WORKING WITH OTHERS
PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so
much insure immunity from drinking as intensive
work with other alcoholics. It works when other ac-
tivities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this
message to other alcoholics! You can help when no
one else can. You can secure their confidence when
others fail. Remember they are very ill.
Life will take on new meaning. To watch people
recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness
vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have
a host of friends--this is an experience you must not
miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Fre-
quent contact with newcomers and with each other
is the bright spot of our lives.
Perhaps you are not acquainted with any drinkers
who want to recover. You can easily find some by
asking a few doctors, ministers, priests or hospitals.
They will be only too glad to assist you. Don't start
out as an evangelist or reformer. Unfortunately a lot
of prejudice exists. You will be handicapped if you
arouse it. Ministers and doctors are competent and
you can learn much from them if you wish, but it
happens that because of your own drinking experience
you can be uniquely useful to other alcoholics. So
cooperate; never criticize. To be helpful is our only
90 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
When you discover a prospect for Alcoholics Anony-
mous, find out all you can about him. If he does not
want to stop drinking, don't waste time trying to per-
suade him. You may spoil a later opportunity. This
advice is given for his family also. They should be
patient, realizing they are dealing with a sick person.
If there is any indication that he wants to stop, have
a good talk with the person most interested in him--
usually his wife. Get an idea of his behavior, his prob-
lems, his background, the seriousness of his condition,
and his religious leanings. You need this information
to put yourself in his place, to see how you would like
him to approach you if the tables were turned.
Sometimes it is wise to wait till he goes on a binge.
The family may object to this, but unless he is in a
dangerous physical condition, it is better to risk it.
Don't deal with him when he is very drunk, unless he
is ugly and the family needs your help. Wait for the
end of the spree, or at least for a lucid interval. Then
let his family or a friend ask him if he wants to quit
for good and if he would go to any extremes to do so.
If he says yes, then his attention should be drawn to
you as a person who has recovered. You should be
described to him as one of a fellowship who, as part
of their own recovery, try to help others and who will
be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you.
If he does not want to see you, never force yourself
upon him. Neither should the family hysterically
plead with him to do anything, nor should they tell
him much about you. They should wait for the end
of his next drinking bout. You might place this book
where he can see it in the interval. Here no specific
rule can be given. The family must decide these
WORKING WITH OTHERS 91
things. But urge them not to be over-anxious, for that
might spoil matters.
Usually the family should not try to tell your story.
When possible, avoid meeting a man through his
family. Approach through a doctor or an institution
is a better bet. If your man needs hospitalization, he
should have it, but not forcibly unless he is violent.
Let the doctor, if he will, tell him he has something
in the way of a solution.
When your man is better, the doctor might suggest
a visit from you. Though you have talked with the
family, leave them out of the first discussion. Under
these conditions your prospect will see he is under no
pressure. He will feel he can deal with you without
being nagged by his family. Call on him while he is
still jittery. He may be more receptive when de-
See your man alone, if possible. At first engage in
general conversation. After a while, turn the talk to
some phase of drinking. Tell him enough about your
drinking habits, symptoms, and experiences to encour-
age him to speak of himself. If he wishes to talk, let
him do so. You will thus get a better idea of how you
ought to proceed. If he is not communicative, give
him a sketch of your drinking career up to the time
you quit. But say nothing, for the moment, of how
that was accomplished. If he is in a serious mood
dwell on the troubles liquor had caused you, being
careful not to moralize or lecture. If his mood is light,
tell him humorous stories of your escapades. Get him
to tell some of his.
When he sees you know all about the drinking
game, commence to describe yourself as an alcoholic.
92 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
Tell him how baffled you were, how you finally
learned that you were sick. Give him an account of
the struggles you made to stop. Show him the mental
twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We
suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter
on alcoholism. If he is alcoholic, he will understand
you at once. He will match your mental inconsisten-
cies with some of his own.
If you are satisfied that he is a real alcoholic, begin
to dwell on the hopeless feature of the malady. Show
him, from your own experience, how the queer mental
condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal
functioning of the will power. Don't, at this stage,
refer to this book, unless he had seen it and wishes to
discuss it. And be careful not to brand him as an
alcoholic. Let him draw his own conclusion. If he
sticks to the idea that he can still control his drinking,
tell him that possibly he can--if he is not too alcoholic.
But insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be
little chance he can recover by himself.
Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal
malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind
which accompany it. Keep his attention focussed
mainly on your personal experience. Explain that many
are doomed who never realized their predicament.
