Big Book Discussion
Please share your thoughts on various chapters and stories from the Big Book.
“We hope we have made clear the distinction between the alcoholic and the non-alcoholic. If when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely (mental obsession- the idea it’s ok to drink just before we drink), or if when drinking you have little control over the amount you take(physical allergy- the compulsion to drink more once we start drinking), you are probably alcoholic.( this is the closest I can recall of anything in our literature that tells someone they are alcoholic) If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.”(Let’s not get our shorts in a bunch. Bill said “may be”. If you are truly an alcoholic and have recovered without a spiritual experience or personality change, you are just one of few. Remember, we have had 3 doctors recommend the spiritual approach, Dr. Silkworth, Dr. Jung, and Dr. Polich. Anyway, this to me is the shortest and best description of an alcoholic. If you can’t leave it alone and can’t quit once you start, you are probably one of us. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-and our lives had become unmanageable. When I was new I thought unmanageability was that I didn’t know what was gonna happen once I started to drink, which I think is still true to some degree. More and more I think the unmanageability refers more to the state of being restless, irritable, and discontented while sober. I also like to meditate on the difference between unmanageable and mismanagement. I can mismanage my check book and get over it. If it is unmanageable, I need an accountant to come in and manage it for me. That’s why I need a Higher Power and maybe you don’t. My life was unmanageable and yours may have been mismanaged. That’s why you could pull yourself up by your boot straps and recover and I couldn’t.)
“To be doomed to an alcoholic death or live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.” (once I knew I was doomed, it was hard, but I did take the leap of faith. I chose to live a spiritual life-the 12 steps, instead of dying an alcoholic death. I made the choice because alcohol made me willing. This in itself was a miracle because I am the type that I can be lying in a gutter and still look down on people.)
Re-start orderliness in A.A. group meetings
“We started sharing by "show
of hands" instead of going around the room.”
This is the best thing I have read lately that I would much like to retry and that I have always wanted to try but have rarely if ever seen in A.A. like at other decent, well-ordered and well-arranged meetings in another fellowship I have attended. Please try and get this restarted. Jeffrey R.
Jeffrey R. Thanks for the message. I saw and participated
in many of the mistakes we made over the last three decades.
Until about 2007 I did not think that the things that
bothered me were worth mentioning. Why stir up controversy?
It seemed that all was well with A.A. I did not know that
Alcoholics Anonymous had almost collapsed in the early 1990's. No one told me. Now that I know, I try to inform
as many as possible. What happened to cause our stagnation?
I saw the mistakes as they were being made. When I protested, it was "kill the messenger". The dozen mistakes
in their entirety have almost destroyed A.A. We might have
survived one or two of them. Making a spectacle of new
prospects, or encouraging them to make a spectacle of
themselves has been harmful in the long run. We come
together in A.A. as complete equals.(in theory). Today's
concept of "sponsor" negates that theory. I appreciate
structure, orderliness. It can be "re-started" but not
without a lot of effort. Give it a try at your meetings.
Get your hands dirty.
Repeated humiliations might produce more humility. It
seems that you have a grasp on humility. That is the
missing ingredient in today's AA.
You do know that the message numbers change as the
messages are added. ANONYMOUS
On pages 20-21 of the Big Book three types of drinkers are described: moderate drinker, hard drinker and the real alcoholic.
"Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it or leave it alone.
Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die a few years before his time. If sufficiently strong reason—ill health, falling in love, change of environment or the warning of a doctor—becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention.
But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some point in his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink."
I was at an AA seminar on the Big Book. Each of the first 164 pages of the book were read and then the teachers explained what was meant by what was written on each page. When they came to pages 20-21, where the moderate drinker, hard drinker and real alcoholic are described, the speaker at the podium told the audience of about 250 people that he didn't feel that hard drinkers should be welcome in AA. He said the 12 Steps and the Big Book are intended as a solution for the "real" alcoholic.
What do others think about hard drinkers. Should they be welcome in AA? Even if they don't need to work the 12 Steps and read the Big Book like the real alcoholics do?
A few years before I hit AA, I played on a rugby squad at an international business school where alcohol was part of the food pyramid. Looking back, I joke that you couldn't identify the alcoholics without a scorecard. It seemed that all the guys drank often and drank a lot.
