THE AKRON MANUAL (1940)
Edit. This present text, available for printout at www.iusb.edu/~gchesnut, was formatted for the web by Glenn C. (South Bend IN) in January 2002; the editorial notes are his. His text was drawn from one prepared by Barefoot Bob, who scanned the text of an original copy of the pamphlet and reformatted it for the web on May 15, 1997; see www.barefootsworld.net/aamanual.html. The original printed version of the manual is no longer published in Akron.
Barefoot Bob says that this little booklet was written and being distributed within one year of the publication of the Big Book, which would date it back to 1940. On the basis of a number of statements made within the text, it certainly could not have been produced much later than that.
This pamphlet assumes hospitalization at St. Thomas Hospital under the care of Sister Ignatia and the overall supervision of Dr. Bob as the normal first step in recovery, and gives recommended readings (e.g. the Upper Room for your morning meditation) which dropped out of A.A. practice fairly soon thereafter, but parts of its advice are still very relevant, and it makes very fascinating reading even today. We must assume that Dr. Bob himself (and probably Sister Ignatia too) gave their approval to the statements made in this little booklet.
The first half of the manual contains the most important introductory material, and the second half contains a series of assorted thoughts on learning to live the program and a long section on meetings.
This booklet is intended to be a practical guide for new members and sponsors of new members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
TO THE NEWCOMER: The booklet is designed to give you a practical explanation of what to do and what not to do in your search for sobriety. The editors, too, were pretty bewildered by the program at first. They realize that very likely you are groping for answers and offer this pamphlet in order that it may make a little straighter and less confusing the highway you are about to travel.
TO THE SPONSOR: If you have never before brought anyone into A.A. the booklet attempts to tell you what your duties are by your “baby,” how you should conduct yourself while visiting patients, and other odd bits of information, some of which may be new to you.
The booklet should be read in conjunction with the large book, Alcoholics Anonymous, the Bible, the daily lesson, any other pamphlets that are published by the group, and other constructive literature. A list of suggestions will be found in the back pages of this pamphlet. It is desirable that members of A.A. furnish their prospective “babies” with this Manual as early as possible, particularly in the case of hospitalization.
The experience behind the writing and editing of this pamphlet adds up to hundreds of years of drinking, plus scores of years of recent sobriety. Every suggestion, every word, is backed up by hard experience.
The editors do not pretend any explanation of the spiritual or religious aspects of A.A. It is assumed that this phase of the work will be explained by sponsors. The booklet therefore deals solely with the physical aspects of getting sober and remaining sober.
A.A. in Akron is fortunate in having facilities for hospitalizing its patients. In many communities, however, hospitalization is not available. Although the pamphlet mentions hospitalization throughout, the methods described are effective if the patient is confined to his home, if he is in prison or a mental institution, or if he is attempting to learn A.A. principles and carry on his workaday job at the same time.
If your community has a hospital, either private or general, that has not accepted alcoholic patients in the past, it might be profitable to call on the officials of the institution and explain Alcoholics Anonymous to them. Explain that we are not in the business of sobering up drunks merely to have them go on another bender. Explain that our aim is total and permanent sobriety. Hospital authorities should know, and if they do not, should be told, that an alcoholic is a sick man, just as sick as a diabetic or a consumptive. Perhaps his affliction will not bring death as quickly as diabetes or tuberculosis, but it will bring death or insanity eventually.
Alcoholism has had a vast amount of nationwide publicity in recent years. It has been discussed in medical journals, national magazines and newspapers. It is possible that a little sales talk will convince the hospital authorities in your community that they should make beds available for patients sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous.
If the way is finally opened, it is urged that you guard your hospital privileges carefully. Be as certain as you possibly can that your patient sincerely wants A.A.
Above all, carefully observe all hospital rules.
It has been our experience that a succession of unruly patients or unruly visitors can bring a speedy termination of hospital privileges. And they will want no part of you or your patient in the future.
Once he starts to sober up, the average alcoholic makes a model hospital patient. He needs little or no nursing or medical care, and he is grateful for his opportunity.
