People

Chapter 11: The Pioneering Times are Now

DISCLAIMER: Cogniventus.com has not been approved of, nor endorsed by, and is not affiliated with, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. or any service entity of A.A.W.S., Inc. This website’s currently Featured Project, “FINISHING WHAT BILL WILSON STARTED,” is not AA Conference-Approved Literature; it is non-fiction commentary submitted here for non-commercial single-use, and gives Fair Use citations, for educational purposes, of limited sections of the 2nd Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, 1955, which has been in Public Domain since 1983.

Sponsor’s Note: In attempting to unravel the narrative challenge presented by Chapter 1, “Relapse or Research?” we have looked backwards to an AA that never existed. In this final Chapter, “The Pioneering Times are Now,” we look forward to an AA that has yet to become. We began Chapter 1 on an individual journey; we end Chapter 11 on a global adventure. These two Chapters bookend an entire universe that can be endlessly discovered upon each reading.

The title begs the questions “What did Bill Wilson start? and “How will we finish it?” Bill started a community based on a vision, but a visionary community rarely outlasts the vision of its founders. Gone from AA is the curiosity, the relentless drive to continuously bring something new into the world. Perhaps it only existed in Wilson, and even with him somewhat unfocussed and unstable. Several generations out, AA is experiencing the same crisis of culture that hits most spiritual communities after the founders have passed and the light provided by them has begun to fade: a loss of identity, a loss of the Self-Knowledge that that reminds them who they are, and what their purpose is in the world. It is a time capitalized on by rabid fundamentalists who believe the answer to this loss of identity is a return to the good ole days, a back to basics.

But there are no good ole days to return to, no basics to go back to, and no agreement about what AA is and should be. We will Finish what Bill Wilson started by re-igniting the divine fire to understand what works and does not work, to continue to ask questions that remind us that the pioneering days of AA, and perhaps its parent America as well, are always right now.

(In some ways, we are not finishing anything; we are starting up what self-anointed AA historians implied was finished when “The Pioneering Times” were declared over.)

Comparative Table of Contents

A Scientist Speaks Out

1: An Experiment in Choice
2: Tell Me A Story I Can Use
3: Batteries not Included
4: Relapse or Research?
5: Self-Examination without Self-Obsession
6: Graduating from the Spiritual Kindergarten
7: Pass It On—But Make It Better
8: To Alcoholism Professionals
9: The Fellowships Afterward
10: To The Chronically Human
11: The Pioneering Times are Now

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Chapter 2

THERE IS A SOLUTION, p 17

2.1 “We, of ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, know thousands of men and women who were once just as hopeless as Bill. Nearly all have recovered. They have solved the drink problem.

2.2 “We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table. Unlike the feelings of the ship’s passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined.”

2.3 “The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.”

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2.1 We, THE NEW FOUNDERS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, know countless men and women who were once suffering in their AA sobriety. Nearly all have been liberated from a lifetime mandate of repetitive meetings, self-serving moral inventories, and co-dependent sponsors. They have solved the problem of Power-Dependent Sobriety.

2.2 There is nothing typical about us. We fix things that most people don’t realize are broken. We stay up all night disassembling the world so that we can put it back together with better features. We do not tinker around the edges or gradually peel back the layers of the onion; we go right to the center of a problem and explode the possibilities from within. We obsess about the future of AA and lament over its squandered inheritance.

2.3 We have discovered a better solution to alcoholism than the Power Path that drives the Big Book—a solution that is more effective, casts a wider net, has fewer negative side effects, and honors God in a more spiritually mature manner. Moving from a Power-based to Knowledge-based solution advances a stronger AA message that preserves the spirit of the First Founders and brings the Big Book into the 21st century.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 2

THERE IS A SOLUTION, p 18

2.4 “An illness of this sort – and we have come to believe it an illness – involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes annihilation of all the things worth while in life. It engulfs all whose lives touch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parents – anyone can increase the list.”

2.5 “We hope this volume will inform and comfort those who are, or who may be affected. There are many.”

2.6 “Highly competent psychiatrists who have dealt with us have found it sometimes impossible to persuade an alcoholic to discuss his situation without reserve. Strangely enough, wives, parents and intimate friends usually find us even more unapproachable than do the psychiatrist and the doctor.”

2.7 “But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished.”

