What Is Rule 62? The Legendary Alcoholics Anonymous Statute!

What Is Rule 62?

The following story is taken directly from Tradition Four in the Twelve and Twelve of Alcoholics Anonymous

It’s relatable and in a sense, as you shall see, we all arrive at our own Rule 62. 

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When A.A. was still young, lots of eager groups were forming. In a town we’ll call Middleton, a real crackerjack had started up. The townspeople were as hot as firecrackers about it. Stargazing, the elders dreamed of innovations. They figured the town needed a great big alcoholic center, a kind of pilot plant A.A. groups could duplicate everywhere. 

Beginning on the ground floor there would be a club; in the second story they would sober up drunks and hand them currency for their back debts; the third deck would house an educational project—quite non-controversial, of course. In imagination, the gleaming center was to go up several stories more, but three would do for a start. 

This would all take a lot of money—other people’s money. 

Believe it or not, wealthy townsfolk bought the idea.

There were, though, a few conservative dissenters among the alcoholics. They wrote the Foundation, A.A.’s headquarters in New York, wanting to know about this sort of streamlining. They understood that the elders, just to nail things down good, were about to apply to the Foundation for a charter. These few were disturbed and skeptical. 

Of course, there was a promoter in the deal—a super promoter. By his eloquence he allayed all fears, despite advice from the Foundation that it could issue no charter, and that ventures which mixed an A.A. group with medication and education had come to sticky ends elsewhere. To make things safer, the promoter organized three corporations and became president of them all. Freshly painted, the new center shone. The warmth of it all spread through the town. Soon things began to hum. 

To ensure foolproof, continuous operation, sixty-one rules and regulations were adopted. But alas, this bright scene was not long in darkening. Confusion replaced serenity. It was found that some drunks yearned for education, but doubted if they were alcoholics. The personality defects of others could be cured maybe with a loan. Some were club-minded, but it was just a question of taking care of the lonely heart. 

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Sometimes the swarming applicants would go for all three floors. Some would start at the top and come through to the bottom, becoming club members; others started in the club, pitched a binge, were hospitalized, then graduated to education on the third floor. It was a beehive of activity, all right, but unlike a beehive, it was confusion compounded.

An A.A. group, as such, simply couldn’t handle this sort of project. All too late that was discovered. Then came the inevitable explosion—something like that day the boiler burst in Wombley’s Clapboard Factory. A chill chokedamp of fear and frustration fell over the group.

When that lifted, a wonderful thing had happened. The head promoter wrote the Foundation office. He said he wished he’d paid some attention to A.A. experience. Then he did something else that was to become an A.A. classic. It all went on a little card about golf-score size. 

The cover read: “Middleton Group #1, Rule #62.” Once the card was unfolded, a single pungent sentence leaped to the eye:

“Don’t take yourself too damn seriously.” 

Thus it was that under Tradition Four an A.A. group had exercised its right to be wrong. Moreover, it had performed a great service for Alcoholics Anonymous, because it had been humbly willing to apply the lessons it learned. It had picked itself up with a laugh and gone on to better things. Even the chief architect, standing in the ruins of his dream, could laugh at himself—and that is the very acme of humility.

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Smacks The Overthinker Right Between The Eyes!

Rule 62 is this and nothing more: “don’t take yourself so damn seriously!”

Let’s get real, early recovery is a testament to the tenacity of the human skull. 

It’s surprising none of our heads explode.

We can be working one step, trying to wrap our heads around the traditions, listening to seemingly mystical discussions on the concepts, all while attempting to be of service as a general service representative or intergroup member. 

Furthermore, let’s not forget the valiant efforts to tally the membership at our home group, make sure rent is paid, coffee is stocked up, and perhaps cookies to keep ’em coming back. 

It’s sheer mania.

Eerily similar to Will Hunting and the impossible equation on the hallway blackboard; only we panic and light the blackboard on fire. 

Rule 62 Is For The Complicated!

We tend to complicate a damn free lunch. 

This is why the fellowship has numerous quirky sayings, “keep it simple stupid” AKA the KISS principle!

Another one of those sayings is to always remind one another about “Rule 62” during times of high stress and def-con 1 level tension.

Sure, “it’s a simple program,” or so they tell us. 

But the truth is it’s a simple program for complicated people whose thoughts function at 250mph.

It’s hard not to hyper-focus on all the moving parts and get lost in the minutiae.

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How Is Rule 62 Instructive For Those Of Us Who Get Lost In The Details?

This spunky punchline provides numerous lessons, specifically, when understood within the context it was first stated. 

Rule 62 means being able to admit when you’re wrong!

Not just that, it teaches us that humility doesn’t equal beating the snot out of ourselves. 

Rather, it means grappling with your personal imperfections with a sense of humor, understanding, and grace. 

Don’t underestimate the power of humor, the ability to laugh at yourself is critical to emotional sobriety. 

Moreover, it demonstrates the difference between illness and wellness is simply subtracting “I” and adding “we.”

This is the wisdom of the traditions; the collective consciousness of the group. 

Alcoholics Anonymous has learned through frustration, ego inflation, and pain that the principles as laid out in the traditions are a far superior guide to behavior than warring and emotionally inflamed personalities.

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We tend to think failure is not an option. That our emotional blunders and character shortcomings shouldn’t exist. 

The truth is if we were perfect we wouldn’t need each other. Only an imperfect species such as ours need one another so desperately just to exist. 

Consider how sophisticated our language is just to assist one another in meeting the most basic of needs. 

I know we tend to take our self so serious and make even trivial things into federal cases, but here’s the truth on a cold dish:

“You just ain’t that unique!” 

Anthony De Mello’s famous “I’m an asshole, you’re an asshole, what’s the problem?” comes to mind. 

Why do we stress ourselves out and make a stinking fuss?

Rule 62 is being able to see the absolute silliness of chasing after perfection and outrageous expectations. 

Actually, it’s worth checking out what De Mello says in its entirety. It’s Rule 62 with teeth!

There’s a lovely saying of Tranxu, a great Chinese sage, that I took the trouble to learn by heart. It goes: “When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him. 

He cares! He thinks more of winning than of shooting, and the need to win drains him of power.” Isn’t that an image of what most people are? When you’re living for nothing, you’ve got all your skills, you’ve got all your energy, you’re relaxed, you don’t care, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose.

Now there’s HUMAN living for you. That’s what life is all about. That can only come from awareness. And in awareness you will understand that honor doesn’t mean a thing. It’s a social convention, that’s all. That’s why the mystics and the prophets didn’t bother one bit about it. Honor or disgrace meant nothing to them. They were living in another world, in the world of the awakened. Success or failure meant nothing to them. They had the attitude: “I’m an ass, you’re an ass, so where’s the problem?”

Someone once said, “The three most difficult things for a human being are not physical feats or intellectual achievements. They are, first, returning love for hate; second, including the excluded; third, admitting that you are wrong.” But these are the easiest things in the world if you haven’t identified with the “me.” 

You can say things like “I’m wrong! If you knew me better, you’d see how often I’m wrong. What would you expect from an ass?” But if I haven’t identified with these aspects of “me,” you can’t hurt me. Initially, the old conditioning will kick in and you’ll be depressed and anxious. You’ll grieve, cry, and so on. “Before enlightenment, I used to be depressed: after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed.” But there’s a difference: I don’t identify with it anymore. Do you know what a big difference that is?

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You step outside of yourself and look at that depression, and don’t identify with it. You don’t do a thing to make it go away; you are perfectly willing to go on with your life while it passes through you and disappears. If you don’t know what that means, you really have something to look forward to. And anxiety? There it comes and you’re not troubled. How strange! You’re anxious but you’re not troubled.

Isn’t that a paradox? And you’re willing to let this cloud come in, because the more you fight it, the more power you give it. You’re willing to observe it as it passes by. You can be happy in your anxiety. Isn’t that crazy? You can be happy in your depression. But you can’t have the wrong notion of happiness. 

Did you think happiness was excitement or thrills? That’s what causes the depression. Didn’t anyone tell you that? You’re thrilled, all right, but you’re just preparing the way for your next depression. You’re thrilled but you pick up the anxiety behind that: How can I make it last? That’s not happiness, that’s addiction.  

So there it is! 

Next time you’re stressing over your circumstances, when things aren’t the way they “should be,” stop shoulding all over yourself, and don’t take life so damn seriously. 

As Dr. Richard Carlson famously noted, “don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff.” 

Our Shortcomings Informed By Rule 62 Are What Make Us Useful

One more point before concluding the article.

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, they really capture the idea of Rule 62. 

The passage demonstrates that if Rule 62 is applied consistently even the most tragic circumstances can be leveraged to increase our usefulness.

We have been speaking to you of serious, sometimes tragic things. We have been dealing with alcohol in its worst aspect. But we aren’t a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn’t want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life. We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world’s troubles on our shoulders.

When we see a man sinking into the mire that is alcoholism, we give him first aid and place what we have at his disposal. For his sake, we do recount and almost relive the horrors of our past. But those of us who have tried to shoulder the entire burden and trouble of others find we are soon overcome by them.

So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn’t we laugh? We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others..

Increase your usefulness. 

Increase your emotional health. 

Laugh it up.

Rule #62 – Too not shabby, eh?

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