Oldtime thinking and the 12 steps

12 Steps: Discussions related to the 12 Steps and using them as a treatment to recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
Dale R.
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Location: Area 59, District 49, Northeastern Pennsylvania

Oldtime thinking and the 12 steps

Postby Dale R. » Sat Sep 02, 2006 10:58 pm

First, I would like to say, I am not trying to step on anybody's toes. Nor am I any self proclaimed AA expert. I still remain teachable, and listen to anybody who can make my recovery easier.

I have been involved in AA service for the past 5 years. I'm not talking about making coffee, but upper level service. I have seen people come and go over the years, and many new non AA methods of recovery. None seem to work as well as AA, because the support groups are not available, or are not on the same page. But, I have also seen many an oldtimer, that learned AA, and thats the only way. Kinda like, its the law! Now, we know there are no laws in AA, but rather traditions that are sacred and adhered too. I get a kick out of people who tell me that I am going to drink again, but have not kept up with AA, year 2006. We elect delegates to voice our opinions in NY. AA has always changed with the times. The appointed trustees, both class A and B, make sure AA doesn't get too far out of the way. AA had to change or it would not be in existance. Look at this forum. When Bill W. died, I don't think he had any clue as to what was to come in the manner of technology. Bill W. was always looking for a way to keep up to date, to be dynamic. That was why Dr. Bob told him not to mess it up, by complicating things. Well, the complicating world is here, alcoholism is the same disease, but with alot of different influences. Look at singleness of purpose. In my district, in fact the Area, it has become a problem. In my local area, AA is much stronger than NA, thus the addicts migrate to AA. I think if people have the desire to get sober, I think they should be helped. My point is, that I have seen oldtimers that AA has passed by. They see their picture, but not neccesarily the big picture. The have alot to offer, and alot of experience, strenghth, and hope, but seem a bit closed minded when it comes to 2006 thinking. There should be a happy middle somewhere.

With that said, the 12 steps also need to be explained using todays thinking. The grapevine does a good job, but not everybody reads it. It should be done in a manner that adheres to the steps and traditions. The disease is the same, and the steps are time proven.

I guess that ought to wrinkle a few feathers, but please comment on subject. I would love an active topic.

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Postby blueangel » Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:57 am

excuse my stupidity but when exactly did the 12 steps change? I thought they were the same 12 steps as they always were. times have changed but the steps have never changed.

By the way. If everyone tells me I am wearing a purple shirt I may want to look and see what color shirt I am wearing. It could be a joke that everyone is playing on me or they may actually be right.

just my opinion..........kay

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Postby Dallas » Sun Sep 03, 2006 8:53 am

My thoughts on it.... :lol:

Now that you've spent 5 years in upper level service work, I would suggest spending another 20 years doing strickly lower level 12 step calls on alcoholics who are still suffering... and then, re-think about your thinking. :lol:

Over the last 20 years I've seen no significant changes in the disease of alcoholism. And, I would be guessing at this... because I don't know for sure... but, I would imagine that God hasn't done much changing either... from 1935 to 2006.

So... if alcoholism hasn't changed... and God hasn't changed... and the same program of recovery in the Big Book, has worked for millions of alcoholics... why would you even think about changing what has worked since 1935?

If it ain't broke.... why attempt to fix it?


Dale R.
Posts: 14
Joined: Sat Aug 12, 2006 3:48 pm
Location: Area 59, District 49, Northeastern Pennsylvania

Postby Dale R. » Sun Sep 03, 2006 3:32 pm

Why not attempt to make it easier and more understandable using todays ideas? I thought we were supposed to be open minded. This is exactly what I'm talking about. My 1935 car runs just fine, so I'll just keep it tuned up. I woill not even look at the same program from maybe a "newer" approach. No, we will just stick to what we learned 20 years ago, and not be open to any new ideas, expressing the same program.

The 12 steps never changed. I do'nt know where thaty came from. I said times have changed, and people continue to keep their heads in the sand. Bill W. would promote new technology, keeping the same principles and traditions of course. But since he died, the oldtimes want to do just that, keep it oldtime.

