There Are No “Musts” in the Program

There Are No “Musts” in the Program

There Are No “Musts” in the Program

How many times have you heard that said in meetings of Alcoholic Anonymous?

After being around the rooms for over three decades, I continue to be amazed at the amount of things bantered around A.A. meetings that have no foundation in our program of action (the first 164 pages of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous).  The big concern here is that if a newcomer walks into a meeting and sees slogans on the wall not found in our book (first 164 pages), hears members saying things that are not found in our book, etc. – then how are they to know that these things are not actually part of the actual program of A.A.?

Bill W. has been quoted as saying that our chief responsibility to the newcomer is to provide a clear and adequate presentation of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  If that’s true (and I believe it to be), then it’s been my experience that it is also our responsibility to make sure the newcomer understands the difference between the PROGRAM of Alcoholics Anonymous and the FELLOWSHIP of Alcoholics Anonymous (I hope to talk more about this specific topic in a coming post).

While I feel strongly that this IS important, I also have learned that people acting as the “A.A. police” doesn’t play well in Hooterville either (LOL!).  Keeping spiritual principles in the forefront, I do believe there are ways we can ensure that the newcomer gets a clear and adequate presentation of our program of action so they, too, can have this life saving gift.  Making sure that when we are sharing in meetings or working with sponsees, it is our responsibility to share from the literature (as well as our experience founded in the literature) when talking about how an alcoholic can get and stay sober.

So, with all of that said, is it true that there are no musts in the program?  While page 164 does say to us that our book is meant to be suggestive only, there are some really clear cut directions (using the word “must”) that are strongly suggested of us. Here’s at least 43 of them (BB 4th Edition) ????   God Bless!



  1. Page xvi, paragraph 2: “He suddenly realized that in order to save himself he must carry his message to ­another alcoholic.”
  2. Page xxv, paragraph 4: “As part of his rehabilitation he commenced to present his conceptions to other alcoholics, impressing upon them that they must do likewise with still others.”
  3. Page xxvi, paragraph 2: “In this statement he confirms what we who have suffered alcoholic torture must believe—that the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind.”
  4. Page xxviii, paragraph 3: “The message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight.”
  5. page xxviii, paragraph 3: “In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves, if they are to re-create their lives.”
  6. Page 14, paragraph 2: “I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.”
  7. Page 33, paragraph 3: “If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind”
  8. Page 43, paragraph 4: “His defense must come from a Higher Power.”
  9. Page 44, paragraph 3: “…we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life – or else.”
  10. Page 62, paragraph 3: “Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!”
  11. Page 66, paragraph 4: “We saw that these resentments must be mastered”
  12. Page 69, paragraph 4: “Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it.”
  13. Page 69, paragraph 4: “We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm”
  14. Page 73, paragraph 5: “We must be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world.”
  15. Page 74, paragraph 1: “Those of us belonging to a religious denomination which requires confession must, and of course, will want to go to the properly appointed authority whose duty it is to receive it.”
  16. Page 74, paragraph 2: “The rule is we must be hard on ourself, but always considerate of others.”
  17. Page 75, paragraph 1: “But we must not use this as a mere excuse to postpone.”
  18. Page 78, paragraph 3: “We must lose our fear of creditors no matter how far we have to go, for we are liable to drink if we are afraid to face them.”
  19. Page 79, paragraph 2: “We must not shrink at anything.”
  20. Page 80, paragraph 1: “If we have obtained permission, have consulted with others, asked God to help and the drastic step is indicated we must not shrink.”
  21. Page 82, paragraph 3: “Certainly he must keep sober, for there will be no home if he doesn’t.”
  22. Page 83, paragraph 1: “Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must take the lead.”
  23. Page 83, paragraph 2: “We must remember that ten or twenty years of drunkenness would make a skeptic out of anyone.”
  24. Page 85, paragraph 3: “But we must go further and that means more action.”
  25. Page 85, paragraph 2: “Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities.”
  26. Page 85, paragraph 2: “These are thoughts which must go with us constantly.”
  27. Page 86, paragraph 2: “But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others.”
  28. Page 89, paragraph 2: “To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss.”
  29. Page 93, paragraph 3: “To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action.”
  30. Page 95, paragraph 3: “…he must decide for himself whether he wants to go on”
  31. Page 95, paragraph 3: “If he is to find God, the desire must come from within.”
  32. Page 99, paragraph 1: “…it must be done if any results are to be expected.”
  33. Page 99, paragraph 2: “…we must try to repair the damage immediately lest we pay the penalty by a spree.”
  34. Page 99, paragraph 3: “…it must be on a better basis, since the former did not work.”
  35. Page 120, paragraph 2: “…he must redouble his spiritual activities if he expects to survive.”
  36. Page 130, paragraph 2: “…that is where our work must be done.”
  37. Page 143, paragraph 2: “…he should understand that he must undergo a change of heart”
  38. Page 144, paragraph 3: “The man must decide for himself.”
  39. Page 144 paragraph 2: “When the man is presented with this volume it is best that no one tell him he must abide by its suggestions.”
  40. Page 146, paragraph 4: “For he knows he must be honest if he would live at all.”
  41. Page 152, paragraph 2: “I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I?”
  42. Page 156, paragraph 3: “Both saw that they must keep spiritually active. ”
  43. Page 159, paragraph 3: “Though they knew they must help other alcoholics if they would remain sober, that motive became secondary.”


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