1. As we have noted before, R.A.'s Multilith Big Book has forty pages discussing the first eleven Steps. There are then five chapters on thirty-six pages that discuss the various aspects of the Twelfth Step. In R.A., we believe that this makes it clear how important these five chapters are.
2. We are now going to read and discuss Chapter Eight, "To Wives." It contains the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" for working with a spouse or significant other.
3. Chapter Nine, "The Family Afterward," is the next chapter. It details how to work with other family members. Then, Chapter Ten, "To Employers," details how to work with an employee. Finally, Chapter Eleven, "A Vision for You," tells us why we need to work with others, and the results of doing so.
4. Many people, when they are new to the program, do not read Chapter Eight, "To Wives." The main reason for this is that he or she is not a wife. Therefore, they do not think this chapter has anything for them.
5. In R.A., the first time many people read this chapter is when they do R.A.'s Highlighting Introduction. R.A.'s Highlighting Introduction suggests going through the entire Big Book, highlighting and underlining on every page.
6. Then R.A.'s Highlighting Introduction suggests reading all the highlighted passages, and then the entire book. When these suggestions are followed, most people find "To Wives" to be a beautiful, relevant chapter.
7. This chapter contains the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" for working with an alcoholic spouse or significant other. It is an extension of the previous chapter, "Working With Others."
8. The chapter "To Wives" explains that the alcoholic and the spouse both have the same "spiritual malady."
9. More than that, this chapter shows someone how to have love, tolerance, and forgiveness toward themselves, for they are sick too! In addition, this chapter gives someone a blueprint showing how to react to other people using basic spiritual principles.
10. It is interesting to note that Bill Wilson wrote this chapter, just like he wrote the preceding ones. Bill's wife, in her autobiography, "Lois Remembers," on page 114, in the first full paragraph, says, "I had expected Bill to ask me to write the chapter 'To Wives' and perhaps the following one, 'The Family Afterward.' When I shyly suggested this, he said no; he thought the book, except for the stories, should all be written in the same style. I have never known why he didn't want me to write about the wives, and it hurt me at first; but our lives were so full that I didn't have time to think about it much."
11. Even though Bill wrote this chapter, like the rest of the Multilith Copy of the Big Book, it was given to the members of the fellowship for comments and suggestions. Therefore, it did reflect the opinion of the pioneers, including the wives.
12. Remember, at that time, the wives attended and participated in the program on an equal basis with their husbands. In DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, there is an entire chapter devoted to "The Wives role in early A.A." On page 235, the second paragraph says, "The wives' role was extremely important in the earliest days of AA. It is no exaggeration to say that there would have been no A.A. without those wives."
13. In R.A., we duplicate what was available in the early A.A. meetings. Therefore, every R.A. group, and meeting, is open to equal participation by friends and family members who would like to be members of our fellowship.
14. R.A.'s experience is that participation by friends and family is very helpful to the recovery of both, and to the healing of the entire family.
15. We will now share R.A.'s understanding and experience. Please keep in mind that the Twelve Steps are a specific process that produces a specific result.
16. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, please turn to page 48, the first page of "To Wives." The first paragraph says:
"With few exceptions, our book thus far has spoken of men. But what we have said applies quite as much to women. Our activities in behalf of women who drink are on the increase. There is every evidence that women regain their health as readily as men if they follow our suggestions."
17. The pioneers are again sharing their experience. They acknowledge that the Big Book, so far, has talked about men. Here they make it clear that all of the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" also apply to women. As more women came into the program, their experience was that women recovered the same as men did.
18. Notice that they do add a condition. They say that women get well as readily as men, if they also follow the pioneers' suggestions, and work all Twelve Steps.
19. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 48, the second paragraph says:
"But for every man who drinks others are involved — the wife who trembles in fear of the next debauch; the mother and father who see their son wasting away."
20. Here the pioneers make clear that others are affected by someone's problems and behaviors. This is why it is important for everyone involved to start working the Twelve Step program of recovery.
21. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 48, the third paragraph says:
"Among us are wives, relatives, and friends whose problem has been solved, as well as some who have not yet found a happy solution. We shall let the wives of Alcoholics Anonymous address the wives of men who drink too much. What they say will apply to nearly everyone bound by ties of blood or affection to an alcoholic."
22. In this paragraph, the pioneers assure us that the program works. They say, "Among us are wives, relatives, and friends whose problem has been solved..." as the result of following the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" to work all Twelve Steps.
23. They go on to say that there are also "some who have not yet found a happy solution."
24. Next, they say that the suggestions and "clear-cut directions" that follow, "apply to nearly everyone bound by ties of blood or affection to an alcoholic."
25. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 48, in the fourth, fifth, and sixth paragraphs, the pioneers' "wives" share their experience:
"As wives of Alcoholics Anonymous, we want you to sense that we understand you as perhaps few can. We want to analyze mistakes we have made and help you to avoid them. We want to leave you with the feeling that no situation is too difficult and no unhappiness too great to be overcome.
"We have traveled a rocky road; there is no mistake about that. We have had long rendezvous with hurt pride, frustration, self-pity, misunderstanding, and fear. These are not pleasant companions. We have been driven to maudlin sympathy, to bitter resentment. We have veered from extreme to extreme, ever hoping that one day our loved ones would be themselves once more.
"Our loyalty, and the desire that our husbands hold up their heads and be like other men have begotten all sorts of predicaments. We have been unselfish and self-sacrificing. We have told innumerable lies to protect our pride and our husbands' reputations. We have prayed, we have begged, we have been patient. We have struck out viciously. We have run away. We have been hysterical. We have been terror stricken. We have sought sympathy. We have had retaliatory love affairs with other men."