I guess we should not elect any delegates to voice our opinions anymore. If it works since 1935, why even voice our opinions.[/quote]

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Postby Dallas » Sun Sep 03, 2006 7:18 pm

By reading the Forwards to each of the new editions of the Big Book, I think that answers the question. Right after the book was first published there have been attempts and rationalizations as to "why we should change it."

One of the things that I've noticed, that seems comical with often tragic results... is how alcoholics have a tendency to stop doing or want to change what they're doing that has worked for them.

The 12 Steps are a formula. They are spiritual principles. They are not difficult to understand. Actually, they are so simple... that a complicated person like me, when I first saw them, said "that's so simple that it's stupid."

I didn't get sober, stay sober, get happy joyous, free, living a life with meaning and purpose, with peace of mind, serenity, and practicing the presence of a Higher Power in my daily life... by driving a car... New or old. I got that way by taking 12 simple Steps... following the instructions on how to take them.

The only complicated thing about the 12 Steps... is thinking about the 12 Steps rather than taking them. They are all complicated... as long as I'm just thinking about them. Kind of like the 4th Step... the 4th Step is pretty easy... the only difficult thing about the 4th Step is thinking about it.

The 12 Steps are a Design For Living that works. Living that Design For Living... will Change Your Thinking... and... if you Change Your Thinking... you'll Change Your Life.

How would you propose to change it to make it easier?

If you do want to change it... why not just invent a new way, for 2006, and just call it "Dale's New and Improved and Simplified Two Step Approach to Sobriety in 2006" and write a new book...then, start a new fellowship that reads that book, and start some new groups and meetings, and call the new program something like "Simplified Sobriety Anonymous"... and those who think that A.A. is too old fashioned and too complicated, can leave A.A. and join you in S.S.A.? And, for those who are in A.A., and A.A. works perfectly well, and sensible, and simple for them... they can stay in A.A.?

We see this stuff all the time anyway. The problem is when those who desire "new and improved methods, techniques and ideas"... want to introduce that into A.A., rather than just doing what others have done, and that is "If you don't like it.... just go start your own program and write your own book."

I'm not saying this in a sarcastic way. Nor am I intentionally personalizing it towards you as a person.

You are not the first person who has thought this way... I thought about it also. It irritated the heck out of me to see a bunch of hard-nosed old timers... insisting on using a book that was authored in 1939.

My thoughts were "Phoey... that crap is for idiots... I'm smarter than that! It's 1985! I drive new cars... and I do new things... I'm not going to hang around here doing some old stupid stuff that can't possibly work for anyone anyway!"

And... I pursued an easier, simpler, softer, more modern, up to date way... "Just go to meetings... don't drink... use the fellowship like a support group and stay sober!" I was actually entertaining the idea of starting a Dallas Anonymous... and my program would have been better than A.A.'s... in my program, instead of $1 in the basket to not drink, I was going to charge $5 for my baskets... but, I had one great benefit to offer that A.A. couldn't offer! I was going to show you how to drink and enjoy and control your drinking... without getting drunk... so to me, it would be worth the extra $4 that I was asking you to put in my basket!

Well... I got drunk with my new and improved ideas. Then, I couldn't get sober again... even with the help of A.A.!!!!

Finally, I did get a second chance to get sober... and that was in November of 1986.... I was afraid that A.A. was not going to work for me for the long haul, so I enrolled in a University in Los Angeles, and took their Alcoholism Study classes, that they were providing for doctors and professionals, and for certification for counsellors. I wanted to know the new and modern and improved methods and information about alcoholism and long term recovery. Yep. I did this selfishly. I wasn't going to be any kind of professional... I just valued my life so much that I wanted to be sure!

If you think that A.A., or the 12 Steps or the Big Book are out of date, complicated, or too hard on new people... I would suggest you send them to those Alcoholism Studies! It's way more complicated. But, guess what? Their bottom line is: "We can hospitalize them and dry them out, and sometimes give psychiatric treatment to some who need it... but the only thing that has worked the best, and for long term results... send them to A.A."

Why would a modern world-recognized University, with studies in Alcoholism, and Treating Alcoholics and Drug Addicts"... conclude, in 1986, that A.A., was by far, the most successful deal around?

And, guess what again.... (I still read a lot)... the recent college text books and medical practice reference books that I've read, published as late as 2005 and 2006... still have the same answer? Dry them out and send them to A.A.

