A VISION FOR YOU
1. Bill had a spiritual experience as the result of working the program. However, in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, in "Bill's Story," on page 7, in the second paragraph, he describes the next year and a half. He says, "I was not too well at the time, and was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment. This sometimes nearly drove me back to drink. I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going." In R.A.'s experience, working with others will often "save the day." We have found it to be a vital part of the recovery process.
2. We are now going to read and discuss Chapter Eleven, "A Vision for You." It presents a brief history of the program. It then goes on to tell us why we need to work with others, and the results of doing so.
3. Many people, when they are new to the program, do not read Chapter Eleven, "A Vision for You." They do not think this chapter relates to them.
4. 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.
5. 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 that the chapter, "A Vision for You," contains some very helpful information.
6. This chapter is an extension of the previous chapters, "Working With Others," "To Wives," "The Family Afterward," and "To Employers."
7. Bill Wilson wrote this chapter.
8. 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.
9. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, please turn to page 70, the first page of "A Vision for You." Starting with the first paragraph, and continuing through the third paragraph, the pioneers introduce this chapter by sharing their experience. They say:
"For most normal folks, drinking means conviviality, companionship and colorful imagination. It means release from care, boredom and worry. It is joyous intimacy with friends and a feeling that life is good. But not so with us in those last days of heavy drinking. The old pleasures were gone. They were but memories. Never could we recapture the great moments of the past. There was an insistent yearning to enjoy as we once did and a heartbreaking obsession that some new miracle of control would enable us to do it. There was always one more attempt — and one more failure.
"The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew from society, from life itself. As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did — then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen — Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who see this page will understand!
"Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the moment says, "I don't miss it at all. Feel better. Work better. Having a better time." As ex-alcoholics we smile at such a sally. We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits. He fools himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently try the old game again, for he isn't happy about his sobriety. He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end."
10. This passage brings to mind a number of quotes from other parts of the Big Book. R.A. calls these quotes "cross-references." In R.A., we use a "cross-reference" to help clarify a passage in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book. You will find that using "cross-references" can be helpful when you are sharing at an R.A. meeting, or when you are talking with an R.A. newcomer.
11. In order for you to be able to easily find a "cross-references" again, simply place a small note in the outer margin of the page next to the passage the "cross-reference" relates to. For example, the first "cross-references" we are going to share, are on page 37 in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book. Therefore, so you can refer to them later, we suggest that you write "p37 5th & 6th ¶" in the outer margin of page 70 in your Multilith Big Book, next to the third paragraph of the passage we just read. We suggest that you do this every time a "cross-reference" is shared in R.A.'s Step Presentation, by your sponsor, or at an R.A. meeting.
12. Then, so you can refer back to the original quote, write "p70 1st—3rd ¶" in the outer margin of page 37 in your Multilith Big Book, next to the fifth and sixth paragraphs. We suggest that you also do this every time a "reference" and a "cross-reference" are shared in R.A.'s Step Presentation, by your sponsor, or at an R.A. meeting.
13. We are now going to share some "cross-references" that relate to last passage we just read on page 70. Therefore, please turn back to page 37 in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book. Starting in the fifth paragraph, the pioneers share, "Should you have no such complication, there is still plenty you should do at home. Sometimes we hear an alcoholic say that the only thing he needs to do is to keep sober. Certainly he needs to keep sober, for there will be no home if he doesn't. But he is yet a long way from making good to the wife or parents whom for years he has so shockingly treated. Passing all understanding is the patience mothers and wives have had with alcoholics. Had this not been so, many of us would have no homes today, would perhaps be dead."
14. Continuing in the sixth paragraph, the pioneers share, "The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, 'Don't see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped blowin'? ' "
15. In R.A., we believe that the point the pioneers make in these passages is accented in the following two sentences from the passage we just read. The pioneers share, "Sometimes we hear an alcoholic say that the only thing he needs to do is to keep sober." This is followed by the pioneers saying, "We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough."
16. In R.A., we believe that the point the pioneers make is that the original goal of the program they developed is not "sobriety." We feel they make this clear when they say that someone is "unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough."
17. Another "cross-reference that accents this point is in Bill Wilson's essay about the Third Step in A.A.'s Twelve and Twelve. Starting with the last sentence on page 39, Bill writes, "More sobriety brought about by the admission of alcoholism and by attendance at a few meetings is very good indeed, but it is bound to be a far cry from permanent sobriety and a contented, useful life. That is just where the remaining Steps of the AA program come in. Nothing short of continuous action upon these as a way of life can bring the much-desired result."