26. Please notice that in these paragraphs, the pioneers' "wives" are describing the things they have done to try to control the people in their lives and themselves. This is the same kind of control the pioneers share about earlier in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 14, and page 27.
27. In other words, the character defects of the alcoholic, and the character defects of the people in their lives, are very similar. The alcoholic may use these traits in a vain attempt to control their problems and behaviors.
28. The people in their lives may use these character defects in a vain attempt to control the alcoholic. In both cases, they are trying to control, manage, and manipulate.
29. The pioneers are pointing out that wives, and other family members, are also spiritually sick. They are going to have the same character defects. They are also going to try to play God.
30. Remember what we read, on page 28, in the third paragraph. The pioneers give one of their "clear-cut directions" that apply to everyone, including wives. They say, "This is the how and why of it. First of all, quit playing God yourself. It doesn't work."
31. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 48, the seventh, eighth, and ninth paragraphs, the pioneers' "wives" share more of their experience. They share:
"Our homes have been battle-grounds many an evening. In the morning we have kissed and made up. Our friends have counseled chucking the men and we have done so with finality, only to be back in a little while, hoping, always hoping. Our men have sworn great solemn oaths they were through drinking forever. We have believed them when no one else could, or would. Then, in days, weeks, or months, a fresh outburst.
"We seldom had friends at our homes, never knowing how or when the men of the house would appear. We could make few social engagements. We came to live almost alone, unwanted by anyone. When we were invited out, our husbands always sneaked so many drinks that they spoiled the occasion. If, on the other hand, they took nothing, their self-pity made them killjoys.
"There was never financial security. Positions were always in jeopardy or gone. An armored car could not have brought the pay envelopes home. The checking account melted like snow in June."
32. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 49, starting with the first paragraph, and continuing all the way through the ninth paragraph at the bottom of the page, the pioneers' "wives" share more of their experience living with an alcoholic. They share:
"There were other women. How heartbreaking was this discovery; how cruel to be told they understood our men as we did not!
"The bill collectors; the sheriffs; the angry taxi drivers; the policemen; the bums; the pals; and even the ladies he brought home - our husbands thought we were so inhospitable. "Joykiller, nag, wet blanket" — that's what they said. Next day they would be themselves again and we would forgive and try to forget.
"We have tried to hold the love of our children for their father. We have told small tots that father was sick, which was much nearer the truth than we realized. They struck the children, kicked out door panels, smashed treasured crockery, and ripped the keys out of pianos. In the midst of such pandemonium they may have rushed out threatening to live with the other woman forever. In desperation, we have even got tight ourselves — the drunk to end all drunks. The unexpected result was that our husbands seemed to like it.
"Perhaps at this point we got a divorce and took the children home to father and mother. Then we were severely criticized by our husband's parents for desertion. Usually we did not leave. We stayed on and on. We finally sought employment ourselves as destitution faced us and our families.
"We began to ask medical advice as the sprees got closer together. The alarming physical and mental symptoms, the deepening pall of remorse, depression and inferiority that settled down on our loved ones - these things terrified and distracted us. As animals on a treadmill, we have patiently and wearily climbed, falling back in exhaustion after each futile effort to reach solid ground. Most of us have entered the final stage with its commitment to health resorts, sanitariums, hospitals, and jails. Sometimes there were screaming delirium and insanity. Death was often near.
"Under these conditions we naturally made mistakes. Some of them rose out of ignorance of alcoholism. Sometimes we sensed dimly that we were dealing with sick men. Had we fully understood the nature of the alcoholic illness, we might have behaved differently.
"How could men who loved their wives and children be so unthinking, so callous, so cruel? There could be no love in such persons, we thought. And just as we were being convinced of their heartlessness, they would surprise us with fresh resolves and new attentions. For a while they would be their old sweet selves, only to dash the new structure of affection to pieces once more. Asked why they commenced to drink again, they would reply with some silly excuse, or none. It was so baffling, so heartbreaking. Could we have been so mistaken in the men we married? When drinking, they were strangers. Sometimes they were so inaccessible that it seemed as though a great wall had been built around them.
"And even if they did not love their families, how could they be so blind about themselves? What had become of their judgment, their common sense, their will power? Why could they not see that drink meant ruin to them? Why was it, when we pointed out these dangers, that they agreed and then got drunk again immediately?
"These are some of the questions which race through the mind of every girl who has an alcoholic husband. We hope our book has answered some of them. But now you will have seen that perhaps your husband has been living in that strange world of alcoholism where everything is distorted and exaggerated. You can see that he really does love you with his better self. Of course, there is such a thing as incompatibility, but in nearly every instance the alcoholic only seems to be unloving and inconsiderate; it is usually because he is warped and sickened that he says and does these appalling things. Today most of our men are better husbands and fathers than ever before."
33. These examples of the situations the pioneers' "wives" detail are designed to help show that their spouse was "warped and sickened," and that's why an alcoholic "says and does these appalling things."
34. In other words, the alcoholic behaves the way they do because they are spiritually sick.
35. Now the pioneers' "wives" begin to give their "clear-cut directions" for dealing with an alcoholic.
36. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 50, in the first paragraph, they say:
"Don't condemn your alcoholic husband no matter what he says or does. He is just another very sick, unreasonable person. Treat him, when you can, as though he had pneumonia. When he angers you, remember that he is very ill."
37. These are exactly the same "clear-cut directions" the pioneers gave back on page 30 in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book. In the fourth paragraph the pioneers said, "This is our course: realize at once that the people who wrong you are spiritually sick. Though you don't like their symptoms and the way these disturb you, they, like yourself, are sick, too. Ask God to help you show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that you would cheerfully grant a friend who has cancer. When a person next offends, say to yourself 'This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.' "
38. In the next paragraph on page 30 they continue by giving more "clear-cut directions." They say, "Never argue. Never retaliate. You wouldn't treat sick people that way. If you do, you destroy your chance of being helpful. You cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show you how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one."