2.8 “That the man who is making the approach has had the same difficulty, that he obviously knows what he is talking about, that his whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real answer, that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured – these are the conditions…”

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2.4 We have come to understand that following the Big Book’s Twelve Step suggestions creates a new set of problems that in themselves become an illness, a spiritual pathology. This should not be a surprise, as even the best remedies can have crippling side effects. When not acknowledged & addressed, Power-Dependent sobriety causes incalculable suffering—often even worse than drinking itself. When this new set of problems is acknowledged & addressed, fresh portals of Power-Independent Sobriety open for many who previously “just couldn’t get it.”

2.5 Many suffering on the AA Power Path find it impossible to discuss their situation freely within the Fellowship. If an alcoholic is happy in AA, they can expect to get all the support they need. If an alcoholic vocalizes being unhappy in AA, other members most often trivialize their feelings as a “dry drunk,” taunt them as being “terminally unique,” or unleash a condescending “Keep coming back.” For those suffering in silence, we hope this book will inspire and illuminate. For those blind to the inherent problems in Power-Dependent Recovery, we hope this book will prod and provoke.

A New Founder who is free from the bondage of Twelve-Step Recovery can quickly win the confidence of someone suffering in their sobriety. We have repeatedly demonstrated that we can help them when no one else in AA can—and no one else in AA will.

2.6 Often, just a few minutes talking before or after an AA meeting is enough to give immediate results. Giving candidates the opportunity to voice their frustrations about the Fellowship & the Program, we acknowledge their difficulties as real to them. We do not translate their words into recovery-speak, but allow them to tell their stories, their way. These are the most effective conditions for creating a safe space for the AA-weary alcoholic to tell the truth.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 2

THERE IS A SOLUTION, p 19

“…we have found most effective. After such an approach many take up their beds and walk again.”

2.9 “None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor do we think its effectiveness would be increased if we did. We feel that elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs. All of us spend much of our spare time in the sort of effort which we are going to describe. A few are fortunate enough to be so situated that they can give nearly all their time to the work.”

2.10 “If we keep on the way we are going there is little doubt that much good will result, but the surface of the problem would hardly be scratched. Those of us who live in large cities are overcome by the reflection that close by hundreds are dropping into oblivion every day. Many could recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. How then shall we present that which has been so freely given us?”

2.11 “We have concluded to publish an anonymous volume setting forth the problem as we see it. We shall bring to the task our combined experience and knowledge. This should suggest a useful program for anyone concerned with a drinking problem.”

2.12 “Of necessity there will have to be discussion of matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious. We are aware that these matters are, from their very nature, controversial. Nothing would please us so much as to write a book which would contain no basis for contention or argument. We shall do our utmost to achieve that ideal. Most of us sense that real tolerance of other people’s shortcomings and viewpoints and a respect for their opinions are attitudes which make us…”

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2.7 How many times have we wondered why an AA old-timer goes out drinking again? Why do well over 90% of those newcomers who walk into an AA meeting leave in their first year? Instead of blaming old-timers for not “enlarging their spiritual life” or shaming newcomers for not being “willing to go to any lengths,” we listened, intently, and without judgement. We listened with the goal of understanding and not agreeing or disagreeing. We listened as the AA old-timer explained how the Program & the Fellowship that had once giving their life meaning was now sucking the life out of them. We listened when newcomers told us why they would rather die drunk than live sober in AA. We listened.

2.8 And people opened to us as they never had to anyone before. Whenever individuals and groups shift from a Power-based to a Knowledge-based solution for alcoholism, immediate and powerful changes occur. Alcoholics who have never shared in a meeting feel empowered to speak up. Under our guidance the revolving door stops revolving: the first New Founder Group flourished for seven years without a single member relapsing. Many who are better off leaving AA are given the tools to make that often treacherous transition. Many more that were ready to leave AA, stay to give it another chance.

2.9 Without realizing it, however, we began to encroach on territory set up by the Power Brokers who believe they run AA. So, our success has come with a price: many of us have been voted out of meetings by the group conscience, physically & verbally attacked, sabotaged in our professional and personal lives, and subjected to countless other betrayals and indignities by AA members whose bread and butter was keeping their charges sick, or at the very least, making sure they didn’t get too well. And the most vicious assaults invariably originated from those most devoted to the Big Book & the Twelve Steps, while their faithful minions just sat by and let it all happen.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 2

THERE IS A SOLUTION, p 20

…more useful to others. Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.

2.13 You may already have asked yourself why it is that all of us became so very ill from drinking. Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. If you are an alcoholic who wants to get over it, you may already be asking -“What do I have to do?”

