Alcoholics Anonymous is a splendid program of recovery from alcohol addiction founded by Bill Wilson. Alcoholics Anonymous centers on the twelve steps of recovery. These steps genuinely help persons who suffer from arrested development through their alcohol and drug use. A problem shared by many addicts is an enormous sense of self-absorption which creates a narcissistic bent. Their self-centeredness creates chaos and confusion for them and everyone around them. The process of breaking down this narcissism and enabling them to grow up starts with the first three steps of AA, as it is popularly called.
These steps have been described as “I can’t, You can, Please do.” The first step is actually a confession, “I am powerless over alcohol, and my life has become unmanageable.” Number two is a faith statement: “I have come to believe that a Power outside of myself can restore me to sanity.” And the third step is, “I made a decision to turn my life and my will over to God as I understand God.” These first three essential steps are followed by a moral inventory which includes a confession of one’s errors, making amends and then reaching out to care for others who suffer from this disease.
I began my journey of recovery with my conversion to Christ. That conversion involved giving up drugs and alcohol plus a serious study of the Bible. It also involved my strong participation in the church. It was not until later, when my son got overpowered by alcohol, that I began going to Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon with him. The heart of this program of recovery contains Twelve Steps that describe the experience of the earliest AA members who:
- Admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- 5Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
In Alcoholics Anonymous I experienced one thing that was very different from my church experience; among these men and women I experienced a candid honesty with each other. Note the fourth, fifth and tenth steps in which the program demands complete honesty. Alcoholics Anonymous focuses on a continuous probing of the depths of one’s failure, dysfunction and wreckage, which alcohol causes in the person’s life and that of others. The undisciplined use of alcohol blocks relationships, creates distance, provides a shield and without alcohol many cannot be intimate.
I experienced Alcoholics Anonymous taking very seriously the biblical notion of the confession of sin to one another in order to find healing. The founder of AA, Bill Wilson, very wisely chose the way he stated the third step as turning our lives over to the power of God as we understood God. This perspective opens Alcoholics Anonymous to anyone and everyone regardless of their theology or lack thereof.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a twelve-part tradition that lays out the nature of the relationship of its members.
- Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
- For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience.
- Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
- The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
- Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
- Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
- An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
- AA, as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never to be drawn into public controversy.
- Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.