A.A. Myths: The Myth of “Don’t make any major decisions for the first year in recovery”

I hear this advice being given to the newcomer all the time. In most cases, if they be real alcoholics or addicts, they die with this kind of counsel. “Easy does it” is a variation of this theme. If you want to kill newcomers, if that is your intention, then by all means, go on using it, but if you’re here to be helpful, STOP USING IT, it’s not what our program is about.

Our program is comprised of 12 Steps, ALL OF WHICH ARE MAJOR DECISIONS!

Step 1: Admit I’m powerless and my life is unmanageable? This was a MAJOR point of awareness and realization to me and one of the most important decisions I made in my life.

Step 2: Coming to the realization that only a spiritual power can restore me to sanity seems to me like another MAJOR realization. No middle of the road solution, either I go on to the bitter end or I accept spiritual help.

Step 3: Turn my will and life over to God, as I understand it! Sounds like a MAJOR decision to me.

Step 4 and 5: Made a fearless moral inventory, looked at my part and confessed my defects to another person! That was a MAJOR move in my life!

Step 8 and 9: Made amends, restitution, and set right the wrongs I had made in my life where ever possible – This was a huge decision and undertaking in my life and IT SAVED MY LIFE!

Step 10 and 11: Every day for the rest of my life, continue to take inventory, confess defects, set right wrongs and pray and meditate — Another MAJOR decision!

Step 12: Practice the principles of the program in all my affairs and to carry the message to the seemingly hopeless. To give unselfishly of myself to alcoholics and addicts and show them the way out – WOW, this was the BIGGEST decision I ever made and it continues to work in my life everyday.

If I follow the advice of “no major decisions in the first year of recovery”, then working the 12 Steps of the program are out and for me NOT to work the 12 Steps everyday in my life is to die.

“Meeting Makers Make It”, “Keep coming back”, “Wait for the Miracle to happen”, “No major decisions in the first year”, these mottos or slogans, in my experience, are not only, NOT part of our program, they actually harm others, deluding the newcomer into easier softer ways.

What does our Big Book tell us? There’s a great article entitled: “That Ain’t In the Big Book”. It’s a great guide to sorting out what our Big Book program of recovery tells us to do versus the rhetoric, and advice-mongering we get in the rooms. Check it out, it just my save your life or the newcomer’s life.


8 thoughts on “A.A. Myths: The Myth of “Don’t make any major decisions for the first year in recovery”

  1. Well? Obviously you found an article that has validated you by co-signing your junior Big Book thumper phase that hopefully you will survive…It’s ok my friend, this too shall pass. The producer of confusion even though his motives are good fits quite well..I understand getting into the Big Book 12 Steps has exposed many of us to the miraculous, a Spiritual realm we had never dreamed existed..We feel we have finally done it, done something right. Armed with some basic facts about ourselves and a new found Spiritual Power we are chosen to carry the true AA message without thought of others or how they may be affected..We become an example of self will run riot with our new conceptions and a Big Book in our hand..We continue to provide our own self esteem by proving others are screwed up and we’re ok..We are still playing God, sorry..

    May I recommend putting some real effort into Step 10 continuing to watch for selfishness, reminding yourself often that this Step is for you and not just a tool to find fault by recognizing selfishness in others..

    As time goes on I do hope you keep on the firing line so you learn what these 12 Steps really are or the design for living that was intended..Like a life filled with a willingness to serve those who suffer, no longer about you and your opinions,a Spiritual experience.

    The day came many years ago when I took the collar off, It became too tight for me. I was no longer the teacher, profit, or Big Book Step guru, AA answer man..I was to become a servant..I serve God and receive the power to serve the man who suffers from alcoholism. Sounds simple enough yet I still work at it today.

    I have stolen from you here and you may feel the loss of a bit of emotional security. Retaliation will only put others above yourself. You can stop worshipping people now, Accept me for who I am and move on..You will be a power of example instead of an example of power..

    Isn’t the real reason behind this post your anger at those who don’t want to make use of the real AA program, the way you see it, the way the first 100 you believe did it? You see yourself on a 12 Step call talking to a man bedside and saving his life when actually people aren’t interested in your selfish earful and manipulative head games..You have lots of information , now learn to carry it to the new man with patience love and tolerance…You are angered that others find comfort with a man who assures them that meeting makers make it and keep coming back, it gets better one day at a time..Your problem is this big, nothing can happen in a 24 hour period that a drink or a drug won’t make worse..Oh, and no major decisions for the first year, do you think this could mean don’t quit your job or stop paying bills or move to the desert and live on manna..Don’t get a divorce because your wife doesn’t recognize the beauty of your new found sobriety, that kind of major decision, kid…

    You have something positive to say, learn how to say it without the selfishness..The whole kill newcomers thing just makes you look bad. Contrary to some belief, sure you can learn the basic understanding of the Steps in a weekend but it may take much longer to live it. I speak for myself and my experience. I have recovered, I have found a Spiritual remedy for a hopeless mind and body. I have solved the drink problem today.

