An Excerpt From the Book on Step Ten

River-at-autumn-wallpaperHow about a famous Willie Nelson song to set the background,…...

Rather than beat the cybe-drumlines on Twitter, Facebook and, I’m going to put-up a post from my awarded 12Step Book:  because it’s one of my favorite aspects of the step 10 Principle: examining our real motives when we sense a meltdown. Publication1 book of the month IN THE ROOMS

So without the usual sales fanfare — here it is:

October 21
Things Are Not Always As They Appear

    When we rationalize our bad motives underneath a justification of being good, it takes a hard look for us to uncover the real truth of the matter. Perhaps we “constructively criticized” someone we were sure needed it, but when we step back and look at our real motivation it may have been little more than an effort to win a useless argument, justifying our superiority to soothe our egos. Perhaps we thought we were helping others to understand them – their not being present and all – when in actuality our true motive was to feel superior by pulling them down; so much easier when they are not around.

   On occassion, we hurt those we love because we’re sure they “need to be taught a lesson,” but underneath that reason may be what we really want: to punish them. There have been moments we might have said we were depressed and felt bad, when in fact we were mainly seeking sympathy and attention.

    An odd trait of our minds and emotions, is this perverse wish to hide a bad motive underneath a good one. It seems to permeate human affairs from top to bottom. Subtle and illusive, this form of self-righteousness can underlie the smallest act or thought.

    If we pursue it with good effort, this examination becomes regular
practice for us, resulting in a marked change of our behavior patterns. We’ll observe that things are often not as they appear and with practice, we can alter these commonly premature and cynical conclusions. When it comes to our motives we will need to search our conscience with an effort to find their true appearance.

October 10th Step Work: Emotional Moderation

Wonderful-Fall-ImageIf you’ve been working the Tenth Step with me during the month of October, or just because it is a 12 Step Principle that you need to refresh yourself with, you know that we have discovered our emotions: Fear, Anger, Sadness, Joy and Surprise get the best of ALL of us and “run rampant” (as Bill Wilson would say). If we are to make progress in controlling them; if we would really like to get the jump with forethought instead of knee-jerk reaction, we need to work this step….every day.               

It’s about establishing a default to replace our old one of knee-jerk; about taking the time to practice this principle with persistence, patience and pausing for prayer and meditation. With enough effort and repetition, we will begin to see, (at our own pace, which is fine) that we correct our lifelong reactions with preplanned and worked responses. That’s what we’re after: turning our reactions into responses.

Now,……one way in which to do that is with the daily guidance of my book (and it only takes a few minutes) “Living the Twelve Steps of Recovery – One Day at a Time – As It Was in the Beginning”.

Available in NOOK/KINDLE Ebooks or in signed print

Available in NOOK/KINDLE Ebooks or in signed print

It works! and is available in signed softback with original artworks of people contemplating the step and tradition that follow each month.

Now about we take a look at today’s reading for October 19th, just so you can get an idea of why it was given a national award by for Book of the Month.

Publication1 book of the month IN THE ROOMSTake your time and savor the thoughts. Pause and apply them to your own life and where the suggestions might make a difference – here’s a little music for inspiration:

October 19
Our Motives Should Be Examined
In pondering our mental or written end-of-day inventory, noting the
debit side of the daily ledger, we see that every time we were wrong we
ought to carefully examine our motives during each of those thoughts
and actions. In most cases they won’t be hard to see or understand.
When we have been prideful, angry, jealous, anxious, or fearful,
we acted according to the passion of those emotions and that was
that. In such cases, it is important that we simply recognize that we
acted or thought badly, trying to visualize how we might have done
better. Could patience, tolerance, and efforts to restrain our tempers
as expressed through pen and tongue have brought those drives under
Had we taken time to ponder at the edge of folly, could we have
stopped to think before reacting, allowing ourselves to realize possible
errors coming up on our part?
When we recognize these knee-jerk reactions are not responses,
but a result of our negative conditioning from years of replayed attitudes,
we can resolve to try, with God’s help, to carry these lessons
into different behavior tomorrow.
If we find after this examination that we have any amends to make,
we should set straight away to right our wrongs.

Okay, here’s a viewing of the monthly illustration for the Tenth Step and Tradition, with real people working their program of recovery in NA and AA.

"and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it" - illustration Liv12StepsofRecovery

Tenth Step Work: Finding Self-Control via Inventory


"and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it" - illustration Liv12StepsofRecovery

“and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it” – illustration Liv12StepsofRecovery

Autumn returns to us in 2014. Let’s set the mood for today’s Step Work. Open another window and get today’s music playing, then come back and read with a gentle background: http://

The Tenth Step: ” We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

Perhaps we can implore our GOMU (God of my understanding) for inspiration, strength and solace in our moments of doubt, but we’ll have to learn how to take care of ourselves — mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually: ” Doin The Footwork”.    28822_109825709059542_100000963397065_58720_7128116_s

Okay, how about we take a look at what our primary author has to say in “The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous”  concerning the 10th Step and it’s working in the Third Edition, copyrighted by AAWS in 1976:

   “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 turned 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 flame. We react 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! 10157390_10203465684185293_548975256_nThat 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 our experience. That is how we react as long as we keep ourselves in fit spiritual condition.

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 in which we must carry the vision of God’s will into all our activities. “How can I best serve thee–Thy will (not mine) be done.” These are the thoughts that must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line as long as 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.”

If you’ve never read the “Big Books” 4 paragraph synopsis of Step Ten, here’s a surprise: “You just did”. The following link is for you to access a download or bookmark the latest 4th edition version, courtesy of AAWS:

Tens if not hundreds of thousands of AA’s, NA’s and other types of addicted people have read this as well, while underlining, highlighting and picking out their favorite phrases; ones in which they found important personal meaning; ones in which they felt the rush of a “spiritual wind” or the chime of a bell of understanding. I must admit that even now, I again find some resonance, don’t you?

