Practice These Principles
Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery


Listing does not imply endorsement of content. It is included only for what useful purpose
it might serve, as noted. As in the rooms, we can take what we want and leave the rest. 

At the Theater 

The off-Broadway production of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” ended
its run at the Soho Playhouse in NYC 05/04/14 after 11 months, 250 shows, and 30K
attendees. Read Ray's mini-review in "Blog," posted Sept. 21, 2013. Check play's website
from time to time for new stagings, most recent of which were in NYC 01/08 - 01/30/16
and Austin 02/02 - 02/07/16.  

For an unusual collection of 72 photos of Bill W. and Lois, please click on  For story behind them, click on
NYT Lens


Alcoholics Anonymous

The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety.” Bill W.’s 1958 Grapevine article, long part of a booklet entitled Emotional Sobriety: The Next Frontier. In it, Bill acknowledges that he, like most AA’s at the time, were at best physically sober if not just plain dry, and raises the question of how we alcoholics can move toward emotional sobriety. See Practice These Principles, pp. 58-65. – Search through BB and 12&12 and locate passages on any topic.
Excellent tool for zeroing in on a particular principle (e.g. acceptance), emotion (e.g. fear),
or any topic and seeing everything the two basic texts have to say about it. Key in the term in "Search" and all occurrences of it in its various grammatical forms will be quoted.
Clicking on the book cover will take you to the page where the particular quote appears.
Clicking on "Definition" link will take you to a dictionary definition of the term. 

Why We Were Chosen” is the text of an excerpt from a longer address delivered by Judge John T. on the 4th Anniversary of the Chicago Group, October 5. 1943. The text has been published as a pamphlet by many AA groups ever since. It is inspired by 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, where it is written that “God chose” not the wise, the influential, the noble, or the strong but “the foolish . . . the weak . . . the lowly . . . the despised things of this world . . .” to be the channel of his grace. – Stepping Stones, the historic home of
Bill and Lois Wilson. Click here for National Historic Landmark plaque. – AA history in unparalleled collection
of photos, in this and the following sites: – “Let’s Ask Bill,” organized by topic.
Brings together letters, articles, and other writings of Bill W. not found in a single place
elsewhere. – Full text of “The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety,”
Bill W.’s 1958 Grapevine article referenced in PTP pp. 58–65, his only piece on the subject. – Most comprehensive site on AA history. Named after Dr. William
Silkworth, director of hospital where Bill W. had his spiritual experience and author of
“The Doctor’s Opinion” in the BB.


Other 12-Step Recovery – Twelve principles, one for each of the 12
Steps, presented in the context of eight religious traditions, including Buddhism,
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.


Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Science

When Going to Church Is Immoral: Religious rights and responsibilities in a pandemic. This article presents a series of reflections on practicing spiritual principles while practicing one’s faith amidst the Coronavirus. Like AAs who initially resisted the idea we might not be able to continue meeting in our rooms, some religious people have resisted the idea they may not be able to continue holding worship services in church. A sober consideration of the spiritual principles involved shows such resistance to be misguided and shortsighted. “Much of our moral thought and practice is guided by a belief in the dignity and worth of all human beings,” writes Michael W. Austin. “Given this worth, this inherent dignity, we ought to respect other persons. This includes, of course, doing what we can to avoid infecting them with a potentially deadly and contagious disease.” Michael goes on to present a cogent discussion of the principles governing a rightly moral and spiritual view of the matter. He is a professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University. (Psychology Today, 04/04/20)

"Ethics in a Pandemic Age." The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic poses a challenge to us on many levels. This article discusses the challenge to our moral fabric. “If we are going to survive this pandemic with not only our physical health, but also our moral health—indeed, our humanity—intact, we must go beyond an ethics of rigid rules, rights, and responsibilities, to an ethics of grace, generosity, and gratitude.” The author, Associate Professor of Philosophy at The United States Air Force Academy, offers some suggestions on how we can practice these principles, at home, at work, at the supermarket, the drugstore, and in all our dealings and interactions during this crisis. (Psychology Today, 03/18/20) 

CS Lewis on Morality.” Blog posted in Psychology Today  12/21/18 by Michael W. Austin. In contemporary culture, morality is often reduced to the maxim “do no harm.” So long as it doesn’t hurt anybody, goes the argument, it doesn’t matter what you do. That view is echoed by some in the recovery movement. Austin discusses Lewis’ critique of that concept, presenting a perspective that is more in keeping with 12-Step recovery in AA as laid out in the Big Book and the 12&12. In Steps 4 – 10, we are dealing with our character defects, which being defects hurt us and, as a result, cause us to hurt others. Moreover, our goal in doing this is more than to avoid doing harm. It is to do good. We work toward this by practicing the principles of “love and service” as called for in Step 12 and illustrated in Step 11 with the St. Francis Prayer, which shows some of the other virtues that are involved. For more on morality, see PTP1, pp. 21–23.  

Humility and Sports.” Philosopher Michael W. Austin on one of the principles (humility) and one of the affairs (sports) in which it can be practiced (Psychology Today, 03/27/17).

“Selfishness, Stoicism, and Epicureanism: A Philosophical Flaw,” blog posted in Psychology Today 11/13/16 by Michael Austin. We can learn some good principles from Stoicism, such as acceptance and detachment. Carried to extremes, however, the good of detachment can turn into the evil of indifference and selfishness. 