18. So you can easily find this "cross-reference again, in R.A., we suggest that you write "12&12 p39 last sen" in the outer margin of page 70 in your Multilith Big Book, next to the third paragraph of the passage we just read. We recommend that you do this because we believe that this "cross-reference" also makes it clear that the goal of the program is not just sobriety. Bill writes that the kind of "sobriety brought about by the admission of alcoholism and by attendance at a few meetings is very good indeed."
19. However, he goes on to point out that this kind of sobriety is "bound to be a far cry from permanent sobriety and a contented, useful life."
20. He then goes on to say, "Nothing short of continuous action upon [the Twelve Steps] as a way of life can bring the much-desired result."
21. In other words, fully working all Twelve Steps of R.A.'s program, and then continuously living in Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve, as a way of life, can bring "the much-desired result."
22. In R.A. we believe that the "much-desired" result is a "permanent" recovery and a "contented, useful life."
23. The goal of the R.A. program is based upon the Second Step. Our goal, within R.A., is to be restored to sanity in every area of our lives. We do this by thoroughly following the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" to work all Twelve Steps.
24. When we do this, we believe that we receive "the much-desired result." We find a "permanent" recovery and a "contented, useful life."
25. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 70, in the fourth paragraph, the pioneers continue sharing. They say:
"We have shown you how we got out from under. You say, 'Yes, I'm willing. But am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum, like some righteous people I see? I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?' "
26. The pioneers created the Big Book to show others how they "got out from under."
27. In the very first paragraph of the Foreword to the First Edition is another "cross-reference." On page S in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, the pioneers say, "We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics PRECISELY HOW THEY CAN RECOVER is the main purpose of this book. For them, we think these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary. We hope this account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not yet comprehend that he is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our new way of living has its advantages for all."
28. The pioneers clearly state that the "main purpose" of the Big Book is to, "show other alcoholics PRECISELY HOW THEY CAN RECOVER." They also describe the Big Book as an "account of [their] experiences."
29. Then, in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 20, starting in the fifth paragraph, are yet more "cross-references." The pioneers say, "Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be A Power Greater Than Ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?"
30. In the next paragraph, the pioneers also tell us the "main object" of the Big Book. They say, "Well, that's exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself, which will solve your problem. That means we have written a book which we believe to be spiritual as well as moral. And it means, of course, that we are going to talk about God."
31. Next, the pioneers pose several questions that a newcomer might ask. They say, "But am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum, like some righteous people I see? I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?
32. In the next paragraph on page 70, the pioneers answer these questions.
33. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 70, starting with the fifth paragraph, and continuing all the way through the first paragraph on page 71, the pioneers share their experience. They say:
"Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is a Fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find The Fellowship, and so will you.
" 'How is that to come about?' you say. 'Where am I to find these people?'
"You are going to meet these new friends in your own community. Near you, alcoholics are dying helplessly like people in a sinking ship. If you live in a large place, there are hundreds. These are to be your companions. High and low, rich and poor, these are future Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Among them you will make lifelong friends. You will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster together and you will commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey. Then you will know what it means to give of yourself that others may survive and rediscover life. You will learn the full meaning of 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.'
"It may seem incredible that these men are to become happy, respected, and useful once more. How can they rise out of such misery, bad repute and hopelessness? The practical answer is that since these things have happened among us, they can happen again. Should you wish them above all else, and should you be willing to make use of our experience, we are sure they will come. The age of miracles is still with us. Our own recovery proves that!
"Our hope is that when this chip of a book is launched on the world tide of alcoholism, defeated drinkers will seize upon it, following its directions. Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and march on. They will approach still other sick ones and so the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up in each city and hamlet, havens for those who must find a way out."
34. As the pioneers share, and as R.A. has emphasized, almost half of the main text of the Big Book is devoted to working with others.
35. There is another "cross-reference" in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 41, in the first paragraph of the chapter "Working With Others." 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. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are fatally ill."
36. Then in the next paragraph, the pioneers go on to share, "The kick you will get is tremendous. To watch people come back to life, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends — this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives."
37. Please remember that the Big Book was written to describe the pioneers' years of experience. It contains what they all did in common to recover.
38. The Big Book is not a theoretical exercise in what might possibly work. It details the pioneers' experience with what had already worked for them. If something did not work, they did not include it in the book.
39. For example, in the early days of the program, they thought that someone needed to go on a diet of Karo Syrup, sauerkraut and tomatoes.
40. The theory was that someone weakened by years of drinking needed the energy, the vitamins, and the minerals in these foods. The pioneers soon realized that this did not work, so it is not mentioned in the Big Book.
41. Please notice that the pioneers hope that people will "seize upon" the Big Book, "following its directions."
42. The pioneers' "clear-cut directions" in the Big Book are based on their experience of what did work for them. When someone becomes willing to do what they did, the way they did it, they invariably get the same results they did.
43. If someone does not thoroughly follow the pioneers' path, if they diverge from the pioneers' "clear-cut directions," they will almost certainly get a different result.
44. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 71, starting with the second paragraph, continuing all the way through the seventh paragraph, the pioneers share the story of how Bill and Dr. Bob first met. The pioneers share:
"In the chapter "Working With Others" you gathered an idea of how to approach and aid others to health. Suppose now that through you several families have adopted your way of life. You will want to know more of how to proceed from that point. Perhaps the best way of treating you to a glimpse of your future will be to describe the growth of the Fellowship among us. Here is a brief account:
"Nearly four years ago, one of our number made a journey to a certain western city. From the business standpoint, his trip came off badly. Had he been successful in his enterprise, he would have been set on his feet financially which, at the time, seemed vitally important. But his venture wound up in a law suit and bogged down completely. The proceeding was shot through with much hard feeling and controversy.
"Bitterly discouraged, he found himself in a strange place, discredited and almost broke. Still physically weak, and sober but a few months, he saw that his predicament was dangerous. He wanted so much to talk with someone, but whom?
"One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby wondering how his bill was to be paid. At one end of the room stood a glass covered directory of local churches. Down the lobby a door opened into an attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd inside. In there he would find companionship and release. Unless he took some drinks, he might not have the courage to scrape an acquaintance and would have a lonely week-end.
"Of course he couldn't drink, but why not sit hopefully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him? Then after all, had he not been sober six months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks — no more! Fear gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was the old, insidious insanity — that first drink. With a shiver, he turned away and walked down the lobby to the church directory. Music and gay chatter still floated to him from the bar.
"But what about his responsibilities — his family and the men who would die because they would not know how to get well, ah — yes, those other alcoholics? There must be many such in this town. He would phone a clergyman. His sanity returned and he thanked God. Selecting a church at random from the directory, he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver."
45. In R.A. we believe that this last paragraph is one of the most important paragraphs in the Big Book. This paragraph describes the moment Bill realized his sanity had been restored.
46. Remember the way the pioneers described themselves back on page 28 in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book. In this "cross-reference" they said, "Selfishness — self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles."
47. Bill found himself in a situation where he could choose to go into a bar. He could rationalize drinking ginger ale, or perhaps he could limit himself to three drinks.
48. However, something new happens. Instead of just selfishly thinking of himself, "Fear gripped him."
49. Instead of self-centeredly thinking of his own needs, Bill thought of others. He thought "about his responsibilities — his family and the men who would die because they would not know how to get well."
50. Bill recognized that his thinking of others meant that "His sanity returned and he thanked God."
51. Bill's change in thinking is even more miraculous when we remember something important. In the six months since Bill went through the program of recovery, had his dramatic spiritual experience, and began to intensively work with others, only he had recovered.
52. So, he couldn't have had much hope that talking to someone else was going to help him or her!
53. However, Bill knew that intensively working with others for the last six months had kept him sober. So Bill selected "a church at random from the directory, he stepped into a [phone] booth and lifted the receiver."
54. By God's grace, Bill was able to think of others. Instead of going into the bar, Bill went to the directory of churches. He started going down the list, calling many clergymen.
55. Bill made at least 11 calls before he reached Henrietta Seiberling, who was to put him in touch with Dr. Bob. Bill, Henrietta, and Dr. Bob were all members of the Oxford Group.
56. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 71, in the eighth paragraph, the pioneers continue to share about Bill. They say:
"Little could he foresee what that simple decision was to mean. How could anyone guess that life and happiness for many was to depend on whether one depressed man entered a phone booth or a bar? His call to the clergyman led him presently to a certain resident of the town, who, though formerly able and respected, was then nearing the nadir of alcoholic despair. It was the usual situation: home in jeopardy, wife ill, children distracted, bills in arrears and reputation damaged. He had a desperate desire to stop, but saw no way out, for he had earnestly tried many avenues of escape. Painfully aware of being somehow abnormal, the man did not fully realize what it means to be alcoholic."
57. The first two sentences in this paragraph are not in later editions. Perhaps this is because they do not directly relate to Bill's experience in the hotel lobby.
58. However, we still think these sentences are relevant to understanding the importance of the transformation that Bill had undergone as the result of working the Twelve Steps.
59. In the A.A. pamphlet, "The Co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous," on page 11, Dr. Bob describes how his and Bill's first conversation lasted over six hours. Dr. Bob says, "We got there at five o'clock, and it was 11:15 when we left."
60. In the bottom paragraph on page 11, Dr. Bob goes on to share more details. He says, "Now the interesting part of all this is not the sordid details, but the situation that we two fellows were in. We had both been associated with the Oxford Group, Bill in New York, for five months, and I in Akron, for two and a half years. Bill had acquired their idea of service. I had not, but I had done an immense amount of reading they had recommended. I had refreshed my memory of the Good Book, and I had had excellent training in that as a youngster. They told me I should go to their meetings regularly, and I did, every week. They said that I should affiliate myself with some church, and we did that. They also said I should cultivate the habit of prayer, and I did that — at least, to a considerable extent for me. But I got tight every night, and I mean that. It wasn't once in a while — it was practically every night."
