Stepstudy.org


1952 TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS PUBLISHED

As AA grows and its population changes, Bill feels the need to reinterpret the Twelve Steps in a way that is responsive to the new membership of AA, and more accurately reflects the program of the New York fellowship. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions presents Bill’s new interpretation of the Twelve Steps. The new interpretation is both more social and more psychological than the Big Book.

“Alcoholics Anonymous,” published when our membership was small, dealt with low bottom cases only. Many less desperate alcoholics tried A.A., but did not succeed…in the following years this changed.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

AA is now composed of a growing number of alcoholics who still have their health, families, and jobs. Some of these newcomers are also relatively young. Because they are less desperate, these newcomers are also less motivated to work the Steps.

Few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom…the average alcoholic…doesn’t care for this prospect—unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

In order to address the needs of this population, Bill “widens the hoop” that members have to jump through in order to feel that they are actively working the AA program. He accomplishes this primarily by introducing the “method of substitution” in his Third Step instructions, and making major changes to the inventory process.

In speaking of the trouble that many AA’s have with turning their will and life over to the care of God, Bill says this:

[Many people] begin to solve the problem by the method of substitution. You can, if you wish, make A.A. itself your “higher power”…many members…have crossed the threshold just this way…most of them began to talk of God.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Bill clearly expects that alcoholics who use AA as their higher power will eventually adopt a more spiritual outlook. However, Bill’s method of substitution also makes it possible for AA members to feel that they are honestly working the Steps without ever turning their lives over to the care of God.

Bill’s new instructions for the Fourth Step are another significant development. The Big Book outlines an inventory process that sees selfishness as the root of the alcoholic’s problems. In Bill’s new version, however, the root of the alcoholic’s problems is not selfishness, but rather instincts that are out of balance.

Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Also, the 12&12 inventory is not focused strictly on defects of character:

The sponsor probably points out that the newcomer has some assets which can be noted along with his liabilities.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

This new inventory is not meant to resemble a soul surgery, in which the Stepworker identifies and carves out the defects of character that are blocking his or her soul from God. Rather, this inventory is an open-ended process of introspection and reflection.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions is less hopeful than the Big Book about the results a person can expect from working the Twelve Steps. There is no promise of a life of freedom from selfishness, or a new life of intimacy with spiritual power. Instead, recovering alcoholics should be content with gradual progress over a long period of time.

Having been granted a perfect release from alcoholism, why then shouldn’t we be able to achieve by the same means a perfect release from every other difficulty or defect? This is the riddle of our existence, the full answer to which may only be in the mind of God.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

The sentiment that alcoholics should expect sobriety to be marked by long periods of struggle with their personal shortcomings is a reflection of Bill’s own struggles with depression. His decreased expectations for the quality of his own sobriety lead him to lower his expectations for others as well. Bill’s experiences with seeking help from psychiatrist lead him to a new understanding of the inventory process that is more psychological in nature. Also, in Bill’s mind, the method of substitution is adequate because he does not have the same faith in the ability of spiritual experience to address all of the alcoholic’s troubles.

This new version of Stepwork is no longer insists on spiritual experience as the answer to the problems of the alcoholic. Instead, it offers a solution that is social and psychological in nature. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and its brand of Stepwork effects the nature of the Twelve Steps within AA, and will also affect the practice of the Steps in all future Twelve Step fellowships.


39 Comments so far
Leave a comment

12and12 equals trashola

Comment by somedude

What does thet (trashola) mean? is it commentary on this site, or the 12 n 12 itself. And if so , why did you come here.

Comment by larrylive

How Soon Do We Want To Get Well…???

I can see where the Oxford Group could be a turn off to many non-religious types… BUT herein, I see why the numbers for recovered individuals have diminished. Wow… Bill’s depression has hugely impacted the recovery rates!!! I am grateful that I’ve found my way back to the Big Book… In It’s essense, I’ve been able to find the Solution to All My Problems!!! Thank You

Comment by Eddie K.

