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Chapter 6A: What Works Poorly

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SPONSOR’S EDITION: The Big Book’s iconic Chapter 5 presents the Twelve Step Power-based Program in a sketchy discourse that Tom Powers later tried to flesh out in “The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.” Given the space we saved in condensing the disingenuous “To Wives,” “The Family Afterward,” and “To Employers” into one Chapter, “To Whom it May Concern,” we can present a more thorough account of the Steps by combining Chapter 5, “How it Works,” and Chapter 6, “Into Action,” with key ideas from the 12 & 12. We will overlay AA’s own obsession with Power on the structure of the Steps to create a revolutionary narrative that takes the participant from Power-based to Knowledge-based sobriety, and then to the liberating integration of Knowledge & Power, of Knowing & Doing—”When Knowing Who You Are, Changes Who You Are.”

PROLOGUE: From Oral to Written Tradition
In moving from the word-of-mouth Oral Tradition of the Oxford Group to the Written Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous, Wilson added two key propositions that were not part of the Oral Tradition. At least half of AA prospects leave in the first year as a direct result of one his horrendous blunders.

Chapter 6A: Looking for Power in all the Wrong Places (Steps 1-3)
Given a perceived absence of Power in Choice, the Stepper simply looks for more Power and, unable to find it in Self-Knowledge or Will-Power, gives up the search and concludes that the only other option is The Big Kahuna, The Lord of Lords, The Creator of the Universe—more disingenuously disguised as a “Higher Power.” The method is the same throughout: More Power! Darn right, More Power, More Power, More Power!…ough ough ough ough!

VIDEO HIGHLIGHT: The Six Deadly Consequences of the Three-Step Fallacy

VIDEO HIGHLIGHT: An Unstable Experience

Chapter 6B: Transmuting Emotions into Usable Power (Steps 4-9)

Chapter 6C: Neutralizing Power (Steps 10 & 11)

PROLOGUE: From Written to Oral Tradition

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Chapter 5
HOW IT WORKS

5.1 Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

5.2 Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it-then you are ready to take certain steps.

5.3 At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.

5.4 Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!

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

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“Why the Steps were written down in the order in which they appear today and just why they were worded as they are, I have no idea.” Bill Wilson 1960

Chapter 6
HOW IT REALLY WORKS

The collective experience of four generations of Alcoholics Anonymous suggest that, when practiced as written in the Big Book, the Steps do not work often, and when they do work, they do not work well. Devotees refuse to acknowledge any defect in the Twelve Steps, maintaining that they always “work if you work them.”  Detractors deny that they work at all and maintain that any success is coincidental placebo—the result of other efforts that are not given their due. The truth is simpler, less divisive, and more useful.

When the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous was published in 1939, none of the original 40—half of whom died drunk—had worked the Twelve Steps as written in Chapter 5. Because the Steps were never properly tested & vetted, there was no way of knowing what would work & why; no way of anticipating the numerous risks and pitfalls awaiting the uninitiated; no way to gauge one’s progress through the Steps. We now have those ways; we now have multiple ways out.

While the rank-and-file in AA have allowed the Big Book to turn into a sanctimonious fossil, there has always been a core group who have been devoted to exposing & offsetting its hitherto unknown dangers, while at the same time uncovering and developing its unanticipated strengths. More has been revealed, and it is time to make those revelations public.

5.4 Remember that we deal with Self—subtle, shape-shifting, mercurial. Alcoholism is not a disembodied voice speaking to you, or a disease trying to kill you. Nor does it do sit ups in the parking lot while you are at an AA meeting. You are not passive observers of an entity separate from you, but active participants in how your alcoholism unfolds. You are your alcoholism—it is not separate from you. It hides from you as you hide from yourself. Power—yours or God’s—is of little use: “the citadel of Self cannot be taken by force.”

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 5

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

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

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Chapter 6

We feel that it is a mistake to try to rewrite “How it Works,” the Chapter 5 introduction that is traditionally read at the beginning of AA meetings. As a dramatic reading its tone, inflection, and syntax can move and inspire.  When we examine its content, however, its iconic status, as Wilson often stated, is arbitrary and undeserved.  Instead, moving through Chapter 6, “How it Really Works,” we ask a series of general questions: in Chapter 6A, “What Works Poorly,” we ask, 1. What story do the Steps tell? Next, in Chapter 6B, “What Works Better,” we ask, 2. How are the Steps structured? Finally, In Chapter 6C, Best by Test!,” we ask, 3. What is being done as we move through the Steps?

To answer these questions, we apply the AA Power Paradigm—POWER LOST; POWER SOUGHT; POWER FOUND; POWER SHARED—that we introduced in Chapter 4, “There is a Better Solution.” We move from SEEKING POWER in Steps 1-3, to TRANSMUTING EXPERIENCE into POWER in Steps 4-9, to NEUTRALIZING the POWER of Addiction in Steps 10 & 11—a much simpler and more effective approach that grew organically out of the difficulties encountered by those who tried to work the Twelve Step Program  as written; not  out of a desire to correct the errors on the Big Book. Reacting against a falsehood will not automatically lead you to the truth.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

 

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Chapter 5

Many of us exclaimed, “What an order! I can’t go through with it.” Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
(c) That God could and would if He were sought.

Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If..

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Chapter 6

Note: Need a transition into the next comparative section

To break the bottle neck at Steps 1, 2, and 3 the Big Book requires you to accept that “any life run on self-will can hardly be a success.” If the reader doesn’t buy into that, there really is nowhere for them to go—the original Big Book manuscript even encouraged the skeptical reader to throw the book away at this point! In our New Basic Text, we require no such agreement in worldview: you will find multiple points of entry—many that even conflict with each other in both theory & practice

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 5

his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?

Our actor is self-centered – ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays. He is like the retired business man who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the minister who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; politicians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia

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5.11 The Big Book sees everything through the myopic Power Paradigm, but not every AA member is a Power Broker, and many of us choose to sit back and let others run the show while we seek out the sideline and blossom in the shadows. From our new vantage point, we see that a life based on self-will can hardly be called less successful than a life based on self-surrender. For many who live by self-propulsion, the show comes off quite well. They become responsible leaders, make lots of money, and as a tax write-off donate to charities that help all those spiritual people who can’t seem to make ends meet. They look after themselves first, refuse to inflict their dependency needs on family & friends, and never become a burden to society. They help others and change the world for the better without ever thinking about the welfare of their fellow man. Many retired old-timers in AA contributed more to society as drunken business leaders than they do as sober Steppers. Real life gives countless counterexamples that refute Big Book stereotypes.

5.12 On the other hand, for many who live a life of service to others, the show doesn’t come off very well at all. When trials and tribulations come, they pray & meditate more with little result. When people don’t cooperate, they inflict their need to help even more, becoming ineffective as they alienate the people they are trying to help. Instead of being useful to others, they become a liability. What has gone wrong? Are they not a self-seeker when trying get rid of self? Are they not concerned with their will, their life, the God of their understanding? Are they not victim of the delusion that they can be happy in this secular world if they only live by spiritual principles?* The problem with Wilson’s alcoholic squad is not that they were alcoholic, but that they sucked at being alcoholic.

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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if the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.

This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.

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5.13 Ignorance—Ignore-ance of our true selves! That is the root of our troubles. Our misguided attempts to get out of Self—reinforced and encouraged by the AA Program—create most of the suffering in Twelve-Step Sobriety. Self is the center of who we are—there is absolutely no getting out of Self, no getting rid of Self, and no reason to. (We will relocate our sense of self later; self-forgetting is not getting out of self) Selfishness and Self-Centeredness is not the root of our troubles but, paradoxically, a sign that we are not spending enough time in the Self—feeling our feelings, thinking our thoughts, emoting our emotions. We are strangers to ourselves.

5.14 We weren’t trying to play God; we were misusing the tools that God gave us—the most powerful being the Self. We don’t have to quit “playing God,” we have to quit “playing Self”—stop constantly wasting Power trying to protect a Self-Image that has no reality apart from the choices within which the Self manifests. We let go of the delusional idea that there is an “I”—and its attendant Self-Will—that exists independently of the world, and therefore separately from the creator of that world. Closing the gap between who we think we are—the Self-Image, and who we really are—the Self, awakens authentic Self-Knowledge and ends (Recovery) Power-Dependent sobriety.

5.15 Once we understood that Self was not the enemy, all sorts of unremarkable things began to happen. When we were tired, we slept; when we were hungry, we ate. We recognized who we were without acceptance or rejection. When desirable, Self opened up and acted independently of future hopes or past regrets. When necessary, Self closed down for protection against real and present dangers. Once we saw the lie of “getting out of

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 5

When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn..

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Self,” we could never see it as the truth again. We could then stop the War within Self before it starts: when there is no fight, there is nothing to surrender; when you are not holding on, there is nothing to let go of; when you realize that your will and your life were never your own, there is nothing to turn over. If the fight never starts in the Self, then it never ends up in the bottle.

…transcription to be continued…MVC

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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Chapter 5

We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: “God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!” We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.

We found it very desirable to take this spiritual step with an understanding person, such as our wife, best friend or spiritual adviser. But it is better to meet God alone than with one who might misunderstand. The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation. This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once.

Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning,

SPONSOR’S EDITION: For the purposes of Chapter 6A, “What Works Poorly.” The Big Book parallels end, since the latter contains no discussion of understanding of The First Milestone

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Chapter 6

© 2019 Michael V. Cossette

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