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Bill & Lois’ Christmas Message
December 1970

“Gratitude is just about the finest attribute we can have, and how deeply we of AA realize this at Christmastime. Together, we count and ponder our blessings of life, of service, of love.

In these distraught times, we have been enabled to find an always increasing measure of peace within ourselves. Together will all here at AA’s General Service Office, Lois joins me in warmest greetings to each and all of you, and we share our confident faith that the year to come will be counted among the best that our Fellowship has ever known.”
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Humility
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Honesty
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Kindness

Kindness first comes up in the Big Book in its discussion of Step 3 and the problem of self-will. We read there that “Most people try to live by self-propulsion.” Each person is compared to “an actor who wants to run the whole show,” and “is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way,” convinced that, if they all did as he wished, the show would be great and everybody would be happy. “In trying to make these arrangements, our actor may be quite virtuous,” we’re told. “He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing.”

But is he really being virtuous? Does the fact that he acts kindly in a given instance make him a kind person? Not at all. Even the cruelest person can act kindly at times—especially if it serves his purpose. In acting kindly, our actor only appears to be virtuous. He’s motivated by a desire to have people follow his script and dance to his tune. In Aristotelian terms, he’s acting “according to virtue” rather than “out of virtue.” He’s acting “as if,” not in order to become “as is,” but in order to get people to do what he wants.

Not surprisingly, people see through his ploy. They resist him. The show doesn’t go very well. The harder he tries, the more he fails. He becomes “angry, indignant, and self-pitying,” which emotions confirm he was “acting” (in the fraudulent sense of the word) all along and not really being virtuous. It was all a façade. Hence the Big Book’s conclusion by way of a rhetorical question: “Is he really not a self-seeker even when trying to be kind?”

“Our actor is self-centered,” says the Big Book, and self-centeredness is antithetical to virtue. Indeed, all the virtues are geared to wean us away from self-centeredness, away from seeing everything primarily in terms of our own self-interest and, consequently, acting at the expense of everyone else.

Everybody thinks of kindness as a good quality. Yet, as a virtue, kindness is not easy to grasp. On the one hand, the term can be generalized to the point of making it nothing more than being “nice.” On the other hand, the term can be conflated with other virtues. The reason for this is that kindness doesn’t stand alone but works with a number of overlapping and related virtues.

Step 4 of the Big Book groups kindness with three of these virtues: tolerance, patience, and pity (compassion). Together, these four virtues are offered as an antidote to anger and resentment. As they become ingrained in our character, they enable us to see those who wrong us in radically different terms: as being spiritual ill. “Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done . . . We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one” (all italics ours). . .

Posted 11/02/16 in “Practice These” at http://practicetheseprinciplesthebook.com/. For full text, as well as quotes and additional resources, please click on link.
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AA Speaker Tim H. on Steps 8 and 9

Using deeply moving stories from his own experience, Tim H. shows how he made amends to those he had harmed and how this changed his life and restored his relationships with people. A simple and ordinary talk, but one that shows the transformational power of the amends process. Given at the 21st Annual AA Fall Men’s Retreat in Vancouver, Canada, 9/20/09 (53:51). Posted 10/08/16 at "Audios & Videos" at http://practicetheseprinciplesthebook.com/. To hear tape there, please click on link
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Forgiveness
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“Bill W. on the X Factor in Recovery: Spiritual Experience and the Grace of God.”

The X Factor is what Dr. Foster Kennedy (BB’s “The Medical View on A.A.,” p. 569) said his friends in science called what to them was an unknown force at work in the recovery of alcoholics. Bill W. (and the BB and 12&12) identify it as the grace of God. That's what makes possible the spiritual experience that restores us to sanity. Bill addresses the question: If grace is available in religion, why has religion failed the alcoholic? Using a well-known metaphor, he explains that AA plants the seed and God makes it grow. But for it to grow, the seed needs the proper climate, soil, and light. That’s the environment Jung counselled Rowland H. to plant himself in, and that’s what, through Ebby's and Bill's own experience in the Oxford Group, AA learned to provide. Hence its emphasis on “a faith that works.” Talk given in 1966 (42:14).
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Hope
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AA Speaker and Co-Founder Bill W. 18th Anniversary Dinner.

As his 18th sober anniversary nears, Bill W. speaks on the theme of love and service, two principles which are central to Step 12. This is where “we experience the kind of giving that asks no rewards,” and “the kind of love that has no price tag on it.” He honors two men who exemplified this kind of loving and giving and explains why he considers them to be among the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. One was a man of science, “the little doctor who loved alcoholics;” the other the libertine-turned saint who we’re told in Step 11 had gone “through the emotional wringer.” In a brief personal narrative, he shares some of the experiences of shame which he tried to compensate for by always trying to prove himself to the world. This gave him the “fierce determination to win” which would drive him as an alcoholic. Talk given in NY 11/10/52 (41:33). Posted 11/12/16 at "Audios & Videos" at http://practicetheseprinciplesthebook.com/. To hear tape there, please click on link
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Gratitude
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Practice These Principles: The Virtue of Generosity
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Big Book Q&A Update: Personal Stories

This update is on stories from the book Experience, Strength and Hope, a collection of stories not published in the current, 4th edition of the Big Book. Update includes “The Back Slider,” A Different Slant,” “A Businessman’s Recovery,” and “A Feminine Victory,” the Q&A’s for which are reproduced below.