Then in 1953, after the Second World War, Roosevelt’s New Deal and AA having almost twenty years  under its belt, he wrote the 12×12. If you don’t have a copy and would like to read the entire work, here it is courtesy of AAWS in Pdf, the First Edition: Go right to page 88 and you’ll get the full Tenth Step Essay; akin to the original from the Big Book but much more entailed and practical, with more emphasis on a behavioral approach to recovery using inventory as a technique and having self-restraint as the goal.

Available in NOOK/KINDLE Ebooks or in signed print

Available in NOOK/KINDLE eBooks or in signed print

If you’d like it broken into daily meditations and inspirational essays for both the Tenth Step and Tenth Tradition, see my book: in signed original softback from the site or you can also get it in eBook on KINDLE & NOOK. Now,………. let’s see how the Step changed between the Big Book in 1935 and the 12X12 in 1953…..

New Website Address:

New Website Address:

This initial question is imposed. He calls it the Acid Test:

“can we stay sober, keep in emotional balance and live to good purpose under all conditions”?


Self-searching needs to become a regular habit we will do so using a tried and true 12 Step Principle — Inventory. Here are some types:

  1. The Spot check. Taken anytime we feel an emotional hangover coming on and its excesses of negative feelings: anger, fear and jealousy.You can probably think of a number of your own regular knee jerk reactions. We’re trying to change these into a measured, calculated and considered responses.
  2. Review with our sponsor or spiritual confidant. We can make a careful review of our progress since our last analysis. Having the insight of another who has a detached outside view gives us a fresh perspective on considerations we may have overlooked.
  3. Day’s End Review. In our evening reflection we measure both what went right and wrong that day, and rather than chastising ourselves for our errors ( we are human, you know?)0a861e51-89e7-4c7e-a958-2a7187d42536 we account for them, noting what we could have done differently and give ourselves credit for a job well done when appropriate.
  4. Annual or semiannual housecleaning. This inventory might be conducted at a recovery retreat; an occasional respite from the outside world where we can calm down and focus in an undisturbed day of self-overhaul and meditation. Speaking of that, how about a little more background music, hmmmm?

           "Good Job Selfie"

    “Good Job Selfie”

        So What’s the Point?

Reflection is not an objective unto itself here. First, we are trying to use our inventory skills to establish a new default in our behavior and attitude reactions. Remember: the Acid Test: “can we stay sober, keep in emotional balance and live to good purpose under all conditions”? The priorities seems right to me. As always, our primary objective is to stay sober. Next, we ought to seek emotional balance. We see the world through spiritual insight; thewindows of our feelings, the filters to our souls. And they are: Fear, Anger, Sadness, Joy and Surprise. In all of us at times, they will run rampant. Emotional balance is an acquired skill set, one in which we will use regular inventory as a part of achieving. This will not be a “I read it and got it” situation. It’s going to take practice – a lifetime of it – for us to change our old reactions and presets of anger, pessimism, bitterness and cynicism; our melancholy sulking and scorn before we can make an instinctive response of thinking before we act. Now,……let’s talk about the acquiring self control part of Step Ten.

Our first objective will be the development of self-restraint

We know this to be a statement of truth: It is a spiritual axiom that “every time we are disturbed there is something wrong with US”!

The original author suggests that if somebody hurts us and we are irritated ( the doorway to anger, rage and frenzy ) we are in the wrong also. Uhhhhhh,….maybe. Our anger is a primordial instinctive reaction in self-preservation( thought the alarm often trips without good cause). This triggers as an instinctive response of the Id. (REF:Id – Ego Super-ego )

Remember how he asked us to examine ourselves in Step IV? He asked us to measure how we felt we had been injured by others we resented that we were angry with, asking if it upon examination we found it was because we were injured by irrational emotional responses of Fear, Pride, the protection of our Personal and Sexual Relations, attempts that threatened our Self-Esteem or material Security.

Though we ALWAYS want to check our motives to make sure we are not disguising our error with justified blame or anger, we may not be in the wrong at all, but our reaction could place us in a position of error, when we are on the verge of losing our rationality, our self-control or our emotional composure, even if we might falsely feel justified (or actually be so).

After we've lost it. It's to late.

After we’ve lost it. It’s to late.

  1. When we feel it coming on, we pause, counting to ten or even 100; we breath deeply and ask ourselves these all important  questions: Why and with whom am I upset?
  2. Is this the REAL reason for my anger?
  3. How important is this,……………. in all honesty?
  4. If we are going to change using Step 10, we will need to concede that we are not responding, but “knee-jerk” reacting.
  • Thinking it through, have we some role, some participation in this problem which could be construed as contributory negligence?   Here in his 12×12 our author is “spot on” in his suggestion: “In all these situations we need self-restraint, honest analysis of what is involved, a willingness to admit when the fault is ours, and an equal willingness to forgive when the fault is elsewhere.”                                                                                                                                                                                  Nothing pays off like restraint of pen and tongue. We ought to work towards avoiding quick-tempered criticism and furious power driven argument. No more of our sulking in a silent scorn. It’s all about taking the time to step back from the incident, developing a habit of doing so needs to be practiced until it becomes as automatic as Pavlov’s Dog and The Dinner Bell.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                “We can stop making unreasonable demands on those we love. We can show kindness where we had showed none. We have found Courtesy, kindness, justice and Love are the keynotes by which we may come into harmony with practically anybody.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “Learning daily to spot, admit and correct our flaws is the essence of character building, good living and the primary purpose of Step Ten. No matter when our inventory is completed, we will want to develop “An honest and humble regret for our harms done, a genuine gratitude for blessings received, and a willingness to try for better form tomorrow.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                That’s it for this installment my fellow 12 Steppers. As you can see there were serious elaborations between the Big Book and the 12×12, demonstrating a tremendous growth and arrival of a practical perspective. We can only hope that with our earnest effort, we will find similar growth in our own experience. The development of self-restraint by using our favorite form of reflection – inventory – will lead us all to a happier emotional and spiritual life. But it will take, what I like to call, the Five P’s of Recovery:
  • Principles
  • Practice
  • Patience
  • Persistence
  • Prayer

Alcohol Use Treatment Your Addiction Counselor Isn’t Telling You About

Thanks to my friends at The Fix Magazine for this very interesting study on the use of Naltrexone and Acomprosate in Alcoholism treatment. Read the article and make-up your own mind. As it says, most of us are not even aware of these therapies. I wasn’t.

