(Everyone has permission to copy this but it is forbidden to sell this workbook for profit) The First Step
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous never tells us directly how to work the first two steps. In the portion of "How It Works" read at many meetings, we hear “Our description of the Alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas. That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives, that probably no human power could have relieved us of our alcoholism, and that God could and would if He were sought.” [Pages 58-60]
What is not read is the sentence which follows. "Being convinced, we were at Step Three.” Convinced of what? "Convinced of these three pertinent ideas.” And how do we get convinced? We read the description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and the personal experiences before and after, they are specifically designed to make these ideas clear. In the original manuscript, it said
that if we were not convinced, “we ought to reread the book to this point or else throw it away.”
So we compare our experiences; the way we thought, felt, and drank [or used] with the experiences of the people described in the book, this is how we take steps one and two. This may create a problem for the modern reader. The English of today is significantly different from that of 1939 when this book was published. If you have ever tried to read Shakespeare, you are perhaps aware of the effect time may have upon language. Going through the Big Book in the way described here should help you overcome this language problem, and give you an understanding of the Big Book which is reflected in your own experience. You will begin to see the Big Book in a new light, and perhaps it will have real meaning in your own life today.
Much of this workbook consists of statements from the Big Book which have been turned into questions. We found it helpful to view the book in this light rather than as a book of answers; the answers you will find only in your own experience, and within your own heart. For the sake of clarity, some questions are paraphrased rather than directly quoted. As you go through and answer these
questions avoid “one word” answers. If there is something you relate to, describe it, and ask yourself “what was my experience with this? “Did this happen to me? Did I feel like this? Think like this? or Drink/use like this?” This is not a “homework assignment” where we try to get through it as quickly as we can with a minimum effort. If you are really an alcoholic, or a drug addict, having an understanding of the first step means the difference between life and death. This workbook is set up to be used by alcoholics and drug addicts. However some, of us thought we were only alcoholics or only addicts, and later discovered we were both. We ask you only to try to
keep an open mind.
This workbook is not meant to replace the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is meant to be used along with it. Read through the book as you answer each question. The authors hope you will find this way of working the steps as enlightening as we have. Because of the difficulty all of us have had in keeping an open mind, we began with this prayer:
"The Set Aside Prayer"
"God please set aside everything I think I know about myself, recovery,
You and the Twelve Steps; that I might have an open mind"
The First Step
The Physical Allergy
There are three parts to Step One. The first part deals with the physical allergy. This means that after we have the first drink and/or drug, we lose control over how much we drink or use after that. Many of us have experienced this when we decided we were going to the bar for a couple of beers, and wound up staying until closing time. With Cocaine, perhaps we decided we were going to stash some “for the weekend,” or “invest in some” to sell, and were amazed when the sun rose the next morning on yet another empty bag of cocaine.
“The Doctors Opinion”
Questions - Page xxiii to Page 1
1. a. Are you the type of alcoholic and/or addict who failed completely with other methods of trying to stay permanently sober, or trying to control your drinking or using?
b. What have you tried?
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2. Were you ever told you could not control your drinking/using because you had some form of a mental disorder?
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3. Does the Doctor's theory that you have an allergy to alcohol and/or drugs explain why you cannot control how much you drink or use once you start?
Page xxiv, Paragraph 3
4. a. When you put alcohol and/or drugs into your body, is there a craving for more?
b. Has this craving happened to you with alcohol? With drugs?
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5. a. Can you use alcohol and/or drugs in any form without craving more?
b. Have you formed the habit and if so, can you break it on your own?
c. Have you lost your self-confidence?
d. Can you rely on any human power to save you?
e. Have your problems piled up on you and become astonishingly difficult to solve?
Page xxvi, Paragraph 1
6. a. Was frothy emotional appeal enough to keep you sober permanently? [like someone begging you to stop]
b. If something can keep you sober must it have depth and weight? [Do you think "Just Say No" or "Just don't drink or use, no matter what" or “Do hugs not drugs” is going to have enough depth and weight?]
Page xxvi, Paragraph 2
7. a. Did you drink and/or drug for the effect produced by alcohol and/or drugs?
b. What effect did alcohol and/or drugs have, meaning what did they do for you?
c. Was the effect so great that after a time, even though you knew it was bad for you, you could not tell the true from the false?
[Like “investing in” cocaine to sell, going to the bar for a couple of beers.]
d. Did your life seem the only normal one for you? [For example: The first time you wreck a car, overdose, get arrested, or wake up covered in your own vomit is abnormal - by the twentieth time, it's normal.]
e. Did you experience a “sense of ease and comfort” when you drank or used?
