Wednesday, 16 August 2017


Would I get offended if …?
I have more important things to do than be offended that other people don't think, act or speak how I would like them to.
Not only it is unpleasant (for me), it is pointless, embarrassing (because I'm letting someone else dictate my feelings), and ultimately one more pebble in the when-it's-full-I'll-relapse jar.
One is at perfectly liberty to be offended, it being a free world'n'all, but who would want to, and why? Maybe to enjoy the self-righteous satisfaction? That has always been a great appeal for me: look at me, Snow White, surrounded by at least seven malevolent and recalcitrant dwarves, not to mention the witch with her poisoned apple. And that’s the point: one’s offered poisoned apples the whole time. It’s no one’s choice but mine to eat one. Or a whole bowlful.
No, I enjoy my life much more not deliberating manufacturing my own misery by subconsciously laying behaviour traps for other people (technical term: expectations) and jumping up and down like Rumpelstiltskin whenever anyone puts a foot wrong.
If people are persistently unpleasant, my real question is, ‘why is this person in my life?’ or (if they’re necessarily there) ‘why am I having or perpetuating this interaction?’

Monday, 14 August 2017

In 1833, ...

In 1833, slavery was abolished. Do pass the word.

A little reminder: one does not need to remain in a relationship with someone who is malicious, menacing, unreasonably critical, or overly demanding. Even if they've been in your life for a long time. Even if they've been in your life forever.

It's tempting to try to remedy such situations with a judicious use of amends, boundaries, and general Good Deeds and Piety. That sometimes works. But sometimes you're playing chess with a pigeon. It ignores the rules, knocks over your king, poops on the board, then struts around like it won the game.

Leave the room. Put the phone down. Take the car keys and go. Maybe send a birthday and Christmas card, and an occasional bunch of flowers. But you do not have to keep trying to fix things, and their emotions in response to your decision to spend your life, instead, with people who are genial, affable, ask nothing of you, and laugh a lot, are not your responsibility either. They can find their own Higher Power, and it ain't you.

If ever you falter, read some Mary Oliver to remind yourself of some basic truths.

'You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles, repenting.'

'... though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, ...'

And when you stop trying to fix broken things and feeling guilty because you can't, all of the lights turn on, and you realise you already are wherever you thought you were headed.

Sunday, 13 August 2017


From the St Augustine Prayer Book list of undesirable character traits: ‘Malice. Ill-will, false accusations, slander, backbiting. Reading false motives into others’ behaviour. Initiation, collection or retailing gossip. Arousing, fostering, or organising antagonism against others. Unnecessary criticism, even when true.’

From the Big Book: ‘We families of Alcoholics Anonymous keep few skeletons in the closet. Everyone knows about the others’ alcoholic troubles. This is a condition which, in ordinary life, would produce untold grief; there might be scandalous gossip, laughter at the expense of other people, and a tendency to take advantage of intimate information. Among us, these are rare occurrences. We do talk about each other a great deal, but we almost invariably temper such talk by a spirit of love and tolerance.’

From Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: ’Self-righteous anger also can be very enjoyable. In a perverse way, we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticise; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness.’

From Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: ‘One unkind tirade or one wilful snap judgment can ruin our relation with another person for a whole day, or maybe a whole year. Nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen. We must avoid quick-tempered criticism and furious, power-driven argument.’

From Dr Bob’s Farewell Talk: ‘Let us also remember to guard that erring member the tongue, and if we must use it, let’s use it with kindness and consideration and tolerance.’

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Quarantine that thought!

Ask God: what mental topics are not fit for consumption (anything one is panicky, doom-laden, or contemptuously angry about). Make the list.

Then, whenever the temptation arises to think about these topics (which it will), quickly dismiss the thought and turn your mind to God, for instance by repeating a line or two from a favourite prayer.

Try this for 30 days.

Emmet Fox's original writing on the matter:
Stand By For Quarantine! (Emmet Fox)
When you are praying or treating about a particular thing, you should handle it, mentally, very carefully indeed. The ideal way is not to think about it at all except when you are actually praying about it. To think about it in between, especially to talk to other people about it, is exceedingly likely to invite failure.
When a new problem presents itself to you, you should immediately know the Truth[1] about it, and then decline to consider it except in the light of Truth. I call this ‘putting a subject in quarantine,’ and whenever I have been able to ‘quarantine’ a problem of my own I have always demonstrated very easily and very well.
Even and old, long-standing problem can be ‘put in quarantine’ today, if you mean business and will resolutely break the habit of constantly thinking over that problem.
Everyone knows that a photographer must not expose unfixed film to daylight if he wants to get results. Everyone knows how careful a chemist is to isolate (i.e., quarantine) his materials in the laboratory, since the slightest contamination of one chemical by another will probably ruin any experiment. What many Truth students do not seem to understand is that mental operations have to be just as carefully safeguarded if demonstrations are to be made.
Whenever you think about any subject, you are treating it with your thought—either for good or evil.

[1]  Sin [= "missing the mark"] is a sense of separateness from God, and is the major tragedy of human experience. It is, of course, rooted in selfishness. It is essentially an attempt to gain some supposed good to which we are not entitled in justice. It is a sense of isolated, self-regarding, personal existence, whereas the Truth of Being is that all is One. Our true selves are at one with God, undivided from Him, expressing His ideas, witnessing to His nature—the dynamic Thinking of that Mind. Because we are all one with the great Whole of which we are spiritually a part, it follows that we are one with all men. Just because in Him we live and move and have our being, we are, in the absolute sense, all essentially one.

Is it God's will? Resources

When asking God for God's will for us, answers may come through inspiration, an intuitive thought, or a decision.

To determine whether the answer is in fact the right answer, the following are useful questions:

  • What is for the good of all?
  • Is the motivation giving or getting?
  • Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said right now?
  • Is the proposed action the best use of my time and energy?
  • Is the proposed action in alignment with the principles of detachment in Al-Anon?

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

What shape is my ego?

The ego is invisible.

In some films, there is an invisible entity. The invisible entity is shown by throwing dust over the whole scene, and the shape of the invisible entity shows up, in outline. If you like Star Trek, you'll discover that the tachyon detection grid works in a similar way to reveal cloaked Romulan warships (

When I examine why I'm upset, I invariably find that I'm upset because I have a demand or an expectation. The sum total of the demands and the expectations is the plan for the universe devised by my ego. It is only by examining upset that the ego's global plan can be gradually revealed, and then dropped or redirected.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Endless inventory

Over time, further inventories will be needed, beyond the first Step Four. Whether these are cast as further Step Fours or Step Tens is a futile argument. Either way: they need to be done.

Nonetheless, it's possible to become fixated on inventory and thus avoid the solution.

