Bill W. co-founders of AA

Bill W. a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous answers questions about alcoholism in a discussion in 1960.

Question; What about slips in general? You must have witnessed a lot of them.

Bill W.: The subject of slips is a very large one. It takes in a lot of territory.

Slips can often be charged to rebellion and some of us surely are more rebellious than others.

Slips can be charged to carelessness, to complacency. Many of us fail to ride out such periods sober.

Slips are due to the illusion that one can be “cured” of alcoholism. Things go fine for two or three years then the member is seen no more. He gets busy putting two cars in the garage and again returns to keeping up with the Joneses. That almost surely spells trouble.

Some of us suffer extreme guilt because of vices or practices that we can’t or won’t let go of.

Too much guilt, too little exertion, too little prayer – well, this combination certainly adds up to slips.

Then some of us are far more alcohol-damaged than others.

Still others encounter a series of calamities and cannot seem to find the spiritual resources with which to meet them, or else in frustration they simply won’t try as hard as they can.

There are those who are physically ill.

Others are subject to more or less continuous exhaustion, anxiety, and depression. These conditions often play a part in slips. Sometimes they seem utterly controlling.

Then there is the sort of acute physical tension [or biological malfunction] which greatly aggravates our emotional reactions. There seems little doubt that the glandular system in many alcoholics is much out of whack, that this condition is responsible for a high degree of physical tension. This tension and its emotional consequences finally become so terrific that some of us are literally driven back into alcohol, or worse still, into becoming sleeping pill addictives. Therefore, we sometimes slip because there is a limit to our endurance.

While sleeping pills are an addictive menace, a relief we cannot use at all, it may be that the actual physical causes of these tensions will one day be located. If this happens, it may be that these defects can be medically corrected without resort to addictive materials. Let us prayerfully hope so.

This condition of physical tensions explains the behavior of many people who try ever so hard to get the AA program, the ones who mystify us because they cannot make the grade. They may well be the subject of unbearable emotional pain.

Of course this does not absolve them from all responsibility. It was their former behavior that doubtless deranged them physically as well as emotionally.

But as I have said, this matter of slips is a very big subject. We can know ourselves only a little, and other people not much at all. Therefore, these observations of mine are largely speculations, speculations in which I trust there is at least a degree of truth.

Bloggers notes; Bill never mentioned ‘denial’ directly in his list of reasons for slips. But denial is usually tied up with many of the reasons he lists.

So in summary the reasons for a slip or bust are;

  • rebellion
  • carelessness, or complacency
  • illusion that one can be “cured”
  • guilt because of vices or practices that we can’t or won’t let go of
  • too little exertion,
  • too little prayer
  • more alcohol-damaged than others
  • lack of spiritual resources
  • frustration
  • physically ill
  • more or less continuous exhaustion,
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • acute physical tension or biological malfunction
  • sleeping pill addictives
  • emotional pain
  • denial.

From; A Conversation with Bill W. 1960.

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