It was Dr. Bob Smith who sponsored Clarence Snyder into this simple program. Clarence repeated this approach with other alcoholics in Cleveland where he achieved a 75-93 percent recovery rate. Here is the approach the A.A. pioneers used to carry the message to the person who suffers from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
Editor’s Note: Clarence remained very active in A.A., and his A.A. work became increasingly Christian fundamentalist in nature. He passed away on March 22, 1984. These notes probably reflect his approach in the later years.
“Here are the steps we took as a program of recovery.
Before beginning the steps the sponsor must first qualify the person who has requested to follow the path. Find out if they really are alcoholic and, just as important, if YOU feel that they willing and ready to go to any lengths to change their lives and not drink forever. (Page 142, Big Book: “Will he take every necessary step, submit to anything to get well, to stop drinking forever?”)
Ask your prospect 3 qualifying questions:
- Do you think you have a drinking (using or obsessive-compulsive acting-out) problem?
- Do you want to do anything about the problem?
- What are you willing to do about it?
If you get the answers: (1) yes, (2) yes, and (3) anything, and you feel that the person is ready to follow directions without question, you both are ready to continue all the way.
If you feel that they are not ready, tell them so and go on to the next person. (Page 96, Big Book: “To spend too much time on any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy.”) The program and your own recovery are not dependent upon winning friends and influencing people.
If you feel that they are ready, then you start. There are five phases to the Steps:
- STEP 1: ADMISSION,
- STEPS 2 and 3: SUBMISSION,
- STEPS 4, 5, 6, and 7: CONFESSION,
- STEPS 8 and 9: RESTITUTION,
- STEPS 10, 11 and 12: THE LIVING STEPS, CONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE
STEP ONE: Who’s boss — them or the alcohol (substances, or obsessive-complusive behaviour)? (The above qualification should pretty much answer the first half of the step)…That our lives had become unmanageable, not only our drinking — all phases of our existence were and are unmanageable. It stands to reason that if we can’t manage our lives and we are acting in a manner that is not very sane (unmanageability is not sane living) then we have to take…
STEP TWO: Come to believe that a power GREATER than ourselves, something other than us can manage our lives. A power that can bring sanity back to the way we live. Who are we to believe that WE are the greatest? When we did Step 1, we admitted that we couldn’t manage our own lives. When we took Step 2, we said that someone greater than us could manage us and restore us. We needed new to have a new manager, a living, loving God.
STEP THREE: We made the decision that we needed to come under new management since our own management got us nowhere. So we turn our wills and lives over to the care of our new manager — Jesus. He will take care of us and manage our lives since we admitted in Step 1 that our lives were unmanageable, and in Step 2, that He could restore us to a manageable state and sanity.
At this point both of you get down on your knees… Both on knees, the sponsor says: “Jesus, this is ___(name)____, he is coming to You in all humility to ask You to guide and direct him. ______(name)_____realizes that his life is messed up and unmanageable. _____(name)_____ is coming to You Lord in all humility to ask to be one of your children — to work for you, to serve and dedicate his life to You and to turn his will and life over that he may be an instrument of Your love.
Person repeats after sponsor: “Lord, I ask that You guide and direct me, and that I have decided to turn my will and life over to You. To serve You and dedicate my life to You. I ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ. I thank you Lord; I believe that if I ask this in prayer, I shall receive what I have asked for. Thank you Jesus. Amen.”
Now that we have gone under new management, we believe what it says in the Big Book at the end of the Steps in How It Works:
- We were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives,
- No human power could RELIEVE our alcoholism,
- GOD COULD AND WOULD IF HE WERE SOUGHT!
Then we have to take an inventory.
STEP FOUR: Take a searching and fearless moral inventory. We must find out what we’ve got, what we need to get rid of, and what we need to acquire. There are 20 character defects to ask about — the individual wrongs are not necessary to go over, just the defects that caused them. Going over the questions, you ask that the person be honest and admit his defects to himself, to you, and to God (where two or more are gathered in His name, there shall He be.) By admitting, the person also takes.