Definition of an Alcoholic Anonymous: An Alcoholic Anonymous is an alcoholic who through application of and adherence to rules laid down by the organization, has completely foresworn the use of any and all alcoholic beverages. The moment he wittingly drinks so much as a drop of beer, wine, spirits, or any other alcoholic drink he automatically loses all status as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
A.A. is not interested in sobering up drunks who are not sincere in their desire to remain completely sober for all time. A.A. is not interested in alcoholics who want to sober up merely to go on another bender, sober up because of fear for their jobs, their wives, their social standing, or to clear up some trouble either real or imaginary. In other words, if a person is genuinely sincere in his desire for continued sobriety for his own good, is convinced in his heart that alcohol holds him in its power, and is willing to admit that he is an alcoholic, members of Alcoholics Anonymous will do all in their power, spend days of their time to guide him to a new, a happy, and a contented way of life.
It is utterly essential for the newcomer to say to himself sincerely and without any reservation, “I am doing this for myself and myself alone.” Experience has proved in hundreds of cases that unless an alcoholic is sobering up for a purely personal and selfish motive, he will not remain sober for any great length of time. He may remain sober for a few weeks or a few months, but the moment the motivating element, usually fear of some sort, disappears, so disappears sobriety.
TO THE NEWCOMER: It is your life. It is your choice. If you are not completely convinced to your own satisfaction that you are an alcoholic, that your life has become unmanageable; if you are not ready to part with alcohol forever, it would be better for all concerned if you discontinue reading this and give up the idea of becoming a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
For if you are not convinced, it is not only wasting your own time but the time of scores of men and women who are genuinely interested in helping you.
TO THE LADIES: If we seem to slight you in this booklet it is not intentional. We merely use the masculine pronouns “he” and “him” for convenience. We fully realize that alcohol shows no partiality. It does not respect age, sex, nor estate. The millionaire drunk on the best Scotch and the poor man drunk on the cheapest rotgut look like twin brothers when they are in a hospital bed or the gutter. The only difference between a female and a male drunk is that the former is likely to be treated with a little more consideration and courtesy — although generally she does not deserve it. Every word in this pamphlet applies to women as well as men. — THE EDITORS
A WORD TO THE SPONSOR who is putting his first newcomer into a hospital or otherwise introducing him to this new way of life: You must assume full responsibility for this man. He trusts you, otherwise he would not submit to hospitalization. You must fulfill all pledges you make to him, either tangible or intangible. If you cannot fulfill a promise, do not make it. It is easy enough to promise a man that he will get his job back if he sobers up. But unless you are certain that it can be fulfilled, don’t make that promise. Don’t promise financial aid unless you are ready to fulfill your part of the bargain. If you don’t know how he is going to pay his hospital bill, don’t put him in the hospital unless you are willing to assume financial responsibility.
It is definitely your job to see that he has visitors, and you must visit him frequently yourself. If you hospitalize a man and then neglect him, he will naturally lose confidence in you, assume a “nobody loves me” attitude, and your half-hearted labors will be lost.
This is a very critical time in his life. He looks to you for courage, hope, comfort and guidance. He fears the past. He is uncertain of the future. And he is in a frame of mind that the least neglect on your part will fill him with resentment and self-pity. You have in your hands the most valuable property in the world — the future of a fellow man. Treat his life as carefully as you would your own. You are literally responsible for his life.
Above all, don’t coerce him into a hospital. Don’t get him drunk and then throw him in while he is semi-conscious. Chances are he will waken wondering where he is, how he got there. And he won’t last.
You should be able to judge if a man is sincere in his desire to quit drinking. Use this judgment. Otherwise you will find yourself needlessly bumping your head into a stone wall and wondering why your “babies” don’t stay sober. Remember your own experience. You can remember many times when you would have done anything to get over that awful alcoholic sickness, although you had no desire in the world to give up drinking for good. It doesn’t take much good health to inspire an alcoholic to go back and repeat the acts that made him sick. Men who have had pneumonia don’t often wittingly expose themselves a second time. But an alcoholic will deliberately get sick over and over again with brief interludes of good health.
You should make it a point to supply your patient with the proper literature — the big Alcoholics Anonymous book, this pamphlet, other available pamphlets, a Bible, and anything else that has helped you. Impress upon him the wisdom and necessity of reading and re-reading this literature. The more he learns about A.A. the easier the road to recovery.
Study the newcomer and decide who among your A.A. friends might have the best story and exert the best influence on him. There are all types in A.A. and regardless of whom you hospitalize, there are dozens who can help him. An hour on the telephone will produce callers. Don’t depend on chance. Stray visitors may drop in, but twenty or thirty phone calls will clinch matters and remove uncertainty. It is your responsibility to conjure up callers.
