12 questions for a 4th Step


1. Who am I?

2. What do I want?

3. What do I not want?

4. What behavior of mine helps me reach what I want?

5. What behavior of mine does not help me reach what I want?

6. What behavior of mine helps build relationships with others?

7. What behavior of mine harms relationships with others?

8. What do others say they like about my behavior?

9. What do others say they do not like about my behavior?

10. What have I done well today?

11. What have I not done well today?

12. What behavior do I admire in other people and want to imitate?

What became Alcoholics Anonymous dates from June 10th, 1935 when Bill gave Dr. Bob his last beer. A month earlier, members of the Oxford Group, a back-to-basics Christian movement started by dissatisfied Lutheran minister Frank Buchman, had brought them together to meet. AA’s first book, Alcoholics Anonymous was drafted using the language of that Group and was heavily edited before publication with input from 300 non-alcoholics (religious, medical and academic professionals) who received a draft of the book and the 100 men who were members of the yet-to-be named alcohol recovery program.

AA has always taken concepts and language from outside of alcoholism before, during, and after its birth.

On AA’s 20th anniversary, Bill Wilson stated that “…it would be false pride to believe that Alcoholics Anonymous is a cure-all, even for alcoholism….Let us constantly remind ourselves that the experts in religion are the clergymen; that the practice of medicine is for physicians; and that we, the recovered alcoholics, are their assistants.” (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, page 232)

Bill Wilson gave credit to three non-alcoholics in a Grapevine article for AA’s 25th anniversary for the spiritual principles behind the Twelve Steps: his own doctor, Dr. William Duncan Silkworth for Step One; William James, the American psychologist who delivered the Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh, Scotland in 1901-1902 which became the book The Varieties of Religious Experience for Step Twelve; and Episcopal minister Rev. Dr. Samuel Shoemaker, the leader of the Oxford Group in the 1930s for Steps Two through Eleven. (The Language of the Heart © 1988, pages 297-298.)

I keep my two feet planted in AA because I am one of the minority who cannot safely drink alcohol, but keep my ears, eyes, mind and heart open to all sources of information and inspiration, inside and outside of AA, just as the AA pioneers did, in order to continue to grow farther away from the last drink and realize the ‘full potential of my genetic endowment’ as Dr. George Sheehan used to preach the night before the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. which I ran a dozen times.

I have been sober over half my life and half AA’s life. I have written the twelve questions above from language discovered from all sources on my journey on the Road of Happy Destiny to find out who I am and what my higher power wants of me each day.

By Dan F.

Dan was born in San Francisco, California a month after the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous was published in 1939 and took his last drink of alcohol in Washington, D.C. on the 8th of December 1976 the day after he attended his first AA meeting. He resides with his wife in Europe and does volunteer service in three international nonprofit, non-governmental organizations.