Working with Other Addicts

Step Twelve states:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (addicts), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.(p. 60, A.A. 4th Edition)

This means that the addict who has taken the Twelve Steps and who has had a spiritual awakening or spiritual experience or an entire psychic change and is recovered from their addiction is qualified to work with others.

What does a recovered addict look like?

Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.

And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone, even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.

It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. (p. 84-85, A.A. 4th Edition)

How do we remain in fit spiritual condition?

We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness.* This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. (p. 84, A.A. 4th Edition)

Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. “How can I best serve Thee, Thy will (not mine) be done.” These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will. (p. 85, A.A. 4th Edition)

*We maintain our spiritual condition by practising the disciplines of Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve.

Why is working one on one with other addicts so important?

We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others. (p.132, A.A. 4th Edition)

There is action and more action. Faith without works is dead. (p. 88, A.A. 4th Edition)

For if an alcoholic (addict) failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead, (p. 14-15, A.A. 4th Edition)

Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers (addicts), depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs. (p. 20, A.A. 4th Edition)

But if you are shaky you had better work with another alcoholic (addict) instead. (p. 102, A.A. 4th Edition)

Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough. (p. 97, A.A. 4th Edition)

Bill W. discovers early in his recovery that:

The broker had worked hard with many alcoholics on the theory that only an alcoholic could help an alcoholic, but he had succeeded only in keeping sober himself. The broker had gone to Akron on a business venture which had collapsed, leaving him greatly in fear that he might start drinking again. He suddenly realized that in order to save himself he must carry his message to another alcoholic. (p. xvi, A.A. 4th Edition)

Dr. Bob found:

He sobered, never to drink again up to the moment of his death in 1950. This seemed to prove that one alcoholic could affect another as no nonalcoholic could. It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent recovery. (p. xvi-xvii, A.A. 4th Edition)

I spend a great deal of time passing on what I learned to others who want and need it badly. I do it for four reasons:

1. Sense of duty.

2. It is a pleasure.

3. Because in so doing I am paying my debt to the man who took time to pass it on to me.

4. Because every time I do it I take out a little more insurance for myself against a possible slip. (p. 180-181, A.A. 4th Edition)

Chapter 7, 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 activities 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. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives. (p.89, A.A. 4th Edition)

How to work with the newcomer

Hence the two men set to work almost frantically upon alcoholics arriving in the ward of the Akron City Hospital.(p. xvii A.A. 4th Edition).

My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems (p. 15 A.A. 4th Edition).

Study Chapter 7, Working With Others. You can find plenty of prospects or newcomers at your local detox center or at any 12 step meeting i.e. AA,CA,NA, etc. Watch for those who pick up desire chips and make your approach.

1. Our first job is to deterime if the prospect wants to quit.

If he does not want to stop drinking (using, acting out in a obsessive-compulsive behavior), don’t waste time trying to persuade him. You may spoil a later opportunity. (p. 90 A.A. 4th Edition).

But the ex-problem drinker (addict) who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about themself, can generally win the confidence of another alcoholic (addict) in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished.

That the man who is making the approach has had the same difficulty, that he obviously knows what he is talking about, that his whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real answer, that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured these are the conditions we have found most effective. After such an approach many take up their beds and walk again. (p. 18-19, A.A. 4th Edition)

We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable. (p. 568, A.A. 4th Edition)

Ask him if he wants to quit for good and if he would go to any extreme to do so. If he says yes, then his attention should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered. (p. 90 A.A. 4th Edition).

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 encourage him to speak of himself. (p. 91, A.A. 4th Edition)

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 inconsistencies with some of his own. (p. 92, A.A. 4th Edition)

2. Our second job is to qualify the prospect and determine if they are a REAL addict

Ask your prospect if these symptoms or behaviours roughly describe them:

Moderate drinkers/users have little trouble in giving up liquor/drugs/obsessive-compulsive behavior entirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it or leave it alone (yes/no)?

Then we have a certain type of hard drinkers/users. He may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die a few years before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the warning of a doctor becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention (yes/not yet)?

But what about the real alcoholic (addict)?