Sometimes no new information is needed about resentments or fears and we need to flip straight to the solution:

Recognise the nothingness of self and the allness of God.
Remember that there is 'One Who Has All Power'.
Withdraw faith in one's own perception of 'reality'.
Mind one's own business.
Withdraw judgement.
Actively forgive.
Stay out of the past.
Stay out of the future.
Stop recreational speculation, interpretation, generalisation, and extrapolation.
Seek to understand in the place of judgment.
Seek to learn more about the object of the judgment.
Prohibit catastrophisation.
Actively foster gratitude.
Come back to the present.
Turn one's attention to a constructive activity.
Help others.
Gently and persistently turn the mind away promptly from negative thinking.
Downgrade demands into preferences.
Prayer and meditation.
Spiritual reading (I particularly recommend Emmet Fox).
Constructive activity.
Physical activity.
Creative activity.
Contact with others.
Contact with nature.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Ten tips I’ve been given:

  • Don't take what happens to you personally. If you did genuinely provoke, cause, or contribute to a negative situation, review your conduct, apologise, and amend your behaviour going forward. Then drop the matter.
  • Don't script your life: instead go with the flow, however unexpected.
  • Catastrophisation is irrational and habit-forming. Don't indulge it.
  • Don't have expectations. If you must have them, take responsibility for them by communicating them clearly and politely and accept being perceived as bossy.
  • When making decisions, stop waiting for superstitious signs or bizarre coincidences, and instead embrace prayer, evidence, reason, consultation, and detachment.
  • Don't avoid risk at all cost. Risks are sometimes reasonable to take. Be prepared for some things to go wrong. If they do, admit it promptly and recalibrate.
  • Don't compare your life to that of other people except, occasionally, to use others as a positive example and set a realistic objective. Then work for it.
  • Give your time only to those who deserve and respect it.
  • Forgive everyone for everything.
  • Give of yourself.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017


My mind takes perceptions, interprets them based on beliefs, and causes unhappiness. It does this without me wanting it to. It seems to enjoy it.

I might have to share a body with my mind, but I needn't be upset by it, provided that I remember I do not need to believe what it yields. It's a wordbox, not the Oracle of Delphi.

The book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' suggests that one has to let go of all old ideas to recover from alcoholism and live fruitfully and happily.

Here's a simple method I use, namely a prayer:

'Higher Power, I hereby place in your hands my welfare in all areas, knowing that if you need me to take any action in my own interest you will tell me directly and clearly. I hereby surrender to you all perceptions, beliefs, and interpretations: please dissolve, revise, and replace them, where necessary, according to Your will. I hereby place under your direction the only two resources I have: my time and my innate talents moulded by experience, for deployment as You see fit, for the good of all.'

Repeat as necessary.

Monday, 31 July 2017


I felt lost for a while in recovery. I didn't do the programme very thoroughly for a number of years. When I was many years sober I went through the Big Book turning everything I read into a question to learn about myself and then when I got to the instructions bit from page 63 I followed everything there to the tee.

In particular, there had been gaps in terms of forgiveness and amends. I deliberately and systematically forgave everyone and made amends to many people who had been missed, until I got to a point there was no one left to forgive and no one left to make amends to.

The top of my life blew off and I found I could be immensely use to other people who were struggling as I had struggled. Life became far smoother and far easier, and a lot of joy and light flowed into it.

In the many years since that happened one of the chief joys has been carrying this message to many people through sponsorship in AA and through service carrying AA's message to the community and to the society I live in.

A relationship with a Higher Power was established through working for that Higher Power through service, and once that relationship was fully established all sorts of other joys and interests erupted into my life that I had not been able to connect to properly before that point.

My job was and remains: find out not what my will is for me but what the Higher Power's will is for me. Sponsorship and service turned and kept the lights on, and the light has now filled my entire life.

Sunday, 30 July 2017


Courage: the strength flowing from a higher power channelled from deep within to face external adversity, challenge, or uncertainty.

Recovery has required me to change by facing not evading difficulty, pain, or discomfort and uncovering, discovering, and discarding all beliefs, attitudes, thinking, and behaviour that are not for the good of all.

It has required the abandonment of perfectionism—striving to acquire qualities serving base or selfish interests—in exchange for daily, concerted character-building: the relinquishment of vanity (in all its senses), self-centredness, and comfort- and thrill-seeking in favour of the virtues of patience, tolerance, kindness and love.

Everything worthwhile in my life has been achieved at the cost of self, and the price had always been well worth paying.

Saturday, 29 July 2017


Where the solution starts in any situation I am in is as follows:
(a) If I'm unhappy, discouraged, or otherwise at a loss, my perspective is wrong.
(b) I am entitled to my perspective but will continue to feel what I am feeling unless my perspective changes.
(c) I resolve to drop my entire perspective—to hold onto part of it is to hold onto all of it.
(d) I ask for a new perspective—from the Higher Power and from those I trust.

(e) I implement the course suggested.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Simple answers for people who stupidly think they're complicated

I posed four questions in prayer and meditation yesterday. (1) What is my relationship with humanity supposed to be? (2) What is my relationship towards the future supposed to be? (3) What is my purpose? (4) Where am I supposed to be? I asked these four questions because of generalised disquiet in these four areas over the last day or two. It's been suggested by people far wiser than me to take problems directly to prayer, and to seek answers that establish the attitudes and 'vision of the Higher Power's will for me' to embed in my consciousness. Whatever is embedded will then manifest, as it always has. If I embed negativity, that manifests. If I embed love, that manifests. And so on.

The answers that came – which when I consider them obviously come not from me but from the pool of wisdom and frankly sensible ideas I have been exposed to in recovery – were:

(1 Forgive, love, and serve others.
(2) Ignore the future except in as far as planning is strictly necessary and concentrate on the day.
(3) See 1.
(4) Grow where I'm planted.

None of these are novel or interesting, but this does not worry me. All spiritual answers to difficulties I have ever had boil down to simple, ground-level solutions rooted in humility.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Turning it over

Turning it over to the Higher Power for me means this: when I'm emotionally detached from the problem, I can access the Universe's best wisdom to act optimally, and the optimal solution will be achieved; when I'm emotionally involved, I don't see right, and I don't act right.

Occasionally, even when I act optimally, something bad happens: then, turning it over is asking to be given a way to look at the situation, namely the right way, which brings peace and love.

There is no situation I have ever experienced where this has not worked, with enough practice and dedication.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Turning to the Father of Light

Bill's Story: 
'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. '
A lot of people are unhappy. We create our own lives. Our physical lives are a manifestation of our thinking, and in turn of our beliefs, perceptions, and ideas. If we're unhappy, our beliefs, perceptions, ideas are wrong.

Here's a good solution:

(1) Make a list of areas where there are problems (either confusion, bad behaviour, or negativity):

Areas to look at:

Job, career, key intimate relationship, individual family relationships, relationship with friends in general, relationship with key friends, home, community, society as a whole, money, fun, particular hobbies, interests, or pursuits, body, food, sex, romance, religion, spiritual path, homegroup, AA as a whole, AA service, AA meetings, AA friends, stepwork, being sponsored, sponsoring

This is not an exhaustive list. Include the areas you have in your life.

(2) Spend half an hour a day to an hour every day saying a prayer something like this:

'God is big, strong, clever, creative, caring, and resourceful. God has infinite power and is infinite good. God is working through me out into the world, right now. God is currently dissolving all of my old ideas in the areas of ..., ..., and ... to replace them with new beliefs, perceptions, and ideas in order to bring about revolutionary change and fill my life and that of those around me with joy and purpose'.

Then visualise this actually happening.