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Page xxvii, Top Paragraph
8. a. Have you ever said to yourself or someone else, "I must stop," but you couldn't?
b. Have you ever tried to stop, or control your using on your own?
Page xxvii, Paragraph 2
9. Are you the type of addict and/or alcoholic with whom the psychological approach; treatment centers, detox, counseling,
therapy, etc. failed? Page xxvii, Paragraph 3
10. Did you only drink and/or drug when things were going bad, when you were under stress and needed to escape; or did you also drink and/or drug when things were going good? Page xxvii, Paragraph 4
Page xxviii, Paragraph 1
11. a. Do you believe the only solution for this physical allergy is to never pick up the first one?
b. Can you do that [stay sober permanently] on your own?
Page xxviii, Paragraph 5
Questions - Pages 1-16
12. a. Did you ever see yourself as a leader?
b. Did you ever imagine you would become someone great, managing "vast enterprises with utmost assurance?"
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13. Did you ever feel you had to prove to the world that you were important?
Early on, did alcohol and/or drugs take an important and fun part of your life?
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14. a. Over time, did your drinking and/or drugging assume more serious proportions?
b. Did the warnings of your friends or family end in arguments and fights?
c. Did you begin drinking and/or using alone?
d. Were there many unhappy scenes in your home?
e. Did you begin to drink and/or use in the morning?
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15. Did you become an unwelcome hanger on at your job? At the bar? At the crack-house?
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16. a. Did alcohol and/or drugs at some point cease to be a luxury and become a necessity?
b. Did things gradually get worse, but did you still think you could control the situation?
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17. Did you lose your house, car, or other possessions?
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18. a. Did you make comebacks; only to screw it up again by getting loaded?
b. Did you ever decide to quit for good?
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19. a. Did this work? [Deciding to quit for good] or did you get loaded again, even though you promised yourself you would not? [Breaking the pipe, needle, or bottle at 5:00 A.M.]
b. Did you begin to wonder if you were crazy?
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20. Were there times when you stayed sober, or controlled drinking and/or drugs, only to be followed by a worse relapse? When?
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21. a. Did you feel a sense of impending calamity, like something bad was always about to happen?
b. Did you drink and/or drug yourself into a state of oblivion at these times?
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22. a. Has this, or did this, go on for years?
b. Did you think of suicide?
c. Did you try mixing "heavy sedatives" [downers] with the alcohol and/or other drugs?
d. Did you lose lots of weight?
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23. Did you go to a detox, a treatment center, or seek counseling?
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24. a. Did you gain knowledge about yourself, learn your relapse triggers, get in touch with your feelings?
b. Did “self knowledge” alone work, or did you get loaded again?
b. Did you return to detox, a treatment center, or counseling again? How many times?
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26. a. Did you feel loneliness, despair and self pity?
b. Did you ever feel that alcohol and/or drugs were your master?
c. Did this scare you, were you afraid?
d. Did this fear keep you sober, or did you drink and/or drug again?
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27. a. Has your human will failed you? [did you really “decide” to start drinking or using again, or did you just convince yourself it was your decision so you could feel like you were still in control?]
b. Are you ready to admit complete defeat? What meaning does this have for you?
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There is a Solution
Questions - Pages 17-23
28. a. Have you come to believe you suffer from an illness? Physical, Mental, Spiritual?
b. Did it engulf all whose lives touched you?
c. Did it bring misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parents?
d. If you can increase this list, how would you add to it?
Type 1 The Moderate Drinker/Drug User. We have all known people who would have a glass of wine with dinner and leave half of it on the table; or after a couple of drinks say something like, “Oh I’m starting to feel this, I’d better not have any more.” There were also people who could stash a gram of cocaine indefinitely , or did a couple of lines and quit because they had to go to work.
29. a. Do you have little trouble quitting entirely if given good reason?
b. Can you take it or leave it alone?
c. Does this describe you, or do you know people like this?
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Type 2 The Hard Drinker/Drug User.There were those people too, who we drank or used with, who were able to keep up with us. They drank as much as we did, used the same drugs we did, but something happened which caused them to stop or moderate on their own. Perhaps they got married, had a child, got a DUI, or went back to school. They grew out of it, while we continued to grow into
it. Though they may have drank or used as much or more than we did, they are very different from a real alcoholic or drug addict.
30. a. If a Doctor, employer, judge or probation officer told you to stop for good, could you do it?
b. If you fell in love, and she/he told you to stop for good could you do it?
c. If you moved to a different place, could you stop forever?
d. Does this describe you, or do you know people who did stop for reasons like these?
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31. Type 3 The Real Alcoholic/Drug Addict
Did you at some stage of your drinking and/or drugging lose control of the amount once you started?