Once we graduated and moved on to real life, corporate jobs, wives, responsibilities...most of the guys were able to completely moderate their drinking. ONly a handful of us continued to drink to excess and experience problems related to our drinking. You'd hear the stories through the grapevine or at weddings or reunions. You could also see the change at these events. Having sobered up, I started hanging out with a segment of the group that departed events early and then got up early to enjoy the day. A handful of my old cronies continued to stay up all night partying and then rise at the crack of noon to do it again.
That said, if ANY of those guys showed up my meeting looking for help, they would be welcome. It appears to me that those who could moderate on their own, did, and those who could not either kept drinking or sobered up in AA.
If someone reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to always be there, and for that I am responsible.
We have severe problem in A.A. today and you are
trying to re-write the Big Book to your own understanding.
Are you going to monitor A.A. members to determine if they
belong in A.A. meetings? You are saying that alcoholics
don't belong in AA if they don't read the Big Book and
work the steps like real alcoholics (like you)do. No one
can determine who is an alcoholic or a real alcoholic.
Are you trying to distract attention from the real issues
that we must deal with if A.A. is to survive. ANONYMOUS
I was a moderate and a hard drinker who at the end of my drinking finally conceded I was a real alcoholic. It is by God's grace I came to this conclusion. I attended A.A. meetings off and on for 25 years never believing I was a real alcoholic until now. I was always welcome at meetings and said without fully believing it I was an alcoholic just so I would not draw any unnecessary attention to myself although I guess I was not very honest. I was grieved bitterly by my lack of honesty because I was not a true member of A.A. even though I worked the 12 steps and would participate occasionally in discussions and took some part in service work while remaining abstinent from alcohol for one period of almost 4 years.
It is true that inwardly never being able to admit that I was a real alcoholic lead me to want to drink again. During those 4 years of abstinence I planned to stop meeting attendance and prayed that a may one day drink successfully again and joyfully anticipated it. I believed that A.A. did improve my drinking. The beloved A.A. friends did me no harm. They and the Big Book helped me reach the conclusion that I did not belong in A.A., not yet.
Now the only true reason even a moderate or hard drinker cannot participate fully in A.A.is because they may not have the honest desire to quit drinking. That was I. However, they should always be welcomed in meetings. Had this not have been the case with me I would never have made it back when the fateful day arrived that I personally reached the conclusion between my self and God alone that I was in fact a real alcoholic and may have died immediately from this fatal illness.
Therefore, this teacher of A.A. is certainly in the wrong, should take a closer look at the last paragraph concerning the real alcoholic and take a closer look at the third tradition. Also, even if one would claim; and there are some like myself at some point in my past; are not real alcoholics and test the patience of our group, if they merely have the desire to quit drinking whatever the classification of drinker they may be would allow them to participate and be welcomed in A.A. Jeffrey R.
When reading some outdated parts of the Big Book, I often think about how it says "more will be revealed". Science knows much more about the cause and stages of alcoholism now than was known in the 1930's when the book was written. Bill was surely humble enough to have welcomed modern information about the progression of our disease, if it had been available.
Each person must decide if he or she is alcoholic. I don't decide for them, I just welcome them. If a person is able to recognize it and somehow ask for help before they get to the last stages, I see that as the generosity of the Higher Power in their lives and not mine to judge. When my thoughts stray into thinking something might need to be enforced or decided for others in AA, that is my own grandiosity rather than the Higher Power's will. My character defects require humble daily vigilance.
“many doctors and psychiatrists agree with our conclusions….what you say about the general hopelessness of the average alcoholic’s plight is, in my opinion, correct……though not a religious person, I have profound respect for the spiritual approach in such cases as yours. For most cases, there is virtually no other solution”(this is Dr. Percy Polick from Bellevue hospital in NY. Dr. Polick is the 3rd doctor to recommend a spiritual solution to alcoholism. The first was Dr. Silkworth of towns hospital. He wrote the medical estimate of the plan of recovery in AA in the Dr.’s Opinion earlier in the book. The second was the celebrated psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung. What impressed me most is the humility of these Doctors and especially how Polick and Silkworth believed so much in AA’s program of recovery)
“Once more: the alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power” (for me, I must understand that at some time in the future I will be without defense against the first drink. If I have not developed a relationship with my higher power through practicing the 12 steps, I may drink again and for me to drink is to die.)