61. Bill had been a member of the Oxford Group for five months, and was sober. Dr. Bob had been a member for two and half years and according to him still, "got tight every night."
62. Dr. Bob then goes on to explain this difference. He says, "Bill had acquired their idea of service. I had not."
63. In the A.A. pamphlet, "The Co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous," on page 16, Dr. Bob goes on to describe this "idea of service." He says, "I think the kind of service that really counts is giving of yourself, and that almost invariably requires effort and time. It isn't a matter of just putting a little quiet money in the dish. That's needed, but it isn't giving much for the average individual in days like these, when most people get along fairly well. I don't believe that type of giving would ever keep anyone sober. But giving of our own effort and strength and time is quite a different matter. And I think that is what Bill learned in New York and I didn't learn in Akron until we met."
64. This brings to mind another "cross-reference." In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, on page 7, in the first full paragraph, talking about Ebby, Bill shares, "My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of my demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others, as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that."
65. Notice that "work" with others, by itself, is not enough to enlarge someone's spiritual life. It says that "self-sacrifice for others" is also needed.
66. This equates to someone "just putting a little quiet money in the dish." This means that putting paper money in the dish, as opposed to the noisy coins that many early members contributed, is not enough.
67. To be effective, work with others has to be accompanied by self-sacrifice, "giving of our own effort and strength and time" to help others. This is what Dr. Bob says, "Bill learned in New York and [he] didn't learn in Akron until [they] met."
68. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 72, starting with the first paragraph, and continuing through the fourth paragraph, the pioneers share more details of their friend Bill's first days with the man, Dr. Bob, he told his experience to. The pioneers share:
"When our friend told his experience, the man agreed that no amount of will power he might muster could stop his drinking for long. A spiritual experience, he conceded, was absolutely necessary, but the price seemed high upon the basis suggested. He told how he lived in constant worry about creditors and others who might find out about his alcoholism. He had, of course, the familiar alcoholic obsession that few knew of his drinking. Why, he argued, should he lose the remainder of his business, so bringing still more suffering to his family by foolishly admitting his plight to his creditors and those from whom he made his livelihood? He would do anything, he said, but that.
"Being intrigued, however, he invited our friend to his home. Some time later, and just as he thought he was getting control of his liquor situation, he went on a roaring bender. For him, this was the spree that ended all sprees. He saw that he would have to face his problems squarely that God might give him mastery.
"One morning he took the bull by the horns and set out to tell those he feared what his trouble had been. He found himself surprisingly well received, and learned that many knew of his drinking. Stepping into his car, he made the rounds of people he had hurt. He trembled as he went about, for this might mean ruin, particularly to a person in his line of business.
"At midnight he came home exhausted, but very happy. He has not had a drink since. As we shall see, he now means a great deal to his community, and the major liabilities of thirty years of hard drinking have been repaired in less than four."
69. In the A.A. pamphlet, "The Co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous," on page 12, Dr. Bob goes on to say, "I couldn't understand what was wrong. I had done all the things that those good people told me to do. I had done them, I thought, very faithfully and sincerely. And I still continued to overindulge. But the one thing that they hadn't told me was the one thing that Bill did that Sunday — attempt to be helpful to somebody else."
70. So, Dr. Bob says that he "had done all the things that those good people told me to do," but "still continued to overindulge."
71. However, we now know that Dr. Bob left out two vital ingredients from the process that produces recovery. This prevented him from having the "spiritual experience, [that] he conceded, was absolutely necessary" for his recovery.
72. First, he had not made amends because he was afraid he would "lose the remainder of his business, so bringing still more suffering to his family by foolishly admitting his plight to his creditors and those from whom he made his livelihood."
73. Second, he had not learned "the one thing that they hadn't told" him in his two and a half years in Akron, that Bill had learned in his five months in New York. Bill told him that he had learned that in order to get and stay recovered, Dr. Bob had to "attempt to be helpful to somebody else."
74. Therefore, as we read, "just as [Dr. Bob] thought he was getting control of his liquor situation, he went on a roaring bender. For him, this was the spree that ended all sprees. He saw that he would have to face his problems squarely that God might give him mastery."
75. After this bender, Bill spent three days tapering Dr. Bob off alcohol. This was because Dr. Bob had to perform a surgery only he could do. As described in Bill's biography, Pass It On, on page 149, before the operation Bill gave Dr. Bob " 'one goofball' and a single bottle of beer, to curb the shakes," so Dr. Bob could hold the scalpel.
