincing the other side that it is wrong and should adopt the first side's point of view. It's very rare to see anyone actually changing their view on the basis of such discussion. It is unclear whether such discussion serves any good purpose. In fact, it often serves a very ill purpose: division, contention, and so on. The result is reminiscent of Proverbs 23:29.
Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine.
Or the keyboard.

Particularly rich fodder for discord is to be found in questions such as, 'Is alcoholism a disease?' 'Are alcoholism or drug addiction the same or different?' 'Is what we suffer from twofold or threefold?' 'Do we recover or are we forever recovering?' 'Is the Big Book sufficient or do we also use the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions?' 'Do we read each line in the Big Book in context only or do we derive general spiritual principles from it?' 'Is the Big Book the last word, or has more been revealed since then?' 'Is there more than one way to recover?' I'm sure we could all add to the list.

I now try to avoid even entering into these so-called discussions except one-to-one with my friends, and then only if there is a genuine sense of openness and enquiry; as soon as I realise I'm engaging with an entrenched view, I stop. I recently made a mistake and engaged on a particular topic, and it is this that has reminded me to quit the debating society, once again.

As with the first drink, it is the first verbal exchange that does the damage, and I seem to develop a craving for more.

At my homegroup, we do not comment on each other's sharing in our own sharing. It is just possible this might be the only sane way to conduct oneself on AA Internet forums. Sadly, the design promotes endlessly expanding trench warfare.

My motto today: how can I promote unity?

Membership of AA vs visiting AA

Since I first attended AA, I have operated in one of two modes: being a member of AA and visiting AA. Today, I prefer the results of the former mode and so operate therein.

Visiting AA

I am the centre of my life. This makes sense because wherever my physical eyes look, the world appears to be around me, with me at the centre, which is where I reside. In my life, I have a number of objectives. These fall into the approximate categories of looking after myself, securing my future, managing my finances, having a job or career, establishing and maintaining relationships, getting kicks, achieving position and some power in the world, making progress generally so that my life has direction and purpose, getting enough and the right kind of sex, looking smart and attractive, etc. The list seems to expand infinitely. The various domains are in constant competition for my attention, energy, and resources.

Within the context of this, I have a drinking problem. I drink far too much and can’t kick the habit on my own. So I go to AA a couple of times a week. Sometimes I share. Sometimes I don’t. I help a couple of people. I do odd bits of service here and there. I learn spiritual tips from people, which are great at keeping my life in balance, since the steps helped me to reconcile myself to my past and rebuild my relationships when I first got sober.


AA is great, but it needs to be balanced with other things, because I don’t want to exchange one addiction for another, and it absolutely serves its purpose: helping me to live more happily and effectively. Sure, there are lots of emotional quirks and low spots, but I’ll always be an alcoholic and I’ll always be human, so that’s to be expected. I’d love to do more, but I have a very full life, thanks to AA.

Being a member of AA

Being an alcoholic, there is a fundamental flaw in my mind: there is a pocket, still intact, where a drink seems like a good idea, despite the experience to the contrary. To never drink again I need an ongoing and permanently expanding spiritual experience. In principle this could be achieved outside AA, but a spiritual experience involves practical implementation of spiritual ideas in my relations with others, and the demand for my contribution and site of maximum effectiveness lie inside AA. I decide to join and make my relationship with God, expressed through AA, the centre of my life.

I treat AA as my spiritual home, and my home groups as the locus of that spiritual home.

My weekly schedule starts with the insertion into my calendar of my AA home group meetings and my other service commitments. These are also scheduled indefinitely into the future, to minimise the risk of other opportunities interfering. I attend diligently, and my schedule works around these fixed points.

I make strong relationships with many people at my home groups, and have daily contact with several people in which we share experience of clearing the manifestations of self in order to serve God and then our experience of serving God.

I do service at my home groups, and in a number of posts within the AA service structure, at different levels.

I sponsor, which involves a lot of daily contact with a number of people.

This is all pivoted around the axis: a relationship with God in which I ask: What would You have me do today?

I do not treat my life, my resources, my energies, my money, my body, my possessions, or my purpose as my own. This sounds radical, but it’s in the wording itself of Step Three, the decision to turn my will and my life over to God, not in the small print.

I also have other relationships with friends and family, what the world would call ‘a career’, what the world would call ‘my possessions’, ‘my money’, etc. In fact, these areas are all proceeding swimmingly. They are not more important or less important than the AA activities. There is no ranking, hierarchy, or order of priority, so there is no ‘balancing’ necessary.

There is only one question: What would God have me do today? I then implement the answer, and what flowers from that is a life that is both useful and enjoyable, both in and out of AA.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Having a home group

I have two home groups, each meeting once a week. (And, for the Traditions Police: I participate in group conscience meetings concerning matters affecting AA below group level or AA as a whole at only one group, so that I abide by the principle of one person, one voice, one vote within the fellowship of AA as a whole.)

So, back to the topic: I have two home groups, one on Friday, and one on Saturday.

What does that mean?

