Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own - Online Conference Transcript

Glenn C., a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for ten years, joined us to discuss the twelve steps and their effectiveness. He discussed hitting bottom and how the twelve steps can help everyone cope with an addiction, whether they suffer from alcoholism, their family members are alcoholics, or they suffer from an addiction which is not alcoholism.

David Roberts is the moderator.

The people in blue are audience members.

David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to I'm glad you had the opportunity to join us and I hope your day went well. Our topic tonight is "The 12-Steps For Addictions Recovery." Our guest is Glenn C., from Alcoholics Anonymous.

Our topic tonight is "The 12-Steps For Addictions Recovery." Our guest is Glenn C., from Alcoholics Anonymous.

Glenn is 55 years old. He has been in A.A. for over 10 years, not only as a practicing member but he now also serves as the Public Information Officer for the San Antonio, Texas branch of Alcoholics Anonymous. Glenn is a retired city government employee and now has several business projects that he works on.

Good evening, Glenn, and welcome to So our audience can get to know a little bit more about you, how did you first become involved with Alcoholics Anonymous and can you share some of the personal details of how alcohol had affected your life? (Read the negative and long-term effects of drinking alcohol.)

GlennC: Good evening. To start out, I could see that alcohol was affecting my life and the lives about me well before I came into the program, but I refused to address it as I thought that the only person I was harming was myself. It is said that alcoholism is one of denial on that basis.

David: What drew you into AA?

In depth interview on 12 step programs, 12 step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous, family members who are alcoholics, and addictive substanceGlennC: It is what is called "Hitting Bottom." Today I personally define that in this manner: It is when a person sees that they no longer have control over the thing that they value the most - as to whether they can keep it or lose it. The other thing was that after I moved into an apartment by myself, I found that it was not other people, family members, or even the job which was causing me to continue to drink. I just could not leave it alone and kept getting drunk.

David: Millions of men and women have heard or read about the unique Fellowship called Alcoholics Anonymous since its founding in 1935. Of these, more than 2,000,000 now call themselves members. People who drink too much alcohol, finally acknowledged that they could not handle alcohol, and now live a new way of life without it. Why is that particular program so successful in helping so many?

GlennC: What has been found is that because AA is an "experience shared" and spiritually oriented program - it works. It is like as if a person were lost in the Grand Canyon in a blinding snowstorm and along came an Indian guide who worked for the Park Service who knew the way out. One alcoholic can relate to another in a manner that no one else seems to be able to do.

David: The "shared experience" you refer to, is it like going to a support group where people talk about how, whatever it is, has impacted their lives?

GlennC: I guess it could be viewed that way, but our book puts it like those who share a lifeboat together.

David: And, I guess from your statement above, that you are saying "you have to have been there to really understand where another alcoholic is coming from."

GlennC: That is exactly it. Doctors can look at it from the outside, and they do an excellent job, but if I were wanting to find out about racing cars I would go and talk to the drivers instead of the owners or mechanics.

David: For those in the audience who have never been to an AA or 12-step meeting, can you describe what goes on there for us?

GlennC: There is a lot. We have various kinds of meetings where people come to share their "experience" when drinking, their "strength" as they found it through working through the 12 steps, and their "hope" that it will continue to work for them, and for others. There are Open meetings where anyone can attend. Closed meetings are for alcoholics only. Discussion meetings are where open discussions are held, speaker meetings are where one person shares their story, and Study meetings are where the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, or the 12 Steps are studied in depth. There is also a lot of friendly fellowship.

David: I'm assuming that by sharing experiences, it lets others in the group know that they are not alone in what they've experienced in their lives because of alcohol - that they aren't the only one who has gone through this.

GlennC:Right, and it also reveals the true causes behind the disease.

David: Here's the link to the Addictions Community. You can click on this link and sign up for the mail list at the top of the page so you can keep up with events like this.

Glenn, you were talking about the purpose of people sharing their stories at AA meetings. Please continue.

GlennC:Let me give those who might not know the official contact points for AA:

Box 459, Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163

From the shared experiences and stories people can identify and possibly see that they, too, are alcoholics, as we do not tell them that they are. This is left to the individual.


David: We have some audience questions I want to get to and then we'll continue with more about the 12-steps. Here's the first question, Glenn:

forgetful_me!:I am not an alcoholic but most of my father's family members are addicted; I am addicted to smoking weed. I am not sure if it makes it okay in my head or not, but can the 12 step program help me with both issues? I am using now and not taking my medication that I need for my disorders; can this 12 step program help me?