Impress upon your patient that his visitors are not making purely social calls. Their conversation is similar to medicine. Urge him to listen carefully to all that is said, and then meditate upon it after his visitor leaves.
When your patient is out of the hospital your work has not ended. It is now your duty not only to him but to yourself to see that he starts out on the right foot.
Accompany him to his first meeting. Take him along with you when you call on the next patient. Telephone him when there are other patients. Drop in at his home occasionally. Telephone him as often as possible. Urge him to look up the new friends he has made. Counsel and advise him. There was a certain amount of glamour connected with being a patient in the hospital. He had many visitors. His time was occupied. But now that he has been discharged, the glamour has worn off. He probably will be lonely. He may be too timid to seek the companionship of his new friends.
Experience has proved this to be a very critical period. So your labors have not ended. Give him as much attention as you did when you first called on him — until he can find the road by himself.
Remember, you depend on the newcomer to keep you sober as much as he depends on you. So never lose touch with your responsibility, which never ends.
Remember the old adage, “Two is company and three is a crowd.” If you find a patient has one or more visitors don’t go into the room. An alcoholic goes to the hospital for two reasons only — to get sober and to learn how to keep sober. The former is easy. Cut off the alcohol and a person is bound to get sober. So the really important thing is to learn how to keep sober. Experience has taught that when more than three gather in a room, patient included, the talk turns to the World Series, politics, funny drunken incidents, and “I could drink more than you.”
Such discussion is a waste of the patient’s time and money. It is assumed that he wants to know how you are managing to keep sober, and you won’t hold his attention if there is a crowd in the room.
If you must enter the room when there is another visitor, do it quietly and unobtrusively. Sit down in a corner and be silent until the other visitor has concluded. If he wants any comments from you he will ask for them.
One more word. It is desirable that the patient’s visitors be confined to members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Have a quiet talk with his wife or his family before he goes to the hospital. Explain that he will be in good hands and that it is only through kindness to him that his family and friends are asked to stay away. New members are likely to be a little shy. If they find a woman in the patient’s room they are not inclined to “let down their hair.” The older hands don’t mind it, but a new member might unwittingly be kept from delivering a valuable message.
TO THE NEWCOMER: Now you are in the hospital. Or perhaps you are learning to be an Alcoholics Anonymous the “hard way” by continuing at your job while undertaking sobriety.
You will have many callers. They will come singly and in pairs. They may arrive at all hours, from early morning to late night. Some you will like; some you will resent, some will seem stupid; others will strike you as silly, fanatic, or slightly insane; some will tell you a story that will be “right down your alley.” But remember this — never for one minute forget it:
Every single one of them is a former drunk and every single one is trying to help you! Your visitor has had the very problems that you are facing now. In comparison with some, your problems are trifles. You have one thing in common with every visitor — an alcoholic problem. Your caller may have been sober for a week or for half a decade. He still has an alcoholic problem, and if he for one moment forgets to follow any single rule for sober living, he may be occupying your hospital bed tomorrow.
Alcoholics Anonymous is one hundred percent effective for those who faithfully follow the rules. IT IS THOSE WHO TRY TO CUT CORNERS WHO FIND THEMSELVES BACK IN THEIR OLD DRUNKEN STATE.
Your visitor is going out of his way, taking up his time, perhaps missing a pleasant evening at home or at the theater by calling on you. His motives are twofold: He is selfish in that by calling on you he is taking out a little more “sobriety insurance” for himself; and secondly, he is genuinely anxious to pass along the peace and happiness a new way of life has brought him. He is also paying off a debt — paying the people who led him to the path of sobriety by helping someone else. In a very short time you too will find yourself paying off your debt, by carrying the word to another.
Always bear in mind that your caller not so many days or months ago occupied the same bed you are in today.
And here we might, despite our promise earlier in the booklet, give you a hint on the spiritual phase of Alcoholics Anonymous. You will be told to have faith in a Higher Power. First have faith in your visitor. He is sincere. He is not lying to you. He is not attempting to sell you a bill of goods. A.A. is given away, not sold. Believe him when he tells you what you must do to attain sobriety.
