MADE our personal inventory, what shall we do about
it? We have been trying to get a new attitude, a new
relationship with our Creator, and to discover the obstacles
in our path. We have admitted certain defects; we have
ascertained in a rough way what the trouble is; we have
put our finger on the weak items in our personal inventory.
Now these are about to be cast out. This requires action
on our part, which, when completed, will mean that we
have admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human
being, the exact nature of our defects. This brings
us to the Fifth Step in the program of recovery
mentioned in the preceding chapter.
This is perhaps
difficult--especially discussing our defects with another
person. We think we have done well enough in admitting
these things to ourselves. There is doubt about that.
In actual practice, we usually find a solitary self-appraisal
insufficient. Many of us thought it necessary to go
much further. We will be more reconciled to discussing
ourselves with another person when we see good reasons
why we should do so. The best reason first: If we skip
this vital step, we may not overcome drinking. Time
after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves
certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this
humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods.
they got drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the
program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason
is that they never completed their housecleaning. They
took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst
items in stock. They only thought they had lost
their egoism and fear; they only thought they had
humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of
humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find
it necessary, until they told someone else all
their life story.
More than most people,
the alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the
actor. To the outer world he presents his stage character.
This is the one he likes his fellows to see. He wants
to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his heart
he doesn’t deserve it.
is made worse by the things he does on his sprees. Coming
to his sense, he is revolted at certain episodes he vaguely
remembers. These memories are a nightmare. He trembles
to think someone might have observed him. As far as he
can, he pushes these memories far inside himself. He hopes
they will never see the light of day. He is under constant
fear and tension--that makes for more drinking.
inclined to agree with us. We have spent thousands of
dollars for examinations. We know but few instances where
we have given these doctors a fair break. We have seldom
told them the whole truth nor have we followed their advice.
Unwilling to be honest with these sympathetic men, we
were honest with no one else. Small wonder many in the
medical profession have a low opinion of alcoholics and
their chance for recovery!
We must be entirely
honest with somebody if we
to live long or happily in this world. Rightly and naturally,
we think well before we choose the person or persons with
whom to take this intimate and confidential step. Those
of us belonging to a religious denomination which requires
confession must, and of course, will want to go to the
properly appointed authority whose duty it is to receive
it. Though we have no religious conception, we may still
do well to talk with someone ordained by an established
religion. We often find such a person quick to see and
understand our problem. Of course, we sometimes encounter
people who do not understand alcoholics.
If we cannot or would
rather not do this, we search our acquaintance for a close-mouthed,
understanding friend. Perhaps our doctor or psychologist
will be the person. It may be one of our own family, but
we cannot disclose anything to our wives or our parents
which will hurt them and make them unhappy. We have no
right to save our own skin at another person’s expense.
Such parts of our story we tell to someone who will understand,
yet be unaffected. The rule is we must be hard on ourself,
but always considerate of others.
great necessity for discussing ourselves with someone,
it may be one is so situated that there is no suitable
person available. If that is so, this step may be postponed,
only, however, if we hold ourselves in complete readiness
to go through with it at the first opportunity. We say
this because we are very anxious that we talk to the right
person. It is important that he be able to keep a confidence;
that he fully understand and approve what we are driving
he will not try to change our plan. But we must not use
this as a mere excuse to postpone.
When we decide who
is to hear our story, we waste no time. We have a written
inventory and we are prepared for a long talk. We explain
to our partner what we are about to do and why we have
to do it. He should realize that we are engaged upon a
life-and-death errand. Most people approached in this
way will be glad to help; they will be honored by our
We pocket our pride
and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every
dark cranny of the past. Once we have taken this step,
withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the
world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and
ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness
of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs,
but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling
that the drink problem has disappeared will often come
strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking
hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.
Returning home we
find a place where we can be quiet for an hour, carefully
reviewing what we have done. We thank God from the bottom
of our heart that we know Him better. Taking this book
down from our shelf we turn to the page which contains
the twelve steps. Carefully reading the first five proposals
we ask if we have omitted anything, for we are building
an arch through which we shall walk a free man at last.