It's not just that some of us are old, hard-nose, not modern, and not even read technological idiot books written for dummies.... Many of us do read, do continue to study, are well versed in academia and the latest scientific breath throughs.... and many of us would be willing to change in a heart beat, if we saw something that would be more effective for the long term... than what we have now.

Just because we are getting old... we're not dummys! :lol: We're smart enough to stick with what's working for us... staying sober, living longer, and continuing to help ourselves and suffering alcoholics.

I'm not sure if you're aware of this or not... but, a few of the finest, world-class, professors, scientist, medical and psychiatric researchers, deans, and physicians.... are members in A.A. I know that... because I've met them, and continue to meet with many of them. If there was some new medical, technological or scientific breakthrough.... don't you think they would be using that... for themselves... instead?

That's my take on it.


Buck V
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Postby Buck V » Sun Sep 03, 2006 9:36 pm

God, how I love this forum and this program. We are such complicated people offered such a simple solution. The discussions presented here are cause for thought, and that's a good thing. At least we are thinking again. I was brought up in the Christian faith. The Big Book of that faith has been interpreted in many ways....I worked a while back for a man who claimed that his denomination of this faith interpreted the Big Book of this faith literally. I was fascinated by this. A literal interpretation. Cool. It was only when he would quote a portion of that Book and say "Now what that means is...." that he kinda lost my interest.

Dale, In my humble opinion, you are right. AA needs to grow and change with the times. Just look what technology has enabled us to do...just on this site. We have another 12 step group here that is rather weak and they are welcomed to our meetings because we realize that we have what they may need...Hope. Just like what was offered to me.

Kay, you are right. The steps have not changed. They are like the 10 commandments of the faith that I accept. I have my own concepts of these steps, but like the commandments, it's easier for me to read the black, and try not to sguiggle words into the white. Your words offer me strength.

Dallas....Keep coming back (Joke...just a joke!). You are also right. Your experience, forsight and thoughtfulness, enables all us recovering alcoholics to share, to think, and, for me, gain some understanding of what it's all about.

Hope, strength, experience...Cool.

Thanks guys.


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Postby Dallas » Sun Sep 03, 2006 10:54 pm

We could make this a meaningful discussion... :lol:

How about sharing just one example of how you think A.A. needs to be modernized?

It's easy to say, something needs to be modernized and updated, because the old isn't good enough. Politicians do this all the time, out in the real world. However, they never seem to offer any specific ideas, solutions or examples.

So... how about some specific ideas, solutions and examples of what you guys are referring to?
Last edited by Dallas on Tue Sep 05, 2006 6:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby cinderbobble » Sun Sep 03, 2006 11:09 pm

I do not perceive Dale's point of view as an attack on the 12-steps, rather, the hard-nosed attitude that people tend to adopt, in this program. I often detect, what's the word, when one becomes narrow-minded about their approach. For example, in one of my early AA groups, people were generally proud of the tough love approach, and how they were called things like 'stupid,' (KISS?)..., or the like... all in so-called love I suppose. I asked my sponsor why she didn't take such a stance with me, and she said, M... you're so tough on yourself, you don't need me kicking you around... Even though the prevailing attitude was one of 'being kicked around...' I don't wonder that there are not a lot people sticking around. To be sure, I don't think they should re-vise the 12 step program, and I do not construe Dale's comments to mean that either. Rather, the dictatorial view, of which we ALL know is the first thing an alky would resist, seems to dominate many a meeting. There are so many sides to this dilemma that it must be handled with kid gloves, and I can see things like tolerance taken to ridiculous levels.

AA's approach has changed a great deal, where people used to be taken to an 'upper room,' to get through the third step before hitting a meeting, now we get court-appointed people, who are not in the least willing to acquiesce to the program. Add to that the treatment approach, which in many ways opposes a spiritual approach!

I for one agree with the Bible's approach, which somewhere St. Paul calls for the constant and continual re-newing of our minds (through prayer and meditation) (I almost said medication!!!) Add to that strengthening of our spirits through faith and trust in a higher power and love and service to our fellow man. The only way to do this is to 1) continue taking our own inventory through the 12 steps, and 2) the continual adherence of the 12 traditions.