Of those attempting life-long abstinence, over 99% will drink at least once within a 20-year period. It is an ethical responsibility of health practitioners to prepare those with alcohol use disorder for this reality and provide information about how to mitigate it when it occurs.


shutterstock_89656156*Here are some user reviews on these drugs:

The Sixth Step: How One Becomes “Entirely” Ready

Let’s begin today’s discussion,….. by going to “The Other Big Book” for a clarification as to just what is meant by the statement: “We were entirely ready”. Here are some world understandings on the term “readiness”.                            

1. the state of being ready or prepared, as for use or action
2. in readiness
a. prepared and waiting: all was in readiness for the guests’ arrival
b. in preparation for: he tidied the house in readiness for the guests’ arrival
3. willingness or eagerness to do something
4. ease or promptness

 *Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition 2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. © HarperCollins, 2009


In Step Six of our Twelve Steps and Traditions the classical text reads:

“We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”

6th StepAn original drawing depicting Sixth Step contemplation from my awarded book: Living the 12 Steps of Recovery– One Day at a Time – As It was In the Beginning”

Let’s get in the mood for this with some music, huh? Maybe something classical and thematic like  American Idol Candidate Crystal Bowersox’s cover of Rod Stewart’s People Get Ready”


The four Pillars of the Oxford Group are:

“Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love”.

On the foundation of these principles, Bill Wilson built the 12Steps of Recovery. As to Steps Six and Seven, he wrote this in his notes about his 1934 stay in Town’s Hospital, the shrine of the “great white light and spiritual wind” incident.

“I RUTHLESSLY faced my sins (what later became Step Four) and became willing to have my new-found Friend (God) take them away, root and branch (what later became Steps Six and Seven). I have not had a drink since.” *

“This is the step that separates the men from the boys”– a remark he says originated from one of AA’s favorite clerical figures – The Reverend Sam Shoemaker *12×12 (AAWS @1952).

AA’s Bill W. goes on to say that: (paraphrased) “any person capable of enough willingness and honesty to try Step Six repeatedly on all his faults – without any reservations whatsoever – has indeed come along way spiritually, and as such is entitled to be called a person – (we don’t do “man” specific gender anymore) – who is sincerely trying to grow in the image and likeness of their creator,” (as they may understand it). For those of you who embrace “Wilson’s” concept of readiness as a partnership between you and your God ( in faith and trust, you have projected the outcome to your God’s omnipotent power, which that God provides as you do the footwork ), the acquisition of this attitude is, of and by itself, an arrival at “the potential for entire readiness” in this classical form. All you need is the desire, the spiritual commitment and the faith and fortitude that comes from your trust in God, by your own understanding.

As proof of his assertion, Wilson provides what he contends to be the semi-miraculous removal of “the mania of alcohol from their lives”, stating that for nearly all alcoholics, that is exactly what happened. It’s his contention that through the humiliation of alcohol’s terrific beating, an ensuing humble attitude provides a spiritual environment in which “the grace of their God can enter and expel their compulsive obsession”. helping_hand

Coming to grips with the reality of powerlessness

Coming to grips with the reality of powerlessness

Return with me now to those humble moments of asking someone or something to help us overcome our addictive/alcoholic obsession and compulsion – that which we had then come to realize in that instant of terror as having robbed of us of any control in abating it – the recollection of a lump in our throats which brought us that fateful realization of the willingness to “resort to any method,” in our escape attempt from the tyranny of our physical and spiritual slavery. We thought ourselves hopeless and helpless, until that realization brought us faith, faith that we might escape our woeful fate. “Few of us would disagree,…THAT was our moment of entire readiness.”    We were ready to surrender and to submit. We accepted our condition in the stark reality of what it was, having finally abandoned our “I can do it anytime I’m just not ready attitude”. Acceptance was finally possibly in the face of impending madness, illness or death. traffic-light-green We were entirely ready,.. and the green light to go was staring straight ahead for us. Desperation had brought us there.. Our minds were made right.

Remember “Cool Hand Luke” with Paul Newman? The moment when Luke finally breaks down? Let’s pause to look at its similarity.   


Now then, onto the underlying concerns of Step Six: eliminating character defects.     

Seems the 12×12 author has discovered some flexibility here. He contends that our “character defects’ are only our normal God given patterns of instinctive behavior that have “run rampant”. Most of them, ( and he goes into his usual comparative analogy at great length in terms of the 7 Capital Sins ) have a level at which our new manager (aka GOD) has a standard at which they are okay. As long as we don’t take the attitude that we can dally about our efforts to abate them or refuse to consider some potential compromise in the future, everything is okay. It’s just about attitude, you see? If this seems like a strange rationalization to you,….we’re of a common mind. bill_w__1940s




We need to bring this 1952 technique up to speed and amend it to some extent… though,…it was “mighty fine work” — (using the Wilsonian vernacular) — it needs a repaint.

Getting “entirely ready” has to do with far more than another rehashing of our “sinful” ways in the comparative analogy of the Seven Capital Sins. It’s done by getting entirely ready to live Clean and Sober, achieving some spiritual balance and emotional control. It is a process, not an event!

I have some ideas on this (like,……. you’re surprised,…. right?)

How about some real, practical advice you can do yourself, without hooking-up to the "Higher Generator" :)

How about some real, practical advice you can do yourself, without hooking-up to the “Higher Generator” :)

Getting Clean and Sober is one thing. The Classical Approach has been solid for that. BUT – staying that way ( especially after The Honeymoon is over in say,… 5-10 years – or more ) is a different matter.

If you read my book, you’ll know that there are five emotions we humans feel our world through: Fear, Anger, Sadness, Joy and Surprise. THESE — are the Spiritual Senses. Either we manage them through a realization and readiness process, or they manage us — creating frustration, fear, depression, confusion and occasional hysteria. They’re also capable of producing parallel physical sensations: tension, stress, anxiety, insomnia, High Blood Pressure, Ulcers, Impacted Bowels (or what I call extreme “shitiness”:) and worry,… Worry,…. WORRY! In the beginning, when we first got clean and sober, we were so “pink cloud” happy for our recovery and we had so much faith in our “Higher Generator” that we slid by these anomalies……………….for awhile. BUT — we discovered that PAWS — Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome could last quite awhile,….even years.

          Entirely Ready

Entirely Ready

So what can we do to get entirely ready to fend off these feelings and avoid being the “VIC”?

We can adapt.

Here’s some thoughts on how and for what you’re going to need to get ready for. To name a few: fear-anxiety-tension-stress-depression and other emotional states like anger, guilt and shame.


  1. Start and close every day with an inventory process. Ask and answer these questions with yourself: Who am I? Where am I? What is going on in the world immediately around me, right now? It’s a good idea to stop whenever you feel negative energy bottle-necking your awareness and find your calm – repeating this process as needed. Seems simple but it dispels confusion and even low-level anxiety — right away. Examine yourself: “Am I living in my head while my body moves around leading a different double life”? Be present. Start with your breath and deep, slow breathing. Take frequent voyages to “The NOW” and pay attention to what you are doing. Just do the next indicated thing.  Do You Like Keeping It Simple? This is one way of doing that and becoming entirely ready.
  2. Keep a journal. There is no better way to reflect on your life and its pressures or  joys (those great mood elevators for later recollection) than a journal. It’s Your Daily Recovery Diary, if you will. You’ll find it’s a clear record of your thoughts and feelings. In treatment centers, they suggest notes on one’s Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual being as to its condition.
  3. Release the Time Tormentor   The counting of time is the great nemesis of low-level insanity. Constantly demanding we leave the present by accounting for what we have done (the past) what we need to do or be in the future; goal setting, how much time we have left, in the day-month-year-decade,…. the digital reference of our past life and that yet to be lived.. Use watches and clocks to keep appointments, otherwise —– dump them. They’re an illusion of security and the counter of paranoia. In real recovery, there is no security – it’s an oasis.
  4. Let Go to the Universe It’s doubtless. Times will come when you are bewildered and don’t know what to do; when your emotions over-ride your vision and a lack of viable options mesmerizes you. In those moments, remember that they are playing upon your irrational fears of the unknown and its time for you to release it all to the universe, knowing that things most often are not as bad as you think, so dump that crystal ball that’s been driving you looney.
  5. Charge Your Batteries Yup! We’re talkin rest or sleep. Without it, things do get worse, so if you find you need a little help, I like over the counters like Melatonin and Benadryl  Always consult your doctor if you have a broken Sleep Clock Circadian Rhythm Disorders. You know those sayings, “I think I’ll sleep on it” or “everything looks better after a good nights sleep”? 
  6. Practice Anti-Isolationism Hanging around with yourself to much makes you one dull Sobrietarian or Addict in Recovery. Furthermore, it’s psychologically dangerous to have such a narrow perspective. Get out there! Use the 100lb phone! be with other people and especially those in recovery. This is even more strategic to you loners with decades in the program. Use your resources — read, write (on-line recovery is great).
  7. Keep Your Expectations Realistic Everyone has fallen prey to the fantasy fairy of false expectations. Whether you project doom and gloom or surety that your lottery ticket is coming in, keep it real. That’s what we mean when we say: “One Day at a Time”.
  8. Acquire Patience and Tolerance   How to be PatientHow to learn Tolerance  (just click on either of these blue links for a reference. Those virtue meanings could be put this way: learning to wait and learning to listen. Not just pretending to do it.
  9. Beware the Ides of Self-Pity I can think of nothing more wasteful and useless to a person in recovery than the tendency (carried over from Addiction and Alcoholism) to feel sorry for themselves. Stop it! The only thing you’ll get out of it is hurting yourself worse.

Practice Meditation Some simple hints on technique:  I am going to include prayer here as well. Taking miniature lessons whenever your tension or stress levels alert you, whenever you feel yourself becoming impatient or intolerant, whenever the emotional torments begin their spell on you,…..stop to breath, clear your mind and practice, practice, practice,……..    564106_466757373342543_488828855_nNow a chance to practice for a scant seven minutes of breathing,…..



Tomorrow, I will have 13 years of Recovery from both Alcohol and Drug Addiction. Following 12 Step Recovery, writing about it and living it has contributed to my success, which has been uninterrupted — “no slips” — right? I am grateful for my recovery, though my life has often been far more difficult than I thought it would be. This is largely because I face everything now. I feel all of my pain and joy where as over a decade ago, I lived in a constant state of inebriation and medication, running from everything in the ultimate escape philosophy.

I hope you can join me in The No Matter What Club. We’ll talk again about Step 7 soon.

Author Arthur Messenger               

We do not use or tilt the booze - ever!

We do not use or tilt the booze – ever!




The Fifth Tradition: Our One Primary Purpose

What is that one primary purpose of each group?

“To carry it’s message to the alcoholic/addict who still suffers.”12th Step

*Dave Barns sings Carry Me Through

The Historical Perspective

“Ohhhhh,…Yeah”! There are other traditions in our recovery fellowships attention that are controversial, but in my dozen years in and around the rooms #5 is a hotbed of contention. While our primary author likely set out to write a sequence of agreements as guidelines that were intended to stop short of being laws, he knew that there had to be some sense of order in our so-called benign anarchy. Otherwise, we would surely crumble to petty differences like others that preceded us (The Washingtonians: an 1878 View)

“Shoemaker, stick to thy last!”… “better to do one thing supremely well than many badly. That is the central theme of this Tradition. Around it our society gathers in unity. The very life of our fellowship requires the preservation of this principle”.

Our author makes his point with his cobbler metaphor. Unity amidst our numbers is far better towards maintaining consistency than our individual approaches towards recovery. But – then he slides in the assumption that his 12Steps and Traditions in the fellowship of Alcoholic’s Anonymous “had hit upon a cure” – a “miraculous discovery” – “a gift from God.” Though not for the times, some pretty heady stuff. Perhaps that is what it seemed like in those yesteryear’s from the summer of 1952. But that’s not where he stops. He goes on to say that:

“there is another reason for this singleness of purpose. It is the great paradox of A.A. that we know we can seldom keep the precious gift of sobriety unless we give it away. For us, if we neglect those who are still sick, there is an unremitting danger to our own lives and sanity.” We are under these compulsions of self-preservation, duty and love for the alcoholic/addict who still suffers.

*(All quoted material from: AA’s 12×12, AAWS @1952).

In summary then:

  • That we stick to one method and purpose
  • That we observe our agreement in that understanding
  • That we realize we have a cure – a miraculous discovery – a gift from God
  • That unless we practice to carry the message we may lose our own sobriety/recovery.

It isn’t any stretch to imagine that this is the tradition by which the practices of sponsorship and 12Step calls were affirmed. If, when our predecessors read this in those early days of the 1950’s they took it literally,… “like a Carp biting on a Dough-ball,”… there was little question that they had a duty to perform and and a reward in “some insurance against a slip.” THAT – was their kickback for beating the pavement to find those who were still afflicted with our unquenchable thirst, (or if you’re an addict,, the substance or behavior that endlessly fed your obsessive compulsion).

Into the Future

Along the way a saying came to pass amongst some members:

The Steps keep us from suicide and The Traditions keep us from homicide”.

Now…….let’s fast forward to 2014 and the controversy in the present. Seems many of the old AA’s were stubborn about allowing Addicts to attend our meetings, daring to speak of their dual addiction or alter-obsession; that they saw it as a breech of the Fifth Tradition; a neglect of the group’s primary purpose! This was so-much-so that I can remember a time when these “Bleating Deacons” (hee-hee)  would walk out or stop a speaker by interruption during a share on their addiction, even asking that certain groups be stricken from the meeting schedule because they convoluted the primary purpose. Safe to say it really bugged ’em, isn’t it? 🙂

The jury was in however, we’d found that a quorum of our new members were dually if not multiple-ly addicted; that strict scrutiny just wasn’t going to work in some groups. There was reasonable and heated argument. In Tradition 4, Each group is autonomous but according to these “Old-timers” any breech of tradition 5 was affecting AA as a whole or other groups, negating that right to autonomy. Some, staunchly stubborn about their principle packed-up their coffee pots and started anew with those of like mind ( and THEIR sponsored tag-along newcomers).


We can agree on a few things:

.1) There is nothing so satisfying, humbling, or fortifying in terms of one’s sobriety as working with another alcoholic/addict.

2)We freely give as we have been freely given, but none of this proselytizing from the mountain tops or going down and hitting bars to “spread the word” like a Tee-Totaling Evangelist – “thank you-very-much.” We help courteously,….when “we are asked” or when the circumstances tug at our conscience to gently open the door for our fellow sufferers.

For one, I have always thought this concentration on the “Newcomer as the most important person in the room” was some “ding-dong’s” invention for self aggrandizement. You know, “an Epiphany of new awareness in principle,…. et all”.

No one of us is any more important than the other. I think we often misplace the need of those who have had years of sobriety and recovery, close to the edge of a slip due to one of life’s many unexpected ship-sinking challenges. They need our support equally as does any newcomer and just because they have “time,” they still need us just as much,….maybe even more!

Finally, if the group has a tradition of Primary Purpose, the individual does as well. Our individual primary purpose is to continue to live in sobriety and recovery, letting our quest for an emotionally balanced life and our spiritual serenity serve as an example to all, carrying the message by attraction rather than promotion or Drill Sergeant like orders.

If you haven’t read my book: “Living the 12 Steps of Recovery – One Day at a Time –As it Was in the Beginning” here’s a link to the website where you can get your own signed softback shipped anywhere in the USA (and now and then Canada and Australia). Available as well through Amazon KINDLE and NOOK e-book formats.

You might also enjoy my second book: “Tales from the Center of the Herd” a collection of 18 of the best recovery stories I’ve heard as told to me in interview form with those who lived them, some of which are no longer with us:

























Preaching and Teaching at 12 Step Meetings

Here’s another thought provoking guest post, this time by Scott McMillan, Recovery SI. Before you get into it, here’s some Rolling Stones in an old tune to put you in the mood:


Now,….let’s take a look at what Scott has to say in his June 5th post, with thanks and acknowledgement to him for his continual carrying of the message of recovery.


A.A. Works – “YES or NO”

I don’t often plug other Recovery Periodicals, but “the fix” is becoming a favorite  of mine, with topics like this one. (Thanks and kudos to them for their use as we carry the message)

Don’t miss the comments – “Whew” —- ya know, there are a lot of people with a LOT of opinions out there and some fit that “grave emotional and mental disorders” handle in their angry loony responses .