GlennC: A 12 step program certainly would not hurt and would most likely help. Again, another factor that comes into play is whether or not a person is really ready to become rigorously honest with themselves and to take the actions necessary.

In a chapter of our book, "How it works," it is said, "If you want what we have, and are willing to go to any lengths to get it, then you are ready to take certain steps." All I can say is that it does work.

AA also produces another book. It is called "The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions." It goes into more depth as to the steps.

David: One of the basic premises of the 12-steps is admitting that we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable. How difficult is that to do? And do a lot of people have trouble with that UNTIL they hit bottom?

GlennC: Yes. Step One - "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable." Who cares to admit complete defeat? Admission of powerlessness is the first step in liberation. Relation of humility to sobriety. Mental obsession plus physical allergy. Why must every AA hit bottom? These are the subtitle listings out of the 12&12.

What it really addresses is a matter of "control." My sponsor had me look up the definitions of "power" and "manage," and they both have to do with control. What I found was that I lost control, or the power of choice when it came to alcohol, once I took that first drink. For once I did, it set up an allergic reaction which set up a deeper craving for more, but what started out the whole set of events was an obsession to drink in the first place. A line in the book says, "Alcoholics drink essentially for the effect." And when I read that I said, "RIGHT." And so I kept chasing that effect, but could never quite get the total effect that I wanted, so I drank more and more in an attempt to get there.

David: Here's the next audience question:

Ida Jeanne: My 36-year-old daughter just entered a 12 step recovery program. How do I bring up reality during group? She has lived in her own world of reality for 23 years and we could never get her to see the truth as it really is. I want to be supportive but not an enabler. I'm already raising her two children.

GlennC: My suggestion to you would be to seek out another 12 step program called ALANON. It is for friends and families of those in the program. From those in that program you will find the tools to help not only her but also yourself and the children.

Ida Jeanne: Should I attend it along with the family group with her?

GlennC: I would suggest that you go for yourself, without her. All I can say is that this program also works, as I am also a member of this fellowship. I had to do it for me as my son was an active alcoholic, and the disease killed him.

David: I'm sorry to hear that. Here's an audience comment, then another question:

forgetful_me!: I am a 29-year-old wife and mother of a 10-year-old. I am ready, just not really sure how in the world I have made it this far. I feel that my addiction is the only thing I have control over. My husband has found out about my addiction and is aware of my family's addictions to alcohol and because he does not truly understand he is not sure how to help. I am afraid that I will be put into a rehab center - the one place I say I do not need. When I do drink I am very obsessed with getting drunk. I cannot just drink socially and I am aware that I am a potential alcoholic.

David: Here's the next question:

julesaldrich: Do you think that this step - approach - can be helpful with any kind of addiction? I have an eating disorder. It was suggested by my therapist that I find out more about this. Just as an alcoholic, I have claimed to have control over this only to have "fallen off" several times.

David: And Glenn, I'll mention that many of the people who visit are dealing with "dual diagnosis," coexisting conditions.

GlennC: Right, the 12 steps were first brought forward by AA and today they have been adopted by many other 12 step programs. Overeaters Anonymous is one of them, and from what I hear it works. What we have found through experience is that these separate programs work to address these separate issues. I guess what I am saying is that I would not go to AA to address a gambling issue as there is really not a shared experience base.

David: You mentioned earlier that AA members discuss in detail what the disease (addiction) is all about. Does having a better understanding of alcohol abuse and it's consequences or any other addictive substance for that matter, help one recover from it?

GlennC: That depends on what you are saying. When I could see the reason(s) why I could not stop after I took the first drink and the reason(s) why I just could not seem to muster enough control to leave it alone completely, this did not solve the problem. It just identified the causes and conditions that started it. What it took to solve the problem as a whole was to completely and thoroughly work through the 12 steps with someone who had already done them. As strange as it may seem to some, alcohol was not my problem, it was my solution to the problem. Through the 12 steps, I was able to help the real problem, which was me. I found that this could be done only through the help of a power greater than me.

David: I'm wondering, is a program like Alcoholics Anonymous considered a substitute for professional therapy or does it supplement therapy?

GlennC: We do NOT claim to be a substitute for professional therapy. In the present position that I serve in, Cooperation with the Professional Community, I have found it a privilege to cooperate with many therapists and treatment facilities. We cooperate with them but are not affiliated with them. This has been the case with AA since its beginning.


David: Regarding face to face AA and other 12 step meetings, you can usually find them listed in your Sunday newspaper, and you can contact the appropriate organizations. They are listed in the phone book.