Start with no more than three areas but build up as you start to become more practised.
Do this for one month at least.
Do not monitor results (although feel free to observe them).
Do not give up if any old thinking 'sticks': just persist with the exercise in the sure knowledge it is already working.
Make sure the exercise is sufficiently general in each area to cover the whole relationship or the whole area of your life.

Your life is about to change.

Meanwhile: adopt this approach in all matters at all times:
'Go slowly from duty to duty, everything in order, resting often and praying in between, and claiming the power to work miracles in the lives of other people.'

Friday, 7 July 2017

The gap in Step Four

Step Four is supposed to be a complete moral inventory.

The instructions as they stand in the Big Book will catch most defects (defective beliefs, thoughts, and actions), but there is a gap.

The questions that elicit the defects are chiefly those in the 'fourth column' (the questions in the middle of page 67) and those in the sex inventory (on page 69). However, if an area of one's life does not trigger substantial resentment and does not involve sex, defects can be missed because there is no question that elicits them.

To remedy this, take the page 67 questions, which according to the Book should be applied to the items on the resentment list, and apply them to the following areas (in as far as they are not covered elsewhere in the inventory):

(1) Work and study
(2) Community and society
(3) Religion and God
(4) Money.

This can then act as the basis for a wholesale redesign of these areas under God's guidance.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Conceptions of God

I wouldn't bother, if I were you, with elaborate conceptions of God.

It might be helpful to stick just to this: God fills the universe and you and me, God is good, God's will is in everyone's best interests, and if you want to serve God and not self, He'll be happy to point you in the right direction and give you everything you need to be OK.

Anything more sophisticated than that, and you'll likely run into difficulties.

A lot of people tie themselves up in knots trying to come up with a conception of God they understand, discovering that it does not answer all the questions, then abandoning the effort to actually establish a relationship with God out of the cynicism that then develops.

I'm all for what a friend of mine once said: less thinking, and more believing.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Steps Ten and Eleven in a nutshell

· Step Ten: monitoring one’s own thinking and behaviour in real time and redirecting both outwards to service and contributing to the world whenever resentment, fear, selfishness, and dishonesty strike.

· Step Eleven: checking in with God in the morning to plan how to serve God that day, and checking in with God in the evening to debrief.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

No such thing as a bad meeting

Here's a checklist of how to approach going to a meeting where one might be tempted to call it a 'bad meeting' because no one talks coherently about either the nature of alcoholism or their experience of the solution.

  • Find a bunch of friends to go with.
  • Get there early.
  • Find something practical to help out with.
  • Talk to a bunch of people before, asking God to work through me so that we can all benefit.
  • Aim to learn something from what is shared, even if it is about what not to do or what does not work.
  • Use the three minutes or so I get to share to carry a message of hope.
  • Talk to a bunch of people after, asking God to work through me so that we can all benefit.
  • Swap my number with people and tell them about my home group (assuming my home group is a good group).
  • If irritation arises with the meeting, use this as an opportunity to set aside my demands and expectations and instead visualise God's presence within me and within everyone else in the room.
  • Help clear up the room afterwards.
  • Go for fellowship with people afterwards.
  • Pray continuously, asking God for who to talk to and listen to and, if relevant, what to say.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Step Eight: helpful questions

When I write Step Eight, for each incident or relationship, I write:

What did I do?
What should I have done instead?
Who suffered and how?

When I examine the results, I find that they fall into five categories:

The act constituted a definite harm for which an amend is necessary. Action: formal amend.
No real harm was done, but an apology is required as a courtesy. Action: low-key apology.
The act was an error which merely needs correcting in my future behaviour. Action: corrective measure.
The act was part of the normal rough and tumble of life. Action: none.
The act was entirely harmless. Action: none.

Common sense will usually resolve which category an item falls within.

Where common sense fails, these questions may help to focus the mind:

What principle, rule, or custom did I breach?
Is the principle, rule, or custom universal?
Is it specific to a particular social, familial, or professional context?
How do I know this is a principle, rule, or custom?
Where did that information come from?
Is the source reliable?
Is it a principle, rule, or custom I see others observing?
It is a principle, rule, or custom I am morally obliged to follow?
Are there are any moral precepts involved?
If so, which?
Is the principle, rule, or custom hard and fast or merely a flexible guideline?
Would acting differently have breached any other principle, rule, or custom?
Have I ever breached the principle, rule, or custom in other relationships?
Did/do such breaches require amends in those relationships?
Do I see that principle, rule, or custom breached between others around me?
If so, do I see lasting harm being done?
If so, do I see temporary upset?
If so, are formal amends made?
If so, are apologies made?
Has anyone ever breached that principle, rule, or custom with me?
If so, was I harmed, was I merely upset, or was I unaffected?
If I was upset, was that reasonable, or was that because I was unduly touchy or sensitive?
If the act in question is not generally harmful, why do I think it was harmful in this case?
Did the other person contribute to the harmful situation?
Did they express consent, actively participate, fail to object or withdraw, or otherwise show that they were not actually upset, affronted, harmed, etc.?
Is the other person mentally ill, mentally disabled, a minor, physically frail, or otherwise disadvantaged, subordinate, or dependent such that they are not able to withhold consent or participation or to object or withdraw?
Was otherwise harmful or hurtful behaviour justified as a defensive measure?
Did the other person say that they had been harmed or upset, temporarily or for longer?
Have you observed a change in the person's behaviour towards you since the action?
Has anyone else reported to you that the person was harmed or upset?
Has anyone told you that your behaviour was wrong?
Is that person of sound mind, rational, sensible, and emotionally mature?
Have you already apologised?
Was the apology accepted?
Have you already corrected the behaviour?
Has the relationship already returned to normal?

A careful consideration of these questions will likely make the penny drop.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions Meeting Format

Welcome to the ............ group of Alcoholics Anonymous. My name’s ............ and I’m an alcoholic. Could we please have a moment’s silence to remember why we’re here and the still-suffering alcoholic both in and out of the rooms?

I’ve asked ............ to read the preamble.

This is a closed meeting of AA. In support of AA’s singleness of purpose, attendance at closed meetings is limited to persons who have a desire to stop drinking. If you think you have a problem with alcohol, you are welcome to attend this meeting.

Are there any newcomers to AA who would like to introduce themselves? This is not to embarrass you; this is simply to give you the welcome we enjoyed when we first came in.

Are there any visitors from out of town or other groups who would like to introduce themselves?

The format of this Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions Meeting is as follows. The instructions for the Twelve Steps are contained within the book Alcoholics Anonymous, fondly termed the Big Book. The book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions provides commentaries by AA members on the Twelve Steps plus essays on the Twelve Traditions. At this group we read from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, starting from the text of Step One and working through to the end of the text on Tradition Twelve.

At each meeting, we go round the room clockwise, each reading the next paragraph, and then sharing for up to two minutes on that paragraph. Anyone else who wishes to share on that paragraph may do so, for up to two minutes. Attendees may share more than once per meeting but are encouraged to allow others to share first if they have already shared, and to wait for a silence of a few seconds if wishing to share for a second or subsequent time, to allow everyone to share at least once, if they want to.

If you have experience taking the Step in question or experience with the Tradition, please share. If you do not, we invite you to listen for now, and to come for fellowship after the meeting at a local restaurant, where we can talk about AA and recovery-related matters more broadly.