Is our work solid so far? Are the stones properly in place?
Have we skimped on the cement put into the foundation?
Have we tried to make mortar without sand?
we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at Step
Six. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable.
Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things
which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take
them all--every one? If we still cling to something we
will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.
ready, we say something like this: “My Creator, I am now
willing that You should have all of me, good and bad.
I pray that You now remove from me every single defect
of character which stands in the way of my usefulness
to You and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out
from here, to do Your bidding. Amen.” We have then completed
Now we need more action,
without which we find that “Faith without works is dead.”
Let’s look at Steps Eight and Nine. We have a list
of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing
to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We
subjected ourselves to a drastic self-appraisal. Now we
go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the
past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated
out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show
ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until
it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we
would go to any lenths for victory over alcohol.
Probably there are
still some misgivings. As we look over the list of business
acquaintances and friends we have hurt, we may feel diffident
about going to some of them on a spiritual basis. Let
us be reassured. To some people we need not, and probably
should not emphasize the spiritual feature on our first
might prejudice them. At the moment we are trying to put
our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself.
Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum
service to God and the people about us. It is seldom wise
to approach an individual, who still smarts from our injustice
to him, and announce that we have gone religious. In the
prize ring, this would be called leading with the chin.
Why lay ourselves open to being branded fanatics or religious
bores? We may kill a future opportunity to carry a beneficial
message. But our man is sure to be impressed with a sincere
desire to set right the wrong. He is going to be more
interested in a demonstration of good will than in our
talk of spiritual discoveries.
We don’t use this
as an excuse for shying away from the subject of God.
When it will serve any good purpose, we are willing to
announce our convictions with tact and common sense. The
question of how to approach the man we hated will arise.
It may be he has done us more harm than we have done him
and, though we may have acquired a better attitude toward
him, we are still not too keen about admitting our faults.
Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take the bit
in our teeth. It is harder to go to an enemy than to a
friend, but we find it much more beneficial to us. We
go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit, confessing
our former ill feeling and expressing our regret.
Under no condition
do we criticize such a person or argue. Simply tell him
that we will never get over drinking until we have done
our utmost to straighten out the past. We are there to
sweep off our side of the street, realizing that nothing
be accomplished until we do so, never trying to tell him
what he should do. His faults are not discussed. We stick
to our own. If our manner is calm, frank, and open, we
will be gratified with the result.
In nine cases out
of ten the unexpected happens. Sometimes the man we are
calling upon admits his own fault, so feuds of years’
standing melt away in an hour. Rarely do we fail to make
satisfactory progress. Our former enemies sometimes praise
what we are doing and wish us well. Occasionally, they
will offer assistance. It should not matter, however,
if someone does throw us out of his office. We have made
our demonstration, done our part. It’s water over the
Most alcoholics owe
money. We do not dodge our creditors. Telling them what
we are trying to do, we make no bones about our drinking;
they usually know it anyway, whether we think so or not.
Nor are we afraid of disclosing our alcoholism on the
theory it may cause financial harm. Approached in this
way, the most ruthless creditor will sometimes surprise
us. Arranging the best deal we can we let these people
know we are sorry. Our drinking has made us slow to pay.
We must lose our fear of creditors no matter how far we
have to go, for we are liable to drink if we are afraid
to face them.
Perhaps we have committed
a criminal offense which might land us in jail if it were
known to the authorities. We may be short in our accounts
and unable to make good. We have already admitted this
in confidence to another person, but we are sure we would
be imprisoned or lose our job if it were known. Maybe
it’s only a petty offense such as padding the expense
account. Most of us have done that sort of thing.
we are divorced, and have remarried but haven’t kept up
the alimony to number one. She is indignant about it,
and has a warrant out for our arrest. That’s a common
form of trouble too.