I have read the living sober book and wondered why it was passed by us.Its seems to me its a self help book and not about being recovered.
RON

Comment by RON MARTIN

Agreed. Living Sober is way off base. I don’t know who wrote that book, but I would have never guessed it was from AA had it not said so.

Comment by Steve

Did Bill write the 12 & 12 after taking LSD?

Comment by Steve

Nope. His LSD experiments began after the writing of the 12&12. Check out “Pass it On” for exact dates.

Comment by James R.

I thought the 12 and 12 was simply a more in depth presentation of the steps.After a number of years of sobriety a deeper understanding of the steps is only natural. I love the 12 and 12 and always use it along with the big book when sponsoring people.

Comment by Steve

We see the same mechanisms at work in the “deification” of the Big Book that occurred with the Holy Bible. Man wants to control the God experience rather then being controlled by it. Bill’s home group objected to expanding the original absolutes to the 12 steps. But it is tempting to cleverly write off an entire piece of AA literature to avoid answering the 26 questions of step 4. :)

Comment by Colter K

I find a true spiritual scientist’s honesty at work in the 12 and 12. The “pet theory” that abandoning oneself to God, making confession and restitution, and moving on to other drunks would work for anybody just didn’t fit the facts as they emerged in those early years.

Comment by Frank M.

That’s right…surrender, confession, restitution, amends, and service didn’t work for everyone in early AA and it doesn’t work for everyone now….but what do we mean by “work?” For many drunks, physical sobriety is as good as it gets. Only a minority of AA members reap the “new power, peace, happiness and sense of direction” described in the BB. The real question is whether the lowering of expectations one finds in the 12 x 12 a reflection of the limitations of alcoholics generally or could something have been done to preserve the integrity of the program as outlined in the BB. Over the last 16 yrs I have gradually moved from the latter position to the former. The dilution of the program is most likely a consequence of human nature; genuine spiritual experience inevitably “hardens” into cliches, slogans, and empty ritual. As Charles Peguy wrote, “All great things begin in mysticism and end in politics.”

Comment by Piers

Bill Wilson once wrote that AA is a sort of spiritual kindergarten. My understanding is that most AA’s in the early days sought spiritual growth through vigorous religious practice outside of the fellowship. It was a fairly homogeneous group back then too. I imagine that when they spoke of God and the kind of direction that their devotion to Him represented, they were talking about a rather well understood set of principles. We don’t really have that sort of clarity now, and perhaps that is what makes for most of the differences between that time and this.

Not everyone is going to find a deep and expanding spiritual experience within the confines of AA as such. I’m not suggesting that religion is the answer here either. As Reinhold Niebuhr, the author of the serenity prayer, noted–”Religion is a good thing for good people and a bad thing for bad people.” We well get out of AA just what each of us puts into it.

Comment by Frank M.

This article puts into words what I have thought for many years and could not express effectively. The BB documents the “precise” experience of how arguably 40-70 people desperately “recovered” from a condition that was rapidly killing them. They didn’t have a map or a starting place. They did what they somehow mysteriously believed might work, and it did. The 12&12 is what one man thought of it all 17 years later when the novelty had worn off and he needed a man-made spiritual boost. Fours years later he was taking LSD as an artificial method of recreating the elusive spiritual experience that was no longer “firing his pistons”.

Comment by Randy P

Bill told some of his friends he was unwilling to surrender some aspects of his life to the 12 Step process. It causes me to wonder if his depression and mania were not just misdiagnosed self-pity and resentment as discussed on page 15. Though I cannot read the mind of Bill, it certainly suggests that his pursuit of therapy was an attempt to find an easier softer path. This opens up the possibility that Bill was not actually sober, but dry during his later years. The 12×12 is a good example of what happens when someone loses their spiritual compass. Remember it was published 2 years after Dr. Bob had died.

Comment by Ken C.

Therapy can also be considered a way to continue 7th and 10th Step work, by those less inclined to judge.