STEP FIVE: The inventory is of our defects, not our incidents. Here are the defects:
- Resentment, Anger
- Fear, Cowardice
- Self pity
- Self justification
- Self importance, Egotism
- Self condemnation, Guilt
- Lying, Evasiveness, Dishonesty
- False pride, Phoniness, Denial
- Negative Thinking
- Immoral thinking
- Perfectionism, Intolerance
- Criticizing, Loose Talk, Gossip
Now that you’ve admitted these defects, ask, “Don’t you want to get rid of them?” These same defects caused your life to be unmanageable. How can you ask God to get rid of the THINGS you did in your past? YOU CAN’T!! You can ask to get rid of the defects, which caused you to act in the manner you did by taking…
STEP SIX: You were ENTIRELY ready (not almost, not just about, not partially) to have God remove ALL (not some) of these defects. He cannot remove things that have already happened. You are ready to get rid of ALL of them, even the ones that are fun. REMEMBER, YOU TURNED YOUR WILL AND LIFE OVER TO GOD IN STEP THREE. Now comes…
STEP SEVEN: On your knees you ask that these defects be removed, these shortcomings listed in your inventory… Both on knees, the sponsor says: “Lord, here is your child, ____(name)___. He is coming to you in all humility to humbly ask your forgiveness, believing that anything he asks in prayer, he humbly shall receive.
Person repeats after sponsor: “I, ___(name)___, humbly ask you oh Lord, to remove my shortcomings and forgive me, my sins and trespasses, and ask in all humility that you will remove my defects and shortcomings because I am one of your children and I truly believe. Thank you Jesus, Amen.” Sponsor: “Your sins are removed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Both: “Thank you Jesus, Amen.”
STEP EIGHT: You make a list of all persons you have harmed, starting with yourself, family, friends, employers, employees, etc. We discuss briefly this list, and ask if they are willing to make restitution and amends. (Since the sponsor is boss – you really don’t ask… it is assumed.) Then restitution is made to all as soon as possible, except in certain instances where it is turned over to God. They will have done STEP NINE: by making restitution. After doing these 9 steps, your slate is wiped clean. You are reborn as it says in the Big Book on page 63, “We were reborn.” II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, all things are made new!
STEP TEN: We continued to take personal inventory every night: did you harm anyone, have you done something wrong? Do you deserve a gold star or a black mark? You ask forgiveness honestly, and all is forgiven by the Lord — clean slate. When you are wrong, promptly admit it. When you don’t, use the inventory at night to do so. Deal with your life by the four absolutes: ABSOLUTE LOVE, ABSOLUTE HONESTY, ABSOLUTE UNSELFISHNESS, and ABSOLUTE PURITY. Did you act out of Love? Were you honest? Were you unselfish? Were your motives pure? All things must be based on these four things…
STEP ELEVEN: Prayer is talking to God — meditation is listening to Him. Pray, go to church, read the bible, read the Big Book. Get to know the Word of God so that you will understand it when you meditate. Thy will, not mine, be done!!!!
STEP TWELVE: A spiritual awakening is THE RESULT of working, doing, and LIVING, ALL of the 12 Steps! Then you have this message to carry to others. There is no message unless you have done the first 9 Steps and are living the last three. You can’t give what you don’t have. You must practice these principles in ALL your affairs.
Now it is your responsibility to give this message to others as you have received it. Not changed, watered down, or how others may want it in their lives. If they want what you have, they must do what you did. It is now your legacy to hand down, AS IT WAS GIVEN TO YOU — NO OTHER WAY! It is recommended that two people work with the newcomer through the steps whenever possible, so that both may learn as well as give.
There is no easier, softer way — this is it. This is the PROGRAM OF RECOVERY as it was in the 1930’s in Ohio, as Dr. Bob gave it. You can and DO recover, you don’t have to stay sick — you can and do get WELL!!! This is the solution; this is HOW IT WORKS.
