“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
1. We suggest that you go through all of "Section A—Do This Before Starting R.A.'s Step Presentation," and all of "Section B—R.A.'s Step Presentation Part 1: Absorbing the program and philosophy," on this website before beginning this part of R.A.'s Step Presentation and "Formally Going Through Steps One through Eight." This part of our presentation presumes that you have read or listened to all of the vital information on these pages.
2. It was also suggested that you read the story "He Sold Himself Short" before starting this presentation. It is in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, in the Second Edition Stories section, on page 287. It is also in the Fourth Edition of the current Big Book on page 258. It was recommended that you pay special attention to pages 290 through the top of page 293 (Fourth Edition pages 261 through the top of page 264) as you were reading this story.
3. The course of action described in the story “He Sold Himself Short” can be divided into three sections. First, you will see that the author of this story spent two or three weeks living with the pioneers “trying to absorb as much of the program and philosophy as possible.” He also spent a great deal of time with Dr. Bob, A.A.’s co-founder.
4. Second, after only two or three weeks in program, Dr. Bob spent three or four hours one afternoon, formally going through what are now regarded as Steps One through Eight.
5. Doing this as part of R.A.'s Step Presentation may take three to five hours. However, even though we recognize that it may not always be practical, we suggest that you follow Dr. Bob's example and try to formally go through Steps One through Eight all in one session.
6. Third, Dr. Bob and the author later discussed what are now Steps Nine through Twelve. It is important to notice that this entire process only took weeks. It didn't take months or years.
7. In Part 1 of R.A.'s Step Presentation, we went through R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, reading and discussing every paragraph and following every direction. This includes following the pioneers’ “clear-cut directions” for taking the inventory that is in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book. In R.A., we do this so that you can absorb as much of the program and philosophy as possible.
8. In Part 2 of R.A.'s Step Presentation we will be formally going through Steps One through Eight. We will do this the way Dr. Bob is described doing it in the story “He Sold Himself Short.” This part of our presentation is designed to give you a similar experience to that described in the story.
9. In Part 3 of R.A.'s Step Presentation we will discuss Steps Nine through Twelve. This will equip you to go out and use these steps in your life. We will do this by going through R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, reading and discussing every paragraph.
10. The information in R.A.'s Step Presentation is not intended to convince you of anything. R.A.'s experience has been that if you read this material, you will come to the same conclusions that we have. R.A. wants to endorse your conclusions, not convince you of ours.
11. We will now share R.A.'s experience and understanding. Please keep in mind that the Twelve Steps are a specific process designed to produce a specific result. It is requested that you save all questions until the end of this presentation.
12. No one has to agree with what R.A. is saying. However, it is important for anyone who wants to thoroughly follow the pioneers' "clear-cut directions," to at least know about the concepts we are going to share. They can then choose to investigate these concepts. They may also choose to experiment with them, and come to their own conclusions.
13. It has become traditional for us to start each R.A. meeting and function by asking those present to take a few moments to silently pray for each other’s recovery.
14. Therefore, would those who wish to, please silently pray for the recovery of all those who are reading or listening to this presentation.
15. In Part 1 of R.A.'s Step Presentation you read and discussed the chapter "More About Alcoholism." Therefore, you have already done the groundwork needed for you to formally go through the First Step.
16. When you formally go through the First Step, you will need to admit that you are powerless over your problems and behaviors—that your life has become unmanageable.
17. Therefore, you will need to understand what the words "powerless" and "unmanageable" REALLY mean.
18. Powerlessness! It's a very simple concept. It's so simple a concept that many of us didn't really understand it.
19. When we look in a dictionary, we see that being powerless can be defined as: being unable to bring about one's purpose, intention, or end; being without influence; being without the ability to control.
20. Unmanageable can be defined as: being totally without the ability to manage; being without the ability to manipulate; being without the ability to control.
21. The pioneers put this into practical terms.
22. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 14, in the third paragraph it says:
"We alcoholics are men and women who had lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovered this control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals—usually brief—were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization."
23. In A.A. Comes of Age, in the middle of page 61, Bill Wilson, the
co-founder of A.A. described his powerlessness:
"I remember comparing myself to a cancer victim. If I had cancer, I would do anything to get well, would I not? Yes, anything, whatever. Would I sit home and put cold cream on the affected parts? No, of course not. What would I do? I would head for the best physician in the business and beg him to destroy or cut away those consuming cells. I would have to depend on him, my God of medicine, to save me. My dependence would be absolute; for myself I could do nothing.