A Feminine Victory

A. P16
1. L1: Why “the rather doubtful distinction?” – There was a greater stigma attached to women alcoholics at the time
2. L2-3: The author of this story refers to herself as “the only lady in our particular section.” Who was she? – Florence Rankin
3. Why “the only lady” – There were hardly any women in AA when she wrote her story
4. How many women had been around AA at the time? – Four
5. Who were they? – A woman known as “Lil” in Akron, Florence Rankin, Mary Campbell, and Marty Mann
6. Who had the longest time sober? – Florence, who after a few slips managed to put together a year at the time of writing
7. Marty M. is credited with being the first woman to achieve long-term sobriety in AA. Why is this? – Florence committed suicide not long after her story was published, and Mary Campbell had a relapse in 1944, though she stopped drinking again and remained sober until her death in the 1990’s
8. Florence affected how the Big Book would eventually be named. How? – One of the most popular names was “One Hundred Men,” and it had to be discarded when she showed up
9. How does the stigma of being a female drunk affect Florence’s telling of her story? – She stresses her condition being “disgraceful,” and a “humiliation,” feeling “ashamed” and wanting “to hide.”
10. Cross-reference: “Women Suffer Too,” Marty M.’s story, above, P.200 #1[Also reference to 100 men]

B. P19
1. L25: “I was in the alcoholic ward of a public hospital!” – What hospital was this? – Bellevue Hospital in NYC, not far from the Oxford Group Mission where Ebby T. and Bill W. got sober
2. L26: “It was there that L___ came to me.” Who was “L”? – Louise Wilson
3. LL30-31: “There her husband told me the secret of his rebirth.” – Who was this? – Bill W.
4. Why “rebirth”? – Bill saw the spiritual experience that led to his recovery as a spiritual rebirth.
5. Where in the Big Book does is this connection between spiritual experience or awakening and spiritual rebirth made explicit? – In How It Works, p. 63: “We were reborn,” mentioned as one of the promises of Step 3.
6. Why do some AAs object to this expression? – Because of its religious association with being “born again”

C. P21
1. LL12-13: “So I forsook Spirit in favor of “spirits.” There’s an allusion here to a famous expression that is key to the history and the program of AA. What is it? – “Spiritus contra spiritum”
2. Who is it attributed to? – Dr. Carl Jung
3. Where do we read about it? –In Dr. Jung’s response to Bill’s letter, where Bill tells the doctor how his advice to Rowland H. to seek spiritual help has inspired the idea of a movement to help alcoholics
4. Where in the Big Book do we read about Rowland’s experience with Jung? – In the chapter “There’s a Solution,” pp. 26-27
5. What does the expression mean? – Literally, “Spirit against spirits”
6. What’s the connection to alcoholism? – Explains Jung: “You see, ‘alcohol’ in Latin is ‘spiritus’ and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum.”
7. LL33-34: “I got the Bible and “Victorious Living’.” – What is the second reference to? – A devotional book popular in Akron AA, read by Dr. Bob and his wife Anne. Its title may have inspired the title of Florence’s story
8. Cross-references for Jung: Correspondence with Bill: The Language of the Heart, pp. 276-281. Other: Foreword to Second Edition, The Doctor’s Opinion, P XXIX, LL7-9; Chapter 2: There Is a Solution, P26, L3; Personal Stories, “Me an Alcoholic?” P386, LL8-9. Bill-Jung correspondence may also be read at [link]

D. P22
1. L23: “I was taken back to B’s home.” Who was B? – Bill W.
2. Where was his home? – At 182 Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, NYC

The above are excerpts from Big Book Q&A update posted 09/29/16 at http://practicetheseprinciplesthebook.com/. For full post, please click on link and see "Big Book Q&A,” where text of updated entries are in red. For photos of some authors, see album "Big Book Stories and Their Authors" on this Facebook page.
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Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery
Introduction

Most of us in long-term recovery know the Steps so well that we could easily rattle them off from memory, wrapping up our recitation with the familiar “and practice these principles in all our affairs.” But what are “these principles?”

Exactly what principles are the Steps calling us to practice? Which principles do we practice when working a particular Step? Faced with any number of situations in our daily lives, how readily do we discern the principles involved, and how well then do we live them out?

In AA practicing “these principles” is the fulfillment of the 12 Steps. It is the program’s prescription for the good life, a life of spiritual growth and emotional sobriety that we share with our fellows, helping to bring healing to the alcoholic and to others who suffer in our midst.

Yet, though crucial to recovery, many of us are not really sure what these principles are, and their connection to the Steps remains a gray area, in AA and probably in other fellowships as well. 

This uncertainty spills over into another and related gray area: the relationship between the spiritual, the moral, and the emotional in recovery, and how these are tied to character growth.

Because these links too are unclear, emotional sobriety remains a distant and elusive goal for many of us long after we have stopped drinking. We may be sober (or clean, or otherwise abstinent), but our lives are at best manageable and tolerable—sometimes not even that.

Practice These Principles brings clarity to the relationship between Steps and principles, offering a comprehensive understanding of what these principles are and how we can practice them in our daily affairs. Its purpose is to help us work the Steps in all their fullness so that we can grow in character, achieve spiritual and emotional healing, and see the Promises fulfilled at last in a life that is “happy, joyous, and free.”

– From Book's Back Cover

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