76. By the way, a "goofball" is a slang term for a type of sedative, or antispasmodic, which today has been replaced by Xanax or Valium.
77. After the operation, Dr. Bob phoned to say that all had gone well with the surgery. However, Dr. Bob did not go home. Instead, he had started to visit everyone he had harmed by his behavior and make his amends.
78. As we just read, "At midnight he came home exhausted, but very happy. He has not had a drink since."
79. Another "cross-reference" is in A.A. Comes of Age, on page 71, in the third paragraph. We suggest that you write "AACOA p71 3rd ¶" in the outer margin of page 72 in your Multilith Big Book, next to the third paragraph of the passage we just read. This "cross-reference" says that the next day Dr. Bob said, "Bill, don't you think that working on other alcoholics is terribly important? We'd be much safer if we got active, wouldn't we?" Bill replied, "Yes, that would be just the thing."
80. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 72, starting with the fifth paragraph, and continuing all the way through the tenth paragraph, the pioneers share:
"But life was not easy for the two friends. Plenty of difficulties presented themselves. Both saw that they must keep spiritually active. One day they called up the head nurse of a local hospital. They explained their need and inquired if she had a first class alcoholic prospect.
"She replied, "Yes, we've got a corker. He's just beaten up a couple of nurses. Goes off his head completely when drinking. But he's a grand chap when sober, though he's been in here six times in the last four months. Understand he was once a well-known lawyer in town, but just now we've got him strapped down tight.
"Here was a prospect all right but, by the description, none too promising. The use of spiritual principles in such cases was not so well understood as it is now. But one of the friends said, "Put him in a private room. We'll be down.
"Two days later, a future Fellow of Alcoholics Anonymous stared glassily at the strangers beside his bed. "Who are you fellows, and why this private room? I was always in a ward before."
"Said one of the visitors, "We're giving you a treatment for alcoholism.
"Hopelessness was written large on the man's face as he replied, "Oh, but that's no use. Nothing would fix me. I'm a goner. The last three times, I got drunk on the way home from here. I'm afraid to go out the door. I can't understand it."
81. In R.A. we think that it is important to note that this meeting with Bill D., who was to become the third recovered alcoholic, took place only three days after Dr. Bob's last drink.
82. In R.A., we also think it is important to note how Bill and Dr. Bob approached Bill D.
83. They first talked to Bill D.'s wife. She then talked to her husband.
84. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, in the section containing Stories from the Second Edition of the Big Book, on page 185, in the first full paragraph is another "cross-reference." It says that Bill D.'s wife told him, "You are going to quit."
85. In the same paragraph, Bill D. goes on to say, "That was worth a lot even though I did not believe it. Then she told me that these two drunks she had been talking to had a plan whereby they thought they could quit drinking, and part of that plan was that they tell it to another drunk. This was going to help them to stay sober. All the other people that had talked to me wanted to help ME, and my pride prevented me from listening to them, and caused only resentment on my part, but I felt as if I would be a real stinker if I did not listen to a couple of fellows for a short time, if that would cure THEM. She also told me that I could not pay them even if I wanted to and had the money, which I did not."
86. In other words, Bill and Dr. Bob approached Bill D. by asking him to do them a favor. They explained that talking to someone "was going to help them to stay sober."
87. Bill D. says that this was different from all the other people who had wanted to help him. He then says that this approach gave him a different attitude.
88. Bill D. writes, "I felt as if I would be a real stinker if I did not listen to a couple of fellows for a short time, if that would cure THEM."
89. In other words, the people who allow us to share about Recoveries Anonymous with them are doing us a favor by listening to us. They are helping us to maintain a fit spiritual condition and insure our own recovery.
90. The people who listen to us are under no obligation to do anything with the information we give them. We cannot make any demands of them. We can only be grateful for the favor they are doing for us.
91. Our role is to simply present R.A.'s program to them. We are not there to play therapist. We are not there to analyze them, control their lives, or have expectations of them.
92. In R.A., we are there to present a very specific message. We are there to let them know that the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" for working the program are in the Big Book. We are there to let them know that, if they follow the pioneers' "clear-cut directions," they will find the same recovery that the pioneers found.
93. We are there to let them know that we need to do this as part of our own recovery. We are sharing with them because the act of sharing with them is how we get and stay recovered.
94. What he or she does with this information is between them and their Higher Power. We are not responsible for anyone else's recovery. We can't be. We're not God.
95. Returning to R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 72. Starting with the eleventh paragraph, and continuing all the way through the ninth paragraph on page 73, the pioneers share:
"For an hour, the two friends told him about their drinking experiences. Over and over, he would say: "That's me. That's me. I drink like that.
