A guidebook to help new members navigate the potential pitfalls of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Written by two former alcoholics who found sobriety through the program, this slim volume offers both encouragement and caution to those seeking out AA for the first time. After an introductory section that succinctly explains the basics of AA meetings, the authors introduce the system of sponsorship, wherein an established member will take a new member under his or her wing. The cautionary scenarios in the chapters that follow—from the story of “The Abusive Sponsor” to the hyper-friendly control freak in “You Need a Sponsor, Not a Micro-Manager”—are pithy tales from the authors’ personal experiences. In disarmingly candid prose, the next section looks at interpersonal relationships through the AA prism, while offering portraits of the users, freeloaders and seducers the authors have seen prey on fellow members. A subsequent section, which describes professional criminals who target recovering alcoholics, catalogues additional perils. These nightmare scenarios start out offering useful guidance but, as the work goes on, the hopeful balance of the early chapters is lost; this rogues’ gallery of lowlifes could potentially deter some readers. Thankfully, the later portions of the book change focus, with the authors taking AA to task for its cultlike secretiveness, as well as its idolization of cofounder Bill W., who was “no saint” and whose “sexual adventures are a continuing, unwritten AA tradition” often called “13 stepping.” A final section ends on a note of compassion and hope, addressing the role of God in the AA universe.
As a guidebook full of practical warnings and suggestions for how the organization can grow and evolve, this work straddles a fine line: new members will be encouraged by the opening and closing sections, but the detailed exploitation of newly recovering alcoholics may be discouraging.