1938 Original Manuscript for 1939 1st Edition BigBook Searchable 1976 3rd Edition BigBook On-Line
The Prescription
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On Program and Fellowship

I find there is great misunderstanding of the terms Program and Fellowship within A.A.

Certainly Fellowship can exist without Program, as all of us are aware, whether it be in a million dollar establishment around the pool deck or lounge, sucking suds or fancy drinks, or hunkered down against an empty store front sharing a mickey of "sweet lucy" with another wino on the skids. Yes, fellowship was there, what we all were looking for, until we isolated ourselves in the depths of our alcoholism.

I am reminded of this marvelous little poem I found on the back of a dinner check at a truck stop in Carlsbad, CA. about 1976. Just another reminder from my Higher Power.


There's the wonderful love of a beautiful maid,
And the love of a staunch true man,
and the love of a baby that's unafraid---
All have existed since time began.

But the most wonderful love, the Love of all loves,
Even greater than the love of a Mother,
Is the infinite, tenderest, passionate love
Of one drunken bum for another.


I have to add this because it was what I was in dire need of in the last days of my drunkeness.

One other love
'twould be of note
and then I'll cease to bother,
merciful and nurturing,
the healing love
of the FATHER.

I found that love and acceptance in the fellowship of A.A. and came to KNOW that LOVE, the TRUTH of my beingness and of my Higher Power, as a result of the Spiritual Discipline, the Twelve Steps of the Program of A.A.

But you ask, "What is the program??" The PROGRAM is everything between the covers of the BigBook of Alcoholics Anonymous in explanation of the usage and application of the 12 Steps of A.A. to our lives, and IT CANNOT EXIST outside those covers WITHOUT FELLOWSHIP. Without Fellowship, sharing Experience, Strength, Hope, and Understanding, it is just so much dry reading, a rote catechism. (Catechisms are doctrinal manuals often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized')

(I find it interesting to note that ESHU is the name for the individual's inner divine spirit in many native religions, pre-dating and including Christian, (i.e.,the name of the "liberator-comforter-redeemer-teacher within"), that has existed in all ages, and is most often perceived as a trickster-god that frequently presents tempting choices for the purpose of causing MATURATION. He is a difficult teacher, but a good one, the Gate-Keeper of Heaven. Many times, our ESHU will force us to look at the defects within ourselves so that we may see who we are in true light, recognise the wrong and change it so that we are better able to serve our Creator and our fellowman. It is our ESHU that makes us remember to do good, and perform well without doing harm.)

The middle paragraphs on page 55 are very explicit in its location, "We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so with us."

Surely, we find on pages 59 and 60 the steps of A.A. which we use to discipline ourselves in a Spiritual Way of Life... but they are of no avail until we include others in our search for sobriety ..... WE CANNOT DO IT ALONE!!!

The 5th step ("5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.") is explicit about this, we must have another with whom to share our ESHU, our inner spirits.

This can also be found in biblical context , "Wherever two or more are gathered in My name (ESHU), there I am, also."--Matthew 18:20; as well as in the long form of the 3rd tradition.. " 3. — Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.

Why is this Fellowship in Program so important??

The 2nd Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous gives us the answer... "Two — For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern."

Quite simply, unless I am listening to and absorbing the TRUTH of the Group Conscience as it speaks to me, I cannot hear the voice of my ESHU. I will hear only the vague ramblings, ravings, and feelings of my own ego mind. You, the voice of the Group Conscience, are the voice of my Higher Power speaking to me. It is as if, when the Group Conscience speaks, I hear an echo from within my being, and KNOW it to be true for me.

The intended purpose of Program and Fellowship in our search for our Higher Power, our own ESHU, as we each understand it (or don't), is The Elimination of Ego-Self that has kept our ESHU from coming to the salvation of us as drunks with all our insanities.

Many (most?) alcoholics are enthusiasts. We run to extremes. We are all or none people. At the beginning of recovery a man will take, as a rule, one of two directions. He may either plunge into a frantic attempt to get on his feet in business (or in a relationship), or he may be so enthralled by his new life that he talks or thinks of nothing else, listening only to the ego mind.

The Group Conscience has these to say about that condition...

A successful group, ever expanding, observing these, unites in Fellowship with enthusiastic devotion to common cause and purpose, and tireless diligence in its furtherance, fitting themselves to be of maximum service to themselves, their own Higher Power, and to others in life. If they do not, they will fail.

Index of A.A. History Pages on Barefoot's World

As in so many things, especially with we alcoholics, our History is our Greatest Asset!.. We each arrived at the doors of A.A. with an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That Do Not Work" .. Today, In A.A. and In Recovery, Our History has added an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That DO Work!!" and We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it!!

ABC Page 60 -- Barefoot's Recovery Pages



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