The Mental Virtues,” David Brooks’ review of some virtues of the mind (NYT 08/29/14).
Rare for a newspaper. Useful Step 10 tool. See “Intellectual Virtues in Recovery,” in “Ray’s
Book Reviews.” – Self-examination (Steps 4–10) is central to the AA
way of life, and Socrates in the City: Conversations on the Examined Life, can sometimes
help to shed spiritual light on a discipline going back 2,500 years. Featuring notable
thinkers and writers from a variety of fields and traditions, this monthly forum fosters
dialogue on “Life, God, and other small topics.” Some events can be watched on video.


At the Public Level

Staying Sober During a Lockdown: Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have moved from musty church basements to laptop screens in quarantine. Do they still work?” Unlike the last linked article about meetings during the COVID-19 quarantine (NYT, 03/26/20), this one is written by a sober alcoholic who knows what goes on in the rooms—even virtual ones. Here's a representative passage: “A quarantine is indeed a trying time. Where “people who can drink normally” — A.A. lingo for nonalcoholics — are stocking up on liquor, A.A. members, and there are some 2.1 million of us, are hellbent on keeping the meetings going.” (NYT, 04/02/20)

With Meetings Banned, Millions Struggle to Stay Sober On Their Own.” By now most local AA and other 12-Step fellowship groups probably have made alternative arrangements to meet. My own home group started holding a phone meeting a week ago and it worked quite well. Two other groups that meet in the same location are following suit. Others are meeting on Zoom. As is typically the case, the press does not give an accurate portrayal of what goes on with our fellowships. The present article is just another example of that. Still, we should know what they are saying about us in the midst of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. As alcoholics, we are powerless over this situation, but we are not helpless. There are countless alcoholics and other people in recovery all around the country and around the world who are willing, ready, and able to be of service. (NYT, 03/26/20)

"For Years, Alcohol Was My Only Comfort. Then It Nearly Killed Me." Partying and drinking her way through high school, Heather became a mother at the age of 18, only to sign custody of her son to her mother and join the Air Force. There she continued to drink until her discharge, following which she went into a downward spiral of depression and increased alcohol consumption which destroyed her marriage and severely damaged her relationship with her daughter and son. She hit bottom at age 34 as the result of a blackout driving accident, after which she sought help in AA. Sober almost three years now, she has rebuilt her life and her relationship with her children. (NYT 07/24/19)

From One Alcoholic to Another.” This link is provided, not because of the particular individual whose situation inspired the article to which it leads, but because the article carries the AA message to the suffering alcoholic still in the wilderness, whoever he or she may be. To avoid distraction from commercials, ads, and other extraneous material, as well as any other potential downside to a direct link to the published piece, we have copied and pasted its text and incorporated it to a page on this site. We have also removed links that appeared in the original. Anyone interested in accessing this information can do so by copying and googling the title. (Fox News, 08/24/18)

Let’s Open Up About Addiction and Recovery.” In another challenge to the principle of anonymity, a journalist argues that if more people in recovery were open about it, it might encourage others to ask for help and the government to allocate more funds to fight addiction. (NYT 11/04/17)

Decades After Alcohol Ban, Iran Admits It Has a Problem.” Prohibition and lashes don’t work, but the 12 Steps do, as Iran’s 400,000 NA members amply demonstrate. So Iran, finally realizing alcohol too is a drug, decides to give AA a chance. NYT 09/11/17)

The Lawyer, the Addict.” Too smart for his own good, a high-powered attorney works, drinks, and drugs himself to death. (NYT, 07/15/17)

The Fantasy of Addiction.” Journalist Peter Hitchens critiques the disease concept of addiction, in First Things, February 2017. “Drunk on Heresy,” his readers’ response, in “Letters,” First Things, April 2017.

Bill Wilson’s Gospel.” New York Times columnist David Brooks reflects on AA and why it works where more “scientific” and socially-engineered programs fail. NYT 06/28/10)

Alcoholics Anonymous, Without the Religion.” A movement of agnostics, atheists, and
freethinkers within AA claiming 150 “secular” groups nationwide holds its first “We
Agnostics and Freethinkers International A.A. Convention.” (NYT 02/21/14)

Hired Power: Recovery as a Commodity. Trading the "spiritual angle" for a business one,
so-called “sobriety coaches” sell their services to the affluent. (NYT 06/21/14)

AA: America’s Gift to the World.” Scottish writer A.L. Kennedy tells the story of AA through the voices of Bill W. and Dr. Bob and of recovering alcoholics in Great Britain today. (BBC
Radio, 04/06/15, 28:23 min.) 
I’m Mohammed, and I’m a drug addict.” A 12-Step fellowship carries the message to the back alleys of Iran, helping over 400,000 to recover. (CBS, 02/19/15, 3:13 min.)

Challenging the Second “A” in AA. NYT reporter breaks his anonymity and argues AA should abandon the principle. (NYT 05/06/11)

Mea Culpa.” Thanks to the Oxford Group (aka Moral Rearmament and Initiatives of Change),
a man who thought himself religious has a spiritual awakening, admits to torture and murder,
and makes amends. (NYT 04/17/10)


Practice These Principles Group, Riverside PA
[Not affiliated with the book PTP. Photos reprinted with permission.]