Resources for my Sponsees and Newcomers

I thought I’d compile it all here in one place just a few bits of my own experience strength and hope — along with some resources — that I frequently share with newcomers and sponsees. The BEST PLACE to get the right information about your recovery, though, is at an AA meeting (what is a meeting?), in the A.A. literature, in The Grapevine, a monthly publication by recovering alcoholics participating in the Twelve Steps of A.A, and — of course — your sponsor. I am only sharing what’s worked for me in my experience, I do not speak for A.A. as a whole, or even a particular meeting or group. This is just my own personal experience, strength & hope.

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Bits & bobs

The Twelve Cliches (that actually bizarrely work)

  1. Don’t drink NO MATTER WHAT 
  2. Stay open-minded, stay humble
  3. Trust a power greater than yourself 
  4. Clean house
  5. Call your sponsor
  6. Get out of your head
  7. Ask for help
  8. First thing’s first & Easy Does It!
  9. Have an Attitude of Gratitude (as in make a gratitude list every day)
  10. Be rigorously honest
  11. Go to meetings ESPECIALLY when you DON’T feel like it – when you don’t WANT to go to a meeting is probably when you NEED it most
  12. Help others and be of service – this is a WE program!

How to strengthen your armor against that first drink: 

  1. Have a sponsor and use that sponsor
  2. Have a home group, and a familiarity with a number of possible meetings you could attend every day, so you don’t have to search hard for a meeting to attend in a pinch
  3. Build a network of friends who make you feel comfortable in 12 step recovery that you connect with often and can be vulnerable with in times of trouble
  4. Try the advice and suggestions of old timers out, especially when it comes from several. It can’t hurt! If it doesn’t work for you, at least you tried!
  5. Build habits so that you’re working your 12 step program in a meaningful way at least a little bit every day, so you’re never very far from the things that ground you.

If you’re craving, before you take that drink:

  1. Play the tape forward (okay, the first drink might not kill you, but what about when you get drunk, what about in the morning, remember your past consequences). Think… think… think… 
  2. Remember, this too shall pass
  3. Have you made a gratitude list today?
  4. Call your sponsor AND go to a meeting
  5. Use the one minute, one hour, one day at a time plan, and postpone the drink until tomorrow

If you’re feeling restless irritable or discontent, ask yourself:

  1. When I am disturbed, what am I contributing to the situation (maybe it’s as simple as I’m just stubbornly not exiting a situation I really should be)?
  2. Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today, how can I reframe the way I’m judging this situation to change my feelings?
  3. Am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired, and have I done all the things I need to do to take care of myself today, like make a gratitude list, take any medications I should have taken, showered, or done some physical exercise?
  4. Has someone in AA that I know gone through something similar, and can I ask them  or even my sponsor for advice, or even if I can vent to them?
  5. Can I help someone else who may be feeling even worse than I am today to get out of my head?

When you’re feeling your feelings and it’s a lot:

  1. Feelings are normal, natural, and human, but feelings arise out of a subjective judgment we make or a conclusion we come to in response to a stimulus or situation, and not all our judgements are going to be correct. In other words, “feelings aren’t fact.”
  2. Feelings – as uncomfortable and downright miserable as they can be – cannot cause us permanent injury or harm. And they eventually change. In other words, “this too shall pass.”
  3. Most things in life we have no control over – especially other people’s behaviors and judgements, the weather, traffic, or people standing in our way on the escalator, etc. – but we do have control over our own judgments, and if we’ve made a judgment or come to a conclusion causing us distress, we have the power to reassess that judgment, and rethink our take on that particular situation. So, instead of getting angry or upset over something we’ll never be able to control, and truly noone in our shoes would be able to control, why don’t we try acceptance? In other words, “accept life on life’s terms.”
  4. When we hit an unexpected detour in the path we’re on, we may mourn the loss of things we had been anticipating on that path. But we fail to consider there may be even better things coming our way down this diversion. In other words, “look for the silver lining.”
  5. Negative feelings often make us feel isolated and cut off. The irony is that navigating these feelings is one thing every human being has in common with every other human being. If we reach out to someone else we trust in the program, not only might they be able to help us tangibly, but it may make the heaviness of the situation feel lighter. And we’ll be deepening our relationship and connection with those we share with. In other words, “a burden shared is cut in half, but joy shared is doubled.”

The first three steps made simple: 

  1. I can’t
  2. A power greater than me can
  3. I’ll let it (and let it go!)

The three most important principles:

  1. Honesty
  2. Open-mindedness
  3. Willingness

When someone says “G.O.D.” if that gets in the way, instead imagine it as: 

  1. Gift Of Desperation
  2. Group Of Drunks
  3. Good Orderly Direction

Work this program and you too can be:

  1. Happy
  2. Joyous
  3. Free

Acronyms:

  1. HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely Tired
  2. FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real
  3. HOPE: Hearing Other People’s Experience
  4. ISM: Incredibly Short Memory
  5. YET: You’re eligible too

Watch out for:

  1. Expectations are Planned Resentments – live and let live!
  2. Restless, Irritable & Discontent
  3. Terminal Uniqueness
  4. Alcoholism is Cunning, Baffling & Powerful
  5. Alcoholism is a disease that’s Incurable, Progressive & Fatal

Questions you may have for someone who has been around

What is a sponsor?

A sponsor isn’t a guru, boss, life coach, therapist, best friend, drill sergeant, or anything like that. It’s just an AA member who usually has more than a year of recovery, has worked the 12 steps with THEIR sponsor, and can share with you how they were able to stay sober through life’s ups and downs, and that’s all. If you are relatively new (under 5 years) and haven’t worked the steps yet, they should probably have collected more time sober than you – because they will probably have gotten through more challenges soberly, and can show you how. 

A sponsor isn’t here to give you life advice, or coach you to material success. All they should do is share what worked for them, and give you their take on the steps of AA. A sponsor doesn’t make any demands of you, but may make suggestions when it comes to helping you understand your recovery. 

To find a good sponsor, look for someone whose point of view on recovery and sobriety resonates with you, or as the old timers say “look for someone who has what you want,” not in terms of material things, or the “cash and prizes,” but someone who has what you want spiritually. Stick with the winners! 

What is a 90 in 90?

In AA, the term “90 in 90” is a suggestion for individuals in early recovery to attend 90 AA meetings in the first 90 days of their sobriety. This practice is believed to provide support, plug into a sober network, and help individuals establish a foundation for recovery by actively engaging in the fellowship and principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The old timers say “meeting makers make it.” Completing a “90 in 90” in AA can be valuable for someone in early recovery as it offers a structured and intensive immersion into the fellowship and principles of AA. While a 90 in 90 can be a mix of online, hybrid, and in-person meetings, the bulk of the benefit – especially getting plugged into a network of sober fellowship – is most experienced at in-person meetings, so the bulk of these meetings should be in-person. 

By attending 90 meetings in the first 90 days, individuals can establish a consistent routine, build a robust support network, and gain exposure to various recovery experiences and strategies. The daily engagement helps break the isolation often associated with addiction, keeps individuals focused on their commitment to sobriety, and provides ample opportunities to work through AA’s Twelve Steps. It is ideal to plan ahead and know what meeting you will be attending the next day, before going to bed. This concerted effort during the initial phase of recovery not only fosters a sense of community but also enhances the likelihood of long-term success by reinforcing the principles and practices integral to sustained sobriety.

What is fellowship?

Fellowship in AA means two related things: The Fellowship of AA is the common community of alcoholics with a desire to recover relating to and helping one another, and fellowship is also the act of building and strengthening that community with special activities, getting together with other AA fellows for dinner, brunch, or coffee, or just coming to a meeting early and staying late and talking to people. This is a “WE” program, we help one another stay sober, we don’t do it alone.

What does it mean to identify in?

When someone tells you to “identify in,” they are telling you to find a personal connection or resonance with the experiences, emotions, or struggles shared by another member during a meeting. It signifies a recognition that your own journey in overcoming alcohol addiction aligns with the narrative or feelings being discussed. By identifying in, individuals acknowledge a commonality of experience and often find comfort and support in realizing that they are not alone in their challenges. This practice fosters a sense of unity and understanding within the AA community, reinforcing the belief that shared identification can contribute to the strength and effectiveness of the recovery process. 

Sometimes you’ll meet people in meetings that rub you the wrong way. Maybe you think you’re better than them (remember, “there but for the grace of G.O.D. go I). Maybe you think they think they’re better than you (remember, “live and let live). It doesn’t matter. You can learn something from everyone in a meeting, even if what they have to teach you is what NOT to do. If you really are open minded, though, you will find what you have in common with that person, because ultimately, all of us alcoholics share way more in common than we have differences. Remember to place principles over personalities!

Why do I have to talk during meetings?

Even if you don’t feel like you want to talk during a meeting, sharing during a meeting can not only be good for you, but for someone else in the meeting. You never know who may resonate with what you are saying, and you never know who you may be helping, so if you have the opportunity to speak during a meeting, go ahead and share your experience, share your strength, and share your hope. But remember, when possible, bring your problem to your sponsor, and share the solution at the meeting.

