Their Sober Press

Their Sober Press is an anonymous fellowship of alcoholics with support from non-alcoholics who “remix” sober literature to make them more inclusive for people of all genders, sexual orientations, and religious beliefs. It is our sincere hope that these small changes help make 12 step programs accessible to people who formerly felt unwelcome due to exclusionary language in the central texts. Our work is not authorized by the AA General Service Board, AA World Service Board, or any related organization.

We are not for profit and do not accept any donations. If any of the literature here has helped you get and stay sober, please contribute to a local twelve step group.

Download Literature

We have remixed the entire Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions—commonly referred to as The 12&12—and the first 164 pages of the book Alcoholic Anonymous—commonly referred to as The Big Book.

Unfortunately, Their Sober Press received a Cease and Desist order on July 14, 2020 and can no longer distribute the inclusive remixes. Please see a copy of the Cease and Desist order below.

Cease and Desist Order

To whom it may concern:

Recently, we were advised by some of our membership that your site contained A.A. material which are copyrighted by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (“A.A.W.S.”).

When we reviewed your site, subsequently, we verified that your site did, in fact, include A.A.W.S. copyrighted material specifically the publications Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous. These publications are reformatted into what your site refers to a “Remix PDF” (gender neutral) and “Dyslexia PDF”.

We must inform Theirsober.press that your reformatting and distribution of these publications constitutes a copyright infringement.

A.A.W.S.' copyrights are held in trust for A.A. as a whole, A.A.W.S. has a concomitant responsibility to protect these valuable A.A. assets (both in terms of content - i.e., preserving the integrity of the A.A. message - as well as otherwise). In order to meet this responsibility, A.A.W.S. must ensure that A.A.'s copyrights remain undiminished by infringing activities.

We must ask you to remove A.A.W.S. copyrighted publications from your site. Please confirm receipt of this email and please inform me when these publications have been removed from your site.

We would appreciate your cooperation in this important matter.

In Fellowship,

Darlene Smith
Senior Intellectual Property Adm.
A.A. World Services, Inc.
475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115
ippolicy@aa.org

Philosophy

Their Sober Press recognizes why numerous AA members and service committees are reticent to change the language from the original AA literature. AA and other twelve step programs have saved countless individuals from dying of their addictions. Why would we risk changing the “magic formula” that has helped so many people get and stay sober?

The truth is though, there is nothing sacred about the literature. What gets us sober is a spiritual experience, and what keeps us sober is working with other alcoholics.

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.
—Alcoholic Anonymous, page 89

What the founding member of Their Sober Press discovered was that many people they worked with felt excluded because of how AA literature assumes that: alcoholics are almost always men, women are seldom professionals and almost always the stay-at-home caregivers, God is a man, and all relationships are heterosexual. This is not to suggest that the original authors meant to exclude people. They were using the common phasing and biases of their time. In fact we recognize that they actively took steps to make the program more accommodating. In How It Works on page 58 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, it refers to alcoholics as “men and women” and refers to a higher powers as “God as we understood Him.” We therefore believe that making the smallest changes possible to the text to make it more inclusive without diminishing the message is in line with the precedent set down by the founders of AA.

We’ve heard it said that the AA literature has been successful in helping alcoholics for 50 years, and if we have a resentment at the way it’s written, then we should write an inventory about it. Our founding member did write an inventory about it, prayed about it, talked with their sponsor about it, talked to other alcoholics about it, and came to this conclusion: while they had the luxury of writing an inventory about it because they had worked the steps, there were countless other suffering alcoholics who would not be able to write such an inventory because they wouldn’t feel welcome to AA and leave.

When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, [we] want the hand of AA always to be there, and for that [we] are responsible.
—AA Responsibility Pledge

Methodology

To try to be consistent in our remixing, and to ensure we’re making the smallest possible changes without altering the message, we follow a style guide. Our most up-to-date version of the style guide is hosted on GitHub.

Key points from style guide

Gender of God

Avoid using any pronoun when referring to God.

For any given alcoholic God may be a: he, she, it, they, etc. When we say “God as we understand Him,” we are implicitly saying that any concept of God is fine, so long as it’s a man. Other remixes have replaced “God as we understood Him” with “our Higher Power as we understood it.” While we agree that this is an inclusive remixing of the text, we found it to be too distracting when being read alongside a non-remixed text and found that replacing “Him” with “God” to flow more naturally. Moreover, we had noticed that some members of AA already did this when reading “How It Works” at the beginning of an AA meeting.