  • I go every week unless
    • I am out of town
    • I am at death's door,
    • There is a genuinely exceptional overriding interest (which happens in my experience maybe once or twice a year). Ordinary social engagements do not count.
  • I take on service assignments.
  • I turn up early.
  • I am amongst the last to leave.
  • I go for fellowship dinner after the meeting.
  • I see myself and act as one of the custodians of the spiritual entity that is the group.
    • I periodically consider:
      • What is our purpose?
      • Are we fulfilling that purpose?
      • What are we doing well?
      • What are we doing badly?
      • What do we need to do better?
      • How can that be implemented?
    • I watch out for where systems are falling down and am ready to step in.
    • I look out for newcomers and visitors and make sure they are welcomed.
  • I share my experience, strength, and hope, before, during, and after the meeting.
  • I am open to all.
Why? Well, because I've been taught to, is one reason.

But behind that:
  • It fosters a sense of unity and belonging.
  • It fosters a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
  • It provides a spiritual domain that I can then inhabit 24 hours a day, every day, whether or not the group is holding a meeting that day.
  • It provides an anchor and place of retreat from the world: in difficult times, I trust that all I have to do is get to my home group, and my sense of wellbeing will be restored.
  • As my home groups are solid Big Book/Twelve Step groups rather than general discussion groups, the members and visitors are typically AAs who live God- and others-centred as opposed to self-centred lives. I need this example around me and I need to be this example to those around me. Living a God- and others-centred life is impossible if surrounded by those who are not (or if living a solitary life, even if physically surrounded by people). Few have the spiritual resources to be effective monks or hermits.
In my experience, the above is at the core of the AA experience, and from it flow all other good actions, specifically Steps and service. Without this, the project of Steps and service always eventually falters and fails. The home group is both glue and fuel pipeline.

Remorse vs change

If I do something wrong, the job is not to wallow in remorse but to change. Change what? My beliefs, my thinking, my behaviour. Doesn't God remove our character defects? Yes, although if my defect is being late for work, God won't get me out of bed on time, I will have to set an alarm and then get up. I might need to ask God for the power to do that, but the initiative must come from me. It's no good hiding behind powerlessness and the wording of Steps Six and Seven. God will do for me what I cannot do for myself but God won't do for me what I can do for myself.

Remorse and self-reproach does not help, by the way, and are not a substitute for change. There are no points in the programme for morbid reflection.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Disagreeing without being disagreeable

Disagreeing without being disagreeable in AA is an acquired skill, and after much trial and error, I have made a little progress. Here are some tips I've picked up over the years on how to do this. The list is not exhaustive.

I present and explain. It's not my job to convince or persuade. Either you agree or you don't. That choice is yours.

It's reasonable to cite years of relevant experience to back up a view.

It's not reasonable to cite false authority, for instance, 'I once thought as you do, but now I've learned better.' If one moves from position A to position B, that does not mean that position B is necessarily right. One can just as well move from being right to being wrong.

I try to not insinuate false motives, contend the stupidity or malovelence of others, or extrapolate the other person's view (e.g. 'That kind of talk kills newcomers.')

There is nothing wrong with opinions based on experience, as an opinion is merely a view arrived at through examination and analysis of a situation, and God gave us brains to use. I try to avoid opinions based on pure theory or speculation, however.

I try to recognise that, within AA, there is no 'one true church'. In AA, reasonable people of good will disagree and disagree legitimately both on detail and on some major conceptual questions. A cursory investigation of differences of view and practice between Akron, New York, and Cleveland (and within those locations) in early AA will support this.

I remember that many people I disagree with on minor and major points are staying sober, living fruitfully, and helping many people.

I try to talk about my experience and views. I try to not talk about you under the figleaf of talking about me, for instance 'If I were to believe XYZ, that would mean that ABC'.

I try to avoid discussion of politics, religion, 'two-fold vs three-fold', 'recovering vs recovered', 'ongoing inventory: Step Ten or Step Four', and other contentious questions.

In general, I try to avoid being combative or vexatious, and try to avoid personalisation of the discussion.

'Does it need to be said, does it need to be said by me, does it need to be said right now?'

KMBFMS: keeping my big, fat mouth shut

MMOFB: minding my own ... business

WAIT: why am I talking?

WAIST: why am I still talking?

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Negative thinking

It's very easy to believe one's negative thinking. A cursory examination of people who are positive vs people who are negative will reveal that positive people are more cheerful, useful, and kind, over the long term, than negative people. You can judge the validity of thinking by the results it produces.

One problem with negative thinking is one's loyalty towards it: if I am thinking negative thoughts, I am inclined to believe them because I am thinking them. That's called arrogance: belief in my own superior abilities (in this case, thinking abilities), despite contrary evidence. The solution is to withdraw my loyalty towards my own negative thinking.

Instead of seeing my negative thinking as mine, the answer is to see it as the narrative of a small, excessively unattractive, puny, and nasty little goblin, crouching in the corner of my mind, possibly wearing (given the season) a tatty Christmas hat. It is ridiculous and unreal.

Thus: the negative thinking is not mine: it is a squatting, extraneous, and ill-intentioned set of ideas within my mind. It is not part of me; and it does not represent the truth.

Once I've disowned it, the job is to replace the narratives.

Repeat the following prayer whenever the negative narrative starts up, and imagine the ideas, powered by ranks of angels and God himself, blasting out, as if trumpeted from the top of a castle or citadel, and banishing the unwelcome, alien negative thoughts, like shadows, into nothingness.