His very presence and appearance should be proof to you that the A.A. program really works. He is extending a helping hand and for himself asks nothing in return. Regardless of who he is or what he has to say, listen to him carefully and courteously. Your alcohol-befuddled mind may not absorb all he says in an hour’s conversation, but you will find that when he leaves certain things he has said will come back to you. Ponder these things carefully. They may bring you salvation. It has been the history of A.A. that one never knows where lightning will strike. You may pick up the germ of an idea from the most unexpected source. That single idea may shape the course of your entire life, may be the start of an entirely new philosophy. So no matter who your caller is, or what he says, listen attentively.
Your problem has always seemed to be shared by no one else in this world. You cannot conceive of anyone else in your predicament.
Forget it! Your problem dates back to the very beginning of history. Some long-forgotten hero discovered that the juice of the grape made a pleasant drink that brought pleasant results. That same hero probably drank copiously until he suddenly discovered that he could not control his appetite for the juice of the grape. And then he found himself in the same predicament you are in now — sick, worried, crazed with fear, and extremely thirsty.
Your caller once felt that he alone in the world had a drinking problem, and was amazed into sobriety when he discovered that countless thousands were sharing his troubles.
He also found out that when he brought his troubles out of their dark and secret hiding place and exposed them to the cleansing light of day, they were half conquered. And so it will be for you. Bring your problems out in the open and you will be amazed how they disappear.
It cannot be repeated too often: Listen carefully and think over at great length.
NOW YOU ARE ALONE. When you go to the hospital with typhoid fever your one thought is to be cured. When you go to the hospital as a chronic alcoholic your only thought should be to conquer a disease that is just as deadly if not so quick to kill. And rest assured that the disease is deadly. The mental hospitals are filled with chronic alcoholics. The vital statistics files in every community are filled with deaths due to acute alcoholism.
This is the most serious moment in your life. You can leave the hospital and resume an alcoholic road to an untimely grave or padded cell, or you can start upward to a life that is happy beyond any expectation.
It is your choice and your choice alone. Your newly found friends cannot police you to keep you sober. They have neither the time nor the inclination. They will go to unbelievable lengths to help you but there is a limit to all things.
Shortly after you leave the hospital you will be on your own. The Bible tells us to put “first things first.” Alcohol is obviously the first thing in your life. So concentrate on conquering it.
You could have gone through the mechanics of sobering up at home. Your new friends could have called on you in your own living room. But at home there would have been a hundred and one things to distract your attention — the radio, the furnace, a broken screen door, a walk to the drug store, your own family affairs. Every one of these things would make you forget the most important thing in your life, the thing upon which depends life or death — complete and endless sobriety. That is why you are in the hospital. You have time to think; you have time to read; you will have time to examine your life, past and present, and to reflect upon what it can be in the future. And don’t be in a hurry to leave. Your sponsor knows best. Stay in the hospital until you have at least a rudimentary understanding of the program.
There is the Bible that you haven’t opened for years. Get acquainted with it. Read it with an open mind. You will find things that will amaze you. You will be convinced that certain passages were written with you in mind. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew V, VI, and VII). Read St. Paul’s inspired essay on love (I Corinthians XIII). Read the Book of James. Read the Twenty-third and Ninety-first Psalms. These readings are brief but so important.
Read Alcoholics Anonymous and then read it again. You may find that it contains your own story. It will become your second Bible. Ask your callers to suggest other readings.
If you are puzzled, ask questions. One of your callers will know the answers. Get your sponsor to explain to you the Twelve Steps. If he is not too certain about them — he may be new in this work — ask someone else. The Twelve Steps are listed in the back of this booklet.
There is no standing still in A.A. You either forge ahead or slip backwards. Even the oldest members, the founders, learn something new almost every day.
You can never learn too much in the search for sobriety.
NOW YOU ARE OUT OF THE HOSPITAL By this time you should know if you want to go along with A.A., or if you want to slip back into that old headache that you called life. You are physically sober and well — a bit shaky, perhaps, but that will wear off in a short time. Reflect that you didn’t get into this condition overnight, and that you cannot expect to get out of it in a couple of hours or days.
You feel good enough to go on another bender, or good enough to try a different scheme of things — sobriety.
You have decided to go along with Alcoholics Anonymous? Very well, you will never regret it.