I’ve asked ............ to start the reading.


That’s all the time we have for sharing, I’m afraid, but it’s not quite the end of the meeting.

We now practise Tradition 7, which states that AA groups ought to be fully supported by the voluntary contributions of their own members. Whilst the pot is going round, are there any AA-related announcements? [make sure pot makes it all the way round.]

In this group, we believe that sponsorship is an important resource in recovery. A sponsor is a guide to the Twelve Steps, fellowship, and service. Would all those willing to act as sponsors or answer questions about sponsorship please raise their hands now and keep them raised? If you are looking for a sponsor or have questions, please see one of these people afterwards.

I’d like to thank the service members of the group for making this meeting possible.

If you have enjoyed this meeting and would like to become a service member of the group in order to participate in its running, we invite you to attend our monthly business meetings, which are held immediately after the meeting on the first ............ of each month, and we will offer you a service assignment. Talk to any of the service members of the group, who are now raising their hands, if you have any questions.

Would you please join me in the Serenity Prayer to close our meeting. God ............

Monday, 29 May 2017


If I’m experiencing difficulties, I lack either information or power or both. Step work provides information and some power but sometimes not enough power. The amount of power I need is in line with the amount of spiritual growth I have undergone. That means that the need for power is progressive and increases over time, provided of course I am growing spiritually and am not stalled because of an active addictive process. Power comes from God, but there are many channels. In addition to step work, I find that prayer, meditation, nature, music, and physical activity are all powerful activators of the flow of power into my life. These alone and in aggregate are insufficient without people, and a relationship with God that does not involve a relationship with people is tenuous if not impossible.

The solution is to surround myself with people with more spiritual power than me. That has meant looking further and wider for accomplices in recovery and in my spiritual development more generally. It is also the solution to emotional difficulties where the step work is complete, at least formally, but the power to change is absent. Whenever I’ve been stuck I’ve discovered the missing element to be fellowship. The reason for this lack is often a resistance to building more or deeper relationships with others, usually due to contempt or disdain for others, combined with laziness, fear, or some other character defect.

Therefore, accessing power generally requires improving relationships with people with an extremely strong spiritual programme, and this in turn usually requires getting over the obstacles erected by character defects. To do this, I plan and execute the requisite action to build relationships, bolstered by Step Seven: lots of meetings, especially those with very strong AAs in attendance, going for dinner or coffee before or after, becoming regular at these meetings, and then finding people to build relationships with in between meetings.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The role of GSR at Intergroup

The role of GSR at Intergroup:
  • The GSR, attending Intergroup, becomes a member of a single spiritual entity. To understand the work of the GSR, one must understand the work of that spiritual entity.
  • Intergroup has three main roles: (i) to act as a link in the chain between AA as a whole and the individual group and its members; (ii) to facilitate public information work; (iii) to run internal AA events and take care of other internal matters of importance beyond group level.
  • Under Concept I, the ultimate authority for AA resides in the groups and their members. Under Concept II, a chain of delegation is established between this ultimate authority and the actual doers, who have delegated authority. This is like the relationship between the brain and the hands. This delegated authority is exercised by the people who perform the actual general service work in AA, whether it answering telephones or performing PI work. The GSR is the first and most important link in this chain, as without a GSR the group is detached from AA as a whole.
  • Preparation for being a GSR: a GSR must be well-read in AA literature, particularly on the Traditions, the Concepts, AA history, and AA service literature; a GSR should be sponsored by someone with extensive service experience; if the GSR’s sponsor does not have this experience, there should be someone further up the sponsorship chain able to provide service sponsorship, or another service sponsor can be taken on; the GSR should be a weekly attendee of the group and know the group’s ethos and its members sufficiently well to be able to make decisions on its behalf at Intergroup, even when the material presented at Intergroup is novel and has not been discussed at group level. There is not always time to refer every detail back to groups, and the GSR has to be able to think on her or his feet.
  • In AA as a whole, the General Service Conference has the final decision respecting large matters of general policy and finance; however, the General Service Board (GSB) has the chief initiative and takes active responsibility for these matters. General policy and finance means ‘what we want to do, and how much money we want to spend on it’. (Tradition VI)
  • The GSB plans and administrates its committee activities, but acts as stockholder to its corporations, so elects directors and then exercises oversight. (Tradition VIII)
  • Intergroup performs all three functions: (i) it covers general questions of policy and finance, akin to Conference; (ii) it has the chief initiative for projects and takes active responsibility for them, akin to the GSB, so that would include Intergroup’s PI activities; (iii) it exercises custodial oversight in relation to separately incorporated entities, e.g. financially ring-fenced conventions, where the actual running is left to the convention committee, and Intergroup merely oversees, intervening only when there is a serious problem affecting policy or finance (e.g. primary purpose, other traditions issues, or over-spending).
  • The GSRs role with these three is to be part of the Intergroup, acting as a single spiritual entity, (i) taking full responsibility for decisions on overall policy and finance; (ii) overseeing PI activities whilst trusting the PI officers to take care of the detail (Concept III—right of decision); (iii) exercising more remote oversight of conventions etc., in relation to which interference should be very rare.
  • Under Concept VIII, individual officers, committees, and directors are appointed by the GSB, and this applies at Intergroup; the Intergroup appoints officers, PI committees (e.g. Crisis at Christmas committees), and financially ring-fenced convention committees; under Concept XI, the aim is to appoint the best possible people to do the work required, with reference not just to AA skills but also to external experience, e.g. financial, management, leadership, technical, or administrative experience. To do this, we need to know the candidates. AA CVs need to be scrutinised, individuals, questioned, and concerns, raised. The best person for the job needs to be chosen.
  • The GSR’s job is also to collate service opportunities based on information learned at Intergroup. Some of these are recurring (e.g. telephone service) whilst others are non-recurring (e.g. particular vacancies). These opportunities could be at national, supra-regional, Regional, Intergroup, or more local level. These opportunities need to be presented weekly or monthly to the group.
  • The GSR can report news of the group to the rest of Intergroup. Such news includes temporary or permanent relocations and special or recurring events.
  • Conference Questions: every year, AA’s General Service Conference discusses questions and topics chosen by a committee out of all those submitted by members, groups, Intergroups, Regions, and other entities within AA. These must be discussed at group level, and the findings must be collated and presented at the London Region (North) Pre-Conference Assembly to the six Conference Delegates who represent the Region at the General Service Conference. At the Post-Conference Assembly, the Conference Delegates then report back to the GSRs the main decisions made at Conference, and these in turn are reported back to Groups.
  • GSRs are the main pool for taking on service at Intergroup. When there is a vacancy for an officer’s role at Intergroup, this vacancy should be brought to the attention of the group but the GSR should also consider taking up that vacancy herself or himself. Directly approaching potential good candidates is an important part of the GSR’s role. Many vacancies get filled in this way, rather than by someone spontaneously volunteering.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Why aren't the promises showing up?

Each Step in the Big Book is associated with promises. The promises come true, always. Sometimes they don't appear to show up.