Why should I do the steps?

AA does not teach anyone how to stop drinking. Most alcoholics can and have stopped drinking (for a time). But cold turkey, without any other help or structure, it’s either difficult for us to STAY stopped. And even when we do, we feel miserable. AA doesn’t teach us how to stop drinking, but how to LIVE SOBER. This means serenely managing the regular and unexpected ups and downs of life, comfortably and emotionally balanced, without the need for a chemical crutch.

Engaging in the Twelve Steps of AA is crucial for someone in the program as it provides a systematic and transformative framework for achieving and maintaining sobriety – for LIVING SOBER. The steps guide individuals through a process of self-reflection, amends, spiritual growth, and continued recovery. 

Working the steps allows individuals to address the root causes of their addiction, develop a deeper understanding of themselves, and foster personal and spiritual growth. It involves making amends for past wrongs, making a conscious effort to live a more principled life, and helping others in their journey to recovery. The Twelve Steps serve as a roadmap for a holistic and sustainable recovery, offering a structured path toward lasting sobriety and a meaningful, purposeful life free from the grip of alcohol addiction.

Literature links

Living Sober

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

The Book of The Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions

Links & Phone Numbers

AA in DC, Montgomery County & Prince George’s County, Maryland

WAIA – Washington Area Intergroup Association
4530 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 111
Washington, DC 20008
24-Hour Hotline: 202-966-9115
WAIA Directions
WAIA In Person Meeting List
WAIA Online Meeting List

AA in Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia Intergroup
10400 Eaton Place, Suite 140
Fairfax, VA 22030
24-Hour Hotline: 703-293-9753
NVI Directions
NVI Meeting List

AA USA-National

AA.org – Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc home
Find an AA Meeting Near You
Online Intergroup — Find an Online Meeting anytime, anywhere
Chat with someone NOW
Get AA Literature
AA General Service Office
475 Riverside Drive at West 120th St. 11th & 8th Floors
New York, NY 10115
212-870-3400
Contact GSO by Mail
General Service Office
P.O. Box 459
Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163
Box 459 – the AA Newsletter
AA Grapevine/La Vina – Independent International Journal of Alcoholics Anonymous

Helpful Apps for you

The Meetings Gude App

Get to in person meetings

  1. Apple: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/meeting-guide/id1042822181
  2. Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.meetingguide

The My Spiritual Toolkit App

The “My Spiritual Toolkit” app has a lot of great functionality. On the main homepage, you can see how much time you have, broken down to THE HOUR, which reminds you how much you’ve accomplished. Under that, read the “Daily Reflection,” updated automatically every day, and read “On Awakening” from the Big Book. There are also a lot of REALLY GOOD PRAYERS right under On Awakening.Under Tools, you’ll see “Spot Check Inventory,” “Nightly Inventory,” and “Gratitude List,” among other things. You can fill in the gratitude list, save it, and turn around and copy and paste it into text, or share through email. It then saves your old lists so you can go back and read them. Nightly Inventory is just a check in before bed to hold YOURSELF accountable for living up to your own expectations. How well did you keep the promises to yourself today? What victories can you celebrate? Feel free to ALSO save and share nightly inventory with me IF YOU WANT. But it’s for you. Spot check Inventory is an emergency emotional sobriety intervention tool. When you feel disturbed in any way — mad, sad, afraid, anxious, annoyed, agitated, distracted, distraught, shocked, or sanctimonious — pull this out and do a quick examination of your thoughts and judgements, to maybe move more quickly into feeling more serene. You can ALSO save and share these with me any time.

  1. Apple: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/my-spiritual-toolkit-aa-steps/id642922942
  2. Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.myspiritualtoolkit.mytoolkit

The Everything AA App

It has the full text of the Big Book (current edition), the full text of the Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions, full text of Living Sober, AND you can LISTEN to the audio version of the Big Book, and the 12×12, AND these great speaker tapes by Joe & Charlie that have been really popular among AA folks for decades. AND it has the official AA pamphlets on different issues as well. 

  1. Apple – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/everything-aa/id1565768051
  2. Android – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bigbook3

The AA Grapevine App

Featured articles, the AA Grapevine podcast, and if you’re subscribed to the AA Grapevine, you can get the PDF and audio versions in the app.

  1. Apple – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/aa-grapevine/id6450056498
  2. Android – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.aagrapevine.app&pli=1

The AA Grapevine Podcast

Not an app (though available in the Grapevine App), the Grapevine podcast is a lighthearted monthly look at the experience of AA members today.

https://www.aagrapevine.org/podcast