Original
God as we understood Him
Remixed
God as we understood God

Singular they

Replace gendered pronouns with singular they.

Try to establish singular “they” by having a clear singular subject antecedent. When there are multiple “they” pronouns in a sentence, make sure that each usage of “they” has its antecedent appear before any other “they” pronouns that refer to different antecedents. Otherwise restate the antecedent.

Original
No matter how much one wishes to try, exactly how can he turn his own will and his own life over to the care of whatever God he thinks there is?
Remixed
No matter how much one wishes to try, exactly how can they turn their own will and their own life over to the care of whatever God they think there is?
Original
They simply will not budge; they make him desperately unhappy and threaten his newfound sobriety.
Remixed
Their problems simply will not budge; they make the alcoholic desperately unhappy and threaten their newfound sobriety.

Man and men

Favour using “person” or “people” over “man” or “men.”

Also avoid using gendered profession names that end in “man” (e.g. clergyman, businessman.)

Original
This brave philosophy, wherein each man plays God, sounds good in the speaking, but it still has to meet the acid test: how well does it actually work?
Remixed
This brave philosophy, wherein each person plays God, sounds good in the speaking, but it still has to meet the acid test: how well does it actually work?

Men and women

Use “people” instead of “men and women.”

While these uses are trying to be more inclusive, they still exclude non-binary individuals. Replace “man and woman” with something like “person” and “men and women” with “people” or “everyone.”

Original
Every man and woman who has joined A.A. and intends to stick has, without realizing it, made a beginning on Step Three.
Remixed
Every person who has joined A.A. and intends to stick has, without realizing it, made a beginning on Step Three.
Original
No adult man or woman, for example, should be in too much emotional dependence upon a parent.
Remixed
No adult, for example, should be in too much emotional dependence upon a parent.

Masculine collective nouns

Avoid words that assume a group of people are all male.

For example: brotherhood and mankind

Original
The sum of all this mighty effort is less peace and less brotherhood than before.
Remixed
The sum of all this mighty effort is less peace and less kinship than before.

Gendered caregivers

Favour “parent” to “father” or “mother.”

Often it is assumed that a mother is a stay-at-home caregiver and a father is a breadwinner. Using “parent” instead create the space for people of any gender to assume either of these roles.

Gendered partners

Use “partner” instead of “wife” or “husband.”

Often it is assumed that alcoholics are men married to (non-alcoholic) women. This does not reflect reality. Alcoholics can be any gender and can be in non-marriage partnerships with people of any gender.

Pronouns when referring to specific people

Keep gendered pronouns if they refer to specific people.

We do not want to erase the gender of specific people when they are identified in the original text.

Unchanged
“So did a friend of mine who was a one-time vice-president of the American Atheist Society, but he got through with room to spare.”

Gendered language in quotes

Remix gendered language in quotes using brackets.

Because we assume that the authors of AA literature were not intentionally using exclusionary language, it is safe to remix this language as long as brackets are used around the changes so as to not misrepresent the person being quoted.

Original
“THIS is the Step that separates the men from the boys.” So declares a well-loved clergyman who happens to be one of A.A.’s greatest friends.
Remixed
“THIS is the Step that separates the [adults] from the [children].” So declares a well-loved clergyperson who happens to be one of A.A.’s greatest friends.

Fellow and fellowship

Using fellow and fellowship is OK.

While some dictionaries have archaic or obsolete definitions of fellow as masculine. However, “fellow” itself is etymologically gender neutral. In a survey of different online discussion boards, most people tend to agree that fellow in most modern usages is gender neutral. Lastly, prior art, Inclusive Big Book, does not change instances of “fellow” and “fellows.” Though, there are some instances in the text here, that we have remixed “fellow” singular into “someone” or “person” when it seemed appropriate.

Queer

Avoid using the word “queer.”

In older AA literature, “queer” is used with its traditional meaning of “odd” or “strange.” In today’s English, “queer” is almost always used either (a) to mean someone who identifies outside of the hetero-normative or cis-gender-normative paradigms or (b) as a slur to refer to someone who is not straight or cis-gendered. To avoid confusion and also to avoid triggering folks who may have had “queer” used as a pejorative towards them, we opt to replace “queer” with a different descriptive adjective.

Original
Show them, from your own experience, how the queer mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power.
Remixed
Show them, from your own experience, how the distorted mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power.

Get involved

If you’d like to help, or have questions about Their Sober Press, please reach out to hello@theirsober.press.

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