To say of someone, “He’s lost his spiritual compass,” is a bit of God-playing that’s unhealthy for me. When I sit in that throne looking down on others’ spiritual paths, I’m setting myself up to make other decisions and judgments I’m equally not qualified to take on. Like whether that first drink might not hurt me. This time.

Best regards,
Frank M.

Comment by Frank M.

Information we received when we researcjed at the Episcopal Church Archives in Austin, Texas revealed what Mary Darrah’s foreword by Father John C. Ford, S.J. had written: Ford edited the 12 x 12 as he did AA Comes of Age. Father Ed Dowing, S.J. also participated in the editing. According to Mel B.’s research, Bill was in the throes of a decade of deep depression. All these factors seem to explain some of the unusual language found in the 12 x 12. Not the least of which is the statement that the AA group can be your higher power.

Comment by Dick B.

After his four-day slip, AA pioneer and atheist James Burwell (AA #4 in the NY group) took the group as his higher power. Two years later Jim switched over to “my own better self,” which he sought contact with through daily meditation. This practice served him well until the day he died in 1978 with thirty-six years of continuous sobriety. Jim wrote “The Vicious Cycle” in the first edition of the Big Book, started the first AA meetings in Baltimore and Philadelphia, and was instrumental in the development of AA in San Diego.

Bill W. was surely aware of Jim’s use of the group as his higher power. He must have known about it when the Big Book was written, but one can easily see why he wouldn’t have been inclined to complicate the message. So it’s fair to say Bill was referencing a proven practice for attaining and maintaining sobriety within the general framework of the Steps when he wrote about that approach in the 12 and 12. I’d be very surprised too, if Burwell had been the only man to go this route in those early years, after seeing that it did in fact work.

Old-timers will tell you that it’s either grow or go in recovery. The very program of AA itself could never have developed beyond the Oxford Groups without adherence to the same principle. I can see no good reason to abandon it now to the theory that at some halcyon moment in history some subset of AA had gotten it all exactly right, for everyone and for all time.

We know but a little…

Comment by Frank M.

CORRECTION: Jim B. died in 1974 not 1978. He sobered up for good on June 16, 1938.

Comment by Frank M.

I was reading this site due to my gratitude and ever growing interest in the spiritual principles which have literally saved my life. The “basic text” is meant to be suggest only and encourages the reader 2 likewise share what was freely given him, very simple. No debate required! it’s working for me, is it working for you? are you working it

Comment by James F

The BB offers “clear cut directions” for recovery. The directions allow for individual concepts of God or a Higher Power. The BB also clearly states in “How It Works”, that “no one….has been able to maintain…perfect adherence to these principles”, “we are not saints”,”the principles..set down are guides to progress”, “we claim spiritual progress…[not].. perfection”. These qualifications do not dilute the process, but rather state the reality of experience that perfection is not required. Willingness is of course a requirement for success and is often cited.

Comment by Rob B

Thanks for this thread. The reason I stumbled here was….for the third time in a month I heard said that
“The Twelve Steps were written while Bill W. was taking
LSD”, or “The 12 and 12 were written while Bill W. was taking
LSD”. Thank you James R. for clarifying. I knew the obvious-
for one LSD was not really made available to Dr’s until the mid 50s. Also Bill W did this under a Drs supervision. The Drs did not just hand out LSD! i.e. he was not tripping with Fr Dowling
and writing the 12 and 12! It was written in 1953.
It is dangerous for me to get angry, and have to “be right” about anything, so I have not responded or confronted directly to these people, but rather approach new comers and explain to them that this is incorrect.
I do tend to agree with those that gravitate towards the purity of the BB. I have made the steps so incredibly complicated- especially the fourth, that I have slipped many times because I never took the steps. There is a tremendous amount of info on the 4th and 5th step in the BB, if one really opens ones eyes. It also helps to go to one of the BB step meetings.
Daniel B.