"The man in the bed was told of the acute poisoning from which he suffered, how it deteriorates the body of an alcoholic and warps his mind. There was much talk about the mental state preceding the first drink.
" 'Yes, that's me,' said the sick man, 'the very image. You fellows know your stuff all right, but I don't see what good it'll do. You fellows are somebody. I was once, but I'm a nobody now. From what you tell me, I know more than ever I can't stop.' At this both the visitors burst into a laugh. Said the future Fellow Anonymous: 'Damn little to laugh about that I can see.'
"The two friends spoke of their spiritual experience and told him about the course of action they carried out.
"He interrupted: 'I used to be strong for the church, but that won't fix it. I've prayed to God on hangover mornings and sworn that I'd never touch another drop but by nine o'clock I'd be boiled as an owl.'
"Next day found the prospect more receptive. He had been thinking it over. 'Maybe you're right,' he said. 'God ought to be able to do anything.' Then he added, 'He sure didn't do much for me when I was trying to fight this booze racket alone.'
"On the third day the lawyer gave his life to the care and direction of his Creator, and said he was perfectly willing to do anything necessary. His wife came, scarcely daring to be hopeful, but she thought she saw something different about her husband already. He had begun to have a spiritual experience.
"That afternoon he put on his clothes and walked from the hospital a free man. He entered a political campaign, making speeches, frequenting men's gathering places of all sorts, often staying up all night. He lost the race by only a narrow margin. But he had found God — and in finding God had found himself.
"That was in June, 1935. He never drank again. He too, has become a respected and useful member of his community. He has helped other men recover, and is a power in the church from which he was long absent.
"So, you see, there were three alcoholics in that town, who now felt they had to give to others what they had found, or be sunk. After several failures to find others, a fourth turned up. He came through an acquaintance who had heard the good news. He proved to be a devil-may-care young fellow whose parents could not make out whether he wanted to stop drinking or not. They were deeply religious people, much shocked by their son's refusal to have anything to do with the church. He suffered horribly from his sprees, but it seemed as if nothing could be done for him. He consented, however, to go to the hospital, where he occupied the very room recently vacated by the lawyer.
"He had three visitors. After a bit, he said, "The way you fellows put this spiritual stuff makes sense. I'm ready to do business. I guess the old folks were right after all." So one more was added to the Fellowship.
"All this time our friend of the hotel lobby incident remained in that town. He was there three months. He now returned home, leaving behind his first acquaintance, the lawyer and the devil-may-care chap. These men had found something brand new in life. Though they knew they must help other alcoholics if they would remain sober, that motive became secondary. It was transcended by the happiness they found in giving themselves for others. They shared their homes, their slender resources, and gladly devoted their spare hours to fellow-sufferers. They were willing, by day or night, to place a new man in the hospital and visit him afterward. They grew in numbers. They experienced a few distressing failures, but in those cases they made an effort to bring the man's family into a new way of living, thus relieving much worry and suffering."
96. After three months in Akron, Bill returned to New York. He left behind three recovered alcoholics.
97. Bill and Dr. Bob had taken the spiritual principles they had learned in the Oxford Group to another level. They had also shown that leaving out any of the vital ingredients of this course of action, such as making amends, or working with others, would prevent someone from finding recovery.
98. From this humble beginning, the fellowship, and millions of recoveries, grew.
99. The pioneers also found that, even if they failed with someone, they could still make "an effort to bring the man's family into a new way of living, thus relieving much worry and suffering."
100. Therefore, it is a basic part of R.A.'s program to encourage equal participation by our members' friends and family. We have found that this encourages the family and friends to be supportive, instead of jealous of the time and energy required to work the program.
101. The pioneers original program brought families together within the program. Giving family and friends the option of joining the program, and attending meetings, reduces the jealousy, anger, and resentment that are often produced when they are excluded.
102. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 73, starting in the bottom paragraph, and continuing all the way through the fifth paragraph on page 74, the pioneers share:
"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.
"Outsiders became interested. One man and his wife placed their large home at the disposal of this strangely assorted crowd. This couple has since become so fascinated that they have dedicated their home to the work. Many a distracted wife has visited this house to find loving and understanding companionship among women who knew their problem, to hear from the lips of men like their husbands what had happened to them, to be advised how her own wayward mate might be hospitalized and approached when next he stumbled.
"Many a man, yet dazed from his hospital experience, has stepped over the threshold of that home into freedom. Many an alcoholic who entered there came away with an answer. He succumbed to that gay crowd inside, who laughed at their misfortune and understood him. Impressed by those who visited him at the hospital, he capitulated entirely when, later, in an upper room of this house, he heard the story of some man whose experience closely tallied with his own. The expression on the faces of the women, that indefinable something in the eyes of the men, the stimulating and electric atmosphere of the place, conspired to let him know that here was haven at last.