Although these reparations
take innumerable forms, there are some general principles
which we find guiding. Reminding ourselves that we have
decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience,
we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the
right thing, no matter what the personal consequences
may be. We may lose our position or reputation or face
jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not shrink
other people are involved. Therefore, we are not to be
the hasty and foolish martyr who would needlessly sacrifice
others to save himself from the alcoholic pit. A man we
know had remarried. Because of resentment and drinking,
he had not paid alimony to his first wife. She was furious.
She went to court and got an order for his arrest. He
had commenced our way of life, had secured a position,
and was getting his head above water. It would have been
impressive heroics if he had walked up to the Judge and
said, “Here I am.”
We thought he ought
to be willing to do that if necessary, but if he were
in jail he could provide nothing for either family. We
suggested he write his first wife admitting his faults
and asking forgiveness. He did, and also sent a small
amount of money. He told her what he would try to do in
the future. He said he was perfectly willing to go to
jail is she insisted. Of course she did not, and the whole
situation has only since been adjusted.
taking drastic action which might implicate other people
we secure their consent. If we have obtained permission,
have consulted with others, asked God to help and the
drastic step is indicated we must not shrink.
This brings to mind
a story about one of our friends. While drinking, he accepted
a sum of money from a bitterly-hated business rival, giving
him no receipt for it. He subsequently denied having received
the money and used the incident as a basis for discrediting
the man. He thus used his own wrong-doing as a means of
destroying the reputation of another. In fact, his rival
He felt that he had
done a wrong he could not possibly make right. If he opened
that old affair, he was afraid it would destroy the reputation
of his partner, disgrace his family and take away his
means of livelihood. What right had he to involve those
dependent upon him? How could he possibly make a public
statement exonerating his rival?
After consulting with
his wife and partner he came to the conclusion that it
was better to take those risks than to stand before his
Creator guilty of such ruinous slander. He saw that he
had to place the outcome in God’s hands or he would soon
start drinking again, and all would be lost anyhow. He
attended church for the first time in many years. After
the sermon, he quietly got up and made an explanation.
His action met widespread approval, and today he is one
of the most trusted citizens of his town. This all happened
The chances are that
we have domestic troubles. Perhaps we are mixed up with
women in a fashion we
care to have advertised. We doubt if, in this respect,
alcoholics are fundamentally much worse than other people.
But drinking does complicate sex relations in the home.
After a few years with an alcoholic, a wife gets worn
out, resentful and uncommunicative. How could she be anything
else? The husband begins to feel lonely, sorry for himself.
He commences to look around in the night clubs, or their
equivalent, for something besides liquor. Perhaps he is
having a secret and exciting affair with “the girl who
understands.” In fairness we must say that she may understand,
but what are we going to do about a thing like that? A
man so involved often feels very remorseful at times,
especially if he is married to a loyal and courageous
girl who has literally gone through hell for him.
Whatever the situation,
we usually have to do something about it. If we are sure
our wife does not know, should we tell here? Not always,
we think. If she knows in a general way that we have been
wild, should we tell her in detail? Undoubtedly we should
admit our fault. She may insist on knowing all the particulars.
She will want to know who the woman is and where she is.
We feel we ought to say to her that we have no right to
involve another person. We are sorry for what we have
done and, God willing, it shall not be repeated. More
than that we cannot do; we have no right to go further.
Though there may be justifiable exceptions, and though
we wish to lay down no rule of any sort, we have often
found this the best course to take.
Our design for living
is not a one-way street. It is as good for the wife as
for the husband. If we can
so can she. It is better, however, that one does not needlessly
name a person upon whom she can vent jealousy.
Perhaps there are
some cases where the utmost frankness is demanded. No
outsider can appraise such an intimate situation. It may
be that both will decide that the way of good sense and
loving kindness is to let by-gones be by-gones. Each might
pray about it, having the other one’s happiness uppermost
in mind. Keep it always in sight that we are dealing with
that most terrible human emotion--jealousy. Good generalship
may decide that the problem be attacked on the flank rather
than risk a face-to-face combat.
If we have no such
complication, there is plenty we should do at home. Sometimes
we hear an alcoholic say that the only thing he needs
to do is to keep sober. Certainly he must 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.
