83 Musts In The Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous

Musts In the Big Book – Why Is It Important?

If you open your Daily Reflections to December 1st, you’ll find the following passage:

I remember my sponsor’s answer when I told him that the Steps were “suggested.” He replied that they are “suggested” in the same way that, if you were to jump out of an airplane with a parachute, it is “suggested” that you pull the ripcord to save your life. He pointed out that it was “suggested” I practice the Twelve Steps, if I wanted to save my life. So I try to remember daily that I have a whole program of recovery based on all Twelve of the “suggested” Steps.

I’ve seen the term repackaged as “subtle commands.” That’s got a clever tone to it. 

The truth is that the philosophy of the twelve steps is suggested. Nonetheless, if you accept the program AA offers, then the Big Book provides very clear and explicit directions to follow. 

Similar to the recipe you’ll find with cake mix. You can choose to not follow the suggestions, but when the cake sucks don’t be surprised. 

It says two eggs. How about 5?

Tablespoon of butter. Let’s skip the butter. 

In the oven for 250 for 30 minutes. How about 450 for 20 minutes? 

Again, you don’t need to follow the suggestions, but the people who made the mix have the best version of their product available. Likely, through trial and error, they arrived at the best outcome. Follow their directions and get the best results. 

The same is true for the Big Book. It would be irrational to get a bookshelf from IKEA and subsequently jettison the instructions and the parts and put it together in your unique way. 

Well, I suppose that wouldn’t be irrational. It may come out good. What would be irrational is blaming IKEA if it turns out to be anything but a bookshelf. 

IKEA has a good idea of how the shelf must be constructed. After all, they designed it. 

Musts? Yes, the Big Book Makes Demands!

The same is true for the Big Book. The authors outline the precise instructions for getting the results they got.

The following MUSTS identify areas of the program that are non-negotiable. 

Again, you don’t need to utilize their program. But if you get the set from IKEA and build it your way and it turns to shit, don’t blame IKEA. Blame yourself! 

Some of the phrases below don’t contain the word MUST, but the wording indicates a similar meaning.

Whereas other lists just throw in any old must they identify in the Big Book, this list only identifies explicit commands or what the text declares indispensable or essential to recovering via the twelve steps. 

MUSTS of the Big Book

The MUSTS of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous 

Well, excluding the stories, here’s the list:

  1. In the course of his third treatment he acquired certain ideas concerning a possible means of recovery. As part of his rehabilitation he (Bill W.) commenced to present his conceptions to other alcoholics, impressing upon them that they MUST do likewise with still others. This has become the basis of a rapidly growing fellowship of these men and their families. This man and over one hundred others appear to have recovered. (xxiii)
  2. More often than not, it is IMPERATIVE that a man’s brain be cleared before he is approached, as he has then a better chance of understanding and accepting what we have to offer. (xxiv)
  3. The message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people MUST have depth and weight. In nearly all cases, their ideals MUST be grounded in a power greater than themselves if they are to re-create their lives. (xxvi)
  4. I SIMPLY HAD TO believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who knew neither time nor limitation (10)
  5. I MUST turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all. (14)
  6. Particularly was it IMPERATIVE to work with others. (14)
  7. Of NECESSITY there will have to be discussion of matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious. (19)
  8. Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, DEPEND upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs. (19)
  9. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process REQUIRES for its successful consummation. (25)
  10. There was NOTHING LEFT FOR US but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our Feet. (25)
  11. We learned that we had to FULLY CONCEDE to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, HAS TO BE smashed. (30)
  12. If we are planning to stop drinking, there MUST be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol. (33)
  13. But after a while we had to face the fact that we MUST find a spiritual basis of Life – or else. (44)
  14.  We HAD TO find a power by which we could live, and it HAD TO BE a Power greater than ourselves. (45)
  15. DO NOT let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. (47)
  16. Many of us have been so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things made us bristle with antagonism. This sort of thinking HAD TO BE abandoned. (48)
  17. We HAD TO ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view. (52)
  18. When we saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe, we HAD TO stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did. (52)
  19. When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we HAD TO fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t. (53)
  20. Sometimes we HAD TO search fearlessly, but He was there. He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so with us. (55)
  21. The first requirement is that we BE CONVINCED that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. (60)
  22. Above everything, we alcoholics MUST be rid of this selfishness. We MUST, or it kills us! (62)
  23. We HAD TO have God’s help. (62)
  24. First of all, we HAD TO quit playing God. (62)
  25. Our liquor was but a symptom. We HAD TO get down to causes and conditions. (64)
  26. If we were to live, we HAD TO be free of anger. (66)
  27. We saw that these resentments MUST be mastered. (66)
  28. Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we MUST be willing to grow toward it. We MUST be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing. (69)
  29. We MUST be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world. (73)
  30. Those of us belonging to a religious denomination which requires confession MUST, and of course, will want to go to the properly appointed authority whose duty it is to receive it. (74)
  31. The rule is we MUST be hard on ourself, but always considerate of others. (74)
  32. It is important that he be able to keep a confidence; that he fully understand and approve what we are driving at; that he will not try to change our plan. But we MUST not use this as a mere excuse to postpone. (75)
  33. We have emphasized willingness as being INDISPENSABLE. (76)
  34. UNDER NO CONDITION do we criticize such a person or argue. (77)
  35. We MUST lose our fear of creditors no matter how far we have to go, for we are liable to drink if we are afraid to face them. (78)
  36. We may lose our position or reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We MUST not shrink at anything. (79)
  37. Before taking drastic action which might implicate other people we secure their consent. If we have obtained permission, have consulted with others, asked God to help and the drastic step is indicated we MUST not shrink. (80)
  38. Sometimes we hear an alcoholic say that the only thing he needs to do is to keep sober. Certainly he MUST keep sober, for there will be no home if he doesn’t. But he is yet a long way from making good to the wife or parents whom for years he has so shockingly treated. (82)
  39. Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We MUST take the lead. (83)
  40. The spiritual life is not a theory. WE HAVE TO LIVE IT. (83)
  41. We MUST remember that ten or twenty years of drunkenness would make a skeptic out of anyone. (83)
  42. Every day is a day when we MUST carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. (85)
  43. “How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.” These are thoughts which MUST go with us constantly. (85)
  44. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become God-conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense. But we MUST go further and that means more action. (85)
  45. But we MUST be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others. (86)
  46. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends-this is an experience you MUST not miss. (89)
  47. The family MUST decide these things. (90)
  48. To be vital, faith MUST be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action. (93)
  49. NEVER talk down to an alcoholic from any moral or spiritual hilltop; simply lay out the kit of spiritual tools for his inspection. (95)
  50. If he is sincerely interested and wants to see you again, ask him to read this book in the interval. After doing that, he MUST decide for himself whether he wants to go on. (95)
  51. He should not be pushed or prodded by you, his wife, or his friends. If he is to find God, the desire MUST come from within. (95)
  52. NEVER avoid these responsibilities, but be sure you are doing the right thing if you assume them. (97)
  53. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough. You HAVE TO act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. (97)
  54. Argument and fault-finding are to be avoided like the plague. In many homes this is a difficult thing to do, but it MUST be done if any results are to be expected. (98)
  55. But we MUST try to repair the damage immediately lest we pay the penalty by a spree. (99)
  56. If their old relationship is to be resumed it MUST be on a better basis, since the former did not work. (99)
  57. Both you and the new man MUST walk day by day in the path of spiritual progress.(100)
  58. We are careful NEVER to show intolerance or hatred of drinking as an institution. (103)
  59. Besides, we have stopped fighting anybody or anything. We HAVE TO! (103)
  60. Wait until repeated stumbling convinces him he MUST act, for the more you hurry him the longer his recovery may be delayed. (113)
  61. But sometimes you MUST start life anew. (114)
  62. (To the spouse) While you need not discuss your husband at length, you can quietly let your friends know the nature of his illness. But you MUST be on guard not to embarrass or harm your husband. (115)
  63. (To the spouse) You will no longer be self-conscious or feel that you MUST apologize as though your husband were a weak character. (115)
  64. (To the spouse) These family dissensions are very dangerous, especially to your husband. Often you MUST carry the burden of avoiding them or keeping them under control. (117)
  65. NEVER forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alcoholic. (117)
  66. (To the spouse) Your husband knows he owes you more than sobriety. He wants to make good. Yet you MUST not expect too much. (118)
  67. We NEVER, NEVER try to arrange a man’s life so as to shield him from temptation; The slightest disposition on your part to guide his appointments or his affairs so he will not be tempted will be noticed. (120)
  68. He can scarcely square the account in his lifetime. But he MUST see the danger of over-concentration on financial success. Although financial recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we could not place money first. For us, material well-being always followed spiritual progress; it never preceded. (127)
  69. We know there are difficult wives and families, but the man who is getting over alcoholism MUST remember he did much to make them so. (127)
  70. We have come to believe He would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be firmly planted on earth. That is where our fellow travelers are, and that is where our work MUST be done. These are the realities for us. We have found nothing incompatible between a powerful spiritual experience and a life of sane and happy usefulness. (130)
  71. Whether the family goes on a spiritual basis or not, the alcoholic member has to if he would recover. The others MUST be convinced of his new status beyond the shadow of a doubt. Seeing is believing to most families who have lived with a drinker. (135)
  72. State that you know about his drinking, and that it MUST stop. You might say you appreciate his abilities, would like to keep him, but cannot if he continues to drink. (141)
  73. For most alcoholics who are drinking, or who are just getting over a spree, a certain amount of physical treatment is desirable, even IMPERATIVE. (142)
  74. Though you are providing him with the best possible medical attention, he should understand that he MUST undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking will REQUIRE a transformation of thought and attitude. We all HAD TO PLACE RECOVERY ABOVE EVERYTHING, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business. (143)
  75. When the man is presented with this volume it is best that no one tell him he must abide by its suggestions. The man MUST decide for himself. (144)
  76. For he knows he MUST be honest if he would live at all. (146)
  77. The old pleasures were gone. They were but memories. NEVER could we recapture the great moments of the past. (151)
  78. I know I MUST get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?” Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. (152)
  79. He saw that he would HAVE TO face his problems squarely that God might give him mastery. (155)
  80. Both saw that they MUST keep spiritually active. (156)
  81. Though they knew they MUST help other alcoholics if they would remain sober, that motive became secondary. It was transcended by the happiness they found in giving themselves for others. (159)
  82. God will determine that, so you MUST remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to create the fellowship you crave. (164)
  83. We alcoholics see that we MUST work together and hang together, else most of us will finally die alone. (563)