It takes only 4 hours to learn the 12 steps and a lifetime to practice them.
Through our own experience of working with others, many hopeless, suffering addicts lack the necessary power and time to “keep coming back” to meetings and somehow get sober or clean. Many chronic relapsers do not have the luxury of working the steps slowly — they need power NOW, they cannot wait months to a year to work the steps — they’re barely hanging on as it is and it’s just a question of how soon they’re going to pick up again.
That’s why, all across North America, there has been a revival of beginners’ classes where a suffering addict can take all 12 steps in a matter of a few hours. They can receive an intelligent presentation of “our way of life” and make the decision as to whether or not they wish to accept this life without reservation. Moreover, they can find a power greater than themselves quickly and be restored to sanity FAST by taking this very simple program.
Beginners’ Meetings were held throughout the U.S. and Canada during a period of time when A.A. witnessed 50-75 percent recovery rates from alcoholism. Newcomers quickly learned “How It Works”. They had conversion experiences, discovered a new way of living without alcohol or drugs and carried this message of hope to others. After completing the steps, newcomers, to ensure their own sobriety, helped others through the Steps and led the Beginners’ Meetings.
Ruth R., an old-timer in Miami Florida, who came into AA in 1953, gave some insight into the demise of the “Beginners’ Classes”.
Ruth recalled that the classes were discontinued in the mid-1950s as the result of the publication of the book “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” by Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing Inc. In the Miami area the “Twelve and Twelve” replaced both the “Big Book” and the “Little Red Book” and “Step Studies” replaced the “Beginners’ Classes”. In the process, the period for taking the Steps was expanded and modified from 4 weeks to somewhere in between 12 and 16 weeks. The Fourth Step inventory was modified and became a much more laborious and detailed procedure. What was originally conceived as a very simple program, which took a few hours to complete, evolved into a complicated and confusing undertaking requiring several months.
Studying the Steps is not the same as taking the Steps. In the “Beginners’ Classes” you take the steps. The Big Book says, “Here are the steps we took” not “here are the steps we read and talked about.” The AA pioneers proved that action, not knowledge, produced the spiritual awakening that resulted in recovery from alcoholism or addiction.
In the September 1945 issue of the Grapevine the Genesee Group in Rochester, NY explained their format for taking newcomers through the Steps. The title of the article was “Rochester Prepares Novices for Group Participation”. This is how they perceived the recovery process to operate most efficiently: “It has been our observation that bringing men [and woman] into the group indiscriminately and without adequate preliminary training and information can be a source of considerable grief and a cause of great harm to the general moral of the group itself. We feel that unless a man, after a course of instruction and an intelligent presentation of the case for the AA life, has accepted it without any reservation he should not be included in group membership. When the sponsors feel that a novice has a fair working knowledge of AA’s objectives and sufficient grasp of it’s fundamentals then he is brought to his first group meeting.
To show other addicts precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of the beginners’ meeting. Our format quotes extensively from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (4th Edition), our basic text for recovery. Our notes, commentary, and gender-neutral changes are formatted in italics.
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. (p. 58, A.A. 4h Edition)
Of alcoholics who came to A.A. and really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that way; 25% sobered up after some relapses, and among the remainder, those who stayed on with A.A. showed improvement. Other thousands came to a few A.A. meetings and at first decided they didn’t want the program. But great numbers of these–about two out of three–began to return as time passed. (p. xx, A.A. 4th Edition)
Our primary purpose is to work the steps and teach others how to teach others how to work the steps. We connect suffering addicts to recovered addicts who guide newcomers through a personalized one on one study of the original, undiluted 12 step program described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. We substitute terms and phrases related to alcoholism to include ANY obsessive, compulsive patterns such as drinking alcohol, using drugs, gambling, sex, self-harm or injury, food, anorexia, bulimia, sugar, smoking, co-dependency etc., anyone can certainly increase this list and all are welcome.
This format is designed for 2 or more addicts working in pairs and can be conducted in one half day, four hour session or in four, one-hour sessions.
For further insights on step work it is suggested that everyone get a copy of the “Big Book”.