2.14 It is the purpose of this book to answer such questions specifically. We shall tell you what we have done. Before going into a detailed discussion, it may be well to summarize some points as we see them.

2.15 How many times people have said to us: “I can take it or leave it alone. Why can’t he?” “Why don’t you drink like a gentleman or quit?” “That fellow can’t handle his liquor.” “Why don’t you try beer and wine?” “Lay off the hard stuff.” “His will power must be weak.” “He could stop if he wanted to.” “She’s such a sweet girl, I should think he’d stop for her sake.” “The doctor told him that if he ever drank again it would kill him, but there he is all lit up again.”

2.16 Now these are commonplace observations on drinkers which we hear all the time. Back of them is a world of ignorance and misunderstanding. We see that these expressions refer to people whose reactions are very different from ours.

2.17 Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it or leave it alone.

2.18 Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair…

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2.10 We will not be discouraged. No one owns the Fellowship or the Program—not World Services, not your Intergroup, not your Home Group, and particularly not any random group conscience. As New Founders, we give the disenfranchised a stake in AA by challenging the status quo without regard for personal consequences. As caretakers of AA’s Oral and Written Tradition, it is our responsibility to take what we have learned and pass it on in an improved form.

2.11 We have, therefore, concluded that our combined experience & strength must be preserved at all cost, that our tested and tuned Oral Tradition be into print for future generations who may not benefit from contact with us. We believe a Big Book for the 21st Century to be the best vehicle to fulfill this responsibility. If we thought AA had anything to offer people suffering in their sobriety, then there would be no reason for us to step forward.

2.12 Taking up the controversial challenge to write another Basic Text for AA is not a new idea, but the urgency of such a task has increased exponentially. Anyone who has worked extensively with alcoholics using the Big Book template knows that there are omissions that need to be included, and errors that need to be corrected. We wish to begin an open, ongoing exposition of what works and what does not work within those 164 pages, thereby transforming a souvenir of the past into a living, evolving document. As New Founders, we are uniquely suited to finish what Bill Wilson started.

2.13 Because of unavoidable cultural, historical, personal, and spiritual bias, many of the suggestions in the Big Book, when applied to a broader base, have had exactly the opposite effect as intended and promised. How quickly we have witnessed happy, joyous, and free degenerate into smug, arrogant, and self-congratulatory. How often we have seen the constant thought of meeting the needs of others collapse into suffocating co-dependency.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 2

THERE IS A SOLUTION, p 21

…him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die a few —years before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason – ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the warning of a doctor – becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention.

2.19 But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.

2.20 Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you, especially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking. He is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is seldom mildly intoxicated. He is always more or less insanely drunk. His disposition while drinking resembles his normal nature but little. He may be one of the finest fellows in the world. Yet let him drink for a day, and he frequently becomes disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social. He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong moment, particularly when some important decision must be made or engagement kept. He is often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything except liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly dishonest and selfish. He often possesses special abilities, skills, and aptitudes, and has a promising career ahead of him. He uses his gifts to build up a bright outlook for his family and himself, and then pulls the structure down on his head by a senseless series of sprees. He is the fellow who goes to bed so intoxicated he ought to sleep the clock around. Yet early next…

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2.14 Why do some alcoholics get better in AA, and others get worse? Just as different people react differently to alcohol, so too different alcoholics react differently to Alcoholics Anonymous. Balanced recovery practitioners use the Twelve Steps sparingly and function well with or without meetings. They have no problem ignoring contradictions in the Program and inadequacies in the Fellowship. After a brief 90-meetings-in-90-days immersion when they first arrive, they create a strong foundation for sobriety and move on with their lives to “be part of the world that they once rejected, and that once rejected them.”

2.15 There are others who become dependent on AA. Meeting attendance takes on a desperate quality and they become restless, irritable, and discontent when they stay away for a few days or weeks. They may be sensible about everything in their life but AA. They may start out as a balanced recovery practitioner, but at some stage they begin to lose control of their AA use.

2.16 Then there are those that follow the Power Path Step-by-Step and watch their lives unravel even further without alcohol. In seeking out a spiritual awakening through the Twelve Steps they become spiritually materialistic; sobriety has just become another commodity that they fearfully horde away in ethereal bank-accounts. In their misguided attempt to get out of Self they become even more Self-obsessed, cartoon caricatures of who they once were. Eventually, they cannot stay in AA without feeling isolated; they cannot leave AA without excruciating loneliness.