Dale R.
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Joined: Sat Aug 12, 2006 3:48 pm
Location: Area 59, District 49, Northeastern Pennsylvania

Postby Dale R. » Mon Sep 04, 2006 12:19 am

Dallas said--> If you do want to change it... why not just invent a new way, for 2006, and just call it "Dale's New and Improved and Simplified Two Step Approach to Sobriety in 2006" and write a new book...then, start a new fellowship that reads that book, and start some new groups and meetings, and call the new program something like "Simplified Sobriety Anonymous"...

My reply--> That is not what I was trying to say at all. It is kinda funny though! I don't think I would only have two steps though! Just kidding!
I like to laugh too!


A meaningful discussion? Well at least this has become an active topic. And there are others out there who want to add there two cents! That's what AA is all about, sharing experience, strength, and hope, to help others recover from alcoholism. The sharing of ideas is very important.

Modernizing AA? AA will remain a slow growing organization, because it is primarily run by alcoholics. The basic principles of the steps will not and should not ever change. The traditions are in place to protect the alcoholic from other alcoholics. With that said, modernizing AA?

How about the approach to say a 4th step. There are many outside 4th step sheets written by people in the program to help you do it. Sometimes, following the big book instructions can result in a 4th step, but not a very thorough one. Making one think deeper would be an improvement. I learned a great deal about myself from doing it a little bit differently. I understood why my thought process produced a specific conclusion. This made it easier to correct.

Maybe an AA approved book on codependence would also be a great help. Codependence is touched on in the big book, but not like, "Codependant no more" by Melodie Beatty. I came across that book by a suggestion from a female "adopted" sponsor. I was going through a difficult time in my life, an she said you should look at yourself in a different way. Attending Alanon meetings is a great way to see the other side.

Step one. Really understanding alcoholism would help. It really is no longer considered an allergy. It is a disease. It is actually a defect in your liver, when it comes to processing alcohol. This is explained very well in "Under the Influence" by Millam and Ketcham. It really opened my eyes when it came to really understanding why it happened to me. This helped a great deal when it came to accepting the fact that I really was sick with a disease. "Chalk Talks", by FR. Martin was good when it came to understanding "earth people's" attitudes toward alkys. Unfortunately, these are not AA aproved, and many an oldtimer finds them worthless.

I completely understand why literature needs to be approved. That is because AA must be AA in every part of the world. Like McDonalds hamburgers are supposed to taste the same wherever you go! Everybody has to be on the same page in order for the program to work.

Even page 133 of the big book talks about how newcomers should pursue doctors and phychologists to help them get better. I just get tired of "some" oldtimers that see it their way, and seem to have forgotten about the book that they are trying to quote.

I am by no means knocking the program, it saved my life, and I will always be grateful for that. I guess I just get tired of the close mindedness that seems to follow AA. I am thankful for some very key people in early sobriety that really helped me see the way, and made AA much easier to grow in.

I can go on, but growth is a never ending thing. If one becomes complacent, they are only hurting themselves. I remain entirely open to any idea that might help in my sobriety. As for writing a book, I do not have the time or energy that take on such a venture, nor do I want to.

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Postby blueangel » Mon Sep 04, 2006 1:27 am

there are as a matter of fact very good books on codepencancy and they are ALANON books. since you seem to like reading pick up some and read them by all means. I have always felt we need some alanon meetings under our belt just to be around alcoholics anyway. but thats just my opinion.

As far as page 133 goes in seeking doctors and such it says take youe health problems there. Most of the psycholgists and such tell alcoholics to go to AA. Sure I can't go to an AA meeting and get a cure for high blood pressure, but my blood pressure meds won't fix my alcoholism either. I have done several 12 step calls that ended up in the emergency room just to keep them alive, but after that they need AA to find the sobriety they need to continue to live, other than check ups to fix the badly burned body. Page 133 also mentions using sweets to urge cravings, but that doesnt mean that we can all be cured of alcoholism just buy loading up on herhey bars at walmart.

Call me whatever you want but I'll take my AA straight from the book, and no other way. It has worked for me and millions of others to lead productive lives and just to stay alive another day.

................ Kay

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