Hey! Don’t stop here, look at the whole mag and then think about getting it in the mail. You might consider subscribing. For the moment, I think an email copy is still free 🙂

*NOTE: Be SURE to click on the link if you like the article, because I am only posting 1/2 of it here for space considerations. There’s LOTS MORE! 

Arthur (The link gets you to the other pages)


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AA Critic Lights Another Fire

Dr. Lance Dodes co-authored the latest book arguing why AA is not effective treatment for alcoholics. Lots of people are angry.

haters hate Dodes

By co-writing The Sober Truth with his son Zachary, Dr. Lance Dodes has ignited a familiar brushfire in the recovery community. His anti-AA book is making more of an impression than the usual attacks. His book takes a slash and burn approach to dealing with 12-step programs. Dodes talked to The Fix about how he came to his convictions and the options that he thinks exist for treating alcoholism.

Anti-AA sentiment regularly comes up in the news. Why do you think this is the case? And how is your work different?

When we talk about why AA has been so fabulously successful in being accepted by the general public, it’s the same answer as to why all of the other books seem to fade away. The people who are pro-AA and getting something out of it – the people who are devoted to it in a quasi-religious sort of way – have a huge influence. Many of them are successful in other ways and they have risen to positions of prominence. This has always been the case as we reviewed in the book. From the incredibly positive and completely inaccurate review of AA written by Jack Alexander in the 1940s [the article was originally published in the Saturday Evening Post] that helped to promote the idea that AA was the best treatment for alcoholism

On the other hand, it’s also true that there’s a kind of silent majority, although I hate to use that phrase. Most people with addictions do not belong to 12-step programs, and many of those people have tried them and failed. But those people don’t talk about it and this is what we call the sampling bias in the book. We hear from the people who do well and we don’t hear from the people who don’t do well. If you go to the recovery section of a bookstore, you’ll see book after book about how AA saved my life, but you won’t see any books about how AA didn’t save my life. People don’t write those books and no one reads them.

The basic answer is that AA is sort of self-sustaining. It’s now added a bunch of people who should know better because they are scientists and researchers and now they have done studies to try to prove AA’s effectiveness. That’s why we wrote the book; to see if those studies are valid and it turns out that they’re not. They are riddled with errors and the science that supposedly is supporting AA is no good. The bottom line is that AA does have a five to ten percent success rate and that’s fine. We need AA and it should be there for those five to ten percent. The problem is that because of the power structure, we prescribe AA for everybody and that’s just a mistake.

The answer to your second question if my book will make a difference is I don’t know.

Do you see a distinction between theory and practice when it comes to the 12-step programs in general and AA in particular? Is the theory behind the 12 steps as expressed in the Big Book the same as the practice of the program in the rooms? Shouldn’t the two things be distinguished? 

Okay, that’s a good question, and we tried to address that in the book as well. Since AA is intentionally unregulated, anyone can start an AA group. AA groups are very different from each other. Any one AA group may be composed of thoughtful, mature people who are simply there to help each other stay sober. You go to other groups and they have a power structure within them in which there are fundamentalist people who will berate you if you are not doing well and who insist you buy into the religious aspect of AA –  which is very powerful in many groups that are much less thoughtful and much less flexible. If you look at the practice of it, it’s all over the map and that is actually one of our main issues with AA. Namely, there are groups which are much better than others. As a result, the overall practice of AA is not so great because there are places where people have had a terrible experience and we know this from first-hand testimony.

As far as the theory goes, I don’t think the theory has any merit whatsoever actually. If you look at the 12 steps themselves, if that’s the theory behind it, it’s based on an idea that this deeply religious stockbroker Bill Wilson came up with based on the Oxford Group which was, of course, a very fundamentalist Christian organization [The Oxford Group was a Christian organization founded by American Christian missionary Dr. Frank Buchman in 1928]. There is no reason to think that a spiritual approach to addiction makes any sense at all. Nothing against spirituality, but it is the same as saying you should use a spiritual approach if you have a compulsion to keep the things on your desk parallel to each other or a compulsion to clean the house.

There is just no role for it. Bill Wilson just dreamed it up and even though a lot of people can find some use of it, it is still one of the main things that limits AA from being truly useful. We put a suggestion to AA in the book that to make it more popular, they should take out some of this religious stuff because it has no bearing on the problem. Bill Wilson originally said that addiction is a failure by a person to be closer to God and he later changed this for marketing reasons into a failure to be closer to a higher power. If the idea is that we are sinners and we need to be closer to God to be free of our addictions, I think that’s utter nonsense.

Can you clarify your position on the genetic background of alcoholism? Although your book refutes the disease model of alcoholism, you seem to agree with the idea of a genetic predisposition. For example, you mention how alcoholism plagued the family line of Bill Wilson. Is there a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism, and what does such a genetic predisposition imply?

I have no personal opinion about it at all, and I tried to avoid putting any opinions whatsoever in the book. There is, however, a lot of scientific literature about it and the literature suggests that there is some evidence for some genetic loading or some genetic influence in some people with alcoholism. But those studies also are quite inconsistent.

The one study we cited specifically in the book was the twin study. If you take two people who have exactly the same genes and one of them has alcoholism, the statistical likelihood is that the other doesn’t. It would be hard to say it’s a genetic illness if that’s the case. Of course, you can have some genetic influence on almost anything. And that is true. The analogy I’ve seen from geneticists – I didn’t make this up – is that the inheritance for alcoholism is probably similar to peptic ulcer disease or essential hypertension which is ordinary high blood pressure.

So could there be a genetic factor? There could, but you have to understand one more thing. When people study this, their studies are flawed by the fact that they are looking at a behavior, namely drinking. But if you look at a behavior, you are not looking at the right thing because genes don’t control complex behavior. They may control something else, but if you look only at this specific behavior, you are leaving out people who are compulsive in other ways. What happens if you add those people in? What happens if you have people who instead of compulsively drinking are compulsively cleaning their house. Same problem, but they don’t get included in the data.