2.17 When an alcoholic cannot imagine life with AA or without AA they become spiritually sick because of their recovery. Once this pathological ambivalence has set in, the tools of the Big Book will not only lose effectiveness, but will begin to work against the practitioner. Sobriety will unfold as an endless purgatory with no relief in sight. Some will wish for the end. Some will seek it out and find it, while Friends of Bill W. attend their funerals and wax philosophic while refusing to acknowledge what is happening.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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THERE IS A SOLUTION, p 22

…morning he searches madly for the bottle he misplaced the night before. If he can afford it, he may have liquor concealed all over his house to be certain no one gets his entire supply away from him to throw down the wastepipe. As matters grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to work. Then comes the day when he simply cannot make it and gets drunk all over again. Perhaps he goes to a doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with which to taper off. Then he begins to appear at hospitals and sanitariums.

2.21 This is by no means a comprehensive picture of the true alcoholic, as our behavior patterns vary. But this description should identify him roughly. (switching to Chapter 3)

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2.18 This new class of alcoholics—those who get worse as a result of Power-Dependent Sobriety—is not addressed in the Big Book because they did not exist at the time of its publication. Each decade since 1939 has brought increasingly convincing testimony that this class of alcoholics is real, getting bigger, and in desperate need of a way out that the AA Power Paradigm does not offer. We now have The Way Out.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

MVC: need a smooth transition here…

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Chapter 3

MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM, p 30

3.1 Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.

3.2 We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.
We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals – usually brief – were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.

3.3 …

3.4 We are like men who have lost their legs; they never grow new ones. Neither does there appear to be any kind of treatment which will make alcoholics of…

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2.1 Few of us wanted to admit that the AA Program & Fellowship that were once our unshakeable foundation for life was now making us sicker. The idea that somehow AA and its God would give us all we needed to stay happy, joyous and free for the rest of our lives is the great obsession of the Power-Dependent alcoholic. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it to the gates of relapse or suicide.

2.2 We learned first that we had to fully concede that not all alcoholics are the same, that not all alcoholics need to recover by spiritual means, that not all alcoholics can recover on a spiritual basis. This is the first step towards Knowledge-based Sobriety. This is the first step towards authentic Self-Knowledge. The delusion that everyone in AA needs a “Higher Power” is simply no longer tenable. The deception that most people in AA believe that their “Higher Power” keeps them sober has now been exposed as the wishful thinking of a vocal minority.

2.3 When the silent majority speaks up too loudly about sobriety without the steps, about serenity without spirituality, about power without god, they are confronted with the perplexing logic that if they could recover on a non-spiritual basis, then they weren’t really alcoholics to begin with…Over the last 80 years we have seen the phrases “real” alcoholics, “true” alcoholics, “seriously” alcoholic, and alcoholics “of a hopeless variety” get twisted from useful diagnostics into a powerful bludgeon to demean anyone who finds another way to not-drink. Physical bullies may try to tell us what to do; psychological bullies may try to tell us what to

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 3

MORE ABOUT ALCOHOLISM, p 31

…our kind like other men. We have tried every imaginable remedy. In some instances there has been brief recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse. Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet.

3.5 Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right- about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!

3.6 Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums – we could increase the list ad infinitum.
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 may be worth a bad case of the jitters if you get a full knowledge of you condition.

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think; but there is a special place in the pantheon of human cruelty for spiritual bullies who try to tell us who we are.

2.4 Despite all we can say, there are still those alcoholics in AA who exalt themselves as a special spiritual class that can only be saved by an act of God. Their Creator gives them a will and a life for which to care, and at the first sign of trouble they try to return the gift rather than take responsibility for it. They wear their learned helplessness like a badge of honor and refuse to acknowledge any deviation from their path as true sobriety.

2.5 We did not, however, deviate from their path until we had tried, unsuccessfully, every single one of their suggestions to jump-start a failing Program! Here are some of the methods we have tried: going to different meetings, GSO service, commitments, reading the first edition of the Big Book, coming early & leaving late, going on retreats, listening to Joe and Charlie tapes, attending Back-to-Basics seminars, changing sponsors, reading AA history—we could increase the list ad nauseum.