"Alcoholism, not cancer, was my illness, but what was the difference? Was not alcoholism also a consumer of body and mind? Alcoholism took longer to do its killing, but the result was the same. So if there was a great Physician who could cure the alcoholic sickness, I had better seek Him now, at once. I had better find what my friend had found. Would I, like the cancer sufferer, do anything to get well? If getting well required me to pray at high noon in the public square with the other sufferers, would I swallow my pride and do that? Maybe I would."
24. Bill's definition of powerlessness was based on the recognition that if he had cancer there was not a thing he could do for himself. There was nothing he could do that would have an effect on cancer. He was totally, absolutely, completely powerless to cure himself of a disease of that nature.
25. Some of us in R.A. have found another analogy useful. We use the weather.
26. Very few people will say that there is anything they can do that is going to influence the weather. It is something we are readily, recognizably powerless over. Very few people believe that they can influence the weather.
27. It is easy to recognize that no amount of desire, of discipline, of willpower, of self-searching, of intelligence, or of knowledge we can attain, will influence the weather.
28. What we needed to recognize was that since we are without influence, we are also without blame. We obviously cannot be responsible for the weather. No one takes responsibility for the weather.
29. Since we are not responsible, we also have to be without guilt. We do not feel guilty for being unable to do the impossible.
30. If we want the sun to shine, and it rains, we don't take responsibility for it. We don't say, "If only I had made that phone call." Or "If only I had picked up that book, I could have caused the sun to shine." Since we don't take responsibility for the weather, we don't assume any guilt when it doesn't turn out the way we want. We don't feel we failed!
31. No one feels guilty because the weather doesn't turn out the way they wanted it to. They can recognize they are powerless over the weather.
32. This concept of absolute, complete, and total powerlessness over the weather can then be transferred to any compulsion or obsession, to any problem, and behavior, or to life in general. We needed to recognize that we are as absolutely, totally, completely powerless over our problems and behaviors, as we are over the weather.
33. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 5, starting with the eighth paragraph, Bill Wilson says:
"But my friend sat before me, and he made the point-blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead, suddenly taken from the scrap heap to a level of life better than the best he had ever known!
"Had this power originated in him? Obviously it had not. There had been no more power in him than there was in me at that minute; and this was none at all."
34. Like Bill, Ebby "admitted complete defeat." Bill goes on to say that there was no more power in Ebby than there was in him, and this was none at all.
35. Admitting "complete defeat" makes it clear that we can't have a degree of powerlessness.
36. Some of us hesitated at this concept. We felt that, at times, we could take action. We forgot that no matter what actions we took or did not take, we still could not control the outcome, the result of those actions. We were, and are, powerless.
37. One of R.A.'s members shares:
"My powerlessness finally hit home when I thought of how many lottery tickets I had bought. As important as I thought buying lottery tickets was, I still occasionally forgot to buy one. And even when I took the action of buying a lottery ticket, there was no way I could control the result. No matter how many tickets I bought or how often I bought them, whether or not I won had to be up to a Power greater than myself."
38. Others hesitated to admit they were powerless because they felt that they were living a moral life and had a philosophy that included helping others.
39. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 20, in the fourth paragraph, it says:
"If a mere code of morals, or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried. We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn't there. Our human resources, as marshalled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly."
40. The needed power was not there. Our human resources failed utterly. This is the essence of the First Step, that we are powerless, that our lives are unmanageable.
41. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 26, in the third paragraph it says:
"You may think you can find an easier, softer way. We doubt if you can. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely."
42. Another one of R.A.'s members shares:
"I needed to accept that I was totally, absolutely, unconditionally without power or influence over my problems and behaviors, and over life itself. That, to me, is what this step now calls for.
"The sun shining on a day I wanted the sun to shine didn't mean I personally had control over the weather. It just meant that God's will happened to coincide with mine for that day.
"I came to understand that the fact that I was sometimes able to drink, eat, or feel the way I wanted to, only meant that God's will happened to coincide with mine for that day. I was still as powerless as ever over the weather, as powerless as ever over my problems and behaviors, and over life in general. Just because I did some things the way I wanted to, didn't mean I had been given control over them, or over my life. I had years of proof that I could not be in control. I had the proof; I just wouldn't accept it."
43. Our member recognized that the idea that he had to take responsibility for, be in control of, or be able to do something about, his behavior, attitudes or emotions, were the old ideas that he had tried to hold on to, and the result was nil until he let go absolutely.
44. He saw that the oldest idea in the world, the one that he had since he was a child, was that if he only had some will power, if he only had some self control, if he only had some discipline, he would be able to influence his behavior and stop hurting himself and others.
45. The Big Book tells us that until we let go of these old ideas completely, the result will be nil. His oldest idea was that he had to be responsible for his recovery. The new idea is that he needs to turn somewhere else, to something else, for that recovery.
