Chapter 6

                        INTO ACTION

  HAVING MADE our personal inventory, what shall
we do about it?  We have been trying to get a
new attitude, a new relationship with our Creator, and
to discover the obstacles in our path.  We have ad-
mitted certain defects; we have ascertained in a rough
way what the trouble is; we have put our finger on the
real items in our personal inventory.  Now these are
about to be cast out.  This requires action on our part,
which, when completed, will mean that we have ad-
mitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human
being, the exact nature of our defects.  This brings us
to the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned
in the preceding chapter.
  This is perhaps difficult--especially discussing our
defects with another person.  We think we have done
well enough in admitting these things to ourselves.
There is doubt about that.  In actual practice, we usu-
ally find a solitary self-appraisal insufficient.  Many of
us thought it necessary to go much further.  We will
be more reconciled to discussing ourselves with an-
other person when we see good reasons why we should
do so.  The best reason first:  It we skip this vital step,
we may not overcome drinking.  Time after time new-
comers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts
about their lives.  Trying to avoid this humbling ex-
perience, they have turned to easier methods.  Almost

                        INTO ACTION                       73
invariably they got drunk.  Having persevered with
the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell.
We think the reason is that they never completed their
housecleaning.  They took inventory all right, but
hung on to some of the worst items in stock.  They
only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they
only thought they had humbled themselves.  But they
had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and
honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they
told someone else all their life story.
  More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double
life.  He is very much the actor.  To the outer world he
presents his stage character.  This is the one he likes
his fellows to see.  He wants to enjoy a certain reputa-
tion, but knows in his heart he doesn't deserve it.
  The inconsistency is made worse by the things he
does on his sprees.  Coming to his senses, he is revolted
at certain episodes he vaguely remembers.  These
memories are a nightmare.  He trembles to think some-
one might have observed him.  As fast as he can, he
pushed these memories far inside himself.  He hopes
they will never see the light of day.  He is under con-
stant fear and tension--that makes for more drinking.
  Psychologists are inclined to agree with us.  We
have spent thousands of dollars for examinations.  We
know but few instances where we have given these
doctors a fair break.  We have seldom told them the
whole truth nor have we followed their advice.  Un-
willing to be honest with these sympathetic men, we
were honest with no one else.  Small wonder many in
the medical profession have a low opinion of alcoholics
and their chance for recovery!
  We must be entirely honest with somebody if we

74                  ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
expect to live long or happily in this world.  Rightly
and naturally, we think well before we choose the per-
son or persons with whom to take this intimate and
confidential step.  Those of us belonging to a religious
denomination which requires confession must, and of
course, will want to go to the properly appointed au-
thority whose duty it is to receive it.  Though we have
no religious connection, we may still do well to talk
with someone ordained by an established religion.  We
often find such a person quick to see and understand
our problem.  Of course, we sometimes encounter peo-
ple who do not understand alcoholics.
  If we cannot or would rather not do this, we search
our acquaintance for a close-mouthed, understanding
friend.  Perhaps our doctor or psychologist will be the
person.  It may be one of our own family, but we can-
not disclose anything to our wives or our parents which
will hurt them and make them unhappy.  We have
no right to save our own skin at another person's ex-
pense.  Such parts of our story we tell to someone who
will understand, yet be unaffected.  The rule is we
must be hard on ourself, but always considerate of
  Notwithstanding the great necessity for discussing
ourselves with someone, it may be one is so situated
that there is no suitable person available.  If that is so,
this step may be postponed, only, however, if we hold
ourselves in complete readiness to go through with it
at the first opportunity,  We say this because we are
very anxious that we talk to the right person.  It is im-
portant that he be able to keep a confidence; that he
fully understand and approve what we are driving at;

                        INTO ACTION                       75
that he will not try to change our plan.  But we must
not use this as a mere excuse to postpone.
  When we decide who is to hear our story, we waste
no time.  We have a written inventory and we are pre-
pared for a long talk.  We explain to our partner what
we are about to do and why we have to do it.  He
should realize that we are engaged upon a life-and-
death errand.  Most people approached in this way
will be glad to help; they will be honored by our
  We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every
twist of character, every dark cranny of the past.  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 be-
gin 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.
  Returning home we find a place where we can be
quiet for an hour, carefully reviewing what we have
done.  We thanked God from the bottom of our heart
that we know Him better.  Taking this book down
from our shelf we turn to the page which contains the
twelve steps.  Carefully reading the first five proposals
we ask if we have omitted anything, for we are build-
ing an arch through which we shall walk a free man
at last.  Is our work solid so far?  Are the stones prop-
erly in place?  Have we skimped on the cement put
into the foundation?  Have we tried to make mortar
without sand?

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  If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at
Step Six.  We have emphasized willingness as being in-
dispensable.  Are we now ready to let God remove
from us all the things which we have admitted are ob-
jectionable?  Can He now take them all--every one?
If we still cling to something we will not let go, we
ask God to help us be willing.
  When ready, we say something like this:  "My Crea-
tor, I am now willing that you should have all of me,
good and bad.  I pray that you now remove from me
every single defect of character which stands in the
way of my usefulness to you and my fellows.  Grant
me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding.
Amen."  We have then completed Step Seven.
  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 accu-
mulated 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.  Remember it was agreed at the
beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over
  Probably there are still some misgivings.  As we look
over the list of business acquaintances and friends we
have hurt, we may feel diffident about going to some
of them on a spiritual basis.  Let us be reassured.  To
some people we need not, and probably should not
emphasize the spiritual feature on our first approach.

                        INTO ACTION                       77
We might prejudice them.  At the moment we are try-
ing to put our lives in order.  But this is not an end in
itself.  Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maxi-
mum service to God and the people about us.  It is
seldom wise to approach an individual, who still
smarts from our injustice to him, and announce that
we have gone religious.  In the prize ring, this would
be called leading with the chin.  Why lay ourselves
open to being branded fanatics or religious bores?  We
may kill a future opportunity to carry a beneficial mes-
sage.  But our man is sure to be impressed with a
sincere desire to set right the wrong.  He is going to
be more interested in a demonstration of good will
than in our talk of spiritual discoveries.
  We don't use this as an excuse for shying away from
the subject of God.  When it will serve any good pur-
pose, we are willing to announce our convictions with
tact and common sense.  The question of how to ap-
proach the man we hated will arise.  It may be he had
done us more harm than we have done him and,
though we may have acquired a better attitude toward
him, we are still not too keen about admitting our
faults.  Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take
the bit in our teeth.  It is harder to go to an enemy
than to a friend, but we find it much more beneficial
to us.  We go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit,
confessing our former ill feeling and expressing our
  Under no condition do we criticize such a person
or argue.  Simply we tell him that we will never get
over drinking until we have done our utmost to
straighten out the past.  We are there to sweep off our
side of the street, realizing that nothing worth while

78                  ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
can be accomplished until we do so, never trying to
tell him what he should do.  His faults are not dis-
cussed.  We stick to our own.  If our manner is calm,
frank, and open, we will be gratified with the result.
  In nine cases out of ten the unexpected happens.
Sometimes the man we are calling upon admits his
own faults, so feuds of years' standing melt away in an
hour.  Rarely do we fail to make satisfactory progress.
Our former enemies sometimes praise what we are
doing and wish us well.  Occasionally, they will offer
assistance.  It should not matter, however, if someone
does throw us out of his office.  We have made our
demonstration, done our part.  It's water over the dam.
  Most alcoholics owe money.  We do not dodge our
creditors.  Telling them what we are trying to do, we
make no bones about our drinking; they usually know
it anyway, whether we think so or not.  Nor are we
afraid of disclosing our alcoholism on the theory it
may cause financial harm.  Approached in this way,
the most ruthless creditor will sometimes surprise us.
Arranging the best deal we can we let these people
know we are sorry.  Our drinking has made us slow
to pay.  We must lose our fear of creditors no matter
how far we have to go, for we are liable to drink if we
are afraid to face them.
  Perhaps we have committed a criminal offense
which might land us in jail if it were known to the au-
thorities.  We may be short in our accounts and unable
to make good.  We have already admitted this in con-
fidence to another person, but we are sure we would
be imprisoned or lose our job if it were known.  Maybe
it's only a petty offense such as padding the expense
account.  Most of us have done that sort of thing.

                        INTO ACTION                       79
Maybe we are divorced, and have remarried but
haven't kept up the alimony to number one.  She is
indignant about it, and has a warrant out for our ar-
rest.  That's a common form of trouble too.
  Although these reparations take innumerable forms,
there are some general principles which we find guid-
ing.  Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go
to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask
that we be given strength and direction to do the right
thing, no matter what the personal consequences may
be.  We may lose our position or reputation or face
jail, but we are willing.  We have to be.  We must not
shrink at anything.
  Usually, however, other people are involved.  There-
fore, we are not to be the hasty and foolish martyr who
would needlessly sacrifice others to save himself from
the alcoholic pit.  A man we know had remarried.  Be-
cause of resentment and drinking, he had not paid ali-
mony to his first wife.  She was furious.  She went to
court and got an order for his arrest.  He had com-
menced our way of life, had secured a position, and
was getting his head above water.  It would have been
impressive heroics if he had walked up to the Judge
and said, "Here I am."
  We thought he ought to be willing to do that if
necessary, but if he were in jail he could provide noth-
ing for either family.  We suggested he write his first
wife admitting his faults and asking forgiveness.  He
did, and also sent a small amount of money.  He told
her what he would try to do in the future.  He said he
was perfectly willing to go to jail if she insisted.  Of
course she did not, and the whole situation has long
since been adjusted.

80                  ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
  Before taking drastic action which might implicate
other people we secure their consent.  If we have ob-
tained permission, have consulted with others, asked
God to help and the drastic step is indicated we must
not shrink.
  This brings to mind a story about one of our friends.
While drinking, he accepted a sum of money from a
bitterly-hated business rival, giving him no receipt for
it.  He subsequently denied having received the money
and used the incident as a basis for discrediting the
man.  He thus used his own wrong-doing as a means
of destroying the reputation of another.  In fact, his
rival was ruined.
  He felt that he had done a wrong he could not pos-
sibly make right.  If he opened that old affair, he was
afraid it would destroy the reputation of his partner,
disgrace his family and take away his means of liveli-
hood.  What right had he to involve those dependent
upon him?  How could he possibly make a public
statement exonerating his rival?
  After consulting with his wife and partner he came
to the conclusion that it was better to take those risks
than to stand before his Creator guilty of such ruinous
slander.  He saw that he had to place the outcome in
God's hands or he would soon start drinking again, and
all would be lost anyhow.  He attended church for the
first time in many years.  After the sermon, he quietly
got up and made an explanation.  His action met wide-
spread approval, and today he is one of the most
trusted citizens of his town.  This all happened years
  The chances are that we have domestic troubles.
Perhaps we are mixed up with women in a fashion we

                        INTO ACTION                       81
wouldn't care to have advertised.  We doubt if, in this
respect, alcoholics are fundamentally much worse than
other people.  But drinking does complicate sex rela-
tions in the home.  After a few years with an alcoholic,
a wife gets worn out, resentful and uncommunicative.
How could she be anything else?  The husband begins
to feel lonely, sorry for himself.  He commences to
look around in the night clubs, or their equivalent, for
something besides liquor.  Perhaps he is having a
secret and exciting affair with "the girl who under-
stands."  In fairness we must say that she may under-
stand, but what are we going to do about a thing like
that?  A man so involved often feels very remorseful
at times, especially if he is married to a loyal and cou-
rageous girl who has literally gone through hell for
  Whatever the situation, we usually have to do some-
thing about it.  If we are sure our wife does not know,
should we tell her?  Not always, we think.  If she
knows in a general way that we have been wild,
should we tell her in detail?  Undoubtedly we should
admit our fault.  She may insist on knowing all the
particulars.  She will want to know who the woman is
and where she is.  We feel we ought to say to her that
we have no right to involve another person.  We are
sorry for what we have done and, God willing, it shall
not be repeated.  More than that we cannot do; we
have no right to go further.  Though there may be
justifiable exceptions, and though we wish to lay down
no rule of any sort, we have often found this the best
course to take.
  Our design for living is not a one-way street.  It is
as good for the wife as for the husband.  If we can

82                  ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
forget, so can she.  It is better, however, that one does
not needlessly name a person upon whom she can vent
  Perhaps there are some cases where the utmost
frankness is demanded.  No outsider can appraise such
an intimate situation.  It may be that both will decide
that the way of good sense and loving kindness is to
let by-gones be by-gones.  Each might pray about it,
having the other one's happiness uppermost in mind.
Keep it always in sight that we are dealing with that
most terrible human emotion--jealousy.  Good general-
ship may decide that the problem be attacked on the
flank rather than risk a face-to-face combat.
  If we have no such complication, there is plenty we
should do at home.  Sometimes we hear an alcoholic
say that the only thing he needs to do is to keep sober.
Certainly he must keep sober, for there will be no
home if he doesn't.  But he is yet a long way from
making good to the wife or parents whom for years
he has so shockingly treated.  Passing all understand-
ing is the patience mothers and wives have had with
alcoholics.  Had this not been so, many of us would
have no homes today, would perhaps be dead.
  The alcoholic is like a tornado rearing his way
through the lives of others.  Hearts are broken.  Sweet
relationships are dead.  Affections have been uprooted.
Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in
turmoil.  We feel a man is unthinking when he says
that sobriety is enough.  He is like the farmer who
came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home
ruined.  To his wife, he remarked, "Don't see anything
the matter here, Ma.  Ain't it grand the wind stopped

                        INTO ACTION                       83
  Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead.
We must take the lead.  A remorseful mumbling that
we are sorry won't fill the bill at all.  We ought to sit
down with the family and frankly analyze the past as
we now see it, being very careful not to criticize them.
Their defects may be glaring, but the chances are that
our own actions are partly responsible.  So we clean
house with the family, asking each morning in medita-
tion that our Creator show us the way of patience,
tolerance, kindliness and love.
  The spiritual life is not a theory.  We have to live it.
Unless one's family expresses a desire to live upon
spiritual principles we think we ought not to urge
them.  We should not talk incessantly to them about
spiritual matters.  They will change in time.  Our be-
havior will convince them more than our words.  We
must remember that ten or twenty years of drunken-
ness would make a skeptic out of anyone.
  There may be some wrongs we can never fully right.
We don't worry about them if we can honestly say to
ourselves that we would right them if we could.
Some people cannot be seen--we send them an honest
letter.  And there may be a valid reason for postpone-
ment in some cases.  But we don't delay if it can be
avoided.  We should be sensible, tactful, considerate
and humble without being servile or scraping.  As
God's people we stand on our feet; we don't crawl
before anyone.
  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

84                  ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
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 atti-
tude and outlook upon life will change.  Fear of people
and of economic insecurity will leave us.  We will in-
tuitively 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.
  Are these extravagant promises?  We think not.
They are being fulfilled among us--sometimes quickly,
sometimes slowly.  They will always materialize if we
work for them.
  This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests
we continue to take personal inventory and continue
to set right any new mistakes as we go along.  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 understand-
ing 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.
  And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone--
even alcohol.  For by this time sanity will have re-
turned.  We will seldom be interested in liquor.  If
tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame.  We

                        INTO ACTION                       85
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 places 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 our
experience.  That is how we react so long as we keep
in fit spiritual condition.
  It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action
and rest on our laurels.  We are headed for trouble if
we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe.  We are not cured of
alcoholism.  What we really have is a daily reprieve
contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condi-
tion.  Every day is a day when we must carry the
vision of God's will into all of our activities.  "How
can I best serve Thee--Thy will (not mine) be done."
These are thoughts which must go with us constantly.
We can exercise our will power along this line all we
wish.  It is the proper use of the will.
  Much has already been said about receiving
strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who
has all knowledge and power.  If we have carefully
followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow
of His Spirit into us.  To some extent we have become
God-conscious.  We have begun to develop this vital
sixth sense.  But we must go further and that means
more action.
  Step Eleven suggests prayer and meditation.  We
shouldn't be shy on this matter of prayer.  Better men

86                  ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
than we are using it constantly.  It works, if we have
the proper attitude and work at it.  It would be easy
to be vague about this matter.  Yet, we believe we can
make some definite and valuable suggestions.
  When we retire at night, we constructively review
our day.  Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or
afraid?  Do we owe an apology?  Have we kept some-
thing to ourselves which should be discussed with
another person at once?  Were we kind and loving
toward all?  What could we have done better?  Were
we thinking of ourselves most of the time?  Or were
we thinking of what we could do for others, of
what we could pack into the stream of life?  But we
must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or
morbid reflections, for that would diminish our useful-
ness to others.  After making our review we ask God's
forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures
should be taken.
  On awakening let us think about the twenty-four
hours ahead.  We consider our plans for the day.  Be-
fore we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking,
especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity,
dishonest or self-seeking motives.  Under these condi-
tions we can employ our mental faculties with as-
surance, for after all God gave us brains to use.  Our
thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane
when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.
  In thinking about our day we may face indecision.
We may not be able to determine which course to
take.  Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive
thought or a decision.  We relax and take it easy.  We
don't struggle.  We are often surprised how the right
answers come after we have tried this for a while.

                        INTO ACTION                       87
What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspira-
tion gradually becomes a working part of the mind.
Being still inexperienced and having just made con-
scious contact with God, it is not probable that we are
going to be inspired at all times.  We might pay for
this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and
ideas.  Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will,
as time passes, be more and more on the plane of in-
spiration.  We come to rely upon it.
  We usually conclude the period of meditation with
a prayer that we be shown all through the day what
our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we
need to take care of such problems.  We ask especially
for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no
request for ourselves only.  We may ask for ourselves,
however, if others will be helped.  We are careful
never to pray for our own selfish ends.  Many of us
have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn't
work.  You can easily see why.
  If circumstances warrant, we ask our wives or
friends to join us in morning meditation.  If we belong
to a religious denomination which requires a definite
morning devotion, we attend to that also.  If not mem-
bers of religious bodies, we sometimes select and
memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the
principles we have been discussing.  There are many
helpful books also.  Suggestions about these may be
obtained from one's priest, minister, or rabbi.  Be
quick to see where religious people are right.  Make
use of what they offer.
  As we go through the day we pause, when agitated
or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action.
We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer

88                  ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many
times each day "Thy will be done."  We are then in
much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry,
self-pity, or foolish decisions.  We become much more
efficient.  We do not tire so easily, for we are not
burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were
trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.
  It works--it really does.
  We alcoholics are undisciplined.  So we let God
discipline us in the simple way we have just outlined.
  But this is not all.  There is action and more action.
"Faith without works is dead."  The next chapter is
entirely devoted to Step Twelve.