2.6 As New Founders we do not like to judge the quality of anyone’s sobriety, nor do we think it a good habit to continually check your existential pulse to see how you are doing. But a few targeted questions can yield more Self-Knowledge than years of inventories, confessions, and restitutions. Does your thinking get squirrelly when you cut back on meetings? Do you instinctively blame either yourself or others when something goes wrong? Do you distrust your own thinking? Do honest displays of emotions, particularly anger—yours or anyone else’s—make you uncomfortable? Do you say things at meetings that you don’t mean? It may be worth the intrinsic discomfort these questions will provoke to gain Knowledge of your conditionEnd of UNRESTRICTED ACCESS

RESTRICTED ACCESS or CONFIDENTIAL Text may be Available on Request

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Alcoholics Anonymous, pp 151-164 The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pp 129-192

Chapter 11, p 151
A VISION FOR YOU

11.1 For most normal folks, drinking means conviviality, companionship, and colorful imagination. It means release from care, boredom, and worry. It is joyous intimacy with friends, and a feeling that life is good. But not so with us in those last days of heavy drinking. The old pleasures were gone. They were but memories. Never could we recapture the great moments of the past. There was an insistent yearning to enjoy as we once did and a heartbreaking obsession that some new miracle of control would enable us to do it. There was always one more attempt – and one more failure.

11.2 The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew from society, from life itself. As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did – then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen – Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who see this page will understand!

11.3 Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the moment says, “I don’t miss it at all. Feel better. Work better. Having a better time.” As ex-alcoholics,…

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Rewriting the Big Book, pp 151-164

“I just know that you are expected, at some point, to do more than carry the message of A.A. to other alcoholics. In A.A. we aim not only for sobriety — we try again to become citizens of the world that we rejected, and of the world that once rejected us. This is the ultimate demonstration toward which Twelfth Step work is the first but not the final step.” Bill Wilson, 1959

Chapter 11
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10.1 For many New Founders, sobriety in AA once meant an oasis of comfort within the Fellowship and a blueprint for living in the Twelve Steps. It meant a safe harbor from the world fueled by serenity, sugar and caffeine. As the months and years rolled on, however, the Program lost its power and the Fellowship lost its sense of community. Fond memories faded. No matter how we tried, we could not recapture the great AA moments of the past. You just can’t go home again.

10.2 We trudged on even when increasingly difficult to remain enthusiastic. We kept telling ourselves that this was going to be the meeting to rekindle that spark, this was the sponsee that was going to enter the great stream of sobriety, this was going to be the time…We saw the bitter irony that in our last days drinking we similarly kept going back to alcohol expecting different results. Had we really changed at all?

10.3 As we began to lose interest in the AA we already knew, we began paying more attention to the AA that was hiding in plain sight. We noticed that just over half of meeting attendees never said a word—and most just offered fawning pleasantries to the group without ever explaining how AA helped them stay sober. What did this silent majority actually think, feel? Was their silence just the common fear of public speaking?

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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we smile at such a sally. We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits. He fools himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently try the old game again, for he isn’t happy about his sobriety. He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.

11.4 We have shown you how we got out from under. You say: “Yes, I’m willing. But am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum, like some righteous people I see? I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?”

11.5 Yes, there is a substitute, and it is vastly more than that. It is a Fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom, and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find The Fellowship, and so will you.

“How is that to come about?” you say. “Where am I to find these people?”

11.6 You are going to meet these new friends in your own community. Near you alcoholics are dying helplessly like people in a sinking ship. If you live in a large place, there are hundreds. These are to be your companions. High and low, rich and poor, these are future Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Among them you will make lifelong friends. You will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster together and

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Or is something more sinister at work?

10.4 So, we asked them. In the the parking lot after a meeting we gave them a safe place to tell us what was their honest experience of AA. For every hour we spent in a meeting we often spent four hours, or more, de-briefing the silent majority—meetings-after-the-morning-meeting often required us to send out for lunch. We discovered that many did not believe that “God-Him-Power” had anything to do with how they stay sober on a daily basis. We discovered that most went to meetings not because they were particularly enthusiastic about AA, but because they didn’t believe that they had alternatives. We discovered a wide chasm between what passes as AA in meetings, and how AA plays out in the real lives of its members. We finally realized that what you hear said at meetings rarely reflects what most people at that meeting really think and feel.

10.5 So, we asked the silent majority, “Why don’t you chime in when you don’t hear your experience, strength, and hope represented at a meeting?” The answer was invariably the same: “We see what happens to people (like you) who challenge the status quo.” At first, we empathized. We understood how brutal the group push-back can be. But eventually our compassion turned critical, and we began to challenge the seat-warmers: decide what type of AA member you want to to be, and what kind of AA you want to be part of. Did you recover from a “seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” just to sit on the sidelines?

Transcription to be continued. MVC

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 11

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