FAQ’s

~ So what do you mean when you say the 12 steps of recovery?  What are the 12 steps? ~

Quoted from pages 59-60 of “Alcoholics Anonymous,” the basic text of the twelve step recovery program:

“Half measures availed us nothing.  We stood at the turning point.  We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.

Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:

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 of character.

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 that out.

12.  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.”

 

~ How do you know if you are an alcoholic? ~

Quoted from the first paragraph of chapter four in the Big Book:

“If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic.  If that be the case,  you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.”

Quoted from pages 31-32:

“We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself.  Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking.  Try to drink and stop abruptly.  Try it more than once.  It will not take long for you to decide, if you’re honest with yourself about it.  It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition.”

Quoted from page 328:

“She finally realized that when she enjoyed her drinking, she couldn’t control it, and when she controlled it, she couldn’t enjoy it.”

 

~ What is the Big Book?  What is the 12 & 12? ~

The Big Book is recovery slang for the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous.  It is actually entitled “Alcoholics Anonymous” and the fourth edition is the most recent one.  I have included a link to an online copy of the Big Book from the AA main website.  The 12 & 12 is recovery slang for a book called “12 Steps and 12 Traditions.”  It’s purpose is to show how members recover and how the society functions.  It is much smaller and is focused on the steps and traditions of AA only.  These two texts are foundational for early recovery, and the primary reference throughout the recovery process.

 

 ~ What are the requirements for membership in AA? (CA or NA)? ~

According to tradition three, the only requirement is a desire to stop drinking (or using whatever your drug of choice is).

 

~ What are the 12 Traditions of AA? ~

 They are the traditions that have been acquired through early trial and error to guide the the recovery society in self-government.   Quoted from page 561- 562 of the Big Book:

“On the next page, AA’s ’12 Traditions’ are seen in their so-called ‘short form,’ the form in general use today.  This is a condensed version of the original ‘long form’ AA Traditions as first printed in 1946.  Because the ‘long form’ is more explicit and of possible historic value, it is also reproduced.

One – Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.

Two – For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience.  Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

Three – The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Four – Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.

Five – Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Six – An AA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

Seven – Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

Eight – Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

Nine – AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

Ten – Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

Eleven – Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.

Twelve – Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”

 

~ What does it mean to hit bottom? ~

This is when the alcoholic and/or addict accumulates enough negative consequences from his or her usage to become thoroughly convinced that he or she is powerless to control that usage and as a result, their life is beyond their own intrinsic ability to manage.

 

~ What is a high bottom alcoholic? ~

It is an alcoholic who hears the message of recovery and comes to the conclusion that they are powerless early in their drinking.  They do this before they lose everything.  They may have only suffered some embarrassments; maybe a DUI citation or confrontations at work or home.  And because they are properly equipped with the facts and grasp sufficient reason to abstain, the are still able to exercise enough willpower to quit.  They may even take advantage of the recovery process for insurance.  The following is quoted from page 32 of the Big Book:  “Though there is no proving it, we believe that early in our drinking careers most of us could have stopped drinking.  But the difficulty is that few alcoholics have enough desire to stop while there is yet time.  We have heard of a few instances where people, who showed definite signs of alcoholism, were able to stop for a long period because of an overpowering desire to do so.”  This is dealt with more specifically in the 12 & 12:  “Many less desperate alcoholics tried AA, but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.  It is a tremendous satisfaction to record that in the following years this changed.  Alcoholics who still had their health, their families, their jobs, and even two cars in the garage, began to recognize their alcoholism.  As this trend grew, they were joined by young people who were scarcely more than potential alcoholics.  They were spared that last ten or fifteen years of literal hell the rest of us had gone through.  Since Step One requires an admission that our lives have become unmanageable, how could people such as these take this Step?  It was obviously necessary to raise the bottom the rest of us had hit to the point where it would hit them.  By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression.  To the doubters we could say, ‘Perhaps you’re not an alcoholic after all.  Why don’t you try some more controlled drinking, bearing in mind meanwhile what we have told you about alcoholism?’ This attitude brought immediate and practical results.  It was then discovered that when one alcoholic had planted in the mind of another the true nature of his malady, that person could never be the same again.  Following every spree, he would say to himself, ‘Maybe those AA’s were right.’  After a few such experiences, often years before the onset of extreme difficulties, he would return to us convinced.  He had hit bottom as truly as any of us.  John Barleycorn himself had become our best advocate.”

Stories from high bottom alcoholics in recovery are found in Part 2 starting on page 281 in the Big Book.