First off, your day will have a new pattern. You will open the day with a quiet period. This will be explained by your sponsor. You will read the Upper Room, or whatever you think best for yourself. You will say a little prayer asking for help during the day. You will go about your daily work, and your associates will be surprised at you clear-eyed, the disappearance of that haunted look and your willingness to make up for the past. Your sponsor may drop in to see you, or call you on the telephone. There may be a meeting of an A.A. group. Attend it without question. You have no valid excuse except sickness or being out of town, for not attending. You may call on a new patient. Don’t wait until tomorrow to do this. You will find the work fascinating. You will find a kindred soul. And you will be giving yourself a new boost along the road to sobriety. Finally, at the end of the day you will say another little prayer of thanks and gratitude for a day of sobriety. You will have lived a full day — a full, constructive day. And you will be grateful.
You feel that you have nothing to say to a new patient? No story to tell? Nonsense! You have been sober for a day, or for a week. Obviously, you must have done something to stay sober, even for that short length of time. That is your story. And believe it or not, the patient won’t realize that you are nearly as much of a tyro as he is. Definitely, you have something to say. And with each succeeding visit you will find that your story comes easier, that you have more confidence in your ability to be of help. The harder you work at sobriety the easier it is to remain sober.
Your sponsor will take you to your first meeting. You will find it new, but inspiration. You will find an atmosphere of peace and contentment that you didn’t know existed.
After you have attended several meetings it will be your duty to get up on your feet and say something. You will have something to say, even if it is only to express gratitude to the group for having helped you. Before many months have passed you will be asked to lead a meeting. Don’t try to put it off with excuses. It is part of the program. Even if you don’t think highly of yourself as a public speaker, remember you are among friends, and that your friends also are ex-drunks.
Get in contact with your new friends. Call them up. Drop in at their homes or offices. The door is always open to a fellow-alcoholic.
Before long you will have a new thrill — the thrill of helping someone else. There is no greater satisfaction in the world than watching the progress of a new Alcoholic Anonymous. When you first see him in his hospital bed he may be unshaved, bleary-eyed, dirty, incoherent. Perhaps the next day he has shaved and cleaned up. A day later his eyes are brighter, new color has come into his face. He talks more intelligently. He leaves the hospital, goes to work, and buys some new clothes. And in a month you will hardly recognize him as the derelict you first met in the hospital. No whisky in the world can give you this thrill.
Above all, remember this: keep the rules in mind. As long as you follow them you are on firm ground. But the least deviation — and you are vulnerable.
AS A NEW MEMBER, remember that you are one of the most important cogs in the machinery of A.A. Without the work of the new member, A.A. could not have grown as it has. You will bring into this work a fresh enthusiasm, the zeal of a crusader. You will want everyone to share with you the blessings of this new life. You will be tireless in your efforts to help others. And it is a splendid enthusiasm! Cherish it as long as you can.
It is not likely that your fresh enthusiasm will last forever. You will find, however, that as initial enthusiasm wanes, it is replaced with a greater understanding, deeper sympathy, and more complete knowledge. You will eventually become an “elder statesman” of A.A. and you will be able to use your knowledge to help not only brand new members, but those who have been members for a year or more, but who still have perplexing problems. And as a new member, do not hesitate to bring your problems to these “elder statesmen.” They may be able to solve your headaches and make easier your pain.
And now you are ready to go back and read Part III of this booklet. For you are ready to sponsor some other poor alcoholic who is desperately in need of help, both human and Divine.
So God bless you and keep you.
Yardstick for Alcoholics
THE PROSPECTIVE MEMBER of A.A. may have some doubts if he is actually an alcoholic. A.A. in Akron has found a yardstick prepared by psychiatrists of Johns Hopkins University to be very valuable in helping the alcoholic decide for himself.
Have your prospect answer the following questions, being as honest as possible with himself in deciding the answers. If he answers YES to one of the questions, there is a definite warning that he MAY be an alcoholic. If he answers YES to any two, the chances are that he IS an alcoholic. If he answers YES to any three or more, he IS DEFINITELY an alcoholic and in need of help. The questions:
Do you lose time from work due to drinking?
Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
Is drinking affecting your reputation?
Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
Have you ever stolen, pawned property, or “borrowed” to get money for alcoholic beverages?
Do you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when drinking?
Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?
Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
Do you want a drink the next morning?
Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
Do you drink to escape from worries or troubles?
Do you drink alone?
Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?
NOW THAT YOU ARE SOBER, you naturally feel that you want to make restitution in every possible way for the trouble you have caused your family, your friends, others. You want to get back on the job — if you still have a job — earn money, pay your immediate debts and obligations of long standing and almost forgotten. Money — you must have money, you think. And you also want to make restitution in action in many ways not financial. If you could wave a magic wand and do all these things you would do it, wouldn’t you?