Don’t trudge the Happy Road to Recovery; walk with your head high, knowing that through you, God will help others to RECOVER as you have. May God bless and be with you.
15 thoughts on ““Here are the steps we took” by Clarence Snyder”
Great stuff! Undiluted just the way I liked my dope!!! I think we are not taken seriously much of the time because we don’t offer a solution that has depth and weight.
I like the straight forward manner of the steps. I am not a big fan of Jesus though. I don’t deny that this is how it was for many in Akron, but don’t forget also that Bill himself wouldn’t have opened to God until it was offered as his own conception. Ironically after that he accepted Jesus and the whole bit. We find that leaving any particular God out it seems to work for everyone. Heck, everyone can’t be right about what God is!
Good stuff. I intend on using some of this when I take newcomers through the steps. I’m not hung up on the reference to Jesus, I will simply replace it with a God of your understanding. I think I will stop short of telling the beginner that his sins are removed in the name of the father…etc. That I think is between him and God.
I have used Clarence’s approach with hopeless addicts. I have used Clarence’s version of the Step 3 prayer and surrender to Jesus Christ when working with Christians. It’s very powerful and well received. I have also used the inventory checklist with addicts and alcoholics and it quickly gets down to the root causes and conditions in simple and easy to understand way.
A few comments on the differences between religion and spirituality. After reading your last e-mail blast,I was some what surprised by the prayers being quoted and the mention of Jesus Christ. I should first mention that I used to have a large resentment against all organized religions,especially the Christian sect. As a result of going through the 12 steps, I had a spiritual experience sufficient to remove my obsession to use drugs and alcohol and part of the instructions was to lose all my prejudices including religion. I attended church services, The Church of the Royal Love, and I did in fact lose my prejudices against Christianity. Having said that it should be remembered that the 12 step program specifically states that "This is a spiritual program, not a religious one." This is a very important significance, those who have recovered are here for the newcomer, and they may,like me, have there own prejudices against all religions. I have also seen many different religious sect come in the doors of CA Hindus, Jews, Muslims,etc. We must be all inclusive, that is the reason why we must not state our own personal beliefs when sharing prayers or instructions to a new comer. Who are we to say that my way is the only way. All of us should take our instructions from The Big Book and only the Big Book to be brutally honest with you. Most of my first thoughts are shit. Thank God I now have second thoughts and why I must take my info from our basic text, The Big book of Alcoholic Anonymous. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest,and thanks for being the "Spearhead of God ever lasting love."
Bill W. didn’t say he chose another God, he just couldn’t conceive one entity that was the creator of everything. Humans have a limited perception and try to put God in a box. He knew who the real God was and that’s where the 12 steps came from. I’m glad if other people that believe in other religions can get something from this program, but they need to understand that Jesus is the one that is saving them.He loves them so much that even though he isn’t getting the proper recognition for what he’s doing for them, he doesn’t want them to suffer. That’s LOVE in it’s purest form.
That is very nice and well said Patrick. God bless you
That is very nice and well said Patrick. God bless you
This amazing. Good simple straightforward guidence. Lay all prejudice a one side, go through the work have an amazing experience. Just listened to Steve Foreman share live here in the UK this evening on how he was taken through the steps by Clarence. God bless you all. Kindest regards. Shaun ❤️
Hey Shaun, I took these steps at Buckfast Abbey in March 1996. Then I understood the nature of my wrongs. I take newcomers through the steps this way still. Met Steve F. in Florida. Where did you meet him? Is Paul D. still involved in the retreats? Im in China by the way.
If I may state a couple of points to be hopefully enlightening.
The name Jesus is omitted from our literature for a reason.
Secondly, 20 defects of character are redundant.
Fear is not a character defect, but the absence of God. Fear in the big book is described as evil and corroding soil that feeds the roots of self centeredness. Our roots had to grasp new soil.
