Starting A “How It Works” Group


How It Works (HIW) Group Guidelines

1. Each member is encouraged to support the HIW program of recovery and its guidelines.  

2. HIW groups welcome all who suffer from alcoholism.  

3. The format calls for meetings to be held twice a day every day of the year, if possible.  

4. At each daily meeting, “24-hour chips” are offered to newcomers in their first day of sobriety. The group also offers 30-, 60- and 90-day chips. The first six months and annual lengths of sobriety are celebrated at a separate designated meeting, usually the last Friday or Saturday of the month at 8 p.m. The HIW group calls this special celebration Cake Night.

5. Daily Readings from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (the first 164 pages, Dr. Bob’s Nightmare, and the Spiritual Experience) are the only literature shared in HIW group meetings.  

6. Meeting sharing is round-robin style starting with the meeting’s leader, continuing member by member going around the circle. Each member, in turn, has only one opportunity to speak. No cross talking is allowed. Members share on the day’s reading or pass to the next member in the circle. All meetings start and end promptly on time. All meetings are opened with the Third Step prayer (page 63 of the Big Book) and closed with the Seventh Step prayer (page 76 of the Big Book).

7. Group support rather than individual sponsorship.

8. Each group ends the morning meeting with the morning meditation found on pages 86-88 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is suggested at the evening meeting that the evening meditation on page 86 (also known as the Eleventh Step) be completed at the end of the day (please refer to sample meeting format available in sample forms on the app).

9. The Fifth Step is completed with a priest, minister, or rabbi.

10. Children, animals, cell phones and other distractions/disruptions are inappropriate and not permitted.

11. All HIW groups are fully self-supported by voluntary contributions. Each group always maintains a prudent reserve covering at least two to three months of expenses.

12. A Big Book Study Meeting is held on Sunday mornings once a year starting in January and finishing in May. The 19-week Big Book study audio and materials are found on the HIW group app.

Starting A “How It Works” Group

The following information will provide you with all you need to start a How IT Works Group. What we share with you here is our experience from many years of Group Conscience meetings deciding how best to provide an answer to those suffering from Alcoholism. There are currently many How It Works Groups in several different cities and towns across two countries.

HIW FORMAT: The HIW format is the outline of how a meeting is to be conducted. It is the result of many years of Group Conscience meetings that decided how best to run a meeting. When possible, the format calls for the meetings to be held twice a day, every day of the year. There is a morning and an afternoon meeting. Depending upon the hours that are available to you, it is desirable to have morning meetings at or about 7:00am on the weekdays (a little later is desired for Saturday, Sunday and holidays) and an afternoon meeting at 5:30pm all seven days of the week. Please note that if your meetings are held in a church, you may have to start out having fewer meetings and eventually working your way up to two meetings a day once you have earned their trust. Meetings open with the 3rd step prater and close with the 7th step prayer. The leader sits in the same chair at every meeting and is responsible for opening and closing the meeting on-time. The leader also reads the meeting format. The Preamble, a portion of Chapter 5 “ How It Works” and the 12 steps are read by 3 participants in the meeting that are designated by the leader prior to the meeting’s start. After finishing reading the format, the leader then begins the sharing by identifying and sharing him/herself before passing for a round robin turn of shares as sharing goes around the room. Please see the section on meeting discussion and sharing found in the back of the HIW’s book.

LOCATION: Most HIW Groups are held in a private facility where the space is rented and is used solely for the purpose of holding meetings. There are also HIW groups or “clubrooms” as our members like to call them that are held in churches, whereas the space is shared with the church. Venues will very depending upon what is available in your area and what you can afford. This is a matter for each founding member to discover for him or herself.

GROUP CONSCIENCE: If your meeting is held in a facility that is your own, that is to say that it will be conducted in a room that you will need to furnish and maintain, then you will need to hold a Group Conscience to vote in the HIW format, the purchase of chairs, tables, coffee maker, powder or liquid cream for the coffee, and every other detail of everything that is done there. If your meeting is held in a church, you may already have furniture available to you, a cleaning service that comes, and food and beverage may not be permitted by the church. In this case, you will only need to hold a Group Conscience meeting that votes in the HIW works format for conducting the meeting. In any event, a Group Conscience meeting should be held to vote in the HIW format and whatever it is that you need too conduct the meeting.

SERVICE POSITIONS: You will want to have a literature person, a treasurer, a secretary, and other positions of service depending upon the needs of maintaining your clubroom in the location that you choose. These positions are usually voted in at Group Conscience meetings. The literature person is responsible for keeping a stocked inventory of big books, daily reading books, chips for various lengths of sobriety, meeting directories, and a phone list. The secretary is responsible for communicating with the landlord and making sure that a schedule of meeting leaders is maintained. Other services positions will vary depending upon your needs and may include positions such as a maintenance person who oversees stocking coffee, cups, cream, paper towels, bathroom items, and anything that needs to be fixed.

MEETING LISTING: As you start your journey, understand that some days in the beginning you may be alone. You need not be concerned. You have made the room and thereby help available. In time, people will show up and your attendance will grow. Be sure to list your meeting schedule with A.A.’s central office in your area, and on any online listings that show meeting times where you are located. Stay the course! We are with you.

3rd Step & 7th Step Prayer

3rd Step Prayer

God, I offer myself to Thee-to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.  Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love and Thy Way of life.  May I do thy will always.  

7th Step Prayer

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad.  I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows.  Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding.  Amen.

How it Works Preamble

The “How It Works Group” of Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of members 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.

Our preamble is available in Adobe Acrobat format here.

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:

[12 STEPS]

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

1: We admitted we were powerless over alcoholism—that our lives had become unmanageable. The Principle is Honesty

2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. The Principle is Hope

3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. The Principle is Faith

4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. The Principle is Courage

5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. The Principle is Integrity

6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. The Principle is Willingness

7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. The Principle is Humility

8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. The Principle is Brotherly Love

9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. The Principle is Justice

10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. The Principle is Perseverance

11: 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

12: 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