Step 12 In Action

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Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Step 12

Only a few weeks sober, I marched into my favorite bar in Santa Monica, California, and announced that I was attending AA meetings. I also pointed out to my imbibing friends that they were probably alcoholics needed to join me. El pronto! Not only did my barroom popularity go south at that point, but so did our Eleventh Tradition of “attraction rather than promotion.”

Of course, I was ill prepared to carry the AA message. I had little notion what the Twelve Steps were, save from my own vague interpretations from the clubhouse pull-down shades. My AA honeymoon enthusiasm did not qualify me as having had a “spiritual experience (or awakening) as the result of these steps.” (The terms spiritual experience and spiritual awakening refer to “the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism.” Alcoholics Anonymous p. 567)

Eventually, after absorbing the clear-cut directions from the Big Book, I busily began sharing my newfound sobriety with other members. When some of them relapsed, I was disappointed. However, I took solace in that Step Twelve tells us only that: “we tried.” I believe it is vitally important that I continue to keep on trying regardless of results: “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.” (p. 89). Vital means lifesaving—that means me!

I have found it best not to dwell on the 12 Steps when making my first visit to a newcomer, but to casually let the conversation drift into some of my drinking experience—good and bad, happy and sad—and explain why I need to stay sober. Then, I explain how the AA fellowship helped me to obtain my period of sobriety. Of course, I never mention that they are an alcoholic. This is best for them to ascertain!

I believe it is best to bring out the aspects of AA that will dispel any preconceived fear. I explain our principle of anonymity; that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking; that we have no dues or fees; that we have no rules or laws; that AA is not affiliated with any religion or outside organization. I also explain that we are not a treatment center, although we sometimes cooperate with treatment facilities.

I believe it is important to tell how we have grown to more than two million members around the world in the last eighty-plus years. The point is to replace newcomer doubt with hope!

Upon leaving this “first meeting” I believe it is paramount that the new person leaves with appropriate literature from the meeting rack, but not too much—just three or four pieces. The titles make it obvious what ones are appropriate. If the new person leaves with a Big Book, I never tell them to read the first 164 pages—maybe just The Doctors Opinion, along with some of the personal stories. A farmer once told me: “You don’t feed a newborn calf a bale of hay, but just a little milk.”

Of course, I point out from the meeting directory the next meeting that might be best and exchange phone numbers or email addresses. If time allows, I like to have a meeting-after-the-meeting to provide a welcome and happy atmosphere. First impressions are very important for a lost and lonesome new AA member.

By Bob S.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AA Cleveland District Office.