39. So, here the wife is being given the exact same "clear-cut directions" that the alcoholic was given. The wife is being asked to apply the same attitude to their family member, as the alcoholic was asked to apply to everyone in their lives.
40. It's interesting to note that in the early days of Al-Anon, they reprinted the chapters "To Wives," and "The Family Afterward," and used them at their meetings.
41. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 50, the second paragraph says:
"There is an important exception to the foregoing. We realize some men are thoroughly bad-intentioned, that no amount of patience will make any difference. An alcoholic of this temperament will be quick to use this chapter as a club over your head. Don't let him get away with it. If you are positive he is one of this type you may feel you had better leave. It is not right to let him ruin your life and the lives of your children, especially when he has before him a way to stop his drinking and abuse if he really wants to pay the price."
42. Note that they make an important exception here. Sometimes the alcoholic is so sick, they have such bad intentions, that it is not appropriate to stay in the relationship and try to follow these directions. If someone is sure this is the case, it is better if they leave.
43. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 50, the third paragraph says:
"The problem with which you struggle usually falls within one of four categories:
44. The pioneers, back on pages 9 and 10, defined the differences between the "moderate drinker," the "hard drinker," and the "real alcoholic."
45. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 50, in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh paragraphs, the pioneers' "wives" expand upon these descriptions. They say:
"One: Your husband may be only a heavy drinker. His drinking may be constant or it may be heavy only on certain occasions. He spends too much money for liquor. It slows him up mentally and physically, but he does not see it. Sometimes he is a source of embarrassment to you and his friends. He is positive he can handle his liquor, that it does him no harm, that drinking is necessary in his business. He would be insulted if called an alcoholic. This world is full of people like him. Some will moderate or stop altogether, and some will not. Of those who keep on, a good number will become true alcoholics after a while.
"Two: Your husband is showing lack of control. He is unable to stay on the water wagon, even when he wants to. He often gets entirely out of hand when drinking. He admits this is true, but is obsessed with the idea that he will do better. He has begun to try, with or without your cooperation, various means of moderating or staying dry. He is beginning to lose his friends. His business may suffer somewhat. He is worried at times, and is becoming aware that he cannot drink like other people. He sometimes drinks in the morning, and through the day also, to hold his nervousness in check. He is remorseful after serious drinking bouts and tells you he wants to stop. But when he gets over the spree, he begins to think once more how he can drink moderately next time. This person is in danger. He has the earmarks of a real alcoholic. Perhaps he can still tend to business fairly well. He has by no means ruined everything. As we say among ourselves, 'He wants to want to stop.'
"Three: This husband has gone much further than husband number two. Though once like number two, he became worse. His friends have slipped away, his home is a near-wreck, and he cannot hold a position. Maybe the doctor has been called in, and the weary round of sanitariums and hospitals has begun. He admits he cannot drink like other people, but does not see why. He clings to the notion that he will yet find a way to do so. He may have come to the point where he desperately wants to stop but cannot. His case presents additional questions which we shall try to answer for you. You can be quite hopeful of a situation like this.
"Four: You may have a husband of whom you completely despair. He has been placed in one institution after another. He is violent, or definitely insane, when drunk. Sometimes he drinks on the way home from the hospital. Perhaps he has had delirium tremens. Doctors shake their heads and advise you to have him committed. Maybe you have already been obliged to put him away. This picture may not be as dark as it looks. Many of our husbands were just as far gone. Yet they got well."
46. Notice that in each case, the pioneers "wives" hold out hope for all types of husbands. They say, "He wants to want to stop." "You can be quite hopeful of a situation like this." "Many of our husbands were just as far gone. Yet they got well."
47. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 50, starting in the bottom paragraph, the pioneers' "wives" say:
"Let's now go back to husband number one. Oddly enough, he is often difficult to deal with. He enjoys drinking. It stirs his imagination. His friends feel closer over a highball. Perhaps you enjoy drinking with him yourself when he doesn't go too far. You have passed happy evenings together chatting and drinking before your fire. Perhaps you both like parties which would be dull without liquor. We have enjoyed such evenings ourselves; we had a good time. We know all about liquor as a social lubricant. Some, but not all of us, think it has its advantages when reasonably used."
48. Here the pioneers' "wives" are restating what the pioneers shared on page 47, in the second paragraph. They said, "Many of us keep liquor in our homes. We often need it to carry green recruits through a severe hangover. Some of us still serve it to our friends in moderation, provided they are people who do not abuse drinking. But some of us think we should not serve liquor to anyone. We never argue this question. We feel that each family, in the light of their own circumstances, ought to decide for themselves.
49. The pioneers continued in the next paragraph on page 47. They shared, "We are careful never to show intolerance or hatred of drinking as an institution. Experience shows that such an attitude is not helpful to anyone. Every new alcoholic looks for this spirit among us and is immensely relieved when he finds we are not witch-burners. A spirit of intolerance might repel alcoholics, whose lives would have been saved, had it not been for our stupidity. We would not even do the cause of temperate drinking any good, for not one drinker in a thousand is willing to be told anything about alcohol by one who hates it."
50. The pioneer's "wives" also make this point in the next paragraph.
51. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 51, in the first full paragraph, the pioneer's "wives" say:
"Your husband has begun to abuse alcohol. The first principle of success is that you should never be angry. Even though your husband becomes unbearable, and you have to leave him temporarily, you should, if you can, go without rancor. Patience and good temper are vitally necessary."
52. The pioneer's "wives" give one of their "clear-cut directions" here. However, in many cases it will be extremely challenging to follow. It is very hard to "never be angry." It can be very difficult to have "patience and good temper" at all times.
