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of A. A.
The Chicago Group (1940's)
as indicated on the AA
History Buffs site, Jim B. had spoke to a friend in
Chicago and was told that Impressions of A.A. pamphlet was
written in the early 40's by Judge John T. who was also
the author of the "Why We Were Chosen" pamphlet.)
also see: Why We Were
membership in ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS was first suggested to
us by an alcoholic friend, it was with considerable misgiving
that many of us agreed to the association. Prior to reading
the book ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS many of us had little conception
of the alcoholic problem. We had the naive idea, common
among persons whose drinking habits are similar to what
ours once were, that an alcoholic was a social derelict
-- a forlorn object of pity, without money, without position,
without family and without friends. We have since learned
that while such a condition is not uncommon it is not necessarily
pass key to the door of understanding of alcoholism, as
we members of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS understand the problem,
is the recognition and the admission on the part of the
prospective member that he is an alcoholic. If he is not
alcoholic, our group has nothing to offer him. If he is,
an observance of our program will eliminate the alcoholic
problem from his life. We have nothing to offer the controlled
drinker. We are in no sense a temperance society. Neither
are we crusaders in an anti-alcohol campaign. We have no
quarrel with alcohol as such. Nor have we the slightest
desire to cause controlled drinkers to abandon what to them
is a pleasurable and entertaining diversion. We carry the
torch for no one but ourselves.
the formal sense we are not an organization at all. We have
no officers, no dues, no obligations to any but ourselves
and to other alcoholics. We have no axes to grind, no selfish
purposes to achieve, no ambition to serve other than to
save ourselves from what to us was a consuming evil. We
are not scientists. Most of us have little, if any, knowledge
of the cause of alcoholism, nor do we as a group attempt
to answer the age old inquiry Why do I take the first
drink? We have made a study of ourselves in the light
of the principals enunciated in our book-- the twelve principals
which are appended hereto -- and through such study and
a statement to others of the method of our study, we find
that we can be helpful in aiding them to recognize their
problem, if their problem is alcohol.
then did we arrive at the conclusion that we were alcoholics?
First, let us briefly define the term as we understand it.
An alcoholic to us means an abnormal or an uncontrolled
drinker. It is not so much the amount or the frequency of
drinking as it is the effect of the drinks consumed. Within
our Chicago group are those who for years drank as much
as two quarts of whiskey a day. There are others whose monthly
consumption might not exceed that much. There are those
who drank daily for years to the point of intoxication,
and others who would go months without so much as a glass
of beer. There are those of high standing in the professional
and business world and those from the flop houses of West
Madison Street. There are those who have voluntarily subjected
themselves repeatedly to numerous so-called cures
some who voluntarily had themselves committed to psychopathic
institutions and insane asylums; others who have experienced
no more severe distress than an agonizing case of jitters.
Those of us who had reached the depths of degradation prior
to finding this program, and who had been long since become
aware that we were alcoholics, frequently found it easier
to accept the principals of A.A. than those who, by reason
of less humiliating experiences, refused to acknowledge
we are all the same in this respect; that, having started
to drink, we had no self-control that would indicate a stopping
point. We do not mean by this statement to be understood
as asserting that in every instance where we took the first
drink, that we would necessarily end in drunken stupefaction.
We do mean, however, that having taken the first drink,
we did not know what might be the reaction. Pausing in our
way from our shop or from our office to our home for a sociable
drink at the corner saloon, it might be that we would stop
with two or three drinks. Sometimes we did. But frequently
we did not, and never did we know when we stopped for the
first how many might follow. It might be a matter of ten
minutes and it might be ten days. We also observed another
identifying mark and that was whether we drank to excess
on every occasion when we were subjected to the first drink,
or whether on many occasions we were able to control the
impulse short of satiety, our inclination was always toward
the former course. We might by virtue of important responsibilities
release ourselves from the urge which the first few drinks
had engendered, but we were always resentful of the interference.
There was no occasion, once the urge had been indulged,
even though meagerly, that our preference was not to continue
drinking. And whether we succumbed frequently or infrequently
we were all alike in that on those occasions when the urge
was in command no inhibiting factors could possibly intervene.
