Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
The principle that we shall find no enduring strength until
we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot from
which our whole Society has sprung and flowered.
When first challenged to admit defeat, most of us re-
volted. We had approached A.A. expecting to be taught
self-confidence. Then we had been told that so far as al-
cohol is concerned, self-confidence was no good whatever;
in fact, it was a total liability. Our sponsors declared that
we were the victims of a mental obsession so subtly pow-
erful that no amount of human willpower could break it.
There was, they said, no such thing as the personal con-
quest of this compulsion by the unaided will. Relentlessly
deepening our dilemma, our sponsors pointed out our in-
creasing sensitivity to alcohol—an allergy, they called it.
The tyrant alcohol wielded a double-edged sword over us:
first we were smitten by an insane urge that condemned
us to go on drinking, and then by an allergy of the body
that insured we would ultimately destroy ourselves in the
process. Few indeed were those who, so assailed, had ever
won through in singlehanded combat. It was a statistical
fact that alcoholics almost never recovered on their own
resources. And this had been true, apparently, ever since
man had first crushed grapes.
In A.A.'s pioneering time, none but the most desperate
cases could swallow and digest this unpalatable truth. Even
these "last-gaspers" often had difficulty in realizing how
hopeless they actually were. But a few did, and when these
laid hold of A.A. principles with all the fervor with which
the drowning seize life preservers, they almost invariably
got well. That is why the first edition of the book "Alco-