At the first meeting I went to, I heard these promises and was amazed that they could be made. After years of chaos, this seemed impossible.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word Serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change, fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them. – pg 83-84 AA Big Book
I have a slightly different take on these promises. I call it the contract. The first and last sentences give a condition for the promises to become fulfilled. They say:
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, they will materialize if we work for them.
These things don’t happen simply because I stopped drinking. They need work – painstaking work. For me, this is key, and it doesn’t simply apply to the ninth step, but to all twelve steps. I needed and still need to put in work for the promises to materialize. But what promises these ninth step promises are! Let’s break them down.
1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.
I was amazed long before I was halfway through. I was amazed long before I got to the 9th step because I had already started to see the effects of the program. Some of these effects were:
- A spiritual awakening
- A clear mind
- I saw the recovery process at work in my life
- I had taken a fearless moral inventory of myself
- Impossibly, I was living a life of sobriety
2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
This may already have started before step 9. As we gained liberty from our substance abuse disorders and encountered our Higher Power, then freedom and happiness began.
3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
This didn’t make sense to me at first. My sponsor explained it to me this way. If we close off memories of what we were like, then we risk forgetting what we were like and relapsing. If we regret our past actions, we risk hating ourselves, and that is also a risk to sobriety.
At the end of the day, this promise says we will be able to deal with what we were like.
4. We will comprehend the word Serenity and we will know peace.
A lot of this ties into the previous promise.
God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.
We can’t change what we were, but we can change what we become. That is what these AA promises are. They promise a new attitude and that we can change what we become.
5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
Each of us plumbed different depths, but every experience of anyone who ever came into this 12-step program with a drinking problem can benefit someone else. We don’t have to have been on the streets and have had the DTs to have had an experience that someone else can relate to. Not every alcoholic is the same. Our experience has value in reaching out to the still suffering alcoholic.
6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
Every negative feeling we had about ourselves will vanish. It won’t be instant, but peace of mind does appear. I am not certain I will ever achieve perfect peace of mind, but I do move closer and closer as I grow in my spiritual experience.
7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
Our self-obsession will become a thing of the past as we experience the nearness of our creator. We will want to help such people as need help. The bondage of self disappears, and we become interested in finding and maintaining a fit spiritual condition.
8. Self-seeking will slip away.
We will want what is best for people other than ourselves as we develop the right attitude. We will constantly seek to become a better person as new power flows through as we start to lead lives governed by spiritual principles.
9. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.
New attitudes will become the norm. We will spend a life of taking personal responsibility. This is a new life and we become the rightful owner of our lives not governed by active addiction.
10. Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us.
We spent our lives afraid of other people and their reactions. We will correct mistakes as they happen, and this allows us to move without concern as we navigate the confusion of daily life. For many of us tired of past experiences, this is the most powerful of the promises.
11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
There will be no more confusion such as we used to have. We are able to take positive action. While I was drinking, I drifted from job to job. As soon as there was a confrontation with a manager I walked out, unable to handle it. After I stopped, I held down a position for nineteen years and if there was a problem, I would go to the manager and say, “Can we talk”? It worked. I could take positive action.
12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
We have handed over to our Higher Power and these promises are the full manifestation of what Bill W called the fourth dimension of existence. He wrote:
I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I was to know happiness, peace and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.
This is the spiritual dimension, and our life is governed in different ways as we allow a new power flow into our being.
Remember, though, that this is a contract and that for the promises to be fulfilled we need to do our part. Without our action, these are unrealistic promises, just wishful thinking. When we work at this step and indeed all the steps of alcoholics anonymous, they become fulfilled and in abundance.
Remember what this step is
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
This is what we constantly need to be painstaking about for each of these promises to come true.
The twelve promises of A.A. will materialize if we are painstaking about this phase of our development.
Note: Except where specified all quotes are from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous