The AA Promises are found in the chapter titled “Into Action” of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. There is no formal “The Promises” that the writers of the book have laid out for us; they come from the sentence that reads “Are these extravagant promises?.”

The AA Big Book PromisesAcknowledging that, the “promises” are a type of “gauge” recovering alcoholics often use to take the pulse of our progress. Alcoholics (and even the people we surround ourselves with) live much of our lives watching others to see how we’re supposed to act. Not that we decided to actually “do it right”, we just often compare ourselves to others and judge ourselves, often very severely, by what “they” are doing or not doing. Ah, the elusive “they”.

I’d like to take a look at those Promises here.

  1. “We will be amazed before we are halfway through.” — Now, some don’t put this in the “promises”, but I do.  Why? Hope. Plain and simple. We can give ourselves permission to hope again. And not after years and years but “before we are halfway through”. I needed that.
  2. “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” — Talk about paradox. Many an alcoholic chased what we thought would bring us happiness but ended up imprisoned by our desires. Recovery brought us the discovery that we were doing it backwards. And just in case you’re one of them that says they’ve “tried it and it doesn’t work”, just trust me: you won’t recognize it at first. It’s new. And this one comes after only just a little bit of recovery.
  3. “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” — Ok. This one takes a little more time and a LOT more work. Yes, I won’t sugar-coat recovery. There are things we must do in order to get what we’ve never had. Our past is what fueled much of our continued drinking. And the more we drank, the more “past” we had to forget. The 12 steps are designed to get us through this.
  4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.” — Serenity? Peace? Alcoholics and their families only know one word: CHAOS. You may be familiar with the old story about the frog swimming in a pot of water. As the water slowly comes to a boil, the frog doesn’t jump out because he adapts to the small changes in temperature. And he cooks to death. The tragedy lies in the familiar. We’ve lived in chaos so long that it seems normal to us. It doesn’t have to be that way.
  5. “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away.” — The last thing an active alcoholic is interested in is anybody else. Not that we have no feelings for others. After all, we have relationships, we marry, care about our children. But the drink is our lover. We think about it, plan around it, nurture it, won’t go anywhere it won’t be but if we have to, we’ll drink before we go. We “go to any lengths” to keep it in our lives. When taken altogether, that’s a lot to turn around. When taken a day at a time, it can be and has been done no matter how much we’ve messed up. You might even want to start a blog so others can benefit!
  6. “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.” — Ever been afraid of the mailbox? The telephone? No? So as an active drinker, you look forward to getting your bills? How about legal notices or calls from their lawyer? What about facing your family, friends, co-workers? It’s easy to outrun bill collectors, but not quite as easy to outrun the hurt/angry/disappointed/tired looks from your family. This can all change. I repeat. This can all change. It is possible. It happened to me.
  7. “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.” — Now this is funny! ME? EVERYTHING baffles me! And I only knew of one way to handle it…run the other way! That was MY intuition! The people I’d surrounded myself with LIKED to take care of things for me. They must because they’d let me know I couldn’t possibly be able to take care of myself by always getting me out of scrapes. And when that last person finally walked away, I found this promise and held on tight. Today it’s a reality.
  8. “We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” — I’d always felt God was too busy for me. He knew what I was doing but since I was pretty much useless, I never felt He had time for me. But when I finally got to the end of myself, God was there to bring me along. I heard in meetings not to give up before the miracle happens. I think this is what they were talking about.

“Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us-sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Don’t quit. Hang in there. Place one foot in front of the other. Put your energy into today and don’t borrow tomorrow’s trouble.  Pray because God is listening.  Surround yourself with healthy-thinking people.  Get involved in helping others even when you don’t feel like it.  Call someone who knows what you’re going through. And then do it again and again.

Turns out, they can say it because they’re right.

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Part One: IS IT OK TO BELIEVE AA’s 12-STEP PROMISES?I’ve been reflecting lately about the AA Promises. They are found in the chapter titled “Into Action” of theBig Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. There is no formal “The Promises” that the writers of the book have laid outfor us; they come from the sentence that reads “Are these extravagent promises? We think not.”  The “promises”are a type of “gauge” recovering alcoholics often use to take the pulse of our progress. Alcoholics (and eventhe people we surround themselves with) live much of our lives watching others to see how we’re supposed to 

act. Not that we decided to actually “do it right”, we just often compare ourselves to others and judge

ourselves, often very severely, by what “they” are doing or not doing. Ah, the elusive “they”.

Now, let’s take a look at them.

1.  “We will be amazed before we are halfway through.”
Now, some don’t put this in the “promises”, but I do.  Why? Hope. Plain and simple. We can give ourselves

permission to hope again. And not after years and years but “before we are halfway through”. I needed that.

2.  “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.”
Talk about paradox. Many an alcoholic chased what we thought would bring us happiness but ended up imprisoned

by our desires. Recovery brought us the discovery that we were doing it backwards. And just in case you’re one

of them that says they’ve “tried it and it doesn’t work”, just trust me: you won’t recognize it at first. It’s

new. And this one comes after only just a little bit of recovery.

3.  “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”
Ok. This one takes a little more time and a LOT more work. Yes, I won’t sugar-coat recovery. There are things

we must do in order to get what we’ve never had. Our past is what fueled much of our continued drinking. And

the more we drank, the more “past” we had to forget. The 12 steps are designed to get us through this. Trust

me.

4. “We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”
Serenity? Peace? Alcoholics and their families only know one word: CHAOS. You may be familiar with the old

story about the frog swimming in a pot of water. As the water slowly comes to a boil, the frog doesn’t jump out

because he adapts to the small changes in temperature. And he cooks to death. The tragedy lies in the familiar.

We’ve lived in chaos so long that it seems normal to us. It doesn’t have to be that way.

5. “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in

our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away.”
The last thing an active alcoholic is interested in is anybody else. Not that we have no feelings for others.

After all, we have relationships, we marry, care about our children. But the drink is our lover. We think about

it, plan around it, nurture it, won’t go anywhere it won’t be but if we have to, we’ll drink before we go. We

“go to any lengths” to keep it in our lives. When taken altogether, that’s a lot to turn around. When taken a

day at a time, it can be and has been done no matter how much we’ve messed up. You might even want to start a

blog so others can benefit!

6. “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave

us.”
Ever been afraid of the mailbox? The telephone? No? So as an active drinker, you look forward to getting your

bills? How about legal notices or calls from their lawyer? What about facing your family, friends, co-workers?

It’s easy to outrun bill collectors, but not quite as easy to outrun the hurt/angry/disappointed/tired looks

from your family. This can all change. I repeat. This can all change. It is possible. It happened to me.

7. “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.”
Now this is funny! ME? EVERYTHING baffles me! And I only knew of one way to handle it…run the other way! That

was MY intuition! The people I’d surrounded myself with LIKED to take care of things for me. They must because

they’d let me know I couldn’t possibly be able to take care of myself by always getting me out of scrapes. And

when that last person finally walked away, I found this promise and held on tight. Today it’s a reality.

8. “We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”
I’d always felt God was too busy for me. He knew what I was doing but since I was pretty much useless, I never

felt He had time for me. But when I finally got to the end of myself, God was there to bring me along. I heard

in meetings not to give up before the miracle happens. I think this is what they were talking about.

“Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us-sometimes quickly, sometimes

slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Don’t quit. Hang in there. Place one foot in front of the other. Put your energy into today and don’t borrow

tomorrow’s trouble.  Pray because God is listening.  Surround yourself with healthy-thinking people.  Get

involved in helping others even when you don’t feel like it.  Call someone who knows what you’re going through.

And then do it again and again.

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