Chapter seven of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, is devoted entirely to working with others. You get a clue from the author of the “Big Book”, how important certain steps are by the amount of space he devotes to them. When the author has devoted an entire chapter to working with others, i.e., Step 12, it must be important.
Why Do We Work with Others?
Newcomers are the lifeblood of the program. When a new person comes into our meetings and shares how they got there, their trials and tribulations, their shattered dreams and failed schemes, it seldom leaves a dry eye in the room. We can all relate, because we’ve all been there. The newcomer takes us back and reminds us from whence we came. We are filled with compassion, empathy and gratitude.
Similarly, the newcomer draws inspiration from us. When newcomers hear from us how we stayed sober, how we overcame our trials and tribulations, how our failed schemes turned into realized dreams it gives the newcomer one of the most powerful antidotes known to alcoholism, hope.
Perhaps more importantly, working with others keeps us sober. When Bill W., (co-founder of A.A.) was only a few months sober, an important business deal he was negotiating went sour. He was struck with a sudden and powerful urge to drink. He wanted to escape the pain of his disappointment. He suddenly realized that if he wanted to stay sober, he needed to talk to another alcoholic. He thought, “You need another alcoholic just as much as he needs you!” This inspirational thought led to the chance meeting he had with a gentleman by the name of Dr. Bob Smith. A few days later the program of Alcoholics Anonymous was born.
What if the Newcomer Doesn’t Want What We Have?
It’s oft been said that recovery may not work for all who need it, but it works well for those who want it. From page 96 in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, we find this guidance, “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 opportunity to live and be happy.” This echoes the proverbial wisdom of, “You can lead a horse to water…” However, many in recovery have added the following to this proverbial phrase, “But, you can let the horse see the water and make an informed decision.”
What About a Family Member who May Have a Drinking or Drug Problem?
If you believe a spouse or family member has a substance use problem, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a professional. Working with newcomers in the program is highly recommended, but when that newcomer is a family member it may be best to step into a more supportive role and let someone else take the lead. Even doctors don’t perform surgery on their own family members. No matter what your family member decides about recovery, you can always find help for yourself through programs like Al-Anon, or Nar-Anon.
Finally, as it is said in Al-Anon, "We who live, or have lived, with the problem of alcoholism understand as perhaps few others can. We, too, were lonely and frustrated but in Al-Anon we discover that no situation is really hopeless and that it is possible for us to find contentment and even happiness, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.”