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 he 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’?”
there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must
take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry
won’t fill the bill at all. We ought to sit down with
the family and frankly analyze the past as we now see
it, being very careful not to criticize them. Their defects
may be glaring, but the chances are that our own actions
are partly responsible. So we clean house with the family,
asking each morning in meditation that our Creator show
us the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness and love.
The spiritual life
is not a theory. We have to live it. Unless one’s
family expresses a desire to live upon spiritual principles
we think we ought not to urge them. We should not talk
incessantly to them about spiritual matters. They will
change in time. Our behavior will convince them more than
our words. We must remember that ten or twenty years of
drunkenness would make a skeptic out of anyone.
There may be some
wrongs we can never fully right. We don’t worry about
them if we can honestly say to ourselves that we would
right them if we could. Some people cannot be seen--we
sent them an honest letter. And there may be a valid reason
for postponement in some cases. But we don’t delay if
it can be avoided. We should be sensible, tactful, considerate
and humble without being servile or scraping. As God’s
people we stand on our feet; we don’t crawl before anyone.
we are painstaking about this phase of our development,
we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are
going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will
not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We
will comprehend the
serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down
the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience
can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity
will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things
and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip
away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
We will intuitively know how to handle situations which
used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is
doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant
promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among
us--sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always
materialize if we work for them.
This thought brings
us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take
personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes
as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living
as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of
the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding
and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It
should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for
selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these
crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss
them with someone immediately and make amends quickly
if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our
thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of
others is our code.
And we have ceased
fighting anything or anyone--even alcohol. For by this
time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested
in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot
sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened
automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward
liquor has been given us without any thought or effort
on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.
We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation.
We feel as though we had been placed in a position of
neutrality--safe and protected. We have not even sworn
off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not
exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid.
That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual
It is easy to let
up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our
laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol
is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What
we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance
of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we
must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities.
“How can I best serve Thee--Thy will (not mine) be done.”
These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We
can exercise our will power along this line all we wish.
It is the proper use of the will.
Much has already been
said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction
from Him who has all knowledge and power. If we have carefully
followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of
His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become God-conscious.
We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense. But we
must go further and that means more action.
suggests prayer and meditation. We shouldn’t be shy on
this matter of prayer. Better men
we are using it constantly. It works, if we have the proper
attitude and work at it. It would be easy to be vague
about this matter. Yet, we believe we can make some definite
and valuable suggestions.
When we retire at
night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful,
selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have
we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed
with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward
all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking
of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of
what we could do for others, of what we could pack into
the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift
into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would
diminish our usefulness to others. After making our review
we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures
should be taken.
On awakening let us
think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our
plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct
our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from
self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these
conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance,
for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life
will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking
is cleared of wrong motives.
In thinking about
our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to
determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration,
an intuitive thought or a decision. we relax and take
it easy. We don’t struggle. We are often surprised how
the right answers come after we have tried this for a
used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually
becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced
and having just made conscious contact with God, it is
not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times.
We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd
actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking
will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of
inspiration. We come to rely upon it.
We usually conclude
the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown
all through the day what our next step is to be, that
we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems.
We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are
careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may
ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped.
We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends.
Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it
doesn’t work. You can easily see why.
If circumstances warrant,
we ask our wives or friends to join us in morning meditation.
If we belong to a religious denomination which requires
a definite morning devotion, we attend to that also. If
not members of religious bodies, we sometimes select and
memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles
we have been discussing. There are many helpful books
also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one’s
priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious
people are right. Make use of what they offer.
As we go through the
day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the
right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves
we are no longer
the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day
“Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of
excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish
decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire
so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly
as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit
It works--it really
We alcoholics are
undisciplined. So we let God discipline us in the simple
way we have just outlined.
But this is not all.
There is action and more action. “Faith without works
is dead.” The next chapter is entirely devoted to Step
for chapter 6 of the pre-1939 Original Manuscript.