'God is fully present here with me, now. God is the only real Presence; all the rest is but a shadow. God is perfect Goodness, and God is the cause only of perfect Good. I am divine spirit. I am a child of God. In God I live and move and have my being, so I do not fear. I am surrounded by the Presence of God and all is well. I am not afraid of the past; I am not afraid of the present; I am not afraid of the future; for God is with me. The Eternal God is my dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms. Nothing can touch me but the direct action of God Himself, and God is Love.'

Repeat as often as necessary, namely whenever tempted to think negatively. If you're meditating on negative things, you're meditating anyway, so you might as well meditate on something positive and affirming.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Four old beliefs that do not help

In AA we learn to let go of old beliefs.

Here are four old beliefs that cause a lot of pain in a lot of people:

  • Identification with anything external (where we live, social class, nationality, job, physical appearance, wealth, possessions, attire, health, prowess, health or infirmity, sex, gender, sexuality, political beliefs, religious beliefs): the truth is that these are not who we are, so, if they are threatened, we are not being threatened;
  • Identification with our own defects of belief, thinking, or behaviour: the truth is that there are not who we are, either: they are patterns operating within us but they are not us.
  • Assumption of the role of judge: believing that we are entitled and qualified to judge the worth, attainment, or any other parameters of ourselves or others: the truth is that we are neither entitled nor qualified.
  • Believing we should be 'better' than we are: faster, smarter, younger, more spiritual, less defective, more effective, more efficient, more productive: the truth is that where we are and what we are right now is just fine.
Correct these errors and life becomes a lot easier.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Bad thinking habits:

Treating one's thinking as infallible
Believing one's emotions accurately reflect reality
Speculation, interpretation, generalisation, and extrapolation based on insufficient data
Believing one can accurately discern the future
Believing one can accurately discern other people's beliefs, thoughts, and feelings
Filtering out or discounting the positive or the neutral
Deliberately hunting for, manufacturing, and magnifying the negative
Black-and-white thinking
Simplistic thinking
Belief in signs
Taking things personally
Gathering evidence to support a conclusion already drawn

Friday, 15 December 2017

The problem and the solution: Big Book quotations

The problem: self-reliance and selfishness

 … we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it.

We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people.

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success.

Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So, our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power.

Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life rather than give?

The solution: God-reliance and selflessness

The unselfishness of these men as we have come to know them, the entire absence of profit motive, and their community spirit, is indeed inspiring to one who has laboured long and wearily in this alcoholic field.

There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost.

I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me. Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others.

Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.

My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead.

My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems.

All of us spend much of our spare time in the sort of effort which we are going to describe.

… regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God’s ever advancing Creation …

… we might have observed that many spiritually-minded persons of all races, colours, and creeds were demonstrating a degree of stability, happiness, and usefulness which we should have sought ourselves …

When we saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe, we had to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did.

Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.

This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.

When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.

Perhaps there is a better way—we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.

At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.

Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them.

Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. “How can I best serve Thee—Thy will (not mine) be done.’’ These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.

Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? 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?

On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.

We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends.

As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.

To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self-sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action.

Suggest how important it is that he place the welfare of other people ahead of his own.

Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights’ sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counselling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanatoriums, hospitals, jails, and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night. Your wife may sometimes say she is neglected. A drunk may smash the furniture in your home, or burn a mattress. You may have to fight with him if he is violent. Sometimes you will have to call a doctor and administer sedatives under his direction. Another time you may have to send for the police or an ambulance. Occasionally you will have to meet such conditions.

Some of us have taken very hard knocks to learn this truth: Job or no job—wife or no wife—we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.

Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God.

Both you and the new man must walk day by day in the path of spiritual progress. If you persist, remarkable things will happen. When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than anything we could have planned. Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances!

Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it.

Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful.

Both of you will awaken to a new sense of responsibility for others. You, as well as your husband, ought to think of what you can put into life instead of how much you can take out.

Father feels he has struck something better than gold. For a time, he may try to hug the new treasure to himself. He may not see at once that he has barely scratched a limitless lode which will pay dividends only if he mines it for the rest of his life and insists on giving away the entire product.

Those of us who have spent much time in the world of spiritual make-believe have eventually seen the childishness of it. This dream world has been replaced by a great sense of purpose, accompanied by a growing consciousness of the power of God in our lives. We have come to believe He would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth. That is where our fellow travellers are, and that is where our work must be done.

Both saw that they must keep spiritually active. One day they called up the head nurse of a local hospital. They explained their need and inquired if she had a first-class alcoholic prospect.

Though they knew they must help other alcoholics if they would remain sober, that motive became secondary. It was transcended by the happiness they found in giving themselves for others. They shared their homes, their slender resources, and gladly devoted their spare hours to fellow-sufferers. They were willing, by day or night, to place a new man in the hospital and visit him afterward.

Seeing much of each other, 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.

Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick.

Thursday, 14 December 2017


There are two elements to upset:
  • A situation is not to my taste
  • Mental attack on the person or other cause
Regarding a situation not being to my taste: either I can and should change it, in which case I do. Or I can't and/or shouldn't, in which case I adjust to it. Swift and uncomplaining adjustment is the only rational response.