I would say that I don’t deny there is a genetic influence because there is for almost anything. But I don’t think the studies are good because they [don’t include] everybody who has this kind of trait – if you want to call it that, but I would rather call it a symptom. I don’t think the statistics are very good for that and you can’t rely on them. Now if you said to me, “If there were a genetic factor, how would I explain it?” I can’t explain it because obviously no gene ever told anyone to walk into a bar. It would be very complicated and nobody actually has a valid explanation for it even though they like to tap these faulty statistics.

In your book you conclude that addiction is a psychological challenge, not a disease, and that the challenge of addiction can be overcome through a therapeutic process that engenders self-knowledge. It is well-known that such therapeutic strategies of treating addiction have not worked in the past. Why would the results be different this time around?

Okay, that is the one place in the book where you could say that you might criticize the wording of it. What I should have said is that everything I say about that works for some people. It was unintentional to suggest that that is the way to treat everybody. However, I will stand my ground about the idea behind it: To call addiction or alcoholism a disease, doesn’t help understand it, and I have always felt it interferes with understanding it. When you add the label in there, it tells you nothing and kind of confuses matters. Second of all, I don’t think it’s accurate because we know that people can switch from addictively or compulsively using alcohol to addictively or compulsively gambling or addictively or compulsively having sex or shopping. We know that because that really happens in the real world.

So what’s the disease? If the disease is that you have compulsions that shift from one thing to another, I don’t need to call that a disease because I already know what that is. It’s called a compulsion and it’s been well-studied for over a hundred years. It does have a psychological basis. Your point that it’s been studied and it doesn’t work well is true. But I’m not sure it has been well-studied. People have been studying and using cognitive behavioral therapy, but the kind of treatment I’m talking about hasn’t existed. It really hasn’t been studied and I wish somebody would study it.

When I wrote my first book, The Heart of Addiction, I described a way of thinking about addiction and, in my second book, Breaking Addiction, I described a way of treating it that nobody was doing. I do believe it’s accurate to say that that approach has not been studied. I think what has been studied is old-fashioned treatment which I agree with you is not effective. I don’t think you can walk up to somebody and say to them, “Okay, let’s start talking about your mother” and hope to treat the addiction. That’s not good treatment for addiction. You may get to your mother eventually, but that’s not going to deal with the issue. What I came up with was a way of dealing with the issue and dealing with the underlying factors behind it. No one has tested that.

I want to say one more thing to further muddy the waters. The harm reduction movement is quite important because to consider that you are not doing better if your addiction is improving is wrong, and that’s part of my criticism of AA. If you relapse, you go down to zero in terms of the number of days sober and you have to start all over and that just makes no sense – to criticize people for not being absolutely abstinent. When you do a kind of introspective therapy which is designed to root out the cause of it, naturally there are going to be up and downs in the behavior and the behavior may last for a while. If you’re only looking at complete abstinence, then you’re going to say that it’s an ineffective treatment. Like with all psychodynamic therapy, the longer you follow it, the more effective it is because instead of looking at the superficial system, you are looking at the changes in the human being.

To recap, I think that the way it was worded in the book overstated the case. Of course, this isn’t the treatment for everybody and it isn’t the treatment for the 10 percent who are doing well in AA. I stand behind the idea because I think it is an effective psychotherapeutic approach.

You refer to Carl Jung as “the eminent psychoanalyst” in the book so you clearly must respect him. Why do you disagree with Carl Jung’s belief that a spiritual solution is necessary for an alcoholic or an addict? 

I don’t have any particular respect for Carl Jung, and I believe your reading of that is not what we intended. He was an eminent psychoanalyst at the time – eminent meaning well-known – not because he was such a great analyst because he was not. His backing of AA is one more example of why I don’t respect him or his work. He recommended religion as a way to be cured of alcoholism, and it’s a position I do not respect and it’s one of the reasons he’s not well-respected today in my field.

Dishonesty: Our Biggest Defect of Character

Were we pathological in our lying,….

Knickerbockers "Lies" 1960's

U-Tube: “Lies”! 1960’s Knickerbockers

Didn’t it come down to our failure to recognize our incapability to be truthful with ourselves and others, forming a bed for the roots of both our Alcoholism and Addictions. Wasn’t that Dishonesty also the rock bottom basis of our spiritual maladies?

 For a good bit of our lives we walked around in a state of toxic delusion and denial, kidding ourselves about the severity of our addictions and actions, drunk and stoned, as if we had some validity through our self-justification and self-pity, absolving all doubts we had about a gnawing conscience as it constantly needled our addled subconscious minds.

Our booze, drugs and addictive behaviors distracted us from the aching truth,….we were powerless and our lives were an unmanageable mess. We were so caught-up in our web of deception we scarcely knew right from wrong; where or when we were truly at fault,… or at the least contributory negligent about the underlying reality of our dilemmas.

In Step 4 we had to uncover a stark relief of those acts, making a written list of them and then discern their underlying patterns. Dishonesty was perhaps the most prevalent, preceding almost every other act. In Step five:

“We had to come clean” in front of ourselves, a trusted confidant and whatever understanding of the powers of the universe we saw as our final witness.

It still strikes me as odd that the 12Step Program spends little time focusing on the Dishonesty Defect – one of the Alcoholic/Addict’s BIGGEST problems in its many forms and personalized ambiguities. 

Okay then,… we’ve all read the classic Shakespearean reference from Hamlet: “To Thine Own Self Be True”:

            This above all: to thine own self be true,      images
            And it must follow, as the night the day,
            Thou canst not then be false to any man.
            Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Being true to yourself comes after being true with yourself,… seeing things as they really are. “Being true to one’s self implies that we ought not to neglect ourselves for the sake of others, consistently checking our real motives and genuine best interests, nor veering from that path in our lives in which we know the line of our moral values. Truth “with” one’s self implies that — upon examination of our conscience – the little voice which guides us — we ought not delude ourselves with grandiose thinking and self-justification,… nor irrationally construe dishonest perspectives of who we are and what have done,… and even what we are capable of.