"The very practical approach to his problems, the absence of intolerance of any kind, the informality, the genuine democracy, the uncanny understanding which these people had were irresistible. He and his wife would leave elated by the thought of what they could now do for some stricken acquaintance and his family. They knew they had a host of new friends; it seemed they had known these strangers always. They had seen miracles, and one was to come to them. They had visioned the Great Reality — their loving and All Powerful Creator.
"Now, this house will hardly accommodate its weekly visitors, for they number sixty or eighty as a rule. Alcoholics are being attracted from far and near. From surrounding towns, families drive long distances to be present. A community thirty miles away has fifteen Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Being a large place, we think that some day its Fellowship will number many hundreds.
"But life among Alcoholics Anonymous is more than attending meetings and visiting hospitals. Cleaning up old scrapes, helping to settle family differences, explaining the disinherited son to his irate parents, lending money and securing jobs for each other, when justified — these are everyday occurrences. No one is too discredited nor has sunk too low to be welcomed cordially — if he means business. Social distinctions, petty rivalries and jealousies — these are laughed out of countenance. Being wrecked in the same vessel, being restored and united under one God, with hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others, the things which matter so much to some people no longer signify much to them. How could they?"
103. The early members of the fellowship often spent their evenings together. These informal get-togethers included spouses, and other family members. As we just read, "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."
104. The pioneers go on to share that "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."
105. So these early meetings were not limited to alcoholics. They were open to "anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life."
106. Therefore, R.A. is also open to everyone, no matter what his or her problems or behaviors may be, as well as "anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life."
107. The pioneers also share that the "very practical approach to [a newcomer's] problems, the absence of intolerance of any kind, the informality, the genuine democracy, the uncanny understanding which these people had were irresistible."
108. That is why, within R.A., we also try to offer a practical approach to working the Twelve Steps, discourage "intolerance of any kind," and strive for "genuine democracy," and "understanding."
109. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 74, starting in the sixth paragraph, and continuing all the way through the third paragraph on page 75, the pioneers share:
"Under only slightly different conditions, the same thing is taking place in several eastern cities. In one of these there is a well-known hospital for the treatment of alcoholic and drug addiction. Four years ago one of our number was a patient there. Many of us have felt, for the first time, the Presence and Power of God within its walls. We are greatly indebted to the doctor in attendance there, for he, although it might prejudice his own work, has told us his belief in our work.
"Every few days this doctor suggests our approach to one of his patients. Understanding our work, he can do this with an eye to selecting those who are willing and able to recover on a spiritual basis. Many of us, former patients, go there to help. Then, in this eastern city, there are informal meetings such as we have described to you, where you may see thirty or forty, there are the same fast friendships, there is the same helpfulness to one another as you find among our western friends. There is a good bit of travel between East and West and we foresee a great increase in this helpful interchange.
"Some day we hope that every alcoholic who journeys will find a Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous at his destination. To some extent this is already true. Some of us are salesmen and go about. Little clusters of twos and threes and fives of us have sprung up in other communities, through contact with our two larger centers. Those of us who travel drop in as often as we can. This practice enables us to lend a hand, at the same time avoiding certain alluring distractions of the road, about which any traveling man can inform you.
"Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but one man with this book in your hand. We believe and hope it contains all you will need to begin.
"We know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself: 'I'm jittery and alone. I couldn't do that.' But you can. You forget that you have just now tapped a source of power so much greater than yourself. To duplicate, with such backing, what we have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience and labor."
110. The "well-known hospital for the treatment of alcoholic and drug addiction," was Towns Hospital. This is where Ebby took Bill through the program and where Bill had his spiritual experience.
111. Dr. Silkworth was the doctor the pioneers were "greatly indebted" to. He wrote THE DOCTOR'S OPINION to introduce the Big Book.
112. So slowly, by word of mouth alone, the fellowship grew. Word of mouth, one person talking to another, was necessary because during those early years they did not have the Big Book.
113. Then the pioneers wrote the Big Book. It contains their "clear-cut directions" for working the program. That is why they say, "though you be but one man with this book in your hand," you can bring their common solution to others and grow the fellowship.
114. Please remember that the Big Book details the pioneers' experience. Therefore, they are sharing their experience when they say that they "know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself: 'I'm jittery and alone. I couldn't do that.' "
115. Then, once again based upon their experience, the pioneers reassure you that "you can" carry the programs' message to others. They go on to state that, "You forget that you have just now tapped a source of power so much greater than yourself. To duplicate, with such backing, what we have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience and labor."
116. Please remember the "cross-reference" we read in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, back on page 41. The first paragraph of the chapter Working With Others says, "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. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are fatally ill."
117. Again, sharing their experience in the second paragraph, the pioneers go on to say, "The kick you will get is tremendous. To watch people come back to life, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends — this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives."