  2. The suggestion that we not make any major (changes) decisions for the first year may more aptly apply to divorce, job or other situations in our lives. Yes we are going to have to make some decisions if we are going to commit to this program. The admission we are alcoholic, the coming to believe and turning our will and our lives over to a higher power are pretty big changes for most alcoholics. This is a program of ‘change’, change from a drinking alcoholic to a sober one and tools to continue to live sober. Living sober is a daily process of changing my attitude and behavior so that resentments, anger and fear do not overtake me and I begin to justify a drink.The 10th, 11th and 12th steps are necessary for me to remain free of negative thinking and continue to help others. It is a "do right – feel right program". God is the source, I am the channel and the vehicle is Love. "Don’t drink and go to meetings".

  3. There is a certain amount of poetic license in this article and I am sure the author is not advocating rash and harmful decisions, merely drawing attention to the fact that in order to recover we need a change of personality which can only be brought about by spiritual means, and that there is some urgency about this as no one knows how long the window of opportunity will remain open. A dramatic change such as this is of course a major undertaking and may for example require other major decisions like extracting oneself from a disfunctional relationship. The writer raises issues which ought to be considered by anyone interested in living this programme. I have been sober a good long time and to my shame I have coasted along dispensing casual cliches to newcomers that really needed much more help than that. Tolerating the intolerable, and I suppose fear or selfishness kept me quiet, just one of the crowd, fitting in, putting popularity before principles. But then I begin to hear about the back to basics folks, and big book sponsorship and I read with an open mind. A great gift from my sponsor was teaching me how to think, not what to think, which left me free to consider what was being said in the light of my experience and knowledge. When I look around I see our local fellowship is smaller than it was 30 years ago, there are fewer newcomers and our average age and length of sobriety is going up. Many here talk about recovery rates less than 5%, there is even a local treatment centre that claims 1-2% success rate. The way the message is carried now is different although the change has been so gradual and subtle I hardly noticed. I consider how I was taught this programme and how it is taught today, and I really doubt if I would have survived. Why has the recovery rate fallen so dramatically that it is now within the margin of error? I have taken some of the material available from this site and put it to use with newcomers. In their view they have found it extremely enlightening, especially gaining an overview of the steps. They are not stupid people, they realise that they are beginning a new way of life based on the steps and it will take time and effort to accomplish this. But without exception they all felt they had taken a huge step forward. Incidentally they all were feeling lost to some extent as they weren’t making any progress by just doing meetings, nothing was changing for them -(their words not mine). If nothing changes, what is the point? And this might be why many drift away after a year or so. So I suppose the writer and others behind this site have caused me to take my own inventory and admit that the flaky way I was carrying the message was both irresponsible and wrong and had somehow morphed from what I was originally taught. I don’t consider myself a Big Book Nazi or zealot, I am simply finding that those original suggestions actually work better than what I was doing. I feel no need to take the writer’s inventory, but would just thank him or her for their efforts which will be a great help to anyone who is honest, open minded and willing,
    God bless,
    Mike H.

  4. Nice to see a blog that gets this stuff more than most. Get a sponsor, do the steps with that sponsor — then sponsor others. I’d say ‘keep coming back!’ but we prefer to say ‘Stay!’

  5. I’ve been attending AA meetings for 55 years and the biggest problem with the slogans we keep hearing at these meetings is just that. They are slogans, recitals, deadly boring constantly repeated recitals. I don’t believe most of the people in “the rooms” spoke in recitals before they got sober. They learn it in “the program”. And they think it makes them sound smart. Sound smart by not thinking? Only in AA. — Charlie

  6. I have to disagree that working each step is an individual major decision when in fact a single major decision was made to work the AA program, the suggestion refers to decisions made subsequent to that.

    The author incorrectly attributes making no major decisions in the 1st year as an absolute. To be more accurate, it is “suggested” that the newcomer not get into or out of a relationship nor make any major decisions in 1st year (for differing reasons).

    The one common reason, and the most relevant one, is that our judgement is seriously impaired.

    Agree or disagree, some will opine that you can’t work any step beyond the one you are working on. Showing that this should not be an absolute, it may be necessary for a newcomer to make partial or full amends to another because the damaged relationship is seriously impeding their sobriety.

    This is where a sponsor comes in. Discussing the situation with a sponsor may bring alternatives or reasons to delay the decision or find that the decision is not necessary and may be unnecessarily harmful. Conversely, a newcomer’s sponsor may agree that the major needs to be made and may have suggestions about how best to accomplish the major change.

  7. BB Page Pages 86-87 “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. What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious 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 inspiration. We come to rely upon it.

    Isn’t this what the BB actually says about decisions/indecision? Isn’t this a perfect opportunity for a sponsor to mentor a newcomer (or anyone struggling) on how to actually “live the program”?

  8. I have seen many newcomers make major decisions in their first year of sobriety.They have gotten divorces. They have jumped into going back to college. They have started new relationships. They quit jobs. They all also got drunk. The added stress and inevitable distractions cause by this decisions took their primary focus off of staying sober.

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