Thank you, Glenn, for being our guest tonight and for sharing this information with us. And to those in the audience, thank you for coming and participating. I hope you found it helpful. We have a very large and active community here at You will always find people interacting with various sites.

Also, if you found our site beneficial, I hope you'll pass our URL around to your friends, mail list buddies, and others.

Thank you, again, Glenn for being our guest tonight.

GlennC: In many cities, AA is listed in the telephone book.

David: Before we sign off, Glenn wanted to post some additional material. Go ahead Glenn.

GlennC: 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. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; AA does not wish to engage in any controversy; AA neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

This information is both for people who may have a drinking problem and for those in contact with people who have or are suspected of having a problem. Most of the information is available in more detail in literature published by AA World Services, Inc. This tells what to expect from Alcoholics Anonymous. It describes what AA is, what AA does, and what AA does not do.


Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, nondenominational, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.


  • AA members share their experience with anyone seeking help with a drinking problem; they give person-to-person service or sponsorship to the alcoholic coming to AA from any source.
  • The AA program, set forth in our Twelve Steps, offers the alcoholic a way to develop a satisfying life without alcohol.
  • This program is discussed at AA group meetings.
    • Open speaker meetings open to alcoholics and nonalcoholics. (Attendance at an open AA meeting is the best way to learn what AA is, what it does, and what it does not do.) At speaker meetings, AA members tell their stories. They describe their experiences with alcohol, how they came to AA, and how their lives have changed as a result of AA
    • Open discussion meetings one member speaks briefly about his or her drinking experience, and then leads a discussion on AA recovery or any drinking-related problem anyone brings up.
    • Closed discussion meetings conducted just as open discussions are, but for alcoholics or prospective A.A.s only.
    • Step meetings (usually closed) discussion of one of the Twelve Steps.
    • AA members also take meetings into correctional and treatment facilities.
    • AA members may be asked to conduct the informational meetings about AA as a part of A.S.A.P. (Alcohol Safety Action Project) and D.W.I. (Driving While Intoxicated) programs. These meetings about AA are not regular AA group meetings.


In the last years, AA groups have welcomed many new members from court programs and treatment facilities. Some have come to AA voluntarily; others, under a degree of pressure. In our pamphlet How AA Members Cooperate, the following appears:

We cannot discriminate against any prospective AA member, even if he or she comes to us under pressure from a court, an employer, or any other agency.

Although the strength of our program lies in the voluntary nature of membership in AA, many of us first attended meetings because we were forced to, either by someone else or by inner discomfort. But continual exposure to AA educated us to the true nature of the illness... Who made the referral to AA is not what AA is interested in. It is the problem drinker who is our concern... We cannot predict who will recover, nor have we the authority to decide how recovery should be sought by an


Sometimes, courts ask for proof of attendance at AA meetings.

Some groups, with the consent of the prospective member, have the AA group secretary sign or initial a slip that has been furnished by the court together with a self-addressed court envelope. The referred person supplies identification and mails the slip back to the court as proof of attendance.

Other groups cooperate in different ways. There is no set procedure. The nature and extent of any group's involvement in this process is entirely up to the individual group.

This proof of attendance at meetings is not part of A.A.'s procedure. Each group is autonomous and has the right to choose whether or not to sign court slips. In some areas, the attendees report on themselves, at the request of the referring agency, and thus alleviate breaking AA members' anonymity.


Alcoholism and drug addiction are often referred to as substance abuse or chemical dependency. Alcoholics and nonalcoholics are, therefore, sometimes introduced to AA and encouraged to attend AA meetings. Anyone may attend open AA meetings. But only those with a drinking problem may attend closed meetings or become AA members. People with problems other than alcoholism are eligible for AA membership only if they have a drinking problem.

Dr. Vincent Dole, a pioneer in methadone treatment for heroin addicts and for several years a trustee on the General Service Board of AA, made the following statement: The source of strength in AA is its single-mindedness. The mission of AA is to help alcoholics. AA limits what it is demanding of itself and its associates and its success lies in its limited target. To believe that the process that is successful in one line guarantees success for another would be a very serious mistake.


The primary purpose of AA is to carry our message of recovery to the alcoholic seeking help. Almost every alcoholism treatment tries to help the alcoholic maintain sobriety. Regardless of the road we follow, we all head for the same destination, recovery of the alcoholic person. Together, we can do what none of us could accomplish alone.

GlennC: Nice to have been with you all tonight.

David: Thanks Glenn. Good night everyone.

Disclaimer: We are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.


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APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2007, August 1). Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own - Online Conference Transcript, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Last Updated: April 26, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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