Do the Twelve Steps Work for Emotional Sobriety

12 step work

By Jamie Moon


After Bill Wilson wrote the "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions," he "coincidentally" came out of an eleven-year depression the following year. When he finished that book,he wrote in a letter to a close friend:



I think that many oldsters who have put our AA "booze cure" to severe but   successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA—the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.[i]

Bill was learning, starting with the revelation of some truths about himself, that alcoholic drinking may in some people mask deeper psychological and emotional disturbances.…coming to Bill through the vehicle of his own depression…to find healing for sober alcoholics for whom sobriety alone…was insufficient to provide a comfortable life.[ii]

The prescription he kept returning to: "Part of the answer lies in a constant effort to practice all of the…Twelve Steps. Persistence will cause this to sink in and affect the unconscious from where the trouble stems.[iii]

It is my belief from close investigation into the writings above that Bill already had made the "next major development," which is a continued and powerful "emotional sobriety." It is not a coincidence that Bill came out of that debilitating depression and gained emotional sobriety while making a deeper study of the Twelve Steps with Father Dowling. He had also found that "the 'all-or-nothing' attitude is a most destructive one. It is best to begin with whatever the irreducible minimums of activity are."[iv] I further believe that a small effort to practice the Steps may assist in the readers' quest for emotional sobriety. On a personal level, I certainly have made great progress, via that work, towards no longer being run by "grave emotional and mental disorders."[v]

It is my desire that as many people as possible realize the power and wisdom encapsulated in the Twelve Steps.   "Never before did so many notable clergymen proclaim how the…Twelve Steps could be used for almost any human problem."[vi] In fact many religions have now adopted the Twelve Steps as their own. We have been using these methods for many years now.   They have never failed to bring about relief for those of us who have looked deep within our souls to see our part in the creation of our life's problems.   Our mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual relief has been immense.   We trust that the student of The Program will find the same.   We have discovered that we can choose to be "happy, joyous and free."[vii]


1 Language of the Heart – Page 236.3

[ii] Pass It On—Bill Wilson and the AA Message – Page 299.4,5

[iii] Pass It On—Bill Wilson and the AA Message – Page 299.2

[iv] As Bill Sees It – Page 308.2

[v] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 59.1

6 Language of the Heart – Page 135.4

[vii] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 133.1

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