This is the first big reason for the 4th Step Inventory actions, well as the confession we make in Step Five of our 12Step Program of Recovery: Being Honest as we are coming clean.

When I was a child, Jiminy Cricket — Pinocchio’s Sponsor of sorts — was the voice of my inner moral compass. Let’s have some fun and go back and watch that sequence from Pinocchio, (I’m so indoctrinated as a Disney child — this gave me goose-bumps LOL)

"Always let your conscience be your guide."

“Always let your conscience be your guide.”



“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”.                                              

This commonly quoted line from Walter Scott was published in 1808 in the poem “Marmion”.

Now there’s a piece of simple truth, huh? In it’s Victorian dialect, this poetic verse tells us that the more we lie, the more lies we have to chain together to cover it all up, till it finally gets to the point of our own self-delusion: we don’t know what’s true and what’s not anymore. We become pathological: not being able to tell the difference between the truth and a lie, lying to ourselves and believing it!

And NOW! For the sake of Manly Honor —– Liam Neeson in “Rob Roy” (also by Sir Walter Scott) in the final sword battle – my favorite of the decade – (If you haven’t seen this you’ll likely go back two or three times 🙂 Rob Roy has been robbed, his friends killed, he’s been beaten, dragged and his wife raped, his house burned and his cattle killed by this low life British Scoundrel, posing as an honorable gentleman, prior to this, the fight of his life.

As addicts and alcoholics, most of us were expert — or so we thought in yet another lie to ourselves — at deceiving others. It’s a big part of the reason for our fearless and through moral inventory and for doubling back to check again for lies we told underneath other lies, before we moved on to that moment of absolute truth in Step 5; where we tell all to our universe, our confessor and ourselves, none of which we cover by omission, averting shame, express our true sorrow as we identify the patterns of our lives, perhaps the worst of which is blatant and rampant DISHONESTY. How many of us “buck-up” though, and admit that a huge part of our problem was that we were dishonest with ourselves as well as others to that point at which we lost all sense of the truth?

*Thanks to “Playing the Devil’s Advocate” for their honest insight here.


“I believe that dishonesty is best understood as a strategy. But towards what end? Under which conditions? In my opinion, dishonest behavior can be categorized into two types- based on the motivations driving the deceiver.

Retaliatory Dishonesty: This type of dishonesty is by far the most common type. The dishonest person is merely retaliating against a person, group or institution that has previously abused his trust. Whether it is the friend who betrayed you, the lover who cheated on you, the boss who screwed you, the company, bank or university that abused you or the country that lied to the person- the dishonest person did not throw the first stone. Therefore retaliatory dishonesty is about loss mitigation and payback, as there is no point in continuing to honor an agreement which the other party has willingly defaulted on. Indeed, not retaliating in the face of continued lying, fraud and abuse would be irrational. Or would it?

But there is another type of dishonesty.

Preemptive Dishonesty: As its name suggests, preemptive dishonesty is a type of strategy where you start out with the intention of screwing over your counter-party regardless of their behavior towards you. Those who indulge in such behavior try to justify it based on prevailing social mores, attitudes, economic conditions, libertarianism, capitalism, communism or any other ideology. However an objective look at the circumstances surrounding such acts of dishonesty always reveal that the main motivators for such behavior are in fact greed, sociopath, narcissism and a focus on money that approach autistic obsession. As I will show in the rest of this post, preemptive dishonesty is far more disruptive to societies than simple retaliatory dishonesty.

In one of our favorite Recovery Program mantras: “Let’s Keep It Simple.” It’s all deceit, and if you go to motive it’s all dishonorable. While some consider omission to be a form of dishonesty, especially when such divulgence is a material fact to a forthcoming incident the with-holding of material evidence through intentional omission and silence is often criminal.

We Alcoholic’s and Addicts find ourselves so disposed to our long underlying pattern of Dishonesty, that it is instantly easy to trigger a chain of it like a relapse to our substance abuse. We therefore, examine our consciences and confess our transgressions, taking an oath to make the truth a new pattern of our moral direction, lest we delude ourselves into patterns which will allow us to transgress.

Hey! There’s plenty of room for you to write in our remarks section and we welcome it.

Stay true to and with yourself and may your conscience always be your guide!

True contrition and confession can bring us absolution

True contrition and confession can bring us absolution

In Memorium 2014: “All Gave Some but Some Gave All”

Today, people all over the world will celebrate with our tradition of Memorial Day here in the USA. We give honor to those who gave their lives in the service of our country, believing that they gave the ultimate sacrifice for our Freedom, our Nation and our Values of “Liberty and Justice for All”.  Dave Duprey – “All Gave Some and Some Gave All”

HD-Images-for-memorial-Day-Free-Download-5We set this day aside to remember, all those brave souls who stood on the line of battle from Lexington/Concord and Valley Forge, to the sands of IRAQ and the mountains of Afghanistan. We do not have to agree and show honor to those who sent them, under false pretense of national security, but we never forget the service, honor and intention of our brave American Warriors.

3004504-handsFor those of us living in Recovery, there is a more to remember once we have taken time to honor our soldiers. We have a solemn duty to ourselves to remember who and what we are, and what we came from, least our not doing so affords the risk of repeating the mistakes of our past. We remember that we are alcoholic, addict or have fallen to any number of compulsive/obsessive addictive behavior patterns. But,…..for the guidance of our principles and the spirituality of our fellowships and other members in them, we are Free: Clean and Sober. We remember that our stories are the gospel of our recovery and today I think of the eighteen I put into an award winning collection. Some of those people have passed, but their stories live on in this work forever. If you care to look into it further see the website: