down and out

Image courtesy of Mantas Ruzveltas/

Today as I was leafing through  Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age (Anonymous, 1957)  I took time to read a part of the book  written by Bill W., a co-founder of AA.  I ran across one of Bill’s stories that eventually   established the “bare bones” of AA’s 12 steps. In this  story Bill related what happened when an old drinking buddy of his came to his house and had a very important “kitchen table” conversation with him. Bill noticed his friend was not only sober, but different—-so he asked his friend, “What’s up?”  Bill’s friend told him he’d found religion, and when Bill asked him what type of religion, his friend explained his “new religion” to Bill.

Here is the explanation  Bill’s friend gave him that has since changed so many lives:

“I just fell in with group of people, the Oxford Groups. I don’ go along with all their teachings by any means.  But those folks have given me some wonderful ideas. I learned that I had to admit I was licked; I learned that I ought to take stock of myself and confess my defects to another person in confidence; I learned that I needed to make restitution for the harm I had done others.  I was told that I ought to practice the kind of giving that has no price tag on it, the giving of yourself to somebody…..they taught me I should try to pray to whatever God I thought there was for the power to carry out these simple precepts. And if I did not believe there was any God, then I had better try the experiment of praying to whatever God there might be. But you know, Bill, it’s a queer thing, but even before I had done all this, just as soon as I decided that I would try with an open mind, it seemed to me that my drinking problem was lifted right out of me….This time I felt completely released of the desire, and I have not had a drink for months.” (pp. 58-59)

The “precepts” shared by Bill’s friend that eventually led to forming AA’s 12 steps can, I believe, be used by anyone to deal with the challenges of living. Specifically, these precepts are:

  • Admit you are “licked”
  • Take stock of yourself
  • Confess your defects in confidence to another person
  • Make restitution for harm you have done others
  • Practice freely giving of yourself to others
  • Pray to God for the power to carry these precepts out

I believe all of these “precepts” or teachings can be found in the Bible.  But thank God, someone presented them in a way that Bill could hear and remember. I do not believe you have to be an alcoholic or addict to find the magic that happens when your use these precepts to guide your actions.  Whenever I realize I cannot do something by myself and ask God for help it is amazing to me how much better my life becomes.

Please comment and share your thoughts about how these precepts have worked in your life. May God bless and keep you.