Well, don’t be in a hurry. You can’t do all these things overnight. But you can do them — gradually, step by step. You may safely leave these matters to a Higher Power as you perhaps ponder them in your morning period of contemplation. If you are sincerely resolved to do your part, they will all be adjusted.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
SOBRIETY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR LIFE, without exception. You may believe your job, or your home life, or one of many other things comes first. But consider, if you do not get sober and stay sober, chances are you won’t have a job, a family, or even sanity or life. If you are convinced that everything in life depends on your sobriety, you have just so much more chance of getting sober and staying sober. If you put other things first you are only hurting your chances.
YOU AREN’T very important in this world. If you lose your job someone better will replace you. If you die your wife will mourn briefly, and then remarry. Your children will grow up and you will be but a memory. In the last analysis, you are the only one who benefits by your sobriety. Seek to cultivate humility. Remember that cockiness leads to a speedy fall.
IF YOU THINK you can cheat — sneak a drink or two without anyone else knowing — remember, you are only cheating yourself. You are the one who will be hurt by conscience. You are the one who will suffer a hangover. And you are the one who will return to a hospital bed.
Bear constantly in mind that you are only one drink away from trouble. Whether you have been sober a day, a month, a year or a decade, one single drink is a certain way to go off on a binge or a series of binges. It is the first drink — not the second, fifth or twentieth — that causes the trouble.
And remember, the more A.A. work you do, the harder you train, the less likely it is that you will take that first drink.
It is something like two boxers. If they are of the same weight, the same strength and the same ability, and only one trains faithfully while the other spends his time in night clubs and bars, it is pretty sure that the man who trains will be the winner. So let attendance at meetings be your road work; helping newcomers your sparring and shadow boxing; your reading, meditation and clear thinking your gymnasium work; and you won’t have to fear a knockout at the hands of John Barleycorn.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. — Matthew VI, 34.
These words are taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Simply, they mean live in today only. Forget yesterday. Do not anticipate tomorrow. You can only live one day at a time, and if you do a good job of that, you will have little trouble. One of the easiest, most practical ways of keeping sober ever devised is the day by day plan, the 24-hour plan.
You know that it is possible to stay sober for 24 hours. You have done it many times. All right. Stay sober for one day at a time. When you get up in the morning make up your mind that you will not take a drink for the entire day. Ask the Greater Power for a little help in this. If anyone asks you to have a drink, take a rain check. Say you will have it tomorrow. Then when you go to bed at night, finding yourself sober, say a little word of thanks to the Greater Power for having helped you.
Repeat the performance the next day. And the next. Before you realize it you will have been sober a week, a month, a year. And yet you will have only been sober a day at a time.
If you set a time limit on your sobriety you will be looking forward to that day, and each day will be a burden to you. You will burn with impatience. But with no goal the whole thing clears itself, almost miraculously.
Try the day by day plan.
Medical men will tell you that alcoholics are all alike in at least one respect: they are emotionally immature.
In other words, alcoholics have not learned to think like adults.
The child, lying in bed at night, becomes frightened by a shadow on the wall, and hides his head under the covers.
The adult, seeing the same shadow, knows there is a logical reason for it. He sees the streetlight, then the bedpost, and he knows what causes the shadow. He has simply done what the child is incapable of doing — THOUGHT. And through thinking he has avoided fear.
Learn to think things out. Take a thought and follow it through to its conclusion.
If you are tempted to take a drink, reason out for yourself what will happen. Because if you give serious consideration to the consequences you will have the battle won.
SO YOU’RE DIFFERENT! So you think you are not an alcoholic!
As many Alcoholics Anonymous have gone off the deep end for that kind of thinking as almost all the other reasons combined.
If you have all the symptoms your sponsor will tell you about and that you hear about at meetings, rest assured you are an alcoholic and no different from the rest of the breed.
But don’t make the mistake of finding it out the hard way — by experimenting with liquor. You will find it a painful experience and will only learn that you are NOT different.
AT MEETINGS don’t criticize the leader. He has his own problems and is doing his best to solve them. Help him along by standing up and saying a few words. He will appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness.
DON’T criticize the methods of others. Strangely enough, you may change your own ideas as you become older in sobriety. Remember there are a dozen roads from New York to Chicago, but they all land in Chicago.
