You want to know how to really piss off people in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? Tell them that you can take a person through all twelve steps in one day. They’ll look at you like you just announced that you’re running an adolescent sweat shop out of your basement. And why is that? How is it that what worked magnificently for our co-founders and hundreds who followed them is now viewed as heresy? Why has Alcoholics Anonymous developed such an aversion to simplicity?
This is not to say that everyone entering A.A. ought to work the steps in a day. But everyone should undoubtedly know that they can. I have successfully taken at least a dozen people through the steps in less than twenty-four hours and dozens more within a week or two. If assisting in the production of a one-day spiritual awakening is of interest to you, here is the simple design our basic text suggests.
Let us assume that the prospect shows up at your home around 9am to begin the work.
Using a fourth addition, have your prospect read the first full paragraph on XXVI in “The Doctor’s Opinion.” This will explain the physical allergy. If they can identify with the phenomenon of craving, have them the read the last paragraph on XXVI detailing the mental obsession. If they can identify being roped back to the first drink as a product of restlessness, irritability and discontent, let them know that they have the data necessary to diagnose themselves alcoholic. Then have them turn to page 30 and read the first step directions in the second paragraph. If they are prepared to smash the delusion that they are ready for step 2.
Turning to page 12, about halfway through “Bill’s Story,” the first four paragraphs will demonstrate Bill’s journey from a seeming resistance to God to the freedom that a mere willingness to believe was more than sufficient. Turning to page 47, we find our second step directions summed up in “one short question.” If the prospect can say that they believe, or are willing to believe, in the existence of a power greater than human power, they are ready to make a decision.
Let your prospect know that the third step is, in effect, a choice between steps one and two. If the deadly cycle of alcoholism is where they’d like to continue living, they can go out and continue their research. If, on the other hand, a life of spirit is the path they wish to pursue, have them say the third step prayer aloud. Offer to them that saying this prayer each morning might be useful and lead them down to the last two lines on 63 where the program of action begins. There is no reason more than an hour should have elapsed at this point.
It is 10:00am and they have completed the preparation steps which ought to have had an effect- but an effect is not a change. No changes have occurred to this point. Now that we understand the problem, have located the solution and made a decision to turn our will and lives over to God, we will take a look at the blockages that have been keeping us from accomplishing that task.
First of all, steps four and five can be worked in one sitting as a single unit. This is very much in keeping with the work of our pioneers, many of whom were still shaking too much to hold a pencil, wherein the sponsor would write down the items while the prospect talked. The three components which comprise a proper fourth step are clearly laid out in the last paragraph on page 64 (resentments), the last paragraph on page 67 (fear) and the second full paragraph on page 69 (harms). A comprehensive list of who we hate, who we’ve hurt and what we’re scared of is not a complicated list. Every person has this data available to be disclosed in short order. Owning these things may be frightening, it may be painful- but it is not complicated. If reluctance slows your pace, that is fine. But with the fearlessness demanded in our literature for successful completion of this work, there is no one who needs more than three hours to define the patterns of what is blocking them from the love of their higher power.
Be sure to have the prospect read the last five lines on page 72 (“Into Action”) through the end of the paragraph on page 73 that they may grasp the critical mistake of consciously omitting information from this process. If they feel confident that they have been entirely transparent, point them to the last paragraph on page 75 suggesting 60 minutes of gratitude and review. Figuring in lunch and a bathroom break or two, we ought to be looking at approximately 3:00pm.
Now we turn the page and read the first paragraph on 76, where the prospect will be asked whether they are ready to be relieved of these liabilities and whether they believe that their higher power can accomplish this task. Assuming their response is in the affirmative; we look to the next paragraph and find the seventh step prayer. The prospect declares his desire to be free of his character defects, adds this prayer to their morning routine, and prepares to shift their focus from cleansing themselves to repairing relationships with their fellows. It would be safe to say that, at this point, the clock has not passed 3:30
The third paragraph on page 76 will charge the prospect to make a conclusive list of the way in which they has harmed others. As the majority of this data is already available via their moral inventory, this should be a swift and simple process lasting no more than an hour. For the next half hour, alert your prospect to the five types of amends attended to in the book: the first paragraph on page 77 (people we dislike), the final paragraph on page 77 onto page 78 (people who have harmed us as well), the second full paragraph on page 78 (financial amends), the last paragraph on page 78 (criminal amends) and the third paragraph on page 83 (except when to do so might injure them or others.)
It is approximately 5pm. Our prospect needs to make at least their first amend before moving into the maintenance and growth steps and probably could use some dinner. We have them locate an amend (or two) that can be made over the next two or three hours. Our prospect agrees to return at 8pm to complete their work.
Upon their return, we will spend the next hour laying out for them the five spiritual directives we must regularly employ to earn our daily reprieve and remain spiritually fit.
First, we point out that on page 84, it is made clear that our spiritual awakening has now taken place (“We have entered the world of the spirit”). Halfway through the second full paragraph on the page, we are given our tenth step directions (spiritual directive number one), where we are told to regularly be turning over our selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear to both a higher power as well as another person.
We then turn to page 86 for our second and third spiritual directive in the eleventh step. In the second paragraph on 86, we are told to ask and answer ten simple questions every evening before sleep. In the third paragraph on 86, we are told to begin every morning with prayer and mediation. With this agreement to frame every day with God, we are given our fourth spiritual directive in the last three lines on page 87, continuing on to 88, dictating that we must stay connected to God throughout the day by using our shorthand prayer, “Thy will be done.”
Finally, we turn to chapter 7, where we see the fifth, and most important of our five spiritual directives- carrying this message to the still sick and suffering. The chapter goes to great lengths in explaining how to properly carry the message, most specifically in the first paragraph on page 94 where we are given our sponsorship directives detailing the six key points we need share with someone we have agreed to sponsor.
Finally, you might refer them to page 25 having them read the first two full paragraphs that they may see that the solution promised has become the reality of their existence.
It is 9pm; twelve hours since they began this work. They are recovered. They are free. They have entered the sunlight of the spirit.
For those who continue to doubt, I can say only refer you to the quote located at the bottom of the second appendix attending to the dangers of contempt prior to investigation.
I would never deny anyone crossing the threshold into our rooms of recovery the opportunity to choose whatever path feels appropriate to meet their needs. But I will forever fight tooth and nail to see to it that each one of them has the true message of Alcoholics Anonymous available to them as one of those choices.