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32. a. Did you do absurd, incredible, and tragic things while drinking and/or using?
d. Was the person you became when drunk or high very different from who you were sober; if so how?
e. Did you become dangerously anti-social when loaded?
f. Did you have a knack for getting loaded at the worst possible time?
g. Are you incredibly selfish and dishonest where alcohol and/or drugs are involved?
h. Do you use your gifts to build up a bright future, just to screw it up by getting loaded again?
i. Do you go to bed loaded, and wake up looking for a bottle, a joint or the “rest of” the cocaine or crystal?
j. Did you stash alcohol and/or drugs around the house so nobody would get it all?
k. Did you mix drugs with alcohol just so you could function?
l. Does this description [roughly] sound like you? In what ways?
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33. Does your experience abundantly confirm that once you put any alcohol and/or drugs into your system, something happens
which makes it virtually impossible for you to stop?
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34. Based on your own experience, have you discovered your own truth, are you an real alcoholic; a drug addict, both; do you have this physical allergy? Page 23, Paragraph 4
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The First Step
Part Two - The Mental Obsession
Questions - Pages 23-43
The second part of Step One deals with the mental obsession. This simply means that no matter how bad it was the last time we got drunk or high, no matter how much we have to lose, no matter how much we want to quit forever; on our own unaided will; we will always drink and/or use again. Bill Wilson compares this to putting your hand on a hot stove over and over again. It is not a matter of
“learning our lesson,” if it were, wouldn’t we have learned it long ago? This is the kind of lesson we never learn. We just keep doing it over and over again; until we die. Before you move on to the mental obsession, make sure you are absolutely clear on the physical allergy. Remember, this is not about just telling other people what you think they want to hear, it’s about what you really believe is true for you.
35. a. Having acknowledged that you cannot control the amount you drink or use after the first one, do you agree that this is all beside the point if you never take it?
b. Therefore, is it obvious that the main problem centers in your mind rather than in your body?
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36. Have you tried to assert your willpower to stay stopped; did it work?
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37. Are you powerless over whether you will take the first one, have you lost control over staying stopped?
Page 23, Paragraph 4
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38. a. Have you lost the power of choice over alcohol and/or drugs?
b. Were you sometimes unable to remember the suffering and humiliation of what happened the last time you started to drink and/or use?
c. Are you without any mental defense against the first drink and/or drug?
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39. a. In the past, before you took the first one, did the knowledge of what might happen stop you?
b. Based on your own experience, is there any reason why “thinking through the first one” will ever work in the future?
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40. a. Do you think like this, meaning that you cannot seem to remember how bad it was the last time, or if you do remember, you somehow convince yourself you can handle it this time?
b. Do you agree that this places you beyond human aid? Why? Page 24, Paragraph 4
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41. Do you believe anything less than a miracle [a spiritual experience] will save you?
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42. Do you have any choice but to die an alcoholic or addict’s death or accept spiritual help?
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43. Do you think everything you have learned about yourself and your disease so far will save you from relapse?
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More About Alcoholism
Questions - Pages 30-43
44. In the past, have you been unwilling to admit you are a real alcoholic and or drug addict, meaning that you could not control the amount you take when you start, and/or stay stopped for good on your own power ?
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45. a. Have you fully conceded to your innermost self that you are an alcoholic and/or a drug addict?
b. What does being an alcoholic and or addict mean to you?
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46. a. Based on your past experience, do you think you will ever be able to control how much you drink or use in the future?
b. Did you at times feel you were regaining control?
c. Were such times usually brief and always followed by less control?
d. Did this lead in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization?
The third part of the First Step deals with the unmanageability of the spirit. Why is it that no matter what the consequences, we always end up taking the first drink or doing the first line? Without something to take the place of alcohol or drugs in our lives, we are + doomed. Many of us thought that if we could just stay off the booze and/or drugs, life would be wonderful; but we later discovered this was not so. Abstinence from drinking or using alone, without working the steps may feel good for a while. But it’s much like peeing in your pants on a really cold day; it feels nice and warm for a while, but when the cold wind blows it obviously is not a long term solution.
We become so “restless, irritable and discontent” that after a time, we cannot imagine how getting drunk or high could make us feel any worse, and so we do. We must somehow find a way to “experience a sense of ease and comfort” WITHOUT drinking and/or taking drugs. This “spiritual unmanageability” is what the other eleven steps treat. “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” [page 64] This part of Step One, unmanageability, has nothing to do with God, just us on our own power trying
to run our own lives drunk or sober.
56. a. Do you thoroughly understand the difference between the alcoholic and/or addict and people who just drink or use too much?
b. What is the difference?
c. Do you believe you're suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer?