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Archive for August, 2008

The Promises

In recent years it has become popular to read the "Promises" (read them here) in A.A. meetings. At first I was opposed to this because there is almost never any mention of these promises being a result of working step 9, that a great many other "Promises" have to come to pass before these are even possible, or that these promises are actually a part of the greater Spiritual Experience talked about in step 12. And of course, the newcomer has little, if any, understanding of what the "Promises" mean. As an example: Fear…of economic insecurity will leave us usually gets translated by the newcomer to mean I won’t be poor…LOL. The 4th step teaches us that "fear of economic insecurity" is a character defect that has little or nothing to do with money! So, if you read the "Promises" in reference to your 4th & 5th steps you’ll see that what we are being promised is that many of our character defects will be lifted as a result of working step 9! But, never the less, even if misunderstood, the "Promises" are a message of hope for the newcomer that things will get better, and if nothing else, the A.A. message is one of hope for the newcomer.

So, how does one get these "Promises" to come to pass in one’s life? The simple answer is to work the twelve steps! But, as we will see, there are promises that come with steps 3 through 8 that must come to pass first. If you have missed out on any of these I would suggest that you go back to that step and redo it until that promise comes true for you!

Before we cover steps 3 through 9 lets take a look at steps 1 and 2.

  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.

The first four chapters of the Big Book and the Doctors Opinion are about steps 1 & 2, and are meant to bring the reader to accept three ideas about themselves AND one decision about their life. The three ideas are:

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

No alcoholic can proceed with the steps and hope for ANY of the promises to come true until he comes to accept these truths about himself. Bill W. went as far to say in the original manuscript (found here) of "How it Works",

"If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to re-read the book to this point or else throw it away!"

Then the alcoholic must make a decision about his life:

"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. (Underline added) 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 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." (Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

If the alcoholic has reached this state of mind, accepted the three ideas about himself and has made this decision about his life, he is ready to experience the "Promises" of steps 3 through 12! You may ask, "Can I work the steps even if I haven’t completely bought into these ideas?" Well, many people have and have gotten something from it. Each of the steps (3 through 12) have at their foundation spiritual principles. Any attempt at living life based on these principles will bare fruit. But, if what you are longing for is the "Promises" of step 9 to come true you will have to back up to steps 1 & 2 and become convinced! (OR if you are convinced and have worked the steps without the 9th step "Promises" coming true, you will need to back up to the step where you missed its "promise")

Ok, lets stop here for a moment. You find yourself unconvinced of these ideas and can not make this decision, what to do? How do you "work" steps 1 & 2? The ONLY definitive answer to that question found in all of our literature comes from the 12 & 12: "Try some more controlled drinking", I know that sounds harsh, but it is effective! Truth is though, rarely have I found it necessary to give that suggestion to anyone (but I have). What I usually suggest is that you re-read the Big Book (first 4 chapters), read the stories found in the back of the Big Book, and attend lots of speaker meetings. I have seen this work for most folks, but if all else fails and you are still unconvinced then by all means go drink. If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will…LOL.

Now, for the promises. As I cover these I will not try to explain how to work these steps. There are very clear and simple directions for each of them in the Big Book and hopefully you have a sponsor who can help you with them as needed. And, I will not cover all of the promises, just the ones I consider necessary for the "Promises" of step 9 to come to pass. (If you, dear reader, feel that I have left something out, please leave me a comment and I will amend this posting to include it).

Step 3

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

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. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

Step 3 Promise

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 own 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. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

Step 4

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

Step 4 Promises

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.

Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.

We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.

We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people.

We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him.

(Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "How it Works")

Steps 5-7

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "There is a Solution")

Step 5-7 Promise

Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe. (Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

(Note: this promise does not say maybe this will happen or sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, it says Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing…)

In my mind steps 5 through 7 always go together since the working of these steps is done at the same time (at least according to the Big Book). I believe that many miss out on this "Promise" by separating these steps by days or weeks. I also believe that this "Promise" is the most important one and that if you miss out on this one the rest of the steps will have little to no effect on you or your life. With the exception that helping another alcoholic WILL keep you sober, you will just be miserable! If you have missed out on this promise I would strongly suggest that you go back and do another 4th step, then work steps 5-7 on the same day as outlined in the Big Book! Repeat this process until this promise comes true for you! Don’t give up, it will come!

Side note: Over the years I have seen many who missed out on this promise try to replace it with religion. Please don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer in religion. I consider myself a Christian and served as a deacon in my church for 5 years. The Big Book suggests that we return to our various religions, especially since we will have so much to offer in light of having had this 5th step Spiritual Experience. What I’m talking about is the person who tries to replace walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe with rituals, liturgies, works and prayers written by others. Not to say that any of these things are bad in and of themselves. Even the Big Book says Faith with out works is dead, but they are not a replacement for faith. And even though these things can add to the spiritual experience found in steps 5-7, they will not bring about the spiritual experience. (At least I have never known an alcoholic to get it that way, else church would have worked for many of us long before ever coming to A.A.)

Steps 8 & 9

  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Now we need more action, without which we find that "Faith without works is dead." Let’s look at Steps Eight and Nine. We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self-appraisal. Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    Our behavior will convince them more than our words. We must remember that ten or twenty years of drunkenness would make a skeptic out of anyone. (Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    Steps 8 & 9 Promises

    If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    Again, I cover steps 8 & 9 together because the Big Book does as well. As I said earlier, I believe that these "Promises" are the result of the work done earlier in the steps as well as steps 8 & 9 and are the culmination of the earlier promises. That these promises are the final touches on the Spiritual Experience that came with steps 5-7.

    Step 10

    Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

    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 turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    Step 10 Promise

    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! That 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 how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition. (Underline added, Alcoholics Anonymous "Into Action")

    I threw this one in as a bonus…LOL. But, really, I believe that this promise is the benchmark for all the rest of the promises. If this one has not come true for you, something vital is missing in your program. Please go back through the steps and see what might be missing. The answers are there and will come to you if you work for them, that’s a Promise!

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