By Daniel F


I was born in San Francisco a month after the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book was made back East. Thirty-seven years later when A.A. was 41 years old, I crash-landed into my first A.A. meeting in Washington, D.C. and took my last drink the next day. I have been sober over half my life and half A.A.’s life.

Practicing the guidance of the statement on page 85 of the Big Book, “We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition,” has evolved for me over the years. Today it is for me, ‘We have a daily reprieve based on the maintenance and continued growth of our spiritual condition through relaxed, repetitive practice of spiritual principles in all our affairs.”

How do I do that?

I can best summarize it at this time of my life and sobriety in four words from A.A. literature: Choice, Desire, Enjoy, and Practice.


Choice is the first benefit of sobriety that came to me in my first week in A.A. I knew that with A.A. I had the choice not to drink the poison that is alcohol. The first place in A.A. literature that I encountered choice is on page 12 of the Big Book, where Ebbie Thacher says to his old drinking buddy Bill Wilson who was in his last drunk, “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?”

I later saw that the entire A.A. program gives me choice, the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, Twelve Concepts, and age-old wisdom throughout A.A. literature, especially the Serenity Prayer authored by Roman General and Emperor Marcus Aurelius in his private ‘Meditations’.


“The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking,” the Third Tradition states. When I pursued desire with alcohol in me, I got into a whole lot of trouble. Without alcohol and with the guardrails of the entire A.A. program, desire becomes a call from Greater Power to wake up, show up, be present, and listen to others on how they are staying sober. I can learn from anybody inside and outside of the program, those who stay sober and those who don’t, because the Third Tradition is A.A.’s great statement of equality. As A.A. ‘s brochure from GSO in New York on Sponsorship says, “In A.A. sponsor and sponsored meet as equals, just as Bill and Bob did.”


Page 132 of the Big Book states, “We absolutely insist on enjoying life.” Page 83 promises, “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.


Practice is the final action word in the Twelve Steps. Everything of value that has come to me in life has come from relaxed, repetitive practice of positive attitude, action and habits. Today, I seek to practice on a daily basis the spiritual principles underlying the Twelve Steps, Traditions, Concepts, and beyond. My list has grown to 25 principles to practice. The first three are: humility, equality, and community. The last three are: courage, hope, and gratitude.

I didn’t limit my drinking and I don’t limit my sobriety. I continue to re-read with others all five A.A. books that Bill Wilson wrote and published in his 36 years of sobriety: Alcoholics Anonymous © 1939, The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions © 1952, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age © 1957, Twelve Concepts for World Service © 1962, As Bill Sees It © 1967, as well as the sixth book of his writings that A.A. published posthumously, The Language of the Heart © 1988.

I use all of the program and beyond to stay sober, just as Bill Wilson did: “In no circumstances should we feel that Alcoholics Anonymous is the know-all and do-all of alcoholism… We are forgetting that to religion and to the medical arts we owe our very existence…Certainly we drunks did put AA together, but all of its basic components were supplied by others. Here, especially, our maxim should be, “Let’s be friendly with our friends.” Pages 332 and 333 of The Language of the Heart © 1988 from an article in The Grapevine in July 1965 that Bill Wilson wrote on A.A.’s 30 th anniversary.

That for me is practicing humility, which Bill called ‘perspective’ and which I like to describe for myself in three sentences: “I don’t know. Others might. I need to listen.”

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