Regarding the mental attack: firstly this is fruitless, and secondly I'm not entitled to judge. The solution is therefore to waive the judgement, and the basis for the anger is withdrawn. Others are as they are and are not 'meant' to be otherwise. Reality must be faced, accommodated, and where necessary worked around. Rivers are not meant to run in a straight line.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

There are no character defects

All actions are neutral. Whether an action is a virtue or a defect depends on the scenario. All bad behaviour is a neutral tool that has been misused. Criticism, attack, and other apparently wholly negative phenomenon have their place: with the faculty of fault-finding, no change for the good would ever take place; without attack, no fire would ever be put out.

A character defect is therefore a path that is walked down, not an entity within you or me.

Others' character defects are therefore wrong pathways chosen, out of ignorance or powerlesness, for neither of which can anyone be blamed spiritually.

This is the essence of forgiveness.

Holiday parties

Sometimes holiday parties can't be avoided.

If you're in early days or otherwise shaky:

  • Line up a couple of people to talk to immediately after the event so you have that to look forward to
  • Remain in contact with sane people, by text
  • Imagine yourself encased in a soft, squidgy, see-through God-bubble that will keep you protected at all times
  • Try to engage positively and constructively in the party: increase the pleasure of those around you
  • Plan an escape route if you really can't cope, and make sure you're not dependent on anyone to leave
  • If you have to leave early, say you're unwell, which will be true
  • If it doesn't belong to you, don't even sniff it
  • If it does belong to you, definitely sniff it.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


Who do we invite along to meetings with us, and to fellowship afterwards?
The broken people, the crazy people, and the people who need and want help, in other words the people like us.
What if they're awkward, badly behaved, indecorous, socially inept, dull, cantankerous, obstreperous and enervating?
Bring them anyway and remove your judgement whilst you're doing it.

What do I have to do?

What do I have to do?
God's will!
What's that?
Look after yourself, be useful, have some fun.
What if I don't achieve what I think God's will is?
Either it wasn't God's will, or you didn't have the power to do it.
What do I do then?
If you definitely didn't manage to do God's will, ask God for the power to do it at the next available opportunity, since the power has to come from Him.
Is that it?
No fretting?
None at all.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Consciousness and purpose

The function of the ocean is apparent only at the level of the ocean and cannot be discerned from examining its constituent parts. Take a cubic meter of sea water and you will not see a microcosm of the ocean in a dynamic sense, only some salty water.

Human purpose can be determined only from the perspective of humanity as a whole. Individual consciousness cannot intellectually or even intuitively access that purpose, necessarily carved out, as it is, from the whole in order to enable limited personal consciousness.

It is this that makes the personal search for concretely defined meaning futile. Consciousness operates at a different level than purpose, and the latter cannot be accessed by the former.

The only solution is surrender to the greater purpose, personalised elements of which—God’s will for us—can indeed be accessed. The overall function cannot be discerned from this allocated purpose, however, just as the purpose of a human life cannot be discerned from examination of the function of a pancreatic or blood cell. 

Well, what do you know?

What other people think of you is none of your business

Saturday, 2 December 2017

'I don't have any conscious contact with God'

'I don't have any conscious contact with God'

This is something I regularly hear, and I identify. I identify, at least, with the feeling of having no conscious contact with God. However, that does not mean I do not have conscious contact.

In Step Eleven, I seek knowledge of God's will and the power to carry that out. If I look back at the day and discover it filled with good, productive, and others-centred activites, I have indeed successfully discerned God's will and accessed the power to carry that out. If that be true, I do have conscious contact with God.

Whether I 'feel' that God is in the room with me is as much a matter of sentiment and speculation as anything. One regularly encounters people demonstrably living what one would aspire to as a God-based life, in the form of others-centred action, with cheer, flexibility, and equanimity. What matters is not whether I feel saved or enlightened but whether or not I am discharging my service obligations within and outside AA, and indeed going beyond the call of duty in both domains.

Today, I measure conscious contact with God by examining whether I am actively seeking God's will in terms of my attitudes, thinking, and actions today and whether I am successfully implementing what I discern. If so, I am in conscious contact, regardless of the more abstract sense of God's presence or absence.

The only step you can complete perfectly ...

The only step you can complete perfectly, is it said, is Step One.

I would question this statement.

Step One is an admission. What is a perfect admission? Presumably an admission without any caveat, proviso, or reservation. Certainly, the Big Book says that there must be no reservation whatsoever. So far, so good.

However, what we’re dealing with in Step One is an alcoholic mind. An idea that can be clear, and wholeheartedly accepted, at ten past eleven in the morning can be joined by other, conflicting ideas by four-thirty in the afternoon, and completely displaced by seven in the evening.

The perfect execution of Step One would be such an admission which, 24 hours a day, for the rest of one’s life, remains perfectly untainted by any contradictory or conflicting thought. Frankly, I seriously doubt that anyone in AA has managed to keep their minds clear of any thoughts that contradict or conflict with Step One, for the rest of their lives.

In fact, it’s axiomatic that AAs, even those who are well recovered and decades sober, will exhibit moments (at the very least), if not hours, days, weeks, months, or years, of self-will, thus back-tracking brazenly on the second part of Step One, the admission that ‘we’ (the ‘small s’ self) cannot (successfully) manage our own lives.