 

~ What is sponsorship in the recovery community? ~

Quoted from AA pamphlet entitled “Questions & Answers on Sponsorship:”

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS began with sponsorship.  When Bill W., only a few months sober, was stricken with a powerful urge to drink, this thought came to him: “You need another alcoholic to talk to. You need another alcoholic just as much as he needs you!” He found Dr. Bob, who had been trying desperately and unsuccessfully to stop drinking, and out of their common need A.A. was born. The word “sponsor” was not used then; the Twelve Steps had not been written; but Bill carried the message to Dr. Bob, who in turn safeguarded his own sobriety by sponsoring countless other alcoholics. Through sharing, both of our co-founders discovered, their own sober lives could be enriched beyond measure.  What does A.A. mean by sponsorship? To join some organizations, you must have a sponsor — a person who vouches for you, presents you as being suitable for membership. This is definitely not the case with A.A. Anyone who has a desire to stop drinking is welcome to join us!  In A.A., sponsor and sponsored meet as equals, just as Bill and Dr. Bob did. Essentially, the process of sponsorship is this: An alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through A.A.  When we first begin to attend A.A. meetings, we may feel confused and sick and apprehensive. Although people at meetings respond to our questions willingly, that alone isn’t enough. Many other questions occur to us between meetings; we find that we need constant, close support as we begin learning how to “live sober.”  So we select an A.A. member with whom we can feel comfortable, someone with whom we can talk freely and confidentially, and we ask that person to be our sponsor.  Whether you are a newcomer who is hesitant about “bothering” anyone, or a member who has been around for some time trying to go it alone, sponsorship is yours for the asking. We urge you:  Do not delay.   Alcoholics recovered in A.A. want to share what they have learned with other alcoholics.  We know from experience that our own sobriety is greatly strengthened when we give it away!  Sponsorship can also mean the responsibility the group as a whole has for helping the newcomer.  Today, more and more alcoholics arriving at their first A.A. meeting have had no prior contact with A.A. They have not telephoned a local A.A. intergroup or central office; no member has made a “Twelfth Step call” on them. So, especially for such newcomers, groups are recognizing the need to provide some form of sponsorship help. In many successful groups, sponsorship is one of the most important planned activities of the members.  Sponsorship responsibility is unwritten and informal, but it is a basic part of the A.A. approach to recovery from alcoholism through the Twelve Steps.

 

~ Is there an integration between the specific substance abuse recovery groups? ~

It is my understanding that there is no official integration between specific substance abuse recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous,  Narcotics Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous.  It is all a matter of preference from the alcoholic and/or addict, what they find most helpful.

When I was in treatment, it was explained to me that when AA was first starting, there was a greater stigma associated with drug abuse, and there was some laws in place that restricted the gathering of known addicts in one place.  There was also the concern that the alcoholics and addicts would not be able to relate to one another.  Singleness of purpose is a concept that is protected in AA to this day.  When you are in an AA meeting, you talk about alcoholism and nothing else.  They believe it to be necessary for the survival of the group. 

But pill poppers and needle users resented having to say they were “Alcoholics” in order to benefit from the 12 step program.  They established Narcotics Anonymous, and when any Alcoholic would come into their group, they would require them to announce themselves as an addict, because they believed alcohol to be just another drug. 

But then Cocaine became a drug abuse problem for “professional” people who did not relate to the usual crowd of drug abusers or alcoholics.  So they developed Cocaine Anonymous.  But with the changing societal view of drug and alcohol abuse and the benefit of hindsight, CA separated themselves from this argument.  They are for those who suffer from Cocaine and “all other mind altering substances.”  You can introduce yourself as Alcoholic, Addict, Doper, Crackhead…so on.  It appears that the singleness of purpose that has worked for CA is to focus on the common solution found in the 12 steps. 

My sponsor would tell me in early sobriety that my disease looks to isolate and kill me.  Divide and conquer.  Many alcoholics and/or addicts have perished from terminal uniqueness.

I personally enjoy the specificity of AA and the freedom of CA.  I haven’t really found an NA group that I connect with.  But I would have no problem going and introducing myself as an addict.  I have no desire to attempt to fix what isn’t broken.  Live and let live. 

 ~ What is a spiritual proclamation? ~

A spiritual proclamation is an attempt to make known publicly or openly, to announce or declare in an open or ostentatious way, ideas pertaining to or consisting of spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature.  As I use them here on this site, they are not intended to be laws etched into stone, infallible revelations, or a statement of some religious elite. 

 

~ What is a Dry Drunk? ~

This is a slang tern used in the recovery community to say that it is possible to remain free from alcohol and yet still demonstrate attitudes and behaviors typical of active addiction.  Characteristics such as exaggerated self-importance, pomposity, grandiose behavior, a rigid, judgmental outlook, impatience, childish or irresponsible behavior, irrational rationalization, projection, and overreaction.  I have added a link that discusses this in greater detail.  The person is dry but not sober. 

 

~ What is Stinking Thinking? ~

This is a slang term that referes to the negative and thus self-destructive thoughts that are a problem for maintaining sobriety.  I have included a couple of links that discuss this issue.  Check them out. 

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