46. He needed to recognize his complete, absolute, total, 100 percent powerlessness, and he needed to recognize that life itself was unmanageable by him. Life had never turned out the way he had wanted it to before, and it wasn't about to now.
47. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 26, in the fifth paragraph it says:
"Half measures will avail you nothing. You stand at the turning point. Throw yourself under His protection and care with complete abandon."
48. Formally going through the steps involves a mental process, an attitude change.
49. Just listen to these words from the first two steps: “Admitted,” that's an attitude change, not an act. “Came to believe,” is an attitude change, not an act.
50. It isn't like taking a book and moving it from one place to another. It's an attitude change brought about by a spiritual experience. Each step is designed to ultimately produce a spiritual experience.
51. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 12, in the ninth paragraph, starting with the third sentence, it says:
“Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.”
52. One of R.A.'s members shares:
"The concept that I am 100 percent powerless is a completely new concept; the idea that I was insane is a new idea; the belief that I can be restored to sanity is a completely new belief."
53. When we have a completely new set of conceptions and motives, our attitude will change automatically. If our attitude has changed, THEN our behavior will also change.
54. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 38, in the bottom paragraph, starting with the last three words on the third line, it says:
“You will react sanely and normally. You will find this has happened automatically. You will see that your new attitude toward liquor has been given you without any thought or effort on your part.”
55. Going through and working the steps brings about a change in attitude. It's the attitude change that brings about the changes in behavior. If we still have the SAME motives and rationales, eventually, we go back to the SAME behavior.
56. This program does not work by changing our behavior. Its function is to change the emotions and motives behind the behavior. Attempting to impose a new set of behaviors, without the change in the underlying attitudes, produces only temporary success.
57. One of R.A.'s members shares:
"There is no reason why just being in program should enable me to do something I was never able to do before.
“There is the story about a man who goes to his doctor with both hands in plaster casts. The doctor says to him: ‘When those casts come off, your hands are going to be just great.' The man says: ‘You mean I'll be able to play the piano?' The doctor says: ‘I don't see why not.' The man says: ‘Well, I never could before!'”
58. Putting the principles of Recoveries Anonymous into practice produces the attitude change. This change in attitude then produces the change in behavior.
59. Please open R.A.'s Step Presentation Workbook to page 16. Please look at the box labeled Step One on R.A.'S STEP WORKSHEET “A.”
60. Formally going through the steps involves a mental process, an attitude change, demonstrated by a willingness to go from saying: “No, never!” to “yes” or “maybe.”
61. In other words, as it says in the 12 & 12 in the middle of page 108:
“This I cannot do today, perhaps, but I can stop crying out ‘No, never!'”
62. Can you now admit that you are absolutely, completely powerless? Can you now recognize, using your entire life's history as your example, that you are powerless over your problems and behaviors?
a. Looking at your worksheet on page 16 in R.A.'s Step Presentation Workbook, if you can admit that you are powerless, circle “yes.”
b. If you can't admit it now, will you at least stop crying out “No, never!” Can you imagine at some point, even if it's five or ten years from now, making that admission? Can you imagine doing this because admitting your powerlessness over your problems and behaviors is going to save your life? If you can imagine the possibility of someday, even five or ten years from now, making that admission, then circle “maybe.”
c. If you still believe that you can, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, somehow still control your problems and behaviors, and you believe that you are never going to admit you are powerless, then circle “no.”
63. The second part of this step involves the same mental process as the first.
a. If you can admit that life is totally, absolutely, completely unmanageable by you, then circle “yes.”
b. If not now, can you imagine at some point, even if it's 5 or 10 years from now, making that admission because that admission is going to save your life? If you can imagine the possibility of someday making that admission, then circle “maybe.”
c. If you still feel, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that you are in control, and are never going to admit that your life is unmanageable, then circle “no.”
64. If you have circled “yes” or “maybe,” you have taken the first step in thoroughly following the path of recovery.
65. You may now have the realization that you ARE powerless and cannot control, manage, manipulate, or have influence over your problems and behaviors or over your life itself.
66. If you have circled “no,” then please accept that at some point you may need to admit that you ARE powerless, that you are not responsible for your recovery. Please accept that you may need to let God do for you what you could NEVER do for yourself.
67. Attempting to manage, to manipulate, to control, or to influence things is not the path of the men and women who wrote the Big Book.
68. If you can realize this, then perhaps at some point you can switch from “no” to “maybe” or even to “yes.” In any case, even if you have circled “no,” please stay with us and continue on with these steps because, as it says in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 26, in the first paragraph:
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our directions.”
69. Next, we suggest that you keep following Dr. Bob's example, and, if possible, immediately continue on by formally going through Step Two.
Please use R.A.'s Questions and Answers Forum to ask any questions or make any comments about any of this.