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, Religion, Psychology, Science

Need a New Self-Help Guru? Try Aristotle,” John Kaag’s review of ARISTOTLE’S WAY
How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life, by Edith Hall. Virtue ethics, whose classic exponent is Aristotle, proposes the practice of virtue as the path to the good and happy life. After a very long period of neglect, this ancient understanding has undergone a revival over the past 30 years or so. Our book Practice These Principles is part of that revival. It views virtues as one of the two primary sets of principles (the other being spiritual disciplines) which are embedded in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and which Step Twelve calls us to practice "in all our affairs." We therefore welcome Edith Hall’s book, which we will read in short order and, if indicated, rate or review. (NYT Online, 01/23/19, Sunday Book Review, 01/27/19.) [Note: Finished reading 03/27/19. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend it.] 

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 on 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

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 which 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, 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 Oxford Group (aka Moral Rearmament and Initiatives of Change),
man who thought himself religious has 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.]