Pretty much everyone I have sponsored, when completing Step One, whilst confident to proceed on the basis that its two propositions are true, concedes the presence and allure of stray thoughts. In fact, the presence and allure of such thoughts is precisely the insanity that the remainder of the steps is designed to combat, so one could expect the elimination of such thoughts only in tandem with the completion of the remainder of the Steps. If their permanent and perfect elimination were secured by the mere taking of Step One, the remainder of the steps would not be necessary.

So, my view is that taking Step One perfectly is an ideal, not an attained state.

Can other steps be taken perfectly? Steps Two, Three, and Six are unmeasurable, and Steps Four, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve are open-ended, with almost unlimited possibilities for expansion in time and scope. Let’s cross those off the list of steps that might be taken perfectly.

That leaves us with Five, Seven, Eight, and Nine.

Seven is a good candidate for perfect step-working. It’s a pivot point in the Steps, a one-off moment, and either one has said the prayer sincerely or one has not. So, Step Seven can be worked perfectly (although one might rightly argue that ‘humbly’ has degrees, and that no one is perfectly humble).

Steps Five, Eight, and Nine, provided that we use what in auditing would be called a ‘materiality threshold’, can be completely perfectly, and a failure to do so will likely result in relapse.

When auditors audit a firm’s accounts, they are not looking for every single error; they are looking for errors that result in material misstatement of the accounts. A threshhold is applied, below which errors are ignored as immaterial.

Similarly, in Step Five, every single manifestation of every character defect (in thought, word, and deed) is not trotted out. To do so would be impossible (for reasons of memory alone) and counterproductive: the purpose of the steps is not to stay locked in self-examination but to clear a path to allow God’s power to flow through us into right action on His behalf for our fellows.

A perfect Step Five is one in which the individual conveys all of the character defects she or he has, and character defects, in enumeration, are finite. The St Augustine Prayer Book contains a great listing, and that’s comprehensive but reassuringly finite. Apart from ‘twists of character’, we are to convey ‘dark crannies’ of the past. I take this to be the shameful and difficult secrets. Again, these are finite. If one works down from the worst, one fairly soon arrives at a point where the remaining secrets are merely minor indiscretions, and there is essentially nothing left hiding in the closet that has not in substance been conveyed already.

In practice, therefore, it’s perfectly possible to effect a perfect Step Five.

Similarly, with the judicious application of a materiality threshold, Step Eight is finite, and that sets the bounds of Step Nine: either one has done one’s utmost to set right these wrongs or one has not. The result is measurable, and perfection is thus attainable. The perfection is not one of outcome but effort.

In my case, the threat of relapse did not subside until I had done a reasonably good job on Steps Five, Eight, and Nine, and in particular the entry into the world of the spirit did not occur until, some years later, I completed Steps Five, Eight, and Nine much more satisfactorily, in each case leaving nothing significant inside that was not conveyed and, where applicable, amended.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Step Three and the bus-driver

In a healthy person, emotional impulses are not followed simply because they are there. A bus-driver does not suddenly change route because one of the passengers so requests. In an active addict, it is as though the bus-driver, on hearing one of the bus's passengers request a route change, immediately changes route, regardless of whether the proposed change makes sense.

In recovery, the addict voice will still be there for a while. The addict voice is essentially a wanting machine. It wants drink and drugs and to act out. It wants all sorts of other things too. We do not have to do what a particular voice in our head tells us. Surrender means dropping the behaviour pattern of simply obeying every emotional impulse that passes through one's mind as though it is the great, wise God we have pledged allegiance to. Surrender to impulse is essentially obedience to ourselves. Surrender to God means saying to ourselves, 'it does not matter what I want. I have decided to surrender to God's will instead (on the basis that this is in my best interests)'.

On our own we are powerless, but with God, the transformative process of the Steps, and the fellowship, we are not powerless. Power is available.

The first time we resist an internal impulse, there will be enormous pain. It will take a while to practise resisting the impulse and actively seeking God's protection and guidance sufficiently for the mechanism to work 100% of the time. One might fail for a while, but one must persist.

What is interesting in the stories in the Big Book is that there are several examples amongst the founders of admitting the paradox that, whilst we are powerless on our own, we have power if we stick together. Anyone can stay sober for a day, and anyone can stay abstinent from acting out for a day, provided that obedience to self is withdrawn and replaced with obedience to God and sound principle, with the support of people around us in recovery.

The only thing standing in our way is an unwillingness to feel bad when we resist. Oh well! We'll just have to put on our big girl's panties and withstand the emotion. It is, after all, just emotion, and will pass.

When do you call your sponsor?

Some people don't call their sponsor enough. Others call a sponsor or someone else when they could actually be developing the skill of solving problems themselves.

Here's a guideline I find helpful:

When I have a question, I examine my existing knowledge and experience and the range of materials I have available (books, documents, and other resources out there in the world) to find the answer. If these prove insufficient, I contact my sponsor presenting how far I managed to get, why this is insufficient, and what the remaining question is.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Is it appropriate for me to continue to go to AA?

My attitude: there are people that need help in AA, and we have but a daily reprieve. I have never found maintaining my sobriety inappropriate, and I have never found helping others to a resolution of their problems inappropriate.

I never question my continued extremely active engagement in AA because I don’t have the right to leave new suffering alcoholics to fend for themselves and I don’t have the right to expect others to do the job for me.

I fit myself to AA. It is not a garment I discard because it no longer suits me. I have never prayed to God and been given the answer, ‘stop serving Me; stop helping others.’

I love AA, but even when I don’t I continue taking indicated action and soon enough I love it again.

This approach has solved every single mental, emotional, psychological, material, and social problem I have ever had.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

When making amends would injure them or others

Here's a checklist of situations where contacting someone to apologise and offer appropriate action to set right the wrong (e.g. paying what you owe) would injure them or others:
  • Where criminal or administrative proceedings would likely be triggered that have further ramifications, involve others, cost others time and money, and impair one's ability to be maximally useful to God in the future (e.g. due to a criminal record).
  • The apology would necessitate the disclosure of new information. This might:
    • Concern third parties;
    • Entail criminal or administrative proceedings (see above);
    • Be hurtful in itself.
  • Discussion of the original harmful event would trigger associations with another harmful event that is entirely separate.
Generally, the fact that being reminded of a harmful event could bring out buried emotion concerning the event is not a reason not to make amends. The emotion has not been created but has simply been brought to the surface. This does not cause injury. In fact, bringing the emotion to the surface may be the only way healing can be achieved through the amends process.

If injury is equated with experiencing negative emotion, then the exercise of making amends could not exist but for the most trivial of harms.

In addition, there is an example in the book Alcoholics Anonymous of someone who is enraged by the attempt to make amends. Now, the book does not then suggest that one's decision to make amends was wrong on the basis that it brought out emotion. It in fact praises the individual for trying.

It is clear, therefore, that bringing out emotion is not itself an injury. An example of injury would be the creation of new negative emotion on the basis of altered circumstances or new information.

Exceptionally, an individual is emotionally labile, and resurfaced emotion could take on a life of its own and convert into action that harms the individual or others. In such circumstances, the direct amend may have to be made at some distance (e.g. in writing) or even, occasionally, not at all.

Finally, there are a few unusual situations where it could be unwise to make a direct approach without certain precautions being in place.
  • Where it would break a restraining or other court order.
  • Where the person is a stalker and contacting them could trigger a relapse into stalking behaviour.
  • Where romantic interest could be reignited.
  • Where you stalked them.

Solving problems

All problems consist in either being upset or not knowing what to do.


Make a list of the things you are upset about and the situations where you do not know what to do.
For the first, pray, and then write out a list of corrective measures taken from the AA programme or other compatible resources.

For the second, pray, and then set out the available courses of action and the pros and cons of each and then select the solution that best promotes the good of all, based on AA’s spiritual principles.

If you have a remaining question, call a sponsor with the results of the work you have done.

Set out the material in numbered points rather than as a stream of consciousness, for the sake of clarity of thought and communication. Keep each point clear, simple, and succinct.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

A new Employer

If you want money, you can work for it. All you have to do is get a job, show up, do as you're told, and not make a complete fool of yourself, for instance by interfering with other people's work or arguing. Magically, at the end of the month, money shows up in your bank account.

You do not need to put money into your own bank account. It's an automatic consequence of the above actions. The task is to perform the above actions, which are one stage removed from the money. Your money problem is solved.

Note that the money does not appear immediately but at the end of the month. That means it has to be earned, and whilst it's being earned, it's not yet visible to you, but it is accruing.

With Step Three, the commodity is happiness not money. God is offering us a job. All we have to do is show up, do as we're told, and not make a complete fool of ourselves, for instance by interfering with other people's lives or arguing. Magically, at the end of the month, happiness shows up. Not instantly. But it's on its way. Your happiness problem is solved and is no longer of any concern: the only thing that is of concern is the job.

When you go into work, you ask your line manager what to do.

With Step Three, it's as though you won't yet have a direct line to your line manager. Your security pass does not yet allow you onto the floor where your line manager works. However, your colleagues do have a security pass for the management floor (because they have completed Step Nine, the reward for which is the security pass for the management floor, where they have direct access to all of the line managers). Until then, therefore, you have to rely on a few, carefully selected colleagues for advice on what your line manager wants you to do. The line manager has indeed sent you a few memos and emails, so you're not completely clueless, but you do need others to provide their experience to fill in the gaps.

To be safe between taking Step Three and completing Step Nine, it's a good idea to have a bunch of people around you who have plenty of experience communicating with the line manager, or Higher Power, to help formulate safe and sound plans for the day and make any ad hoc big decisions until the relationship with the line manager, or Higher Power, is fully established.

Friday, 17 November 2017

An idea for a workshop

Suggest your home group hold a one-hour workshop on anonymity. Assemble all of the materials, which is all of the passages of the Big Book which talk either directly or indirectly about anonymity, plus all of the materials in the Twelve and Twelve, the various pamphlets published by AA and other fellowships, and the contents of Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age and Language of the Heart, and then prepare a pack with all of the information for people to read in advance. Then each person can take turns presenting to the group what each book says about anonymity, following which a discussion takes place.

Chapter Five 'honesty' and emergency procedures for newcomers and people in trouble

According to Chapter Five, the people who do not get well are those that cannot be honest with themselves.