WHAT’S YOUR HURRY? Perhaps you don’t feel you are getting the hang of this program as rapidly as you should. Forget it. It probably took you years to get in this condition. You certainly cannot expect a complete cure overnight. You are not expected to grasp the entire program in one day. No one else has ever done that, so it certainly is not expected of you. Even the earliest members are learning something new about sober living nearly every day. There is an old saying, “Easy does it.” It is a motto that any alcoholic could well ponder. A child learns to add and subtract in the lower grades. He is not expected to do problems in algebra until he is in high school. Sobriety is a thing that must be learned step by step. If anything puzzles you, ask your new friends about it, or forget it for the time being. The time is not so far away when you will have a good understanding of the entire program. Meantime, EASY DOES IT!
THE A.A. PROGRAM is not a “cure,” in the accepted sense of the word. There is no known “cure” for alcoholism except complete abstinence. It has been definitely proved that an alcoholic can never again be a normal drinker. The disease, however, can be arrested. How soon you will be cured of a desire to drink is another matter. That depends entirely upon how quickly you can succeed in changing your fundamental outlook on life. For as your outlook changes for the better, desire will become less pronounced, until it disappears almost entirely. It may be weeks or it maybe months. Your sincerity and your capacity for working with others on the A.A. program will determine the length of time.
Earlier in this pamphlet, it was advised to keep relatives away from the hospital. The reason was explained. But after the patient leaves the hospital, it would be [useful] to bring the wife, husband, or other close relative to [an A.A.] meeting. It will give them a clearer understanding of the program and enable them to cooperate more intelligently and more closely in the period of readjustment.
DIET AND REST play an important part in the rehabilitation of an alcoholic. For many, we bludgeoned ourselves physically, eating improper foods, sleeping with the aid of alcohol. In our drinking days, we ate a bowl of chili or a Hamburg sandwich because they were filling and cheap. We sacrificed good food so we would have more money for whiskey. We were the living counterparts of the old joke: “What, buying bread? And not a drop of whiskey in the house!” Our rest was the same. We slept when we passed out. We were the ones who turned out the streetlights and rolled up the sidewalks.
We now find that it is wise to eat balanced meals at regular hours and get the proper amount of sleep without the unhealthy aid of liquor and sleeping pills. Vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride) or B complex will help steady our nerves and build up a vitamin deficiency. Fresh vegetables and fruits will help.
In fact, it is a wise move to consult a physician, possibly have a complete physical examination. Your doctor will then recommend a course in vitamins, a balanced diet, and advise you as to rest.
The reason for this advice is simple. If we are undernourished and lack rest we become irritable and nervous. In this condition our tempers get out of control, our feelings are easily wounded, and we get back to the old and dangerous thought processes —“Oh, to hell with it. I’ll get drunk and show ’em.”
MANY MEMBERS OF A.A. find it helpful, even after a long period of sobriety, to add an extra ration of carbohydrates to their diet. Alcohol turns to sugar in the body, and when we deprive ourselves of alcohol our bodies cry for sugar. This often manifests itself in a form of nervousness.
Carry candy in your pocket. Keep it in your home. Eat desserts. Try an occasional ice cream soda or malted milk. You may find that it solves a problem by calming your nerves.
IT HAS BEEN found advisable to hold meetings at least once a week at a specified time and place. Meetings provide a means for an exchange of ideas, the renewing of friendships, an opportunity to review the work being carried on, a sense of security, and an additional reminder that we are alcoholics and must be continuously on the alert against the temptation to slip back into the old drunken way of life.
In larger communities where there are several groups, it is recommended that the new member attends as many meetings as possible. He will find that the more he is exposed to A.A. the sooner he will absorb its principles, the easier it will become to remain sober, and the sooner problems will shrink and tend to disappear.
As a newcomer you will be somewhat bewildered by your first meeting. It is even possible that it will not make sense to you. Many have this experience. But if you don’t find yourself enjoying your first meeting, pause to remember that you probably didn’t care for the taste of your first drink of whiskey — particularly if it was in bootleg days.
Again, you may feel like a “country cousin” at your first meeting. Your sponsor should see to it that this is not the case. But even if he neglects his duty, don’t feel too badly. Don’t be afraid to “horn in.” If you are being neglected it is just an oversight, and you are entirely welcome. It is possible that you may not even be recognized because your appearance has changed for the better. In a week or two you will find yourself in the middle of things — and very likely neglecting other newcomers.