Comment by daniel buisson

It also helps to get a sponsor who once suffered from alcoholism, who has recovered via a spiritual experience/awakening that resulted from following the precise directions in the BB, and now has the freedom from the obsession as promised. Then it helps to do exactly what that sponsor directs as long as it can be reconciled with the BB. If the meeting, step or otherwise, says something different, then ask yourself, “is the meeting my sponsor or is my sponsor my sponsor?”

Comment by Ken C.

Bill’s writting and publishing the ” Twelve and Twelve” ruined A.A. After all, this is his veiw. Too many in A.A don’t understand or want to understand that this book is Bills’ veiw. John O. You won’t catch me at a 12 and 12 meeting. Big book has all my answers.

Comment by John O.

We have sponsors here who do not take their people through the BB, but only use the 12 and 12. They wonder why these people never recover. The sponsors do not announce themselves as “recovered,” but “recovering” and balk at any reference to the many places where the first 100 are labeled “recovered” from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
There are some of us in solution-based meetings, but most of the meetings in this area are more like self-help, out-patient discussion groups. It is tough to get people back to the book, but no one that we know who has worked the steps from the BB with a sponsor who has a sponsor who claims a spiritual awakening and also makes use of pp. 86-88 on a daily basis has ever relapsed. It has been a slow go, but one at a time people are being reached with the original powerful message and taking it to meetings where it needs to be heard. The sole purpose of an AA meeting should be to carry the message of recovery. There are too many out there dying because a bunch of hard drinkers who were able to stop are running most of the meetings.
I was told that Bill wrote the 12 and 12 because many of the things he wrote in the manuscript of the BB were edited out and he was angry. He did not pay one of the editors and only paid the other one half. If there is anyone out there who knows where I can verify this, I would like to get the reference.

Comment by Jenn S

According to Ruth Hock, Bill’s secretary who typed up the BB, of the authors of the stories in the First Edition (who literally were the exemplary cases), about half of them went out and got drunk again. We don’t know how many made it back.

Those are your “recovered” alcoholics from the first sixty-something. Might call for rethinking some ideas.

It’s great to be absolutely certain of things. Feels almost as nice as a good drunk sometimes.

Best regards,
Frank M.

Comment by Frank M.

Touche.
Must have been a manic Monday.
Thanks for the regards. Rethinking is always good. The Oxford Group did talk about the Four Absolutes.
In order for me to stay sober, I must remain teachable. Most of what I wrote is almost verbatim from my sponsor who is an old gent with 37 years. I guess I have got to stop taking his word as gospel and start checking some things out for myself.

Comment by Jenn S

Jenn S, I know what you mean. I’ve been checking things out for myself for a while, and it’s been well worth the effort. My problem now is I tend to take my own word as gospel. ;-)

All the best,
Frank M.

Comment by Frank M.

Frank M., thank you for doing the legwork of research. I wouldn’t even know where to start. I am the wife of an alcoholic, and just learning the AA & Al-Anon programs. My husband and I read the BB, 12 x 12, Daily Reflections and a few others that are Bible based. I know that I have gained a better understanding of alcoholism as an illness one has as much control over as one would cancer, or at least that’s how I interpret it. The BB and other AA approved literature is to the alcoholic like chemo, radiation therapy or even surgery is to the cancer patient… forms of treatment!
Thank you to all for this thread!
Best wishes to you all on your paths to recovery…
Shannon J

Comment by Shannon J

I love AA and am deeply appreciative of the work our co-founders did.
I also understand they were human beings and alcoholic as well. That in itself poses a delimma when attempting to be sane and reasonable and requires much soul searching.
Bill Wilson suffered from depression caused by lack of steps, if one reads the information, it is obviously the source of his problem..
For many years he was a womanizer and did not work the steps until he finally truly hit bottom and used LSD from 1956 through 1959 as noted in Pass It On. His EXCUSE for using LSD was that he was trying to find a way to bring about a spiritual experience for newcomers, and though it may sound valid to anyone who never used LSD anyone who has knows exactly what it was, and excuse! This does not make him any less inspirational and valuable to our program, in fact, it actually showed me that since they were human maybe this thing could work for me too, and it has for the past 32 years.
After he stopped using LSD in 1959 he was able to fully work the steps and seemed not to suffer the depressions that so troubled him in the past. Nor was he the boisterous ego driven person he had been.
My heartfelt thanks to Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson

Comment by Eve Abernethy

The Four Absolutes were the promised results if the practice of the six tenets of the Oxford Group were followed. The tenets were expanded by the first 100 to become the 12 steps. First 3 steps – Honesty, 4-6 = unselfishness, 7-9 = purity and 10-12 = love. If we truly work the 12 steps until we are living them we find the Four Absolutes present in our daily lives. We develop our own morals, principles and values intead of trying to live by anothers. It is a freedom that comes as a result of hard work, soul searching and working with others. God Bless each and every one on this spiritual journey.

Comment by Eve Abernethy

I would like to take the time to thank the authors for this site, it certainly cleared up a few things. My sympathies go out to the “low bottom drunks” who coming to AA to find a solution are offered an easier softer way i.e.; higher power other than God. only to find themselves staring at the bottom of an empty glass…again.

Comment by larrylive

How does Eve Abernathy have such clarity on what Bill’s motives were? Bill may not have been a perfect man but he was the perfect man for the job.Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to pile on “Bill Bashing”. I wonder how many of us could hold up to the scrutiny that Bill seems to have been under. No wonder he was depressed. Trying to help a bunch of self righteous, gossiping, ungrateful drunks while being scrutinized and criticised might get old after awhile.
Having said all that I still much prefer the basic text to the 12×12. 12×12 seems to be a departure from the directions in the book to me. The focus changes from manifestations of self to “basic instincts” among other things.

Comment by Charlie Parker

The 12 and 12 expands on the BB, those how don’t like it appear to enjoy wiggle room for their own interpretation which the BB can allow. I have been sober for almost 29 yrs and it has been by going to step meetings and living the AA way of life. God has blessed me in every area, thanks to this spiritual kindergarten. I know more long time AAs reflecting a program of attraction that regularily attend 12 step mtgs than any other format. However anyone can do what they are doing and they will keep getting what they are getting.

Comment by Mark S

One thing for sure, no one is an “expert” on Alcoholism. What we do know is many don’t make it. AA isn’t perfect. We are all different. For myself Psilocybin Mushrooms convinced me that I needed to get sober. I stayed away from AA for 2 sober years after that because of the religious fanatics. Religious people mean well but keep millions out of AA. Avoiding them is just one more excuse. AA for me is a way of staying saner and more spiritual, not more religious. Saner is one less reason to drink. I like the 12×12. We are a cult but the 12×12 keeps us from having leaders who control or exploit the weak. We remain a benevolent cult because of anonymity. In Southern California we have numerous Agnostic and Free Thinker meetings for the non-religous. My first sponsor, an atheist, died with 45 years of sobriety and hundreds of sponsees. I know scores of atheists and agnostics who have multiple decades of sobriety. Jimmy Burwell, the writer of the 3rd Tradition, and the author of the words “higher power” fought for us non-religous drunks, and we aim to keep his spirit alive. The IMPORTANT thing is if you know an agnostic or atheist who needs help, tell he/she to look for us. I was told about the agnostic meetings by a devout Baptist and I’ll forever be grateful. No one is excluded at our meetings, we have chairs for all.

Comment by Bob

Thank you, Bob. I am myself a sober, atheist alcoholic, and I know a young man, also an atheist, who was a chronic relapser, and who now seems to be on a steady, sober path, approaching his first anniversary. He doesn’t work a traditional AA program, but he’s growing and changing and giving back to other alkies.