  1. He may start off as a moderate drinker/user; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker/user; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink, use or act out (yes/not yet)?
  2. Here is a fellow who has been puzzling you, especially in his lack of control (yes/not yet)?
  3. He does absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking (using) (yes/not yet)?
  4. He is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (yes/not yet)?
  5. He is seldom mildly intoxicated. He is always more or less insanely drunk (yes/not yet)?
  6. His disposition while drinking resembles his normal nature but little (yes/not yet)?
  7. He may be one of the finest fellows in the world. Yet let him drink for a day, and he frequently becomes disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social (yes/not yet)?
  8. He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong moment (yes/not yet)?
  9. particularly when some important decision must be made or engagement kept (yes/not yet)?
  10. He is often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything except liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly dishonest and selfish (yes/not yet)?
  11. He often possesses special abilities, skills, and aptitudes, and has a promising career ahead of him (yes/not yet)?
  12. He uses his gifts to build up a bright outlook for his family and himself, and then pulls the structure down on his head by a senseless series of sprees (yes/not yet)?
  13. He is the fellow who goes to bed so intoxicated he ought to sleep the clock around (yes/not yet)?
  14. Yet early next morning he searches madly for the bottle he misplace the night before (yes/not yet)?
  15. If he can afford it, he may have liquor concealed all over his house to be certain no one gets his entire supply away from him to throw down the wastepipe (yes/not yet)?
  16. As matters grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to work (yes/not yet)?
  17. Then comes the day when he simply cannot make it and gets drunk all over again (yes/not yet)?
  18. Perhaps he goes to a doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with which to taper off (yes/not yet)?
  19. Then he begins to appear at hospitals and sanitariums (yes/not yet)?
  20. This is by no means a comprehensive picture of the true alcoholic, as our behavior patterns vary. But this description should identify him roughly (yes/not yet)? (p. 20-22, A.A. 4th Edition)

3. If you are satisfied that the prospect is a real alcoholic (addict)…

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 (drug or acting out in a obsessive-complusive manner) prevents normal functioning of the will power. (p. 92, A.A. 4th Edition)

Men and women drink (use, act out in an obsessive-compulsive manner) essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol (drugs, obsessive-compulsive behavior). The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic (addict) life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks–drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery. (p. xxviii, A.A. 4th Edition)


The fact is that most alcoholics (addicts), for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink (obsessive-compulsive acts). Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink (obsessive-compulsive act). (p. 24 A.A. 4th Edition)

If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic (addict). If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer. (p. 44, A.A. 4th Edition)

Lack of power, that was our dilemma. we had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? (p. 45, A.A. 4th Edition)

4. Your next job is to tell the prospect how we have recovered from our addiction/s.

Tell him exactly what happened 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. (p. 93, A.A. 4th Edition)

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 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 (addicts) 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. (p. 94, A.A. 4th Edition)

5. Our job now is to start your prospect on his/her journey to recovery by taking the twelve steps.

Ask him/her:

  1. Do you want to quit – forever?
  2. Are you convinced you cannot quit on our own accord? Are you beyond human aid?
  3. Are you willing to believe in a higher power of your understanding?
  4. Are you willing to go to this higher power in a way that makes sense to you and ask for help, calmly and without any reservations?
  5. Are you willing to go to any lengths for a solution?

If they can answer yes to all five questions, then they are ready to take certain steps.

To show other alcoholics (addicts) precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary. (p. xiii, A.A. 4th Edition)

6. Guide the newcomer through a personalized one on one study of the original, undiluted 12 step program described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, from the Title Page all the way through to page 164 until he/she is solid in living our Program and maintaining a fit spiritual condition.

You can substitute terms and phrases related to alcoholism to include ALL obsessive, compulsive patterns such as drinking alcohol, using drugs, gambling, sex, self-harm or injury, food, anorexia, bulimia, sugar, smoking/nicotine, co-dependency etc., anyone can certainly increase this list and all are welcome to recover if they are willing, honest and open-minded about it.

7. Once your prospect has effectively passed the program of recovery on to another suffering addict, you will have done your job and know joy of living, which is giving that others may live.

It has been suggested that two recovered addicts work with the newcomer. It’s advantages are preparedness, safety in numbers, efficiency, good presentation, and better follow-up. Two recovered addicts can plan and follow a better course of action than one. Paired up, we lessen the element of danger and provide work for a younger less experienced recovered addict. The prospect gets to identify with two experiences of the program. Follow-up is more complete.

An older member with a successful record of working with addicts never works alone. He or she always calls in a younger person to help. The results have been helpful for the prospect and for the less experienced recovered addict who, in turn, make this practice his or her own future approach to the newcomer.

8. Continue to work the steps and teach others how to work the steps. Continue to work with suffering addicts and guide them through a personalized one on one study of the original, undiluted 12 step program described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.


Dr. Bob took the matter of working with other alcoholics very seriously. A.A. History shows that Dr. Bob helped approximately 5,000 alcoholics experience the Promises of the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous–averaging more than one new alcoholic every day over a 10 year period up until his death in 1950!

The Program of Alcoholics Anonymous works if we work it! We die if we don’t!

Remember we recover by the 12 steps we take, not the number of meetings we make!