So attend your first meeting with an open mind. Even if you aren’t impressed try it again. Before long you will genuinely enjoy attending and a little later you will feel that the week has been incomplete if you have not attended at least one A.A. meeting. Remember that attendance at meetings is one of the most important requisites of remaining sober.
A.A. OF AKRON gets many inquiries about how to conduct a meeting. Methods differ in many parts of the country. There are discussion groups, study groups, meetings where a leader takes up the entire time himself, etc.
Here, briefly, is how meetings are conducted in the dozen or more Akron groups, a method that has been used since the founding of A.A.:
The speaker can be selected from the local group, someone from another group or another city, or on occasion, a guest from the ranks of clergymen, doctors, the judiciary, or anyone who may be of help. In the case of such an outsider, he is generally introduced by the secretary or some other member.
The leader opens the meeting with a prayer, or asks someone else to pray. The prayer can be original, or it can be taken from a prayer book, or from some publication such as The Upper Room.
The topic is entirely up to the leader. He can tell of his drinking experiences, or what he has done to keep sober, or he can advance his own theories on A.A. His talk lasts from 20 to 40 minutes, at which time he asks for comment or testimony from the floor.
Just before the meeting closes — one hour in Akron — the leader asks for announcements or reports (such as next week’s leader, social affairs, new members to be called on, etc.). In closing the entire group stands and repeats the Lord’s Prayer. It is courteous to give the speaker enough advance notice so that he may prepare his talk if he so desires.
The physical set-up of groups varies in many cities. Those who are about to start new groups may be interested in the method used by Akron Group No. 1. It is merely a suggestion, however.
When there are but very few members it is customary to hold the meetings in private homes of the members, on the same night of each week. When the group becomes larger, however, it is desirable to hold the meeting in a regular place. A school room, a room in a Y.M.C.A. or lodge, or hotel will do.
It has been the experience throughout the country that the more fluid the structure of the group the more successful the operation.
Akron Group No. 1 has a very simple set-up. There is a permanent secretary, who makes announcements, keeps a list of the membership, and takes care of correspondence. There is also a permanent treasurer, who takes care of the money and pays bills. Then there is a rotating committee of three members to take care of current affairs. Each member serves for three months, but a new one is added and one dropped every month. This committee takes care of providing leaders, supplying refreshments, arranging parties, greeting newcomers, etc.
As the group grows older certain qualifications, in terms of length of sobriety, can be made. Akron Group No. 1 requires a full year of continuous sobriety as qualification to hold an office or serve.
There are no dues. There is a free-will offering at each meeting to take care of expenses.
There is probably an older group in some community within easy traveling distance of yours. Someone from that group will doubtless be happy to help you get started.
The Twelve Steps
Alcoholics Anonymous is based on a set of laws known as the Twelve Steps. Years of experience have definitely proved that those who live up to these rules remain sober. Those who gloss over or ignore anyone rule are in constant danger of returning to a life of drunkenness. Thousands of words could be written on each rule. Lack of space prevents, so they are merely listed here. It is suggested that they be explained by the sponsor. If he cannot explain them he should provide someone who can.
THE TWELVE STEPS
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
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 that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The Twelve Steps are more fully explained in another pamphlet published in Akron and available through writing to Post Office Box 932. It is called A Guide to the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The price is 12 cents per copy, 9 cents in lots of 25 to 499, and 7 1/2 cents in lots of 500 or more. Checks or money orders can be made out to A.A. of Akron.
[Edit. This guide is no longer being published by Akron A.A., but we are trying to obtain a copy of it to make available for printout at this website.]
The following literature has helped many members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Alcoholics Anonymous (Works Publishing Company).
The Holy Bible.
The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond.
The Unchanging Friend, a series (Bruce Publishing Co., Milwaukee).
As a Man Thinketh, James Allen.
The Sermon on the Mount, Emmet Fox (Harper Bros.).
The Self You Have to Live With, Winfred Rhoades.
Psychology of Christian Personality, Ernest M. Ligon (Macmillan Co.).
Abundant Living, E. Stanley Jones.
The Man Nobody Knows, Bruce Barron.
Edit. Akron A.A. in 1940 was obtaining a 75% success rate in teaching alcoholics to get sober and stay sober. The techniques, strategies, and principles set out in this manual must be taken very seriously by modern A.A.’s, particularly if your own success rate with newcomers is nowhere near that high.