There are three reasons:

(1) Not being painstaking or sincere with the Step.
(2) The promises are lost in the post; they'll arrive, but there may be a delay.
(3) The Step in question has been worked so slowly the joy is drip-fed. If someone gives you one thousand pounds, you'll notice it; if someone gives you one pound a day for three years, you won't notice anything.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A sorry tale

Friend: “Good morning. You look a bit down.”
Alcoholic: “Yes, well, I’ve had a bit of bad news.”
F: “I’m sorry to hear that. What is it?”
A: “Well you know the people who helped me stop drinking?”
F: “Yes?”
A: “Well, I was happy to go through their programme to get me off the sauce; that was a few months ago now, and I’ve got my life together, my job’s going well, my girlfriend’s come back, and I’m having a great time.”
F: “So what’s the problem?”
A: “The problem is that that they say there’s more I have to do, to stay sober forever.”
F: “That sounds rough! What do you have to do?”
A: “It’s just awful. I’m not sure I can bring myself to say it.”
F: [stares blankly]
A: “I suppose I have to tell you. They say I have to spend time with people, for the rest of my life.”
F: “What do you mean, ‘spend time with people’?”
A: “Just that. I’m supposed to go to these places a couple of times a week where there are people, and they take turns talking about their lives and discussing things. They actually want me to participate, and talk. And then I have to spend time with individual people, where I talk about myself, and they talk about themselves, and then we discuss things. Can you believe it?”
F: “That does sound rough. I mean, you really don’t like people, do you?”
A: “Actually, I do. I’m scared this is going to detract from my social life.”
F: “Your social life? What does that consist of?”
A: “Oh, spending time with people.”
F: “And what does that involve?”
A: “Well, we get together in groups and talk about our lives and discuss things. Sometimes I hang out with just one person, and we take turns talking about ourselves, and then we discuss things. See?”
F: “Erm … so what’s the problem? Don’t you like the fact that these people are also sober?”
A: “No, of course, I’m glad they’re sober. Sober people are much easier to be with than drunk people.”
F: “So what is the problem then? Are the sober people fundamentally different from the ‘social life people’? Is it that you have to spend time with particular sober people?”
A: “Well, firstly they’re just like the social life people, except firstly they’re sober all of the time rather than most of the time, and secondly they, like me, are condemned to having to spend time with people just to stay alive. On the second point, no, I can go where I want; in fact there are tens of thousands of people to choose from, and over nine hundred different places I can go in London, many in walking distance from my office and home.”
F: “So what you’re saying is, you have recovered from alcoholism, and all you have to do to stay sober forever and maintain the wonderful life you have been given is spend time with people?”
A: “Yes.”
F: “My heart goes out to you, mate.”

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Opportunities for service

Here is a list of opportunities for service in London:

  • Sponsor people
  • Perform service at group level
  • Visit other groups to carry the message
  • Become a GSR
  • Attend Intergroup/Region, either as a visitor, a GSR, or an officer
  • Take up an officer role at Intergroup or Region
  • Find opportunities to speak at treatment centres or rehabs, through Intergroup
  • Volunteer for telephone service (attend the monthly workshop at the Southern Service Office (SSO) for details,, relevant files here)
  • Volunteer for prison postal sponsorship (relevant files here: here)
  • Through your Intergroup, get on the twelfth-steppers list for your local postcode
  • Through the SSO, get on the relevant specialist twelfth-steppers lists: young people, speakers of foreign languages, people with armed services experience, and users of British sign language
  • If you speak Polish, Spanish, Russian, Farsi, Lithuanian, or Portuguese, attend meetings in those languages in London to help provide a bridge between those groups and the rest of AA
  • Volunteer for AA's annual contribution to Crisis at Christmas, through the SSO
  • Volunteer for prison service, through your local Intergroup Prison Liaison Officer
  • Engage in the 'though the gate' AA prison service: details
  • Volunteer for schools talks, though your local Intergroup Public Information Officer
  • Become an online responder: details
  • Volunteer for the online 'chat now' service: details
  • Scan this part of the website for further opportunities and vacancies: details 
  • Take up a role for Share magazine
  • Write for Share magazine: details
  • Become a member of a convention committee
  • Engage in online AA forums and carry the message there
  • Become a conference delegate or alternate conference delegate
  • Take up a role on one of the national sub-committees If you've been a conference delegate, become a board member.

Friday, 28 April 2017

90 in 90

Sometimes the idea of attending 90 meetings in 90 days is disparaged as a treatment centre invention or somehow incompatible with Big Book-based recovery. The Big Book does actually suggest daily meetings:

'A year and six months later these three had succeeded with seven more. 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. 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.' (Page 159)

My experience is that people who are interested in the Steps and Service sometimes neglect fellowship. They stall in their programmes and wonder why. If the problem is not lack of information it is lack of power. Meetings are an amazing source of power, as God works through people.

Other reasons for going to 90 in 90:

  • You meet lots of new people.
  • You make new friends.
  • You learn new things.
  • You can share widely with a large number of people.
  • You see how AA is done differently at different groups.
  • You see the benefits and drawbacks to a wide variety of approaches.
  • You realise you are a small part of a greater whole.
  • You realise that people can have successful recoveries doing things completely differently than you.
  • You realise that there is a still a lot of suffering out there and that there is much work to do.
  • You place yourself in God's hands by placing yourself in a position to be of maximum service to others.
  • You build your life around AA not the other way round, and everything becomes easier and simpler as sure power flows through you.
  • You are forced to be ingenious about how to fulfil all of your non-AA obligations and your AA obligations.
  • If you're anything like me, you become a lot happier!

Step Eight, harm or upset?

When writing out the list of harms in Step Eight, it can be difficult to work out whether something is severe enough to warrant a verbal amend instead of a mere correction of behaviour going forward.

When you manipulate water, it changes shape, but then it finds its own level again. When you manipulate clay, it changes shape, and stays that way.

If there is no lasting effect, in the sense of continued upset, a material change (for instance in someone's finances), or an alteration in how that person perceives himself or others or how he relates to you or others, then an amend is unlikely to be necessary.

If, like clay that has been manipulated, there is a lasting change, restoration is likely to be required.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

It's not about the past

It is impossible to be affected by the past. If I was hungry in 1984, I'm not currently affected by that hunger. I might be affected by current anger because of that hunger, or because of the current beliefs I have about that hunger and what it means about what the world then thought of me or what that tells me about what I am worth, but my problem is my current belief, my current thinking, or my current anger, not the past.

A good example is if I believed that something happened when it did not. The feelings are identical regardless of whether or not the event occurred. It is clear, therefore, that what affects me is not what happens to me but what I think about it. If some past events do not appear to affect me but others do, it is clearly not the past event, or even what I thought about it at the time which affects me, but what I think now.

Katie P once said, 'You want to talk about feelings? Your feelings come from a delusional mindset. Let's talk about delusion!'

When I'm resentful, or upset, or frightened, I am literally delusional: I think that I can be harmed or have been harmed, or will be harmed. I cannot. I am spirit. There is nothing wrong, there never has been, and there never will be, because I am not my body, my material circumstances, my external life, or anything that happens around me. WAKEY WAKEY! God is here, God is now, and all is well.

God provides what I need if I stay close to Him and perform His work well. That is what I need to keep my mind on: not delusions about the past, present, or future.