118. So, if you have not yet found the full recovery you are looking for, the pioneers state that their "Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure your own immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics."
119. Therefore, in R.A., we suggest that you follow the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" for "intensive work" with others. The pioneers assure us that this will work, "when other spiritual activities fail."
120. Please notice that the pioneers describe "intensive work" with others as a "spiritual activity."
121. The pioneers assure us that "To duplicate, with such backing, what [they] have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience and labor."
122. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 75, starting in the fourth paragraph, and continuing through the seventh paragraph, the pioneers go on to share more of their experience. They say:
"We know a former alcoholic who was living alone in a large community. He had lived there but a few weeks when he found that the place probably contained more alcoholics per square mile than any city in the country. This was only a few days ago at this writing. The authorities were much concerned. He got in touch with a prominent psychiatrist who has undertaken certain responsibilities for the mental health of the community. The doctor proved to be able and exceedingly anxious to adopt any workable method of handling the situation. Agreeing with many competent and informed physicians, he said he could do little or nothing for the average alcoholic. So he inquired, what did our friend have on the ball?
"Our friend proceeded to tell him. And with such good effect that the doctor agreed to a test among his patients and certain other alcoholics from a clinic which he attends. Arrangements were also made with the chief psychiatrist of a large public hospital to select still others from the stream of misery which flows through that institution.
"So our fellow worker will soon have friends galore. Some of them may sink and perhaps never get up, but if our experience is a criterion, more than half of those approached will become Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. When a few men in this city have found themselves, and have discovered the joy of helping others to face life again, there will be no stopping until everyone in that town has had his opportunity to recover — if he can and will.
"Still you may say: 'But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who write this book." We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to create the Fellowship you crave.' "
123. Recoveries Anonymous works, if someone thoroughly follows the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" to work it. The pioneers, and the physicians who tested the program with their patients, found spectacular results. Nothing had worked before. Now the Twelve Step program did work, for those who worked it.
124. Please remember, the Big Book details the pioneers' experience. It is not a book of their dreams, wishes, or hopes. It contains their "clear-cut directions" for duplicating their experience with working the Twelve Steps.
125. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 75, in the eighth paragraph, the pioneers share:
"Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us."
126. No one is going to force someone to work the program using the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" from the Big Book. Within R.A., we can only suggest that someone work the program in this way.
127. We can only share R.A.'s experience that someone has a vastly greater chance of finding the recovery they have been seeking if they work the program in this way.
128. In R.A., we also believe that the pioneers knew more than "only a little," when they wrote this chapter and the Big Book.
129. While much has been written about the Twelve Steps, and more will almost certainly be written, R.A.'s experience is that the Big Book "contains all [someone] will need to begin" living a spiritual life by working the Twelve Steps.
130. In R.A., we also believe that "God will constantly disclose more to you and to us," about living a spiritual life. However, R.A.'s experience is that the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" are as valid and effective today as when they were first written.
131. By the way, this passage played an important part in the naming of R.A.'s Solution Focused books. Some R.A. members suggested that we use the word "disclosed" in each book's title. After some discussion, R.A.'s group conscience decided that we should use the synonym "revealed."
132. The pioneers go on to remind us that everything is in God's hands. We are no longer running the show.
133. The pioneers' give us some more of their "clear-cut directions." They tell us to "Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order."
134. This last phrase about your own house being in order, and the next sentence, "But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got," are sometimes taken out of context and used to discourage people from working with others.
135. However, in context, the pioneers go on to share, "See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us."
136. So, if someone is asking God for direction and guidance in their "morning meditation," and has a "right" relationship with God as the result of following the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" to work all Twelve Steps, the pioneers assure us that "great events will come to pass for you and countless others."
137. Once again, pointing out that they are sharing their experience, the pioneers state, "This is the Great Fact for us."
138. Now we are coming to the end of this chapter, and the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" in this book.
139. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 75, starting in the bottom paragraph, and continuing through the end of page 76, the pioneers share the last of their "clear-cut directions," and their experience. They say:
"Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of The Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny."
140. All of this should seem very familiar to you by now. The pioneers are simply restating the spiritual principles of the program. These are all things we have done as part of following the pioneers "clear-cut directions."
141. We of R.A. also ask that you "Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of The Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny."
142. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 76, in the first full paragraph, the pioneers share:
"May God bless you and keep you — until then."
143. We of R.A. look forward to you joining us in carrying R.A.'s message of hope, sanity, and recovery to those who still suffer. Please go to the R.A. website, www.R-A.org and write to the R.A. office with your offer to work with others by phone and over the Internet.
144. We look forward to hearing from you. "May God bless you and keep you — until then."
Please use R.A.'s Questions and Answers Forum to ask any questions or make any comments about any of this.