Why it Works

Why it Works


If you’ve ever been to an AA meeting, you know what the emphasis is on: How it Works. At the beginning of the meeting, they even read a substantial section of the Big Book called “How it works.” And when people share their experience, strength, and hope during the meetings, they are largely explaining how it works for them.

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In Alcoholics Anonymous, we are obsessed with how it works. We are constantly examining how the program works for us. If we can explain how the program works for us, in our everyday lives, then perhaps we can pass this information on to the newcomer, and thus help them. “See here? This is how it works for me. I do this, then I do that, and everything works out better in my life. If you do the same things, then things will work out better for you, too!” That’s the idea. That is our obsession with how it works.

It’s easy for us to talk about how it works. We start with the obvious: that we are sober and that we have been working the program. Then we start babbling on about what we’ve been doing for our recovery. “Well let’s see, I go to meetings, and I work the steps, and I do such and such, and blah blah blah. That’s how it works for me!” It’s all very easy for us to talk about. And explaining how it works for us is at least somewhat useful to others in recovery, including the newcomers. But let’s stop for a minute here and consider another question: Why it works.

Why it works

This is a much deeper, more challenging question than “how it works.” Why it works cuts right to the heart of the matter, and answers the ultimate question of why AA is effective in general. Instead of the extremely subjective how it works, why it works is an objective assessment of how Alcoholics Anonymous can work for anyone. As such, it is a much more challenging question to answer, and the typical old timer at a meeting will snap your head off for even breeching the topic:

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“Why it works? Why it works? Are you serious? You’ve got a room full of sobriety here, people with decades of sobriety from working this program, and you dare to question why it works? The program works for me and it works for all these other people, isn’t that good enough?”

There is nothing wrong with sharing how it works for you at a meeting. This information is useful to some. But your message could be much stronger, and could connect with more people, if you carefully examine the question of why it works. Let me give you an example.

Dynamite Speaker Meetings

Have you ever been to a speaker meeting where the speaker gave a fantastic message and really connected with everyone there? Instead of sharing how it works for them personally, what these excellent speakers do is to share why the program works, and then give personal examples out of their own lives to illustrate this. There is a distinct difference between the two. In explaining how it works for you, the message is that “this is what I did, and it seemed to work out okay. Maybe it will work for you too.” But in explaining why it works, and then backing up the principles with personal stories, the message becomes “here is what I did, and why I did it. This is how the program can work in your life too.” See the difference? The second one is much stronger.

Digging into the question of why it works will strengthen your program, and your message to others as well.

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