This booklet does not offer a plan for recovery from alcoholism. The Alcoholics Anonymous Steps that summarize its program of recovery are set forth in detail in the books Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Those Steps are not interpreted here, nor are the processes they cover discussed in this booklet.
Here, we tell only some methods we have used for living without drinking. You are welcome to all of them, whether you are interested in Alcoholics Anonymous or not.
Our drinking was connected with many habits—big and little. Some of them were thinking habits, or things we felt inside ourselves. Others were doing habits—things we did, actions we took.
In getting used to not drinking, we have found that we needed new habits to take the place of those old ones.
(For example, instead of taking that next drink—the one in your hand or the one you've been planning on—can you just postpone it until you read to the bottom of page 6? Sip some soda or fruit juice, instead of an alcoholic beverage, while you read. A little later, we'll explain more fully what's behind this change in habits.)
After we spent a few months practicing these new, sober habits or ways of acting and thinking, they became almost second nature to most of us, as drinking used to be. Not drinking has become natural and easy, not a long, dreary struggle.
These practical, hour-by-hour methods can easily be used at home, at work, or in social gatherings. Also included here are several things we have learned not to do, or to avoid. These were things that, we now see, once tempted us to drink or otherwise endangered our recovery.
We think you'll find many or even all of the suggestions discussed here valuable in living sober, with comfort and ease. There is nothing significant about the order in which the booklet presents them. They can be rearranged in any way you like that works. Nor is this a complete listing. Practically every AA member you meet can give you at least one more good idea not mentioned here. And you will probably come up with brand-new ones that work for you. We hope you pass them on to others who can also profit by them.
AA as a fellowship does not formally endorse nor recommend for all alcoholics every line of action included here. But each practice mentioned has proved useful to some members, and may be helpful to you.
This booklet is planned as a handy manual for consulting from time to time, not something to be read straight through just once, then forgotten.
Here are two cautions which have proved helpful:
A. Keep an open mind. Perhaps some of the suggestions offered here will not appeal to you. If that is the case, we have found that, instead of rejecting them forever, it's a better idea to just set them aside for the time being. If we don't close our minds to them permanently, we can always go back later on and try out ideas we didn't like before—if we want to.
For instance, some of us found that, in our initial non-drinking days, the suggestions and comradeship offered by an AA sponsor helped us greatly to stay sober. Others of us waited until we had visited many groups and met many AA's before we finally called on a sponsor's help.
Some of us found formal prayer a strong aid in not drinking, while others fled from anything that suggested religion. But all of us are free to change our minds on these ideas later if we choose.
Many of us found that the sooner we started work on the Twelve Steps offered as a program of recovery in the book "Alcoholics Anonymous," the better. Others of us felt the need to postpone this until we had been sober a little while.
The point is, there is no prescribed AA "right" way or "wrong" way. Each of us uses what is best for himself or herself—without closing the door on other kinds of help we may find valuable at another time. And each of us tries to respect others' rights to do things differently.
Sometimes, an AA member will talk about taking the various parts of the program in cafeteria style—selecting what he likes and letting alone what he does not want. Maybe others will come along and pick up the unwanted parts—or maybe that member himself will go back later and take some of the ideas he previously rejected.
However, it is good to remember the temptation in a cafeteria to pick up nothing but a lot of desserts or starches or salads or some other food we particularly like. It serves as an important reminder to us to keep a balance in our lives.
In recovering from alcoholism, we found that we needed a balanced diet of ideas, even if some of them did not look, at first, as enjoyable as others. Like good food, good ideas did us no good unless we made intelligent use of them. And that leads to our second caution.
B. Use your common sense. We found that we have to use plain everyday intelligence in applying the suggestions that follow.
Like almost any other ideas, the suggestions in this booklet can be misused. For example, take the notion of eating candy. Obviously, alcoholics with diabetes, obesity, or blood-sugar problems have had to find substitutes, so they would not endanger their health, yet could still get the benefit of the candy-eating idea in recovery from alcoholism. (Many nutritionists favor protein-rich snacks over sweets as a general practice.) Also, it's not good for anybody to overdo this remedy. We should eat balanced meals in addition to the candy.
Another example is the use of the slogan "Easy Does It." Some of us have found that we could abuse this sensible notion, turning it into an excuse for tardiness, laziness, or rudeness. That is not, of course, what the slogan is intended for. Properly applied, it can be healing; misapplied, it can hinder our recovery. Some among us would add to it: "'Easy Does It'—but do it!"
It's clear that we have to use our intelligence in following any advice. Every method described here needs to be used with good judgment.
One more thing. AA does not pretend to offer scientific expertise on staying sober. We can share with you only our own personal experience, not professional theories and explanations.
So these pages offer no new medical shortcuts on how to stop drinking if you are still doing it, nor.any miraculous secrets for shortening or avoiding a hangover.
Sometimes, getting sober can be done on your own at home; but frequently, prolonged drinking has caused such serious medical problems that you would be better advised to seek medical or hospital help for drying out. If you are that seriously ill, you may need such professional services before you can possibly be interested in what we offer here.
Many of us who were not that sick, however, have sweated it out in the company of other AA. members. Because we have been through it ourselves, we can often help—in a layman's way—to relieve some of the misery and suffering. At least, we understand. We have been there.
So this booklet is about not drinking (rather than about stopping drinking). It's about living sober.
We have found that for us recovery began with not drinking—with getting sober and staying completely free of alcohol in any amount, and in any form. We have also found that we have to stay away from other mind-changing drugs. We can move toward a full and satisfying life only when we stay sober. Sobriety is the launching pad for our recovery.
In a way, this booklet is about how to handle sobriety. (Before, we couldn't; so we drank)