What are the AA promises?


The AA promises are a set of statements that come towards the end of chapter six in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, after the narrative detailing the process involved in step nine of the recovery program.

These statements talk of a new freedom and a new happiness, making peace with the past, being free of fears around economic insecurity and having a real sense of purpose in life. The full wording can be found here.

The promises start with the statement, ‘ if we are painstaking about this phase of development …..’. They are linking themselves to being a conclusion or outcome of a particular process. This process refers to the 12-step program outlined in the book, and quite specifically to the work involved in doing step nine.

The chapter in the book goes on to say at the end of the promises that they materialise  sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. This is really important, as it means that the nature of what the promises say is not some sort of mathematical equation.

The nature of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, is written as a body of experience of the early members of AA. Subsequent conferences and internal workings of AA reinforced that it continues to be the main body of experience of AA in subsequent years, and continues to be today (2022).

As with any general body of experience, individual people’s experience within the body will change, and there will be differing degrees of how this experience is expressed.

The nature of the book is that it gives people the experience, and then gives them the freedom to use that experience in any way they choose. For some people, this is a bit of a mixed blessing. They value the experience, but want something that is more certain by way of outcome.

This is a common feature of 12-step recovery, that many people look at the process as if it is a mathematical equation. It is probably more helpful to think of the book in the same way one would think of a book of food recipes.

They are presented as something that works, but people are free to attack them in a way they want to, either as a matter of personal choice or for their own dietary reasons.