Doctors are rightly loath to tell alcoholic patients the
whole story unless it will serve some good purpose.
But you may talk to him about the hopelessness of
alcoholism because you offer a solution. You will
soon have your friend admitting he has many, if not
all, of the traits of the alcoholic. If his own doctor
is willing to tell him that he is alcoholic, so much the
better. Even though your protege may not have en-
WORKING WITH OTHERS 93
tirely admitted his condition, he has become very
curious to know how you got well. Let him ask you
that question, if he will. Tell him exactly what hap-
pened to you. Stress the spiritual feature freely. If
the man be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic that
he does not have to agree with your conception of
God. He can choose any conception he likes, provided
it makes sense to him. The main thing is that he be
willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and
that he live by spiritual principles.
When dealing with such a person, you had better
use everyday language to describe spiritual principles.
There is no use arousing any prejudice he may have
against certain theological terms and conceptions
about which he may already be confused. Don't
raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions
Your prospect may belong to a religious denomina-
tion. His religious education and training may be far
superior to yours. In that case he is going to wonder
how you can add anything to what he already knows.
But he will be curious to learn why his own convictions
have not worked and why yours seem to work so well.
He may be an example of the truth that faith alone is
insufficient. To be vital, faith must be accompanied
by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action. Let
him see that you are not there to instruct him in re-
ligion. Admit that he probably knows more about it
than you do, but call to his attention the fact that
however deep his faith and knowledge, he could not
have applied it or he would not drink. Perhaps your
story will help him see where he has failed to practice
the very precepts he knows so well. We represent no
94 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
particular faith or denomination. We are dealing only
with general principles common to most denomina-
Outline the program of action, explaining how you
made a self-appraisal, how you straightened out your
past and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful
to him. It is important for him to realize that your
attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in
your own recovery. Actually, he may be helping you
more than you are helping him. Make it plain he is
under no obligation to you, that you hope only that
he will try to help other alcoholics when he escapes
his own difficulties. Suggest how important it is that
he place the welfare of other people ahead of his own.
Make it clear that he is not under pressure, that he
needn't see you again if he doesn't want to. You
should not be offended if he wants to call it off, for
he has helped you more than you have helped him.
If your talk has been sane, quiet and full of human
understanding, you have perhaps made a friend.
Maybe you have disturbed him about the question of
alcoholism. This is all to the good. The more hope-
less he feels, the better. He will be more likely to
follow your suggestions.
Your candidate may give reasons why he need not
follow all of the program. He may rebel at the thought
of a drastic housecleaning which requires discussion
with other people. Do not contradict such views. Tell
him you once felt as he does, but you doubt whether
you would have made much progress had you not
taken action. On your first visit tell him about the
Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. If he shows
interest, lend him your copy of this book.
WORKING WITH OTHERS 95
Unless your friend wants to talk further about him-
self, do not wear out your welcome. Give him a
chance to think it over. If you do stay, let him steer
the conversation in any direction he likes. Sometimes
a new man is anxious to proceed at once, and you may
be tempted to let him do so. This is sometimes a mis-
take. If he had trouble later, he is likely to say you
rushed him. You will be most successful with alco-
holics if you do not exhibit any passion for crusade or
reform. Never talk down to an alcoholic from any
moral or spiritual hilltop; simply lay out the kit of
spiritual tools for his inspection. Show him how they
worked with you. Offer him friendship and fellow-
ship. Tell him that if he wants to get well you will do
anything to help.
If he is not interested in your solution, if he expects
you to act only as a banker for his financial difficulties
or a nurse for his sprees, you may have to drop him
until he changes his mind. This he may do after he
gets hurt some more.
If he is sincerely interested and wants to see you
again, ask him to read this book in the interval. After
doing that, he must decide for himself whether he
wants to go on. He should not be pushed or prodded
by you, his wife, or his friends. If he is to find God,
the desire must come from within.
If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or
prefers some other spiritual approach, encourage him
to follow his own conscience. We have no monopoly
on God; we merely have an approach that worked
with us. But point out that we alcoholics have much
in common and that you would like, in any case, to
be friendly. Let it go at that.
96 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not re-
spond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try
again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough
to accept with eagerness what you offer. We find it a
waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or
will not work with you. If you leave such a person
alone, he may soon become convinced that he cannot
recover by himself. To spend too much time on any
one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an op-
portunity to live and be happy. One of our Fellowship
failed entirely with his first half dozen prospects. He
often says that if he had continued to work on them,
he might have deprived many others, who have since
recovered, of their chance.
Suppose now you are making your second visit to a
man. He has read this volume and says he is prepared
to go through with the Twelve Steps of the program of
recovery. Having had the experience yourself, you
can give him much practical advice. Let him know
you are available if he wishes to make a decision and
tell his story, but do not insist upon it if he prefers to
consult someone else.
He may be broke and homeless. If he is, you might
try to help him about getting a job, or give him a little
financial assistance. But you should not deprive your
family or creditors of money they should have. Per-
haps you will want to take the man into your home for
a few days. But be sure you use discretion. Be certain
he will be welcomed by your family, and that he is
not trying to impose upon you for money, connections,
or shelter. Permit that and you only harm him. You
will be making it possible for him to be insincere.
WORKING WITH OTHERS 97
You may be aiding in his destruction rather than his
Never avoid these responsibilities, but be sure you
are doing the right thing if you assume them. Helping
others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A
kindly act once in a while isn't enough. You have to
act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may
mean the loss of many nights' sleep, great interference
with you pleasures, interruptions to your business. It
may mean sharing your money and your home, coun-
seling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips
to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and
asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of
the day or night. Your wife may sometimes say she
is neglected. A drunk may smash the furniture in your
home, or burn a mattress. You may have to fight with
him if he is violent. Sometimes you will have to meet
a doctor and administer sedatives under his direction.
Another time you may have to send for the police or
an ambulance. Occasionally you will have to meet
We seldom allow an alcoholic to live in our homes
for long at a time. It is not good for him, and it some-
times creates serious complications in a family.
Though an alcoholic does not respond, there is no
reason why you should neglect his family. You should
continue to be friendly to them. The family should be
offered your way of life. Should they accept and
practice spiritual principles, there is a much better
chance that the head of the family will recover. And
even though he continues to drink, the family will find
life more bearable.
For the type of alcoholic who is able and willing to
98 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
get well, little charity, in the ordinary sense of the
word, is needed or wanted. The men who cry for
money and shelter before conquering alcohol, are on
the wrong track. Yet we do go to great extremes to
provide each other with these very things, when such
action is warranted. This may seem inconsistent, but
we think it is not.
It is not the matter of giving that is the question, but
when and how we give. That often makes the differ-
ence between failure and success. The minute we put
our work on a service plane, the alcoholic commences
to rely upon our assistance rather than upon God. He
clamors for this or that, claiming he cannot master
alcohol until his material needs are cared for. Non-
sense. Some of us have taken very hard knocks to
learn this truth: Job or no job--wife or no wife--we
simply do not stop drinking so long as we place de-
pendence upon other people ahead of dependence on
Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man
that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only
condition is that he trust in God and clean house.
Now, the domestic problem: There may be divorce,
separation, or just strained relations. When your pros-
pect has made such reparation as he can to his family,
and has thoroughly explained to them the new princi-
ples by which he is living, he should proceed to put
those principles into action at home. That is, if he is
lucky enough to have a home. Though his family be at
fault in many respects, he should not be concerned
about that. He should concentrate on his own spirit-
ual demonstration. Argument and fault-finding are to
be avoided like the plague. In many homes this is a
WORKING WITH OTHERS 99
difficult thing to do, but it must be done if any results
are to be expected. If persisted in for a few months,
the effect on a man's family is sure to be great. The
most incompatible people discover they have a basis
upon which they can meet. Little by little the family
may see their own defects and admit them. These can
then be discussed in an atmosphere of helpfulness and
After they have seen tangible results, the family
will perhaps want to go along. These things will come
to pass naturally and in good time provided, however,
the alcoholic continues to demonstrate that he can be
sober, considerate, and helpful, regardless of what
anyone says or does. Of course, we all fall much be-
low this standard many times. But we must try to
repair the damage immediately lest we pay the penalty
by a spree.
If there be divorce or separation, there should be no
undue haste for the couple to get together. The man
should be sure of his recovery. The wife should fully
understand his new way of life. If their old relation-
ship is to be resumed it must be on a better basis,
since the former did not work. This means a new
attitude and spirit all around. Sometimes it is to the
best interests of all concerned that a couple remain
apart. Obviously, no rule can be laid down. Let the
alcoholic continue his program day by day. When the
time for living together has come, it will be apparent
to both parties.
Let no alcoholic say he cannot recover unless he has
his family back. This just isn't so. In some cases the
wife will never come back for one reason or another.
Remind the prospect that his recovery is not depend-
100 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
ent upon people. It is dependent upon his relation-
ship with God. We have seen men get well whose
families have not returned at all. We have seen others
slip when the family came back too soon.
Both you and the new man must walk day by day in
the path of spiritual progress. If you persist, remark-
able things will happen. When we look back, we
realize that the things which came to us when we put
ourselves in God's hands were better than anything
we could have planned. Follow the dictates of a
Higher Power and you will presently live in a new
and wonderful world, no matter what your present
When working with a man and his family, you
should take care not to participate in their quarrels.
You may spoil your chance of being helpful if you do.
But urge upon a man's family that he has been a very
sick person and should be treated accordingly. You
should warn against arousing resentment or jealousy.
You should point out that his defects of character are
not going to disappear over night. Show them that
he has entered upon a period of growth. Ask them to
remember, when they are impatient, the blessed fact
of his sobriety.
If you have been successful in solving your own
domestic problems, tell the newcomer's family how
that was accomplished. In this way you can set them
on the right track without becoming critical of them.
The story of how you and your wife settled your
difficulties is worth any amount of criticism.
Assuming we are spiritually fit, we can do all sorts
of things alcoholics are not supposed to do. People
have said we must not go where liquor is served; we
WORKING WITH OTHERS 101
must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends
who drink; we must avoid moving pictures which
show drinking scenes; we must not go into bars; our
friends must hide their bottles if we go to their houses;
we mustn't think or be reminded about alcohol at all.
Our experience shows that this is not necessarily so.
We meet these conditions every day. An alcoholic
who cannot meet them, still has an alcoholic mind;
there is something the matter with his spiritual status.
His only chance for sobriety would be some place like
the Greenland Ice Cap, and even there an Eskimo
might turn up with a bottle of scotch and ruin every-
thing! Ask any woman who has sent her husband to
distant places on the theory he would escape the
In our belief any scheme of combating alcoholism
which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation
is doomed to failure. If the alcoholic tries to shield
himself he may succeed for a time, but he usually
winds up with a bigger explosion than ever. We have
tried these methods. These attempts to do the im-
possible have always failed.
So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is
drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being
there. That includes bars, nightclubs, dances, recep-
tions, weddings, even plain ordinary whoopee parties.
To a person who has had experience with an alcoholic,
this may seem like tempting Providence, but it isn't.
You will note that we made an important qualifica-
tion. Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, "Have
I any good social, business, or personal reason for go-
ing to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little
vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such
102 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
places?" If you answer these questions satisfactorily,
you need have no apprehension. Go or stay away,
whichever seems best. But be sure you are on solid
spiritual ground before you start and that your motive
in going is thoroughly good. Do not think of what
you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you
can bring to it. But if you are shaky, you had better
work with another alcoholic instead!
Why sit with a long face in places where there is
drinking, sighing about the good old days. If it is a
happy occasion, try to increase the pleasure of those
there; if a business occasion, go and attend to your
business enthusiastically. If you are with a person who
wants to eat in a bar, by all means go along. Let your
friends know they are not to change their habits on
your account. At a proper time and place explain to
all your friends why alcohol disagrees with you. If
you do this thoroughly, few people will ask you to
drink. While you were drinking, you were withdraw-
ing from life little by little. Now you are getting back
into the social life of this world. Don't start to with-
draw again just because your friends drink liquor.
Your job now is to be at the place where you may be
of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to
go anywhere if you can be helpful. You should not
hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such
an errand. Keep on the firing line of life with these
motives and God will keep you unharmed.
Many of us keep liquor in our homes. We often
need it to carry green recruits through a severe hang-
over. Some of us still serve it to our friends provided
they are not alcoholic. But some of us think we should
not serve liquor to anyone. We never argue this ques-
WORKING WITH OTHERS 103
tion. We feel that each family, in the light of their
own circumstances, ought to decide for themselves.
We are careful never to show intolerance or hatred
of drinking as an institution. Experience shows that
such an attitude is not helpful to anyone. Every new
alcoholic looks for this spirit among us and is im-
mensely relieved when he finds we are not witch-
burners. A spirit of intolerance might repel alcoholics
whose lives could have been saved, had it not been for
such stupidity. We would not even do the cause of
temperate drinking any good, for not one drinker in
a thousand likes to be told anything about alcohol by
one who hates it.
Some day we hope that Alcoholics Anonymous will
help the public to a better realization of the gravity
of the alcoholic problem, but we shall be of little use
if our attitude is one of bitterness or hostility. Drinkers
will not stand for it.
After all, our problems were of our own making.
Bottles were only a symbol. Besides, we have stopped
fighting anybody or anything. We have to!