Thursday, 20 April 2017


AA groups have a treasurer to look after the money. Sometimes problems arise. These procedures minimise the risk to the individual and to the group.
  • Records should be kept in a book or folder.
  • This book or folder should be displayed prominently during group meetings and be available for inspection by group members at any time.
  • An oral report should be given every month.
  • The treasurer should be open to reasonable questions and not be defensive or secretive.
  • The records should be kept up to date.
  • The records should clearly show Tradition 7 receipts (the amount collected from the pot), expenditure on refreshments and literature, payments of rent, and contributions to Intergroup.
  • All entries should be initialled.
  • Documentary evidence of all expenditure and payments is required.
  • Tradition 7 receipts in particular should be signed for.
  • If a bank account is maintained, payments from the account must require two signatures, and receipts should be obtained for deposits into the account.
  • A prudent reserve of one month's expenses must be maintained, but no more.

If these procedures are adhered to, this minimises the possibility of the group being defrauded and protects the treasurer against unreasonable accusations of impropriety. These procedures also dissuade fraudulent individuals from taking up the role in the first place and deter fraud or 'borrowing' on the part of a normally honest treasurer.

Banks accounts tend to be time-consuming to set up and manage, because banks have complex administrative procedures that can be completed only during normal working hours and because the procedures often break down. The experience of most groups is that high street banks tend to lose documentation submitted, mis-key information, fail to implement requests for changes in correspondence address and authorised signatories, etc. Unless the group is taking a relatively large amount of money every week, it can be best to keep everything cash-based and keep the prudent reserve to an absolute minimum (maybe a couple of weeks of expenses).

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Is the Big Book sexist and does it matter?

The chapters 'To Wives' and 'The Family Afterward' presume that the alcoholic is male and the head of the family. The presentation of ideas and language used (specifically 'he' etc.) reflects this.

This was an accurate reflection of the membership of AA in 1939 and an accurate reflection of the structure of American society in 1939.

Is AA different and is society different now? Yes. Is it better that women are in AA? Obviously. It is better that women are emancipated and that there is greater equality between the sexes? I think so, and most would agree in western society. There are many cultures round the world where society does not reflect the current western model, however.

Is there a problem with the Big Book? I don't think so.

Firstly, part of the virtue of tolerance is to accept that different ages and different cultures have different sets of values. I cannot presume to impose my culture and values on others. It is particularly unfair to retrospectively condemn a prior culture and to dismiss what it has to say in general because one particular set of values or norms inherent in that culture differs from mine.

Secondly, I have intelligence and imagination. When I am reading the Big Book, I can be tolerant of the fact that the culture and values were different, and take any description of the alcoholic husband and alanonic wife and children to represent any constellation of individuals where one is alcoholic and the rest are not, regardless of sex, gender, age, or orientation. With the use of intelligence and imagination, I can extract the principles underlying the material and not get floored by the fact that I hold different values.

Sometimes people want to rewrite the Big Book to reflect modern, western, liberal values.

Firstly, this is not necessary, if tolerance, intelligence, and imagination are exercised, as above.

Secondly, this is presumptuous, because, whilst a revised Big Book might stop alienating some cultures, a politically correct version might equally alienate others. Who am I to say that my modern, western, liberal values trump all others? Do we need a different Big Book for every single culture, for every single set of values? A modern, western, liberal Big Book would be great. But we'd also need to rewrite it for orthodox or ultra-orthodox Jews, for ultra-orthodox Christian Russian nationalists, for tribes in South America with barely any contact with modern civilisation, and for Islamic societies where women are indeed treated very differently: in fact, the Big Book would probably be viewed in places as far too liberal by many cultures around the world.

Rather than rewriting the Big Book for every possible culture and set of values, and having to rewrite it every time the culture changes or values are updated, we could just adjust ourselves to what is: the document is a document of its time and place, and it takes little skill to overlook the differences between that culture and this, their values and ours, and to see that 99.9% of the material is universal to all cultures and applicable under any circumstances.

In fact, the call for a rewrite has already been answered in the form of the plethora of AA literature that has been published over the last few decades, and in particular the avowed aim of the stories which are reselected and rewritten with every new addition, to reflect changes in society and broadening of our membership.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Craving, obsession, and preoccupation

To be clear:

Physical craving: this is the powerful urge to continue drinking after the first drink, regardless of whether or not I am having a nice time, enjoying the drinking, feeling ill, acting anti-socially, or the threat of consequences. The physical craving refers to the effect of having the first drink and therefore to the effect of alcohol on the body and mind. It is physical not in the sense of being perceived physically but in the sense of being triggered by a physical change, namely the introduction of alcohol into the body. Wanting the first drink, even badly, or being preoccupied with the first drink is not an example of the physical craving.

Mental obsession: this is the thought that prompts the first drink, namely the idea that a drink would be a good idea (and the absence of effective counterargument). This is separate from a desire to drink and certainly distinct from the physical craving. It is termed an obsession because it persistently recurs, not because it is necessarily associated with powerful emotion, preoccupation, etc. It can be merely a passing thought that allows a person to take a proffered glass of champagne, 'accidentally' order a pint rather than an orange juice, or unexpectedly put a bottle of wine in a shopping trolley. It need not occur often to be fatal.

Preoccupation: this is sometimes referred to as 'craving' or 'obsession', but this causes confusion, as these two terms, in the Big Book, are reserved for other phenomena. Preoccupation is continually or continuously thinking about drinking or wanting to drink. It will not necessarily lead to a drink, unless accompanied by the mental obsession. If the person is sane, preoccupation will simply be a painful irritation, and can persist to some extent for years after a person joins AA and stops drinking. See the last page of Dr Bob's Nightmare for an example of this, or page 15 of the Big Book (Bill's Story).

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Early days

I struggled to get and remain sober in AA for a few months. There are some key elements in what ultimately succeeded:

I got a job. It was not a skilled job, an interesting job, or a job that contributed in any way to the development of a career. But it kept me out of trouble during the day, gave me something to think about other than myself, gave me an opportunity to practise the principle of service, put money in my pocket, secured the necessities of life, gave me a place in society, and positioned me as a giver not a taker. For seven hours a day, I was too busy to think about my emotional dramas, and I had respite from myself.

I placed action above emotion. I felt truly awful a lot of the time but made the decision under the guidance of the people around me to stick to my job, my other obligations, the daily actions of the programme, the process of the steps, attendance at meetings, fellowship with others, and service in AA, regardless of how I felt or what my opinion was on whether any of these particular actions were good for me: the examples around me in AA established that these were right, and I wasn't going to question them. I was told that if my arse fell off, I should pick it up and take it to an AA meeting. This is great advice: feeling bloody awful is not a sign to stop taking the right action but a sign to step up the right action. The best self-care was not to run away and lick my wounds but to go to an AA meeting and put out chairs.