Our sense of responsibility, our will power and our standards
of value were gone.
has been stated that the nervous system of certain individuals
is allergic to alcohol; that this drug in even small quantities
sets up a type of nervous disturbance which seems to require
additional alcohol to satisfy its impulse. It well may be
that certain individuals have the same nervous allergy for
alcohol that certain other people have a physical allergy
for some kinds of food. Whether this analogy be sound or
otherwise, the fact remains that in the case of all of us,
once we took the first drink, we had no definite assurance
as to when the reaction would be. We were no longer masters
of our destiny.
know from experience that normal people do not so react
to alcohol. Drink to them is a beverage or a pleasurable
stimulant, but they recognize when they approach the point
beyond which it ceases to be such and becomes a menace.
We all know in our acquaintance men who drink like
gentlemen, and always during our drinking careers
it was our ambition to so drink. We did not enjoy in sober
contemplation making spectacles of ourselves. We dreaded
the remorse of the morning after and we feared
the terrible depression following a prolonged spree. We
always felt, notwithstanding the unhappy experience of the
years, that some day we could handle the stuff, but now
we know that the alcoholic can never become a controlled
drinker. Due to forces in his physical or psychic make-up,
which we do not profess to understand, he cannot recognize
or observe the danger signal.
recognized ourselves to be alcoholics within the above definition,
the next step in our program suggested the question: Did
we desire to stop drinking? Again we say that unless there
is a sincere desire to abandon the practice, then our group
has nothing to offer the alcoholic.
us the desire to cease drinking was present. Years of uncontrolled
drinking had made our lives unmanageable. The similarity
of alcoholic experiences is amazing. The intimate exchanges
of confidences, which seems to follow in group association
such as ours, discloses that within certain limits we have
all followed identical patterns; loss of home, of friends;
self-deceit, recriminations, self-pity, envies, jealousies,
dishonesty, resentments, lying, deceit and worse vices,
we found common to all.
desire to abandon the bottle must be, on the part of the
neophyte in this program, something deeper than a superficial
emotional revulsion from the miserable predicament into
which a last bender brought him. There must be a sane, dispassionate,
contemplative realization that the vices enumerated above
are evil and that in our case uncontrolled drinking is the
soil in which they grow.
proposed itself the question -- how?
Many of us felt that we had exhausted all conceivable remedies;
will power, medicine, pledges, cures, psychiatry. All had
failed not once but many times.
has ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS to offer that will power and science
failed to afford us? We knew that we were powerless against
alcohol; that we could neither help ourselves nor could
the most intelligent of our fellowmen assist us, and in
our extremity we came to the realization that most of us
were beyond human aid. But wasnt there an avenue of
escape that we had not explored? In our helplessness the
assurance came to us that there was a power greater than
ourselves, whom most men call God, who would help if humbly
invoked. Before coming into this group a great many of us
were agnostic, at least we were such in an academic sense.
Many of us had had religious teaching in our formative years,
-- some of us had none. But in the majority of our cases
we had not found in religion a rule of life. We had seen
much hypocrisy on the part of those who professed to be
adherents of religious denominations. Our friends for the
most part were those not given to religious thought or observance.
When it was suggested to us as a step in this program that
we turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as
we understood Him, there were many of us who rebelled, determining
that as between the extreme of ruin from the bottle, and
the boredom of evangelism, we preferred the former.
as we inquired further into the subject, we came to the
realization that the recognition of a Power greater than
ourselves and upon whom we might call for help did not necessarily
involve religion in a denominational sense. All that was
required of us was a belief in God as we understood him.
We found that once the barriers of prejudice are removed,
that a practical concept of an intelligent God was not difficult
for us. We have found, too, that many find comfort in the
formal observation of teachings of the religion in which
they were early educated, and that what they considered
agnosticism was in a large part a refusal to investigate.
We are not required to accept any other persons idea
of God. Within our group are found Jews, Protestants and
Catholics, and there is no reason why Buddhists, Mohamemedans,
or adherents of any other religious faith might not be included.
All that is required is a recognition of a Supreme Being
which would help us were He sincerely petitioned. Our experience
led us to believe that there are few, if any, civilized
persons who have not a belief of some kind in a Supreme
Being. The individual interpretations of this Supreme Being
may differ widely, but to us the simplest acceptance of
such Power involved a recognition of a first cause or, in
other words, a Creator.
everything that we observe about us in the world is an effect
due to some cause, we found it easy to subscribe to the
proposition that we also were effects in the greater scheme
of things who owe our being to a cause. That cause we designated
the Supreme Power. Inasmuch as we consider ourselves as
intelligent beings, and see in every act of creation order
and design denoting intelligence, we concluded that the
being that caused us was of greatest intelligence -- a simple
recognition that the Creator is greater than the creature.
We became persuaded that this Creator, having the ability
and being intelligent, would hear us in our extremity if
we asked for help.
further realized, however, that mere lip service was not
sufficient and felt that in asking the Supreme Being for
help, we should give something in return. What did we have
of us recognized that we had a conscience; that in each
individual case conscience dictated what for us was right
and what for us was wrong. This voice of conscience we interpreted
as being a direction from the Supreme Being as to how and
in what manner we should lead our lives. This conscience
dictated to us that we should be honest with ourselves and
in our dealings with our fellowmen; that we should be tolerant
and just and charitable; in a word, that we should do onto
others as we would have them do unto us. We, therefore,
petitioned God, as we understood Him, asking aid in conquering
the disease which had led many of us to the brink of destruction
and threatened to destroy us all, promising in exchange
that we would, insofar as we were able, lead lives that
were in accord with the dictates of our individual consciences.
In accomplishment of this purpose we realized that it was
necessary to take a complete moral inventory of ourselves;
and to humble ourselves by admitting our past derelictions
to the Supreme Being, ourselves and at least one other person.
of drinking found us with large debit balances to be liquidated.
A moral inventory had indicated the extent of this indebtedness.
Many of these obligations required physical repayment, but
by far the greater and more important part were moral. We
made a mental or physical list of these physical and moral
creditors and determined insofar as we were able to make
restitution. As our financial condition permitted we commenced,
however modestly, to repay our physical debts. But slander,
injustice, ingratitude, and the daily mental cruelties which
we had practiced in most part on those who were closest
to us, were more formidable. The liquidation of such we
realized to be the work of a lifetime which could be accomplished
only by eradicating from our lives those besetting vices,
some of which were earlier referred to.
realized that being alcoholics, we would continue to remain
such for the rest of our lives; that the program of ALCOHOLICS
ANONYMOUS was not a cure for alcoholism but was a rule of
conduct which, if followed perseveringly in all the affairs
of life, would keep us from the first drink. Too well did
we know that we would never become controlled drinkers,
but that the day we abandoned our program would find us
at the exact point where we were when our drinking was arrested.
From the foregoing it is to be concluded that the program
of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS is not a cure. It is not a formula
that may be grasped, applied and abandoned. Neither is it
a discovery. It is the application in our daily lives of
principles as old as the golden rule or the Sermon on the
Mount. It is not advocated that the neophyte make a pledge
to forever abstain from drink. Our approach is rather on
a daily basis. We ask for help from a Power greater than
ourselves in a quiet time each day as we take our moral
inventory, and our prayer is for assistance during the particular
day, or oftener as the individual case may require.
it became manifest to us that as part of our regeneration,
assistance to other alcoholics who sincerely wished to be
rid of their addiction was necessary. We have found group
association to be of inestimable assistance. Only the alcoholic
can adequately understand and sympathize with the other
we recognize that the essential aid to overcome our problem
comes from a Power greater than ourselves, it is also manifest
to us that the alcoholics are the human agents through which
this Power is directed. Especially in the beginning do we
lean heavily upon each other. We are like those who, having
suffered and recovered from a usually fatal malady, contain
within the blood stream, by virtue of prior infection, the
anti-toxin which will be the only means of saving the lives
of other unfortunate victims of the same disease.
the most emotionally satisfying part of our program is the
aid which we have been able to give to others. Much of this
program is not easy for all. It involves acts of humility
and sacrifice. But the feeling of elation each of us has
enjoyed in the knowledge that we, and in most cases only
we alcoholics, can aid other alcoholics, is deeply gratifying.
Everyone of us who has had the experience of assisting a
fellow-alcoholic in the solution of his problem has been
definitely strengthened in the conquest of his own. The
gratitude and the satisfaction of seeing wives reconciled,
families reunited, self-respect restored is an experience
transcending in satisfaction most every other experience
of our lives.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our
lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could
restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to
the care of God as we understood him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being
the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became
willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were
wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our
conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying
only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry
Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these
steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and
to practice these principles in all our affairs.
information about the work of Alcoholics Anonymous may be
obtained by writing to:
205 W. Wacker Drive
Chicago 6, Ill.
also see: Why We