WHY I know this young man is what is remarkable about AA. A devout, Hasidic Jewish AA man contacted me on a secular recovery Facebook page. He knew the young man in question, and believed he was close to death. His own higher power meant nothing to this young man. Could I help?

I could and did. That’s real AA at work.

Comment by Frank M.

The 12 and 12 is all about the traditions, not the steps. Bill was rightly concerned about a growing problem with unity in the fellowship, and so began writing his essays on the traditions and publishing them in the Grapevine starting in 1946. The weren’t well-received…. “Too many rules!!”, “We’ve been doing just fine!!”, “We don’t need no stinkin’ traditions!!” – the drunks replied.

But Bill knew better. Some groups were charging membership fees, some groups did not allow people of color, some groups even served beer during meetings. We *NEEDED* a set of guidelines to maintain some unity and keep our humble fellowship focused on helping drunks get sober.

Bill said he added the essays on the Steps so that members would buy the book, and then read and become aware of the Traditions, which were formally adopted unanimously at the 1955 Convention.

I don’t care much for the Steps part of the book… it is so much less inspired than the Book, itself – but the Traditions are a master-stroke. Without the 12 Traditions the fellowship of A.A. would have surely followed the Oxford Group as well as The Washingtonians down the dismal path of historical obscurity.

The Steps keep us sober. The Traditions keep the fellowship sober.

James I.

Comment by James I.

* the Traditions were formally adopted at the 1950 convention held in Cleveland, actually :o) Happy Holidays, everyone.

Comment by iampeth2007

The Twelve Traditions are one of the great documents of the Twentieth Century. I owe my sobriety to Bill Wilson’s strategic vision embodied in the Twelve Traditions, which underpin the continuity of Alcoholics Anonymous Groups, which serve as a practical antidote for Bob’s self-centered alcoholic dilemma.

An old timer in my home group told me early on, as I executed the Twelve Steps with enthusiastic precision, “It will be the Traditions which are the key to sobriety for an alcoholic of your type, because the Steps are still all about you!”

How right he was; and after all these years I realize Bill’s unique contribution to our sobriety is the Twelve Traditions, as I find the spiritual program of action in the Twelve Steps to be a universal path to spiritual awakening, but identification and service are unique to our group life. Spiritus contra Spiritus..

in gratitude…bob kay

Comment by bob kay

Reading all the comments above you’d think a drunk needed to be a historian, a psychologists, a philosopher and a theologian all at the same time to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. If any drunk had to be all those things to stay sober and achieve the promises A.A. wouldn’t be around today. A.A. is not a religion, social club, psychological organization, or any other type of professional organization and none of the literature, including the Big Book, are religious documents, legal documents, or scientific texts.
Nobody on their own, including myself, is any sort of authority. A.A. has but one ultimate authority—a loving “God” as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants. Some of the commenters above sound like they think they’re A.A. High Priests.

For the first 6 months of my serious attempts to get sober, after I had acquired a desire to stop drinking, I couldn’t stay away from the drink. At the end of that 6 months I reached a new bottom and ended up in detox. When I got out of detox what kept me sober for the next 3 years was staying out of bars and other places with lots of alcohol, getting a home group, getting what my sponsor called a “home 12 steps group(12 and 12, NOT Big Book), and getting into service (at my home group.) Once I was ready to do all of steps 4-12 THEN I went back and reread the Big Book , went to Big Book Step meetings,and did steps 4 and 5 from there. I am happy to say the promises have come true for me. Everybody’s different so what worked for me may not work for somebody else. I’ve known people who had “white light” type spiritual experiences who couldn’t stay sober, and people who attended multiple meetings a day and had great sponsors who took them through the steps as outlined in the Big Book who couldn’t stay sober and on the flip side I’ve know alcoholics who recognized that they lost complete control once they started drinking, stopped drinking, attended a few meetings, and are still sober and happy decades later. We still have a lot to learn about Alcoholism and A.A and the steps are great but not a one size fits all magic wand.

Comment by Dave F




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 67 other followers