At the start of recovery, the honesty required is the honest recognition that one cannot successfully manage one’s own life, in terms both of the addictive process and also in terms of the rest of one’s activities: even if one is superficially successful, the emotional strain and other collateral damage may be great. One cannot serve two masters, so the answer is binary: either one can successfully, consistently, and reliably follow the instructions of one’s own mind or one cannot, and intellect must be placed within the context of a higher power. This is the fundamental honesty that is required. If the conclusion is that one cannot trust oneself, one must place one’s life in the hands of God working through AA. At this point one locks oneself out of the room of active addiction, other insane behaviour, and self-will, and pushes the key under the door. In practice this means that one should initially turn the basic decision-making about the structure of the day over to the wisdom of sound, emotionally healthy, and intelligent friends in AA, who should suggest constructing each day to perform tasks of daily maintenance, to fulfil obligations, and to decorate one’s sober life with pleasant things. All one need do then is follow the actions, waiving the right to deviate from the plan without consultation, to which we defer, and deciding to turn any major ad hoc decisions about one’s life to the process of consultation with others. Of course, with time, this temporary measure will be replaced in full with God-reliance and relegation of consultation largely to a secondary position. Until then, this acts as the line of lights followed along the floor of a smoke-filled aeroplane cabin.

If this course is humbly followed, drinking becomes impossible as one has waived the right to seize the tiller, on the basis of the fundamental act of honesty about who or what is best placed to be in charge of one’s life: one’s own mind or the combination of principle, God, and wise others.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Doing God's will

Doing God's will involves two stages: (1) discerning God's will (2) following through.

If I draw up a good plan for the day, which involves taking the actions that maintain my life, discharging my obligations, and decorating the remainder with pleasant activities, I can treat that as God's will.

The question is then whether I will do it. If I do not, and instead follow an instruction that has occurred to me as a thought in my mind (without there being overriding circumstances and without revisiting the process of actively seeking God's will), I am substituting the latest thought that has come into my mind for God's will.

This means that, in that moment, I think that, of all of the ideas available in the universe, of all of the available sources of wisdom, of all of the things I have ever learned, it is the latest thought that has come into my mind that is the wisest. I am essentially saying that my new god is the latest thought that has come into my mind.

This is insanely arrogant. It's good to know the real source of the problem!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

'I can't seem to do what AA is asking'

The AA programme asks simple things: go here, talk to him, talk to her, write that down, read it out, pray, think about this, don't think about that, go to work, clean your home, help out.

Either the action is being taken or it is not.

If it is not (barring physical infirmity or psychosis), the reason is simple: the individual in question is doing what they want to do instead of what is being instructed or suggested.

The technical term for this is self-will.

Often, an individual, when questioned, will come up with a thousand reasons why they have not taken the action, but nine hundred and ninety-nine boil down to this: they had the thought, 'I will not do this', and they followed it.

How do I know this? Self-examination! This is exactly what is happening when I do not take an action: I have decided that my own thoughts are the god I will obey, so if I have a thought, I obey it, in breach of whatever instructions I have been given.

Someone might ask, 'but what can I do to break this cycle?' Unfortunately, I don't know. If a person wants to do whatever their mind tells them, that is up to them. When they're done and are willing to follow instructions regardless of what their mind tells them, then we're in business. When I was done following my own instructions, I became willing, and the rest is history.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Willing and wanting

The AA programme requires willingness. That means being prepared to take action. If action is not taken, that means there is no willingness. It is impossible to be willing and yet take no action.

Willing is different than wanting.

Most people equate the two, and will do something only if they want to. The AA programme is asking us to get past that equation and take indicated action whether we want to or not.

When one is employed, one takes the actions one is instructed to take, and our boss is not interested in whether we want to take the action or approve of it: the question is only whether we are willing to take the action. In AA it is much the same.

The 'right thing' could be an action of the programme (e.g. going to a meeting, doing stepwork, doing service) or it could be the right moral choice when we are faced with a choice between right and wrong elsewhere in life; the choice always boils down to this: am I willing to do what is good and right, regardless of feeling, impulse, or desire, or am I willing to do only what I want to do?

One might ask, 'but doesn't God remove our defects of character?' That's absolutely true. God will gradually remove the impulses, the false perceptions, the bad motivations, etc., but only if we lead with right action.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

But I haven't got the grit, wit, or wherewithal to stay sober!

Of course you haven't. That's the point. That's why we say we're powerless.

The only problem is failing to recognise this and trying to stay sober as someone without the grit, wit, wherewithal. We're inadequate. That's why we need God, and God fills in the gaps.

There's no point in thinking you can't go to God until you've untied the knot. God is there specifically to untie the knot. That's God's job. So embrace your inadequacy, go to God, and serve him by filling each day with a list of wholesome indicated activites, and in return find your entire life taken care of.

But I won't have fun sober!

There are lots of activities in the world. Two of them are drinking and taking drugs. That leaves all of the activities in the world except drinking and taking drugs. This is not really limiting.

Someone was asked what she does now she does not drink. She said, 'everything'.

If a person is struggling to find pleasure or joy sober, either (a) there is an emotional block to joy because of self-obsession (so work the Steps and get super involved in fellowship and service) or (b) an effort is not being made to find those activities that are joyful, fulfilling, and life affirming.

Some people find pleasure, fun, and joy in work, others in service, others in family, but here's a list of things that people (and now we're sober we're people too) do for fun. If you try all of this and discover none of them are fun, send me a postcard.