My modus operandi throughout my life before AA was as follows: I was the centre of my own dramatic narrative, in which I played the leading role of hero and victim, misunderstood, out of place, and irreparably damaged by, yes, a cruel, cruel world. Now, the world was indeed unpleasant in certain ways, but on top of actual suffering I built a fantasy world of character, plot, and even theme music. I was most comfortable when I was lost inside my dramatic narrative, and when I was placed in a situation where I was not the centre of attention, I would act out: tears, hysterical outbursts, attention-seeking, vocalised suicidal ideation, self-harm, placing myself in dangerous situations, deliberate damage to physical objects, overt or covert accusations, theatrical gloom, emotional vomiting, endless talking about the dramatic narrative, and a complete resistance to any suggestion that there was another way to look at things. I was expert at recruiting people into my narrative, first as heroes but ultimately as villains, as no one was able to rescue me in the manner that I saw fit, and anyone who sought to dismantle my fantasy world became the enemy and, in my perception, a contributor to the growing evil of my life. Here is an illustration of how and why this began to change: in my first few weeks and months in AA, I would have panic attacks and run out of AA meetings. For a while, people would follow me to see if I was OK. Eventually, they gave up and left me to it. Once I had demonstrated to myself a few times that this was no longer going to work, the panic attacks, which had previously seemed involuntary, stopped spontaneously. Behind the apparent automatic behaviour was subconscious calculation. This was how AA helped me: genuine assistance was provided at the same time that people around me refused to indulge my unhelpful behaviour.

To become sponsorable, the following were necessary:

(1) I had to be willing to supplant my sponsor's perception of my situation for my own, without resistance.

(2) I had to be willing to take actions my sponsor suggested, without resistance.

Another issue I had in early recovery was mixed messages and mixed approaches. I was extremely unwell, mentally ill in fact, when I got sober. Many very well-meaning people suggested therapy. I followed their advice, and within a few sessions became persistently preoccupied with the sorry events of my childhood, convinced I could not start to have a positive experience of my life until these sorry events had been processed, believing that my modes of thinking and behaviour were so intrinsic to who I was that I could not be expected to change, and hyperaware of the tangled ball of painful perceptions and memories in my mind, which I believed meant that I could not be happy today or indeed ever until this was resolved, but unclear if, when, and how the therapeutic process I was engaged in could ever achieve this. I quickly acquired the perception of myself as so utterly damaged and broken that I would never be happy, and even more angry at my childhood and the figures that populated my narrative about it. As if this wasn't bad enough, the ideas in the therapy directly contradicted what was being taught to me in AA about how to live cheerfully, usefully, and kindly in the here and now. You cannot live in the day and talk about your past at the same time. The AA steps do look at the past, but only briefly and in a controlled way, to examine where my moral failings lay, and to provide the basis for forgiveness of others for their wrongs towards me. This is quite different from the therapy I was the subject of, which was psychotherapy largely consisting in me telling the therapist my thoughts about my feelings without any critical distance being introduced or without my beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes being challenged. When I stopped the therapy and started applying AA's approach of learning to live cheerfully, usefully, and kindly in the day, hope returned, and I started to get well. Over the 12 years that followed, I tried a couple of times to resume therapy to handle the residue left over from my childhood, but my experience in each case was that, although the therapy provided some temporary emotional relief, it did not contribute at all to the changes in perception of my past and myself that ultimately proved the road to wellness. The tools of the programme that did resolve these problems were as follows:

(1) Recognising that others are unwell

(2) Recognising that that everyone is dealt some good cards and some bad cards

(3) Recognising that what is past is literally no longer there

(4) Recognising my own infinite worth as a human being and that this applies equally to others

(5) Recognising that inferring who I am from what happens to me is flawed thinking

(6) Dropping the whole value system underpinning my interpretation of and interaction with the world

(7) Forgiving

(8) Making amends

(9) Guarding my thoughts and preventing negativity from gaining a foothold

(10) Actively seeking and developing a relationship with God

(11) Seeking to implement that relationship by working for God by serving others

(12) Remaining in the now

A key principle of the programme is letting go of old ideas. The Big Book suggests that we have to be willing to let go of our old ideas, and that the result is nil until we let go absolutely. I have learned to beware also of new old ideas. When I was new in AA, I went to too many different types of meeting and spoke at depth with too many people. The result was a soup of inconsistent ideas and belief systems, and my attempts to reconcile these ideas produced half-hearted action in all directions, dissipating my efforts, and putting the brakes on all lines of attack, as I was not fully committed to any particular approach. Once I adopted one particular approach to AA and decided to disregard the rest, the task was simpler, my mind was clearer, and I started to make very rapid progress. What this did mean, though, was that, to make progress, I had to be willing to have my sponsor challenge any idea I presented without resistance from me. The ideas I presented were old ideas from before AA but also new ideas from other people in AA or other domains (religion, spirituality, self-help, therapy, etc.) which were incompatible with what my sponsor was suggesting. For a while, until I was trained out of it, I would play my sponsor off against these other ideas and challenge what my sponsor was saying. Fortunately, I was trained out of this swiftly, as he said that he was merely offering me a package deal. I could take the package deal or leave it but he was not going to justify the package deal: he was simply offering me what he had been shown and what had worked for him. There was also no point in me trying to follow another spiritual or therapeutic process whilst trying to learn and adopt the programme, because it's impossible to create the space required by letting go of old ideas if, as I'm pouring out bad old ideas from one side of the jug, someone else is pouring bad or at least incompatible new ideas into the other.

To sum up, I had to let go of old, bad ideas, be wary of new and bad or incompatible ideas, adopt the programme of action wholeheartedly, and adopt a very simple approach to life: get on with what is in front of me, trust God, and disregard my own perceptions, beliefs, and thinking.

But you don't understand!

A common occurrence between a sponsor and a sponsee is this: the sponsee wants to talk about an emotional difficulty, namely circumstances that are causing pain or discomfort, and what the sponsee might change externally to remove the pain or discomfort. The sponsee asks the sponsor what to do about this, and the sponsor replies with something along the lines of letting go, relying on God for identity, purpose, direction, and supply, and maybe lots of meetings and service. The sponsee then complains of being misunderstood, and reiterates either the content or the asserted significance of the question, like the sponsor is a little deaf and of below average intelligence.

I have been on both sides of this conversation, many times.

Let me share three stories I have heard.

Bill talks about going to his sponsor with a complex problem, and the sponsor saying, ‘You need to go to God on this one’. Bill says, ‘You need to give me something more concrete, more specific. You need to give me something else.’ The sponsor says, ‘There is nothing else.’ Bill is sober a very long time.

Marilyn talks about trailing around after her sponsor at meetings trying to get her to stop for a moment so she could talk about her depression. The sponsor was always busily and cheerfully engaged in helping or organising or suchlike, and just when Marilyn thought she had her chance, in the parking lot, the sponsor got in the car and said, ‘See you tomorrow at the meeting!’ Marilyn is now over forty years sober, I think, or not far off.

Paul talks about going to his sponsor, complaining about his wife. His sponsor said, ‘Why don’t you stop thinking about it for a couple of days?’ He remonstrated, ‘Not think about it?! But then I’ll forget all about it!’ Paul died sober after several decades of happy sobriety.

Here are some ideas from AA literature:

The Twelve and Twelve talks about self-forgetting, in the St Francis prayer. That’s how we ultimately find ourselves, God, others, and the truth.

Bill’s Story talks about work and self-sacrifice for others and abandonment of self in the task of helping others as the way to survive the certain trials and low spots ahead.