Fear drives us into a life of unmanageability. It precedes Wants that we dishonesty justify and which motivates us to think, say and behave poorly, instead of trusting and relying on God.
Fear produces wants that manifest the seven deadly sins. Dishonesty, is the self justification that rationalize our self seeking motives, causing conflict and chaos.
Once our roots had to grasp new soil, as the result of the steps. We will outgrow fear. Love will begin to dominate our thinking.
If we persist in passing on this altruistic program, as Bill implored on his prospects, a new and wonderful world will become our reality, despite our present circumstances. Great things will come to pass, and we will have victory over our difficulties. We will know God, our fellows and ourselves.
Great approach through the Steps… If you are of the Hopeless variety (Christian or not) this is the solution…
Trust God, Clean House and Help Others…
My sobriety anniversary is May 12. I got sober in 1972. I have found that 12 steps are always wonderful. I find that I cannot argue with Mr. Snyder. I tried that once with him and lost. Lol Clarence was the man that took my mentor through the steps.
Learned my steps just like this way back in 1984, still sober, still clean, one day at a time. Every day I have a new Spiritual Awakening. I can’t stay sober on yesterday’s blessings, (Daily Bread, Manna) or count on receiving it tomorrow. (as it’s not tomorrow, today)
I don’t understand the prefaced comments regarding his particular religious bent. They sound very dismissive, as if to say I should take what he’s saying with a grain of salt, even though he helped write the Big Book!!! What???? Everyone who is familiar with the history of AA knows that this program has its root in Christianity, “evangelical” Christianity to be exact. Evangelical simply means they wanted to share their experience, strength and hope with others rather than just sit there and “keep it to themselves”. Bill and Dr Bob didn’t want women involved, but Clarence did. Dr Bob who sponsored Clarence into the Oxford Group, wasn’t concerned that Catholics could not come to the Oxford Group meetings because their Church prohibited it. This was all AFTER the Big Book was written but before the first official AA group was formed. Clarence took his group of followers (“rummies” or “babies” in the program] another term borrowed from Christianity that they were like newborn babes]) and stopped going to the Oxford Group meetings in Akron and started their own group in Cleveland. “God of our understanding” (used because of the New York group, which had atheists and agnostics who struggled to maintain any length of sobriety, not surprisingly and had trouble with the concept of God altogether) meant that you didn’t have to worry about whether you had a specific theology (e.g. Lutheran or Baptist, Pentecostal or Fundamentalist). In essence, it was what we would call a “non-denominational” or “para-church” group today. At 29 years sober we have the same story and the same explanation from him as we had when he was 44 years sober. His sobriety was longer than AA’s existence by about a year, since the book was published in Spring 1939 and he got sober in Spring 1938. He broke off from the Oxford Group and started meeting in Cleveland in February-ish of 1939 because most of those in his group of sponsees in Cleveland were catholic and could not tolerate going to the Oxford Group, nor would their Church allow it. The AA program is a life-change program, not a sobriety program. You won’t find the Big Book calling it a sobriety program. And that life change occurs as a result of beginning and developing a conscious relationship with God. Period. It’s that simple. That was one of the most paradigm-changing statements he made in a talk of his I listened to, and it may be the most I’ve ever heard since I started in the 12 Steps in 2010. I take issue and am more uncomfortable with people who say their higher power is a door knob or a nameless Universal Force. Those kinds of things cannot care for my life and how can I turn my will over to something that doesn’t have a will of it’s own? If I am alcoholic, and I understand that, believe it, and admit that as well as the fact that the rest of my life is unmanageable, then I’d better hire a better, more powerful manager who is above human power, has my best interests in mind and can’t be bought off or react to me in an imperfect way due to them having a “bad day”. It’s no wonder so many of us have lives that are unchanged by this program…because we aren’t taking the Steps necessary for a life-change through the power of God as we understand Him.