A little ditty on the “Big Book”, Alcoholics Anonymous (Working With Others).
Now comes an action step. This will always save you in tough times and keep you steady in the day to day ups and downs that can be known as living life on life’s terms sober. As the opening of this chapter states; “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion:”
Why is there an entire chapter for the 12th step?
At the time this book was published, 1939, there were no treatment centers and very few hospitals that specialized in alcohol and drug addiction and those that did were expensive, such as Towns hospital where AA founder Bill W was placed. So back when this book was written most alcoholics were placed in asylums, basically locked away with little or no treatment of any kind, as alcoholism was not identified as a disease. Only a very small portion of the medical community recognized it as such. In fact, hospitals would turn drunks away because of the hopeless nature of “Alcoholism”.
So the early members of AA were on their own as far as helping alcoholics to get sober. They would go to hospitals and search out potential drunks that they could share their stories with and offer the solution that was laid out in the book ” Alcoholics Anonymous”. A sponsor, in the early days, was someone who would show up at the court house and explain to the judge what they had on the ball in regard to working with drunks and would volunteer to take responsibility for the person being charged for various typical drunken crimes.
If we have Treatment Centers and Detoxification Centers why study this chapter?
It is true that the old fashioned 12 step calls are not as necessary these days, however this chapter is still a very helpful instructional guide on how to approach the alcoholic who still suffers, even if just at a 12 step meeting or a bus stop. The original members put their own practical experience into this chapter so that future members wouldn’t have to go through the trials and errors that they did.
I know someone who is out of control now. What suggestions do they have for me to approach them?
Reading this chapter is the best way to prepare yourself to reach out to your friend. But for starters a good rule of thumb is at the bottom of the very first page of chapter 7; “Don’t start out as an evangelist or reformer. Unfortunately a lot of prejudice exists. You will be handicapped if you arouse it. Ministers and doctors are competent and you can learn much from them if you wish, but it happens that because of your own drinking experience you can be uniquely useful to other alcoholics. So cooperate; never criticize. To be helpful is our only aim.”
The main point is we don’t lecture or make speeches. No judgment, just a desire to be helpful. If you have solved the problem for yourself then your experience, good and bad, will be what your friend will hear. The dishonesty and damage that an alcoholic can cause to their family and friends is tremendous. Your friend may give reasons why they cannot get sober – stumbling blocks like their spouse left or they have lost their job or any other number of reasons that getting sober is not possible for them right now. The friend may offer a myriad of ideas as to why the program will not work for him or her as well.
There is a short but powerful paragraph in this chapter that shouts out the answers to the doubts and troubles that seem to stand in the way of an alcoholic getting sober and that is; “Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.”