The How It Works Group Brief Introduction
Alcoholism is a condition of abnormal mind and body; an abnormal brain that usually sees the negative in everything, that constantly searches for security, pleasure and comfort, that is void of selfless consideration of others, and that demands to be treated by something/anything providing this relief. If you are having trouble with your personal relationships, can’t seem to control your emotional nature, are a prey to misery and depression, are full of fear, are unhappy, are struggling with addictions of any kind, then chances are you are suffering from Alcoholism.
The HIW Group program of recovery has evolved out of many years of Group Conscience meetings deciding how best to provide an answer to those suffering from Alcoholism. Once the HIW program was finalized for presentation in this book, the Group Conscience has fulfilled its mission in producing a complete program to be passed along. This Group Conscience of combined experience is what governs the HIW Group program and all HIW Groups share this unified program of recovery. Business Meetings are held by each group to maintain their own individual operations.
How It Works Group Guidelines
This section details the workings of the HIW Group and how it has evolved over time. It is included here with hope that other How It Works groups may be formed, taking advantage of our experience.
Group Conscience: The Group Conscience is the result of decades of experience listening to members, discussing ideas, and deciding upon all elements of the HIW Group Program. These internal processes, principles, and practices that make up the HIW Group Program have evolved over time, and have all been voted upon at formal group conscience meetings. It is the collective Group Conscience that decided, precisely, what constitutes an “HIW Group Meeting.” This is set in stone and cannot be changed. The Group Conscience lives on as to what makes an HIW Group meeting an HIW Group meeting. Issues that arise in each HIW Group meeting such as administrative and operational items, expenses, schedules, reps, etc. are decided by each HIW Group meeting separately and autonomously through its Business Meetings.
Business Meetings: Business meetings are held once a month on a date set by the meeting’s members. Issues pertaining to the functioning of the meeting are written on a board, discussed, and voted on. Each meeting may structure its own guidelines for conducting its own business meetings. Business Meetings are designed to give the meeting complete autonomy to govern its own affairs, however, Business Meetings have no authority to alter the HIW Group Program in any way; otherwise, the meeting is no longer a bonafide “HIW Group Meeting.”
Two Meetings a Day: In order to make the HIW approach to sobriety available in the most effective manner possible, especially for the newcomer, meetings are held twice a day.
Fifth Step – Seeing the Priest: The How It Works group suggests newcomers complete the Fifth Step with an ordained priest or minister. The group conscience suggests this is the most effective way (1) to encourage the individual to be completely honest, (2) to waste no time after completion of the Fourth Step inventory, and (3) to ensure the confidentiality of the process.
Cake Night: At each daily meeting, HIW offers “twenty-four hour,” 30-, 60-, and 90-day chips in brief recognition of those initial periods of continuous sobriety. A separate “Cake Night” each month allows special attention to be directed at longer term “sobriety celebrants” without detracting from the regular meeting and its focus upon the topic of the Daily Reading.
Children, Animals, Cell Phones, and other Distractions/Disruptions are Inappropriate at Meetings: The HIW group wants common sense, common decency, and respect for others to guide the conduct of its meetings. It is in the spirit of mutual respect that members are asked to turn off their cell phones and are encouraged not to bring non-alcoholic children or pets to the meeting.
Meeting Discussion and Sharing is Done by Going Once Around the Room: Upon completion of the announcements and the daily reading, the meeting leader “passes” to another person. The sharing continues to move in an orderly direction from person to person around the room. Each member introduces himself and then is free to “share” or to “pass” as their turn arrives.
No Dues or Fees, but We Do Pass the Basket – We are Self-supporting through Our Own Contributions: Many of the practices and principles of the How It Works group are indirectly guided by the fact that we take seriously A.A.’s Seventh Tradition: “The A.A. groups themselves ought to be fully supported by the voluntary contributions of their own members.” Learning to take responsibility to support the clubroom through attendance, participation, and financially supporting it by putting money in the basket is important for spiritual growth.
Group Support Rather than Individual Sponsorship: When a newcomer becomes an active supporter of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, he taps into a source of power much greater than himself and the transition from a self-centered person “getting help” to a recovered person “giving help” is hastened.
Daily Reading Book: “If you are so proud of your supposed connection to the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, …why don’t you just read from the Big Book?” That simple question led to the HIW Daily Readings Book. After its adoption, the How It Works group began to grow in membership and it became more unified.
Big Book Study Meetings and the Step Sheets: A big attraction of the How It Works group is the promise made to the alcoholic that if he/she attends the annual How It Works group study of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A., the “Big Book”), attends HIW meetings on a daily basis, does the required twelve-step work, and becomes an active member of the group, he/she would find a solution to alcoholism. Rarely have we seen a person fail who thoroughly followed this path.
The AA Promises
- If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way 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 upon life will change.
- Fear of people and of 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
The How It Works Preamble
The “How It Works Group” of Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other, that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. There are no dues or fees to pay, we are self-supporting through our own contributions.
The tremendous fact for us is that we have discovered a common solution to alcoholism. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great news contained in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the sole purpose of our group is to carry this message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
If you are as seriously afflicted by alcoholism as we are, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and once we passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This we did because we honestly wanted to, and were willing to make the effort.
The How It Works Preamble is based on the original preamble from the A.A. Grapevine but has been modified for our own use. Reprinted with permission of The A.A. Grapevine, Inc.
Chapter 5 How It Works
RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided that you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.
At some of these we balked. We thought that we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
Remember that we deal with alcoholism – cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find him now.
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:
Many of us exclaimed, “What an order! I can’t go through with it.” Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.
Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:
(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
(c) That God could and would if He were sought.
Steps & Principles
The 12 Steps and Their Principles
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our
- We admitted we were powerless over alcoholism—that our lives had become unmanageable. The Principle is Honesty
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. The Principle is Hope
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. The Principle is Faith
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. The Principle is Courage
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. The Principle is Integrity
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. The Principle is Willingness
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. The Principle is Humility
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. The Principle is Brotherly Love
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. The Principle is Justice
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. The Principle is Perseverance
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. The Principle is Spiritual Awareness
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. The Principle is Service
The terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms.
Yet it is true that our first printing gave many readers the impression that these personality changes, or religious experiences, must be in the nature of sudden and spectacular upheavals. Happily for everyone, this conclusion is erroneous.
In the first few chapters a number of sudden revolutionary changes are described. Though it was not our intention to create such an impression, many alcoholics have nevertheless concluded that in order to recover they must acquire an immediate and overwhelming “God consciousness” followed at once by a vast change in feeling and outlook.
Among our rapidly growing membership of thousands of alcoholics such transformations, though frequent, are by no means the rule. Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James calls the “educational variety” because they develop slowly over a period of time. Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself. He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone. What often takes place in a few months could seldom have been accomplished by years of self-discipline. With few exceptions our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves.
Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it “God-consciousness.”
Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual concepts. He can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial.
We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable.
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”