53. However, remembering that the pioneers' "wives" are sharing their experiences may encourage someone to give what they recommend a try.
54. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 51, in the second paragraph, based on their experiences, the pioneers' "wives" share another of their "clear-cut directions. They say:
"The next rule is that you should never tell him what to do about his drinking. If he gets the idea that you are a nag or a killjoy, your chance of accomplishing anything useful will be zero. He will use that as an excuse to drink some more. He will tell you he is misunderstood. This may lead to lonely evenings for you. He may seek someone to console him — not always another man."
55. Here, they share that not following their "clear-cut directions" will not work. They say, "your chance of accomplishing anything useful will be zero."
56. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 51, in the third paragraph, the pioneer's "wives" say:
"Be determined that your husband's drinking is not going to spoil your relation with your children or your friends. They need your companionship and your help. It is possible to have a full and useful life, though your husband continues to drink. We know women who are unafraid, even happy, under these conditions. Do not set your heart on reforming your husband. You may be unable to do so, no matter how hard you try."
57. The pioneers' "wives" are again sharing their experience, and giving "clear-cut directions." They say to be "determined that your husband's drinking is not going to spoil your relation with your children or your friends." It is necessary, but sometimes not easy, to remember that an alcoholic affects everyone around them.
58. It would be nice if someone had the power to reform an alcoholic. However, experience shows that this is not possible, "no matter how hard you try."
59. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 51, the fourth paragraph says:
"We know these suggestions are not impossible to follow, but you will save many a heartbreak if you can succeed in observing them. Your husband will come to appreciate your reasonableness and patience. This will lay the groundwork for a frank and friendly talk about his liquor problem. Try to have him bring up the subject himself. Be sure you are not critical during such a discussion. Attempt instead, to put yourself in his place. Let him see that you want to be helpful rather than critical."
60. The pioneers later changed the first sentence in this paragraph. Even though they knew, based on their experience, that it was "not impossible" to follow their suggestions, they acknowledged that their "suggestions are sometimes difficult to follow..."
61. No matter how difficult the suggestions given may be to follow, the pioneers' "wives" give their assurance that "you will save many a heartbreak if you can succeed in observing them."
62. Following these "clear-cut directions" can also open the door to a new non-critical relationship with the alcoholic. This in turn may permit a "frank and friendly" discussion of the problem. The alcoholic may then be open to offers of help.
63. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 51, the fifth paragraph says:
"When a discussion does arise, you might suggest he read this book, or at least the chapter on alcoholism. Tell him you have been worried, though perhaps needlessly. You think he ought to know the subject better, as everyone should have a clear understanding of the risk he takes if he drinks much. Show him you have confidence in his power to stop or moderate. Say you do not want to be a wet blanket; that you only want him to take care of his health. Thus you may succeed in interesting him in alcoholism."
64. In these "clear-cut directions," the pioneers' "wives" suggest that someone approach their alcoholic spouse in exactly the same manner as any other newcomer is approached. It should be suggested that the alcoholic read the Big Book.
65. Reading the Big Book on their own might help the alcoholic be more receptive to the concepts presented by the pioneers. This is because the book does not have the history of criticism and hostility that might affect them if these same concepts were presented by their spouse.
66. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 51, the sixth paragraph says:
"He probably has several alcoholics among his own acquaintances. You might suggest that you both take an interest in them. Drinkers like to help other drinkers. Your husband may be willing to talk to one of them, perhaps over a highball."
67. Please remember that the pioneers' "wives" are sharing their experience. They now give "clear-cut directions" that echo the clear-cut direction that was given for a newcomer back on page 43 in the second paragraph. They said, "Show how important it is that [the newcomer] place the welfare of other people ahead of his own."
68. Now it is being suggested that because, "Drinkers like to help other drinkers," the alcoholic should try to help other alcoholics they may know.
69. Notice that this suggestion, to help other alcoholics, is made before the alcoholic has stopped drinking him or herself. The only thing they have been asked to do so far has been to read the Big Book.
70. Not only did the pioneers' "wives" not expect the alcoholic to have stopped drinking, they go so far as to suggest that the alcoholic try to help others by perhaps meeting their alcoholic friend, "over a highball."
71. This was not an unusual practice. In A.A. Comes of Age, on page 58, it describes Ebby's first meeting with Bill. It details how, as Ebby talked to Bill about the program, Bill kept drinking from a "big crock of gin and pineapple juice" that was on the kitchen table between them.
72. In A.A. Comes of Age, on page 67, it describes Bill's first meeting with Dr. Bob. It details how Bill noticed that Dr. Bob was "shaking badly." It then shares how Dr. Bob "brightened a little" when Bill said he thought Dr. Bob "needed a drink."
73. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, in the Second Edition Stories section, on page 287, is the story, "He Had To Be Shown."
In this story, on pages 206 and 207, it describes how Dr. Bob gave a newcomer a pint. Then, as Dr. Bob was describing the program to that newcomer, Dr. Bob let the newcomer take drinks from that pint.
74. Obviously Dr. Bob did not believe that drinking hindered the newcomer's ability to understand the program.
75. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 51, in the seventh paragraph, the pioneers' "wives" share more of their experience:
"If this kind of approach does not catch your husband's interest, it may be best to drop the subject for a time, but after a friendly talk your husband will usually revive the topic himself. This may take patient waiting, but it will be worth it. Meanwhile you might try to help the wife of another serious drinker. If you act upon these principles, your husband may stop or moderate after a while."
76. It might be very difficult to be patient, but experience of the pioneers' "wives" shows that usually "it will be worth it."
77. The pioneer's "wives" then go on to suggest helping the spouse of "another serious drinker" while waiting. Their experience is that if someone acts on these "clear-cut directions," the alcoholic "may stop or moderate after a while."
78. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 51, the eighth paragraph says:
"Suppose, however, that your husband fits the description of number two. The same principles which apply to husband number one should be practiced. But after his next binge, ask him if he would really like to get over drinking for good. Do not ask that he do it for you or anyone else. Just would he like to?"
79. Remember, on page 41, we read the pioneers' experience. In regard to a newcomer they said, "Usually it is wise to wait till he goes on a binge." A couple of sentences later they say, "Wait for the end of the spree, or at least for a lucid interval."
80. Here, the pioneers' "wives" are saying the same thing. They say, "after his next binge, ask him if he would really like to get over drinking for good."
81. They continue by giving "clear-cut directions" to, "not ask that he do it for you or anyone else. Just would he like to?"
82. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 51, starting in the bottom paragraph it says:
"The chances are he would. Show him your copy of this book and tell him what you have found out about alcoholism. Show him that the writers of the book understand, as only alcoholics can. Tell him some of the interesting stories you have read. If you think he will be shy of our spiritual remedy, ask him to look at the chapter on alcoholism. Then perhaps he will be interested enough to continue."
83. Remember, at this point the spouse has only been asked to read the Big Book, and to consider helping others. As we do with everyone in R.A., the spouse is being allowed to come to their own conclusions, based upon what they have read.
84. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 52, in the first full paragraph, it says:
"If he is enthusiastic, cooperate with him, though you, yourself, may not yet agree with all we say. If he is lukewarm, or thinks he is not an alcoholic, leave him alone. Never urge him to follow our program. The seed has been planted in his mind. He knows that over a hundred men, much like himself, have recovered. But don't remind him of this after he has been drinking, for he will be angry. Sooner or later, you are likely to find him reading the book once more. Wait until repeated stumbling convinces him he must act, for the more you hurry him, the longer his recovery may be delayed."
85. In this passage, the pioneers' "wives" give a clear-cut direction to support a newcomer who is eager to try the Twelve Step program. In R.A., we suggest that someone should do this even if they do not fully accept what the "wives" are sharing.
86. On the other hand, if the newcomer thinks the program is not for him or her, the pioneers' "wives" give another clear-cut direction. In R.A., we agree with this clear-cut direction to leave them alone, to not urge them to follow the R.A. program.
87. All of the suggestions the "wives" make echo the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" from page 43. On that page, referring to a newcomer, the pioneers say, "If he is sincerely interested and wants to see you again, ask him to be sure to read this book in the interval. After doing that, he is to decide for himself whether he wants to go on. He is not to be pushed or prodded by you, his wife, or his friends. If he is to find God, the desire must come from within."
88. The alcoholic now knows that there is a solution that has worked for others. The pioneers' "wives" suggest waiting until the alcoholic's repeated failed attempts to solve their own problem convinces them to try the program.
89. The experience of the pioneers' "wives" is that trying to rush someone will only delay their recovery.
90. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 52, in the second paragraph, the pioneer's "wives" share more of their experience and their "clear-cut directions." They say:
"If you have a number three husband, you may be in luck. Being certain he wants to stop, you can go to him with this volume as joyfully as though you had struck oil. He may not share your enthusiasm, but he is practically sure to read the book, and he may go for the program at once. If he does not, you will probably not have long to wait. Again, you must not crowd him. Let him decide for himself. Cheerfully see him through more sprees. Talk about his condition or this book only when he raises the issue. In some cases it may be better to let the family doctor present the book. The doctor can urge action without arousing hostility. If your husband is otherwise a normal individual, your chances are good at this stage."
91. Once again the pioneers' "wives" say to "Let him decide for himself." Now that the alcoholic knows there is a solution, they say to, "Cheerfully see him through more sprees." They then say to, "let the family doctor present the book." Their experience is that the "doctor can urge action without arousing hostility."
92. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 52, in the third paragraph, the pioneer's "wives" continue sharing. They say:
"You would suppose that men in the fourth classification would be quite hopeless, but that is not so. Many of Alcoholics Anonymous were like that. Everybody had given them up. Defeat seemed certain. Yet often such men have spectacular and powerful recoveries."
93. Once again they hold out hope. They share that even those thought to be hopeless can "have spectacular and powerful recoveries."
94. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 52, in the fourth paragraph, they say:
"There are exceptions. Some men have been so impaired by alcohol that they cannot stop. Sometimes there are cases where alcoholism is complicated by other disorders. A good doctor or psychiatrist can tell you whether these complications are serious. In any event, see that your husband gets this book. His reaction may be one of enthusiasm. If he is already committed to an institution but can convince you and your doctor that he means business, you should give him a chance to try our method, unless the doctor thinks his mental condition abnormal or dangerous. We make this recommendation with some confidence. About a year ago a certain state institution released six chronic alcoholics. It was fully expected they would all be back in a few weeks. Only one of them has returned. The others had no relapse at all. The power of God goes deep!"
95. There is a story in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page PS 7. Its title is, "The Unbeliever." It is the story of Hank P. He had been committed. He was so sick that he couldn't put a complete sentence together.
96. However, Bill visited him and explained the program to him. Hank worked the program and was restored to sanity. He was released and went on to figure prominently in the creation of the Big Book.
97. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 52, starting with the fifth paragraph, and continuing all the way through the fifth paragraph on page 53, the pioneers' "wives" share more of their experience and "clear-cut directions." They say:
"You may have the reverse situation on your hands. Perhaps you have a husband who is at large, but who should be committed. Some men cannot or will not get over alcoholism. When they become too dangerous, we think the kind thing is to lock them up. The wives and children of such men suffer horribly, but not less than the men themselves.
"As a rule, an institution is a dismal place, and sometimes it is not conducive to recovery. It is a pity that chronic alcoholics must often mingle with the insane. Some day we hope our group will be instrumental in changing this condition. Many of our husbands spent weary years in institutions. Though more reluctant than most people to place our men there, we sometimes suggest that it be done. Of course, a good doctor should always be consulted.
"But sometimes you must start life anew. We know women who have done it. If such women adopt our way of life their road will be smoother.
"If your husband is a drinker, you worry over what other people are thinking. You hate to meet your friends. You draw more and more into yourself. You think everyone is talking about conditions at your home. You avoid the subject of drinking, even with your own parents. You do not know what to tell the children. When your husband is bad, you become a trembling recluse, wishing the telephone had never been invented.
"We find that most of this embarrassment is unnecessary. While you need not discuss your husband, you can quietly let your friends know what the trouble is. Sometimes it is wise to talk with his employer. But you must be on guard not to embarrass or harm your husband.
"When you have carefully explained to such people that he is a sick person, little more to blame than other men who drink but manage their liquor better, you will have created a new atmosphere. Barriers which have sprung up between you and your friends will disappear with the growth of sympathetic understanding. You will no longer be self-conscious nor feel that you must apologize as though your husband were a weak character. He may be anything but that. Your new courage, good nature and lack of self-consciousness will do wonders for your social status.
"The same principle applies in dealing with the children. Unless they actually need protection from their father, it is best not to take sides in any argument he has with them while drinking. Use your energies to promote a better understanding all around. Then that terrible tension which grips the home of every problem drinker will be lessened.
"Frequently, you have felt obliged to tell your husband's employer and his friends that he was sick, when as a matter of fact he was tight. Avoid answering these inquiries as much as you can. Whenever possible, let your husband explain. Your desire to protect him should not cause you to lie to people when they have a right to know where he is and what he is doing. Discuss this with him when he is sober and in good spirits. Ask him to promise that he will not place you in such a position again. But be careful not to be resentful about the last time he did so.
"There is another paralyzing fear. You are afraid your husband will lose his position; you are thinking of the disgrace and hard times which will befall you and the children. This experience may come to you. Or you may already have had it several times. Should it happen again, regard it in a different light. Maybe it will prove a blessing! It may convince your husband he wants to stop drinking forever. And now you know that he can stop if he will! Time after time, this apparent calamity has been a boon to us, for it opened up a path which led to the discovery of God."
98. We believe that what the pioneers' "wives" have just shared is so clear that it doesn't need further comments from us.
99. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 53, continuing with the sixth paragraph, the pioneers' "wives" share:
"We have elsewhere remarked how much better life is when lived on a spiritual plane. If God can solve the age-old riddle of alcoholism, he can solve your problems too. We wives found that, like everybody else, we were afflicted with pride, self-pity, vanity and all the things which go to make up the self-centered person; and we were not above selfishness or dishonesty. As our husbands began to apply spiritual principles in their lives, we began to see the desirability of doing so too."
100. Up to this point, the pioneers' "wives" have been discussing the things a spouse can do to help an alcoholic. Now they begin to address the recovery of the spouse.
101. Remember that they are sharing in their role as the "wives" of alcoholics when they say, "We have elsewhere remarked how much better life is when lived on a spiritual plane."
102. In other words, even though they are not alcoholic themselves, their lives became much better when they worked the Twelve Step program of recovery themselves.
103. The pioneers' "wives" then go on to share how they, like their spouse, were sick too. They found that, "like everybody else, we were afflicted with pride, self-pity, vanity and all the things which go to make up the self-centered person; and we were not above selfishness or dishonesty."
104. In other words, the pioneers' "wives" found that they had the same spiritual malady, the same character defects, that everybody else had. Therefore, they began to see that they needed the same solution for themselves.
105. With the example of their own spouse fresh in mind, they began to see the benefit of applying spiritual principles in their own lives.
106. Therefore, the pioneers' "wives" share one of the most important passages of the program. They say, "If God can solve the age-old riddle of alcoholism, he can solve your problems too."
107. This brings to mind all of the other passages we read that make this same point. For example, on page 11, the pioneers say, "When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet." The "spiritual tools" are of course the Twelve Steps.
108. The pioneers also share, on page 19, that "Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems." Next, talking about the Big Book, they say, "Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself, which will solve your problem."
109. Finally, on page 23, the pioneers assert, "When we saw others solve their problems by simple reliance upon the Spirit of this universe, we had to stop doubting the power of God."
110. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 53, in the seventh paragraph, the pioneers' "wives" say:
"At first, some of us did not believe that we needed this help. We thought, on the whole, we were pretty good women, capable of being nicer if our husbands stopped drinking. But it was a silly idea that we were too good to need God. Now we try to put spiritual principles to work in every department of our lives. When we do that, we find it solves our problems too; the ensuing lack of fear, worry and hurt feelings is a wonderful thing. We urge you to try our program, for nothing will be so helpful to your husband as the radically changed attitude toward him which God will show you how to have. Go along with your husband if you possibly can."
111. It is not surprising that, just like the alcoholic, the spouse of an alcoholic is going to doubt that they need help solving their problems and behaviors.
112. However, the pioneers' "wives" share their experience. They say, "But it was a silly idea that we were too good to need God. Now we try to put spiritual principles to work in every department of our lives. When we do that, we find it solves our problems too; the ensuing lack of fear, worry and hurt feelings is a wonderful thing."
113. The pioneers' "wives" then go on to urge the alcoholic's spouse to try the Twelve Step program of recovery. Their experience is that once the spouse develops a conscious contact with God, their changed attitude will help the alcoholic work the Twelve Steps. Within R.A., we have had the identical experience.
114. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 54, in the first paragraph, the pioneers' "wives" continue to share. They say:
"If you and your husband find a solution for the pressing problem of drink you are, of course, going to be very happy. But all problems will not be solved at once. Seed has started to sprout in a new soil, but growth has only begun. In spite of your new-found happiness, there will be ups and downs. Many of the old problems will still be with you. This is as it should be."
115. In this passage, the pioneers' "wives" share that, even if someone stops drinking, other problems will still remain. This is because someone has to fully work all Twelve Steps to develop a conscious contact with a loving God. When this is done, God can remove their character defects and restore them to sanity.
116. Until the underlying causes of someone's problem and behavior have been removed, they are probably still going to be selfish—self-centered. It will take time for the spiritual seeds that are planted to sprout and then grow to their full extent. This is to be expected.
117. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 54, in the second, third, and fourth paragraphs, the pioneers' "wives" continue sharing their experience. They say:
"The faith and sincerity of both you and your husband will be put to the test. You must regard these work-outs as part of your education, for thus you will be learning to live as you were intended to live. You will make mistakes, but if you are in earnest they will not drag you down. Instead, you will capitalize them. A better way of life will emerge when they are overcome.
"Some of the snags you will encounter are irritation, hurt-feelings, resentments. Your husband will sometimes be unreasonable and you will want to criticize. Starting from a speck on the domestic horizon, great thunderclouds of dispute may gather. These family dissensions are very dangerous, especially to your husband. Often you must carry the burden of avoiding them or keeping them under control. Never forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alcoholic. We do not mean that you have to agree with your husband wherever there is an honest difference of opinion. Just be careful not to disagree in a resentful or critical spirit.
"You and your husband will find that you can dispose of serious problems easier than you can the trivial ones. Next time you and he have a heated discussion, no matter what the subject, it should be the privilege of either to smile and say, "This is getting serious. I'm sorry I got disturbed. Let's talk about it later." If your husband is trying to live on a spiritual basis, he will also be doing everything in his power to avoid disagreement or contention."
118. Once again we believe this was so clear that no further comments are needed.
119. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 54, in the fifth paragraph, the pioneers' "wives" continue sharing their experience and their "clear-cut directions." They say:
"Your husband knows he owes you more than sobriety. He wants to make good. Yet you must not expect too much. His ways of thinking and doing are the habits of years. Patience, tolerance, understanding and love are your watchwords. Show him these things in yourself and they will be reflected back to you from him. Live and let live is the rule. If you both show a willingness to remedy your own defects, there will be little need to criticize each other."
120. Having come so far, it is hard not to expect too much too soon. Both the alcoholic and the spouse have been sick for years. It is unreasonable to expect change overnight.
121. Both the alcoholic and the spouse must show each other, "Patience, tolerance, understanding and love..." If both can do this, they will soon be able to see these things in each other.
122. This passage also contains the first mention of what was to become a famous motto. It says, "Live and let live."
123. In R.A., we have found that when both the newcomer and their spouse are willing to live by this rule, and are willing to work all Twelve Steps of R.A.'s program, they will find that they are able to avoid criticizing each other. They will be able to support each other in their journey of recovery.
124. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 54, in the sixth, and seventh paragraphs, the pioneers' "wives" say:
"We women carry with us a picture of the ideal man, the sort of chap we would like our husbands to be. It is the most natural thing in the world, once his liquor problem is solved, to feel that he will now measure up to that cherished vision. The chances are he will not for, like yourself, he is just beginning his development. Be patient.
"Another feeling we are very likely to entertain is one of resentment that love and loyalty could not cure our husbands of alcoholism. We do not like the thought that the contents of a book or the work of another alcoholic has accomplished in a few weeks the end for which we struggled for years. At such moments we forget that alcoholism is an illness over which we could not possibly have had any power. Your husband will be the first to say it was your devotion and care which brought him to the point where he could have a spiritual experience. Without you he would have gone to pieces long ago. When resentful thoughts come, pause and count your blessings. After all, your family is reunited, alcohol is no longer a problem and you and your husband are working together toward an undreamed-of future."
125. The experiences and direction shared in these paragraphs by the pioneers' "wives" are so clear that once again we do not believe we need to comment.
126. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 54, starting in the bottom paragraph, the pioneers' "wives" share:
"Still another difficulty is that you may become jealous of the attention he bestows on other people, especially alcoholics. You have been starving for his companionship, yet he spends long hours helping other men and their families. You feel he should now be yours. The fact is that he must work with other people to maintain his own sobriety. Sometimes he will be so interested that he becomes really neglectful. Your house is filled with strangers. You may not like some of them. He gets stirred up about their troubles, but not at all about yours. It will do no good if you point that out and urge more attention for yourself. It is a real mistake if you dampen his enthusiasm for alcoholic work. You should join in his efforts as much as you possibly can. Direct some of your thought to the wives of his new alcoholic friends. They need the counsel and love of a woman who has gone through what you have."
127. While most of this paragraph does not need further comment from us, we do have something to say about the "clear-cut directions" the pioneers' "wives" make toward the bottom.
128. Referring to the alcoholic, the pioneer's "wives" say, "It is a real mistake if you dampen his enthusiasm for alcoholic work. You should join in his efforts as much as you possibly can. Direct some of your thought to the wives of his new alcoholic friends. They need the counsel and love of a woman who has gone through what you have."
129. Experience has shown that working with others is a vital part of the recovery process. In the first paragraph of the chapter "Working With Others," the pioneers make this clear by saying, "Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure your own immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics."
130. Notice that this quote says, "intensive work" with others. They do not just say "work." They do not refer to "some work." They quite clearly say that "intensive work" is needed.
131. In "Bill's Story," on page 7, Bill also makes this point. He says, "My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems."
132. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 55, in the first full paragraph, the pioneers' "wives" share more of their experience. They say:
"It is probably true that you and your husband have been living too much alone, for drinking almost isolated many of us. Therefore, you need fresh interests and a great cause to live for as much as your husband. If you cooperate, rather than complain, you will find that his excess enthusiasm will tone down. Both of you will awaken to a new sense of responsibility for others. You, as well as your husband, must think of what you can put into life instead of how much you can take out. Inevitably your lives will be fuller for doing so. You will lose the old life to find one much better."
133. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 55, in the second paragraph, based on their experience, the pioneers' "wives" make some very important points. They say:
"Perhaps your husband will make a fair start on the new basis, but just as things are going beautifully he dismays you by coming home drunk. If you are satisfied he really wants to get over drinking, you need not be alarmed. Though it is infinitely better he have no relapse at all, as has been true with many of our men, it is by no means a bad thing in some cases. Your husband will see at once that he must redouble his spiritual activities if he expects to survive. If he adopts this view, the slip will help him. You need not remind him of his spiritual deficiency — he will know of it. Cheer him up and ask him how you can be still more helpful."
134. The first point the pioneers' "wives" make is that not everyone instantly stops "drinking." Even Dr. Bob got drunk after he started working with Bill.
135. However, the second point they make is that if someone really wants to get well, their spouse should not be alarmed. The pioneers' "wives" say, "Though it is infinitely better he have no relapse at all, as has been true with many of our men, it is by no means a bad thing in some cases."
136. Their third point is that having a slip can sometimes be a good thing. The pioneers' "wives" say, "Your husband will see at once that he must redouble his spiritual activities if he expects to survive. If he adopts this view, the slip will help him."
137. Notice that they do not say that someone must read more books, attend more meetings, or start reworking the steps from the beginning. They say that someone must "redouble his spiritual activities."
138. Remember what we read on page 41. The pioneers say, "Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure your own immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other spiritual activities fail."
139. In other words, when someone has tried other methods, and failed, intensive work with others will succeed.
140. Therefore, when the pioneers say that someone "must redouble his spiritual activities," they are saying that someone must intensify their efforts to work with others.
141. The fourth point they make is that if someone understands that they need to intensify their efforts to work with others, "the slip will help him."
142. The final "clear-cut directions" they give in this passage say, "You need not remind him of his spiritual deficiency — he will know of it. Cheer him up and ask him how you can be still more helpful."
143. Of course, this is sometimes very difficult to do. However, the pioneers' "wives" still share these directions because their experience proves that this works.
144. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 55, in the third and fourth paragraphs, the pioneers' "wives" share some more "clear-cut directions." They say:
"Even your hatred must go. The slightest sign of fear or intolerance will lessen your husband's chance of recovery. In a weak moment he may take your dislike of his high-stepping friends as one of those insanely trivial excuses to drink.
"Never, never try to arrange his life so as to shield him from temptation. The slightest disposition on your part to guide his appointments or his affairs so he will not be tempted will be noticed. Make him feel absolutely free to come and go as he likes. This is important. If he gets drunk, don't blame yourself. God has either removed your husband's liquor problem or He has not. If not, it had better be found out right away. Then you and your husband can get right down to fundamentals. If a repetition is to be prevented, place the problem, along with everything else, in God's hands."
145. While most of these "clear-cut directions" do not need additional comments from us, we do want to single out one because of its importance.
146. The pioneers' "wives" say, "This is important. If he gets drunk, don't blame yourself. God has either removed your husband's liquor problem or He has not. If not, it had better be found out right away."
147. Notice that this says that the spouse should not blame himself or herself if the alcoholic slips. Then they go on to make the most astounding statement. They say, "God has either removed your husband's liquor problem or He has not."
148. In other words, as the result of working all Twelve Steps, God will remove the alcoholic's problem. The pioneers' "wives" then go on to say that if the alcoholic's problem has not been removed, then they and their spouse "can get right down to fundamentals."
149. The pioneers' "wives" then go on to explain exactly what getting down to "fundamentals" means. They say that if another slip is to be prevented, both the alcoholic and the spouse need to "place the problem, along with everything else, in God's hands."
150. Hopefully, both the alcoholic and the spouse will remember that they are powerless. Hopefully, they will have learned that in order to get well they must have God's help.
151. Most importantly, they now know that the way to find God and get His help is to thoroughly follow the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" to work all Twelve Steps.
152. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 55, in the fifth paragraph, the pioneers' "wives" again share. They say:
"We realize we have been giving you much direction and advice. We may have seemed "preachy." If that is so we are sorry, for we ourselves, don't care for people who preach. But what we have related is based upon experience, some of it painful. We had to learn these things the hard way. That is why we are anxious that you understand, that you avoid these unnecessary difficulties."
153. We believe it certainly is clear by now that the whole reason the pioneers' "wives" wrote this chapter is to give others the benefit of their "direction and advice." We also believe that it is clear that their "clear-cut directions," and their advice, are based on their experience.
154. They wrote this chapter to help others avoid the pain, and "unnecessary difficulties" that they went through. They did not want others to have to learn what they had learned, "the hard way."
155. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 55, in the sixth paragraph, the pioneer's "wives" say:
"So to you out there — who may soon be with us — we say 'Good luck and God bless you!' "
156. In R.A., many of us have found that this chapter is a very good blueprint for how to deal with everyone in our lives. It even gives us a blueprint for how to treat ourselves with love and tolerance.
157. This chapter can help someone realize that he or she is a fallible human being. They can trust that when they fully work all Twelve Steps of R.A.'s program of recovery, by following the pioneers "clear-cut directions," they will have a spiritual experience or awakening. They will be restored to sanity. God will remove their problem. They will recover.
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