12 Step Recovery Slogans – Keep It Simple

keepitsimpleIt’s said that Dr. Bob strongly suggested to  co-founder Bill W. to keep it simple back when Alcoholics Anonymous  was getting organized. (Yes, I know. AA doesn’t wish to be organized, but…)

It’s one of those pieces of AA lore hope is true. I imagine the dignified Dr. Bob admonishing Bill when Bill was having any number of his expansive and complicated ideas.

Even if that story isn’t true, the slogan, Keep it Simple, is found in 12 Step rooms around the world and in multiple languages. I don’t know if there’s research to back it up, but my hunch is that we drunks have a way of complicating things. I certainly do!

The 12 Step Program Really Is Simple

Of course, the 12 Step Program is pretty simple – not easy, but simple. There are 12 Steps, one following the other in an order that makes sense. When we work those steps as they are written we learn to let go of our addiction and many of the problems associated with it.

Generally when I have problem with one step or another it’s because I’m either not telling myself (or seeing) the truth or I’m over thinking it.

For example, in theory I’m doing an 4th Step about my money issues. I’ve gotten stuck with a bit of recent history – why I stopped going to Debtors Anonymous meetings (geeze I don’t want to tell you this!).  I’ve got the story about it, which I won’t tell because that story isn’t about my part, but about what other people did wrong.

I sill think they’re wrong, but that’ absolutely no reason to let them stop me from going to meetings. That could be called shooting myself in the foot! In short, I’m acting like her majesty the baby and staying in resentment and it’s killing me or at least causing a whole bunch of pain.


I’ve been telling myself how all those other folks are wrong. I even spoke up at the meetings when various decisions were being made and I was pretty eloquent too. The group conscience chose another way. And until this moment I’ve been unwilling to blow the whistle on myself and talk about what I’ve been up to rather than what they’ve been up to.


Stories aren’t usually a sign of simplicity

It may be true that any time I find myself stuck in a story it means I’ve drifted a long way away from keeping it simple. I’m not sure about this yet. I know our stories are important – it’s also helpful to become willing to let them go.

This time, and it’s not the only time it’s happened to me, the story I’ve been telling has kept me from seeing my own resentment. That finger has been pointed outward and I failed to notice the three pointed back at me.

What has this to do with keeping it simple?

Maybe nothing. I seem to have gone off on a tangent… one that I needed to go off on for sure.

Or maybe this also points to the simplicity (not ease) of remembering to look to what we’ve contributed to whatever problem we have.

Learning to keep it simple is a worthy goal. Sometimes we can even make it work.

Oh, there was one other thing I wanted to say. In many cases the word stupid is added to the slogan. While I understand the sentiment I don’t like adding that simply because I don’t like assuming anyone is stupid.

Your turn: What’s your experience with the keep it simple slogan. Is it easy for you? Hard? Something in between? Tell us about it in comments.

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered



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Kayne February 12, 2013 at 4:34 am

a mentor of mine used to say “Keep it Spiritually Simple,” in place of “Keep it simple Stu….” He agreed with you. thanks.

annew February 12, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Kayne, I like that “Keep it Spiritually Simple!” Worth thinking about for sure, thanks.

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