Air sports
Aircraft spotting
Amateur astronomy
Amateur geology
Amateur radio
American football
Art collecting
Association football
Auto audiophilia
Auto racing
Baton twirling
Beach/sun tanning
Becoming a child advocate
Bell ringing
Belly dancing
Bird watching
Board sports
Board games
Bridge building
Bringing food to the disabled
Building dollhouses
Butterfly watching
Button collecting
Cake decorating
Candle making
Car racing
Cave diving
Church/church activities
Cigar smoking
Cloud watching
Coin collecting
College football
Compose music
Computer programming
Creative writing
Crossword puzzles
Die cast collectibles
Digital photography
Disc golf
Eating out
Educational courses
Element collecting
Exercise (aerobics, weights)
Fast cars
Figure skating
Fossil hunting
Four wheeling
Freshwater aquariums
Garage saleing
Ghost hunting
Going to movies
Grip strength
Handwriting analysis
Hang gliding
Home automation
Home movies
Home repair
Home theatre
Horse riding
Hot air ballooning
Hula hooping
Ice hockey
Insect collecting
Jet engines
Jewellery making
Jigsaw puzzles
Kart racing
Keep a journal
Kitchen chemistry
Kite boarding
Lawn darts
Leaf collecting and pressing
Listening to music
Making model cars
Martial arts
Matchstick modelling
Metal detecting
Mineral collecting
Model building
Model rocketry
Model rockets
Modelling ships
Motor sports
Mountain biking
Mountain climbing
Mushroom hunting
Musical instruments
Owning an antique car
Pegging (cribbage)
Petal collecting and pressing
Playing an instrument
Playing music
Playing team sports
R/c boats
R/c cars
R/c helicopters
R/c planes
Radio-controlled modelling
Renting movies
Rescuing abused or abandoned animals
Restoring classic vehicles
Rock climbing
Rock collecting
Rugby league football
Saltwater aquariums
Sand castle building
Scale modelling
Scuba diving
Sculling or rowing
Seaglass collecting
Seashell collecting
Shark fishing
Shooting sport
Shortwave listening
Singing in choir
Skeet shooting
Sky diving
Smoking pipes
Soap making
Spending time with family/kids
Stamp collecting
String figures
Surf fishing
Table football
Table tennis
Tea tasting
Tesla coils
Tombstone rubbing
Tool collecting
Toy collecting
Train collecting
Train spotting
Treasure hunting
Trout tickling
TV watching
Ultimate frisbee
Urban exploration
Vintage books
Vintage car
Vintage clothing
Watching sporting events
Water sports
Working on cars
Writing music
Writing songs

But I only lose control sometimes!

Diseases have symptoms. Those symptoms are not permanently, universally present. Some people have back problems. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it does not. Just because, on a particular day, it does not hurt, does not mean that the problem has gone away. If you have a chest infection, you will cough. But not constantly. Just because you go one hour without coughing does not mean you have no chest infection.

But if your back regularly hurts; if you are coughing a fair amount, there is definitely something wrong.

So, if you ever lose control when you drink, you have a problem, even if it's only some of the time. All of the times you didn't lose control are irrelevant.

What does it mean if you have this problem (in conjunction with the propensity to return to the first drink despite the consequences)?

It means you have alcoholism, which is a disease that is progressive, fatal, and incurable, and, what's more, has an invisible line marking the point of no return, and that line can occur at any point during the course of a person's alcoholic career. Ever seen someone in AA slip in their 20s and then fail to make it back into AA, for decades, as they slip further and further into alcoholism? I have.

This means that, if you've stopped, you had better stay stopped.

So enough already with the it didn't happen every time!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Permitting resentment

Step Four teaches us some lessons about resentment, namely that it is futile (i.e. achieves nothing), fatal (i.e. promotes a return to drinking or other active addiction), and embarrassing (i.e. it puts others in control of our emotions). Pages 66 to 67 establish these incontrovertibly and then provide a solution.

After taking Step Four, however, I continued for a long time to permit high levels of resentment, believing that if I periodically practised Steps Ten and Eleven, both of which touch on resentment, and even Step Four, which focuses significantly on resentment, I could feel myself to be an excellent step-worker, morally upright, and executing the AA programme effectively. I mistook my crocodile tears of remorse for genuine contrition and used my copious AA activity to mask the lack of AA action.

I was dead wrong. If our problem is that we punch people in the face, and we discover in Step Four that this is immoral, harmful, and unconstructive, we would not permit ourselves to continue punching people in the face on the basis that to write about punching people in the face and to show remorse about it on a daily basis is just as good as stopping it altogether. The same would go for shouting at people, stealing their money, or other immoral behaviour.

The same principle applies to resentment. It was completely hypocritcal of me to nod faithfully during Step Four at the insights about resentment then merrily permit myself to continue to resent widely and deeply.

Page 66 makes really clear that resentment does not happen to me any more than any other bad behaviour: we permit it. Obviously we are not in control of the temptation to resent arising but we are in control of whether it is indulged.

Far too late I learned I had to stop indulging it. As with anything else, what I claim is progress not perfection. Permitting resentment then writing about it every evening is not progress, however; it is stasis. I suspect that what is needed amongst AA members, and I include myself in this, is not more inventory but more change.