Chapter Five talks about trying to arrange the rest of the world to suit oneself, and how selfishness and self-centredness is the problem. (This is why, aside from the Step Three decision itself, it’s a good idea not to make big decisions until Step Nine is completed, one is sponsoring a few people, and one is a good few months clear into really living the last three Steps and basing life on serving God by serving others: only once self is destroyed will we see whether the sought-after change in job, marriage, address, friends, physical gender, or religion is intended to enable us to serve God better or whether the change is to alleviate emotional discomfort stemming from wrong perception.)

Chapter Five goes on to say that we get everything we need if we stay close to God and perform His work well.

Once Step Three is taken, these are the only two questions that are worth discussing: how to stay close to God, and how to perform His work well.

This is all there is to discuss.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Working Tradition Twelve

Areas I endeavour not to convey specifics of, overtly or covertly, when I am sharing in meetings:

  • Current or past jobs or careers;
  • Current or past possessions;
  • Money, my own or my family's, past or present;
  • Achievements of my own or of people in my family, past or present;
  • Anything that could be construed as extravagant or exclusive;
  • Anything that would be valued by the worldly.

Essentially, anything to do with money, property, power, or prestige.

The twelve-step programme is based on anonymity; anything of worldly value in my life is an unmerited gift; these things come and go and are not a measure of absolute, permanent, or intrinsic worth or value; my value is eternal and infinite, as I am a child of God, and this goes for everyone else as well.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

How I handle a crisis

Firstly, I turn the whole situation over to God (Concept I).

I then have a little Conference with God (Concept II), and we exhaustively list all tasks I can and should perform immediately and in the short, medium, and long term to address the situation. Each should be broken down into its constituent parts, so I can have a plan for each one. They are then sorted into dates of performance and into an order.

I then turn the list of tasks (and sub-tasks) over to God, and ask God to retain ultimate authority over them (Concept I).

I then ask God to delegate back down to me the batch of tasks for the day, which it is my responsibility to take care of (Concept III).

Since everything is written down and being taken care of, I can legitimately set aside any temptation to dwell on the problem, situation, circumstance, drama, or crisis and deliberately turn my thoughts to God when tempted: God has this covered (Tradition X).

Periodically I report back in with God (Concept II) and we reassess the tasks. How often depends on how quickly things are changing: this might be monthly, weekly, or daily.

I find this method works well.

'Strong sponsorship'

An old-timer once said that there is no problem in AA that cannot be solved through 'strong sponsorship'.

One problem groups encounter is low attendance, with the accompanying difficulties of finding people to do service and collecting enough voluntary contributions to pay the group's expenses.

This is simply solved by group members holding the sponsoring of others to be their primary objective, and requiring sponsees to attend their home group as a condition of sponsorship, which has many advantages in any case.

This promptly solves the numbers, financial, and service problems.

The presence of sponsees (who will range from the newest members through to people with a few months or years) provides energy and impetus. Newer people are either in trouble or enthusiastic, as a rule, sometimes both, and this manifest need tends to galvanise members of longer standing and wrest the best from them. The primary purpose becomes clear, and the group tends to regain its focus.

Tradition III

Short form: 'The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.'

Long form: 'Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought AA membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an AA group, provided that, as a group, they have no other



  • There's a requirement at all, because commonality of purpose gives focus to meetings and identification is the key to the success of AA and in fact the only unique element to the programme.
  • There's only one requirement because the addition of other requirements would exclude people and thus defeat the purpose: that our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism.
  • Although there is only one overt requirement, this requirement is implicitly being an alcoholic who has a desire to stop drinking. People who have a desire to stop drinking who can stop or moderate on their own have nothing to offer AA in terms of its primary purpose as they do not have the problem AA seeks to solve.
  • One does not need to attain sobriety to join AA.
  • The implicit requirement being an alcoholic who has a desire to stop drinking is further extended by the long form: being an alcoholic who has a desire to stop drinking and recover; it is legitimate to ask people in AA if they wish to recover and to politely move on if they do not.
  • Expenses incurred in performing service should always be claimed so that the tradition is not established of particular service roles requiring solvency on the part of the individual to fund them.
  • Fellowship gatherings outside meetings should be at economical locations (or at locations where a person need not buy any food or beverage) to enable everyone to participate.
  • Meetings that require particular dress codes, sponsorship within the group to claim membership, the avoidance of swearing, or other behavioural norms are in overt breach of Tradition III.
  • Groups that overtly attempt to skew membership towards particular groups (groups based on gender, age, sexuality, profession, etc.) or invitation-only groups are in overt breach of Tradition III.
  • A further problem with special interest groups is that the siphoning off of, say, gay and lesbian members into gay and lesbian groups strips mainstream groups of gay and lesbian attendance, thus making it less likely that gay and lesbian newcomers attending a mainstream meeting will find other gays and lesbians there. Such groups therefore skew the demographics across the fellowship as a whole.
  • There are legitimate reasons for special interest groups, however, which I will not go into here; it can be justified to hold and list them in breach of Tradition III in favour of the overall purpose of AA, which is to achieve sobriety. The point is not that they are not a breach of Tradition III: the point is that breaches are sometimes warranted.
  • Using non-AA literature at AA meetings overtly breaches Tradition III as it tacitly endorses outside publications or approaches to recovery or spirituality.


When I was new, I found AA infuriating, because I heard a lot of platitudes about drinking and recovery but not a lot in the way of specifics about exactly what alcoholism consisted of, exactly why I was so unhappy in every other regard, exactly what my attitude and behaviour should be instead, and exactly how I should get from A to B.

At eight years sober, or so, I left AA for a while because I was up against a wall of despair at my failure to wrest happiness and satisfaction from my life and in AA was met, once again, with general platitudes in AA about how one should not take things so seriously and how one should just trust or take things a day at a time. I didn't drink, eventually returned to AA, and gradually found the solutions I was looking for.

I went to a meeting yesterday which was absolutely delightful, with wonderful people who clearly had relationships with God and were substantially at peace. If I hadn't had a spiritual awakening myself, however, I would have had trouble connecting because there was little in the way of specifics: problem, solution, and how to get from A to B.

I always endeavour to share on these three areas, to try and help anyone who is as frustrated as I was, both new and sober a while.

What is the problem?

A body that craves more alcohol when it drinks.
A mind that thinks alcohol is a solution despite negative consequences.
A spirit that seeks salvation in sex, money, power, prestige, comfort, thrills and appearance (the seven false gods).

What is the solution?

Never drinking again.
Establishing a relationship with God in recognition of the fact that the seven false gods referred to above are decorations of life, not its substance, and that the real substance lies in becoming a channel for God's grace to transform the lives of the people around me.

How do you get from A to B?

Take the Steps.

In particular:

Recognise the truth in Step One
Stop seeing myself as being so different in Step Two
Recognise the failure of the material life and the life of the ego in Step Three
Realise in Step Four I've been on a wild goose chase my whole life and forgive everyone for everything on the basis that their obedience to my wishes would not have yielded happiness anyway
Get rid of the sense of separateness in Step Five
Admit universal failure in Step Six
Humbly commit to a solution in Step Seven
See myself from other people's point of view in Step Eight
Build bridges in Step Nine
Become a guardian of my own thinking in Step Ten
Create a spiritual superhighway in Step Eleven
Bring heaven down to earth through sponsorship and service in Step Twelve.