On page 92 in the chapter working with others, it suggest you show the mental twists that lead to the first drink as the authors did in the chapter on alcoholism. So here is a recap of pages 30-43: an alcoholic cannot control & enjoy his drinking(we can sometimes do one or the other, but seldom control and enjoy at the same time). No alcoholic ever recovers control of his drinking. Over time alcoholics get worse, never better. Alcoholics have a subtle insanity that precedes the first drink. An alcoholic cannot stop drinking on self-knowledge alone (remember Jim, Fred, and earlier Bill and Rolland? All 4 could not stay sober on self-knowledge). At certain times, the alcoholic has no mental defense against the first drink and that defense must come from a higher power. From the Dr.’s Opinion we had the mental obsession that leads sober alcoholics back to drinking and the physical allergy which is we can’t stop once we start.
“They had said that though I did raise a defense, it would one day give way before some trivial reason for having a drink. Well, just that did happen and more, for what I had learned of alcoholism did not occur to me at all. I knew from that moment that I had an alcoholic mind. I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots ( so far we have Bill, Rolland, Jim, and Fred who couldn’t stay sober on self-knowledge. The book calls it the subtle insanity that precedes the first drink. I call it a forgetter)…..two members of AA came to see me…..they piled on me heaps of evidence to the effect that an alcoholic mentality, such as I had exhibited…..was a hopeless condition. They cited cases out of their own experience by the dozen. This process snuffed out the last flicker of conviction that I could do the job myself. ( this brings me back to tradition 1,3,& 5. If your on a 12 step call, how can you cite cases of your own hopelessness with drinking if your not an alcoholic?) Then they outlined the spiritual answer and program of action which a 100 of them had followed successfully.(this was back when you did the steps and then came to meetings. The program and the fellowship was one in the same. The same program works today. Since January, I have taken 2 sponsees through the same program outlined in the book and both are still sober.)……..the moment I made up my mind to go through with the process, I had the curious feeling that my alcoholic condition was relieved, as in fact it proved to be. (this was my experience. The moment I conceded I was an alcoholic and was willing to work the steps, I had the feeling I was OK)
“Fred is a partner in a well known accounting firm……..to all appearance he is a stable, well balanced individual. Yet, he is alcoholic. We first say Fred about a year ago………Fred would not believe himself an alcoholic, much less accept a spiritual remedy for his problem ( a spiritual program of action). We told him what we knew about alcoholism ( mental obsession, physical allergy, spiritual malady)……..he was a long way from admitting that he could do nothing about it himself…….One day we were told that he was back in the hospital( this is a year after the seed was planted)…….I was much impressed with what you fellows said about alcoholism…….I rather appreciated your ideas about the subtle insanity which precedes the first drink ( Fred had been approached by good AAs who knew that facts about alcoholism)….I felt I had every right to be self-confident, that it would be only a matter of exercising my will power and keeping on guard( this is why nonalcoholic therapists are killing alcoholics by teaching them to watch for triggers. Did you drink at night, during the day, at home, at work,……? How can a real alcoholic keep on guard 24/7? Remember we have a subtle insanity where we think it’s ok to drink, just before we drink.)……….One day I went to Washington….physically I felt fine. Neither did I have any pressing problems or worries……it was the end of a perfect day, not a cloud on the horizon. I went to my hotel and leisurely dressed for dinner. As I crossed the threshold of the dinning room. The thought came to mind that it would be nice to have a couple of cocktails with dinner…..as soon as I regained my ability to think, I went carefully over that evening……not only had I been off guard, I had made no fight whatever against the first drink. This time I had not thought of the consequences at all……..I know remembered what my alcoholic friends had told me, how they prophesized that if I had an alcoholic mind, the time and place would come-I would drink again. (this is another difference between the real alcoholic and the hard drinker. No matter what the alcoholic knows about himself as an alcoholic, if untreated, at some time in the future whether he will drink for some trivial reason. Fred was at the end of a perfect day when his insanity with alcohol returned.)
“However intelligent we may have been in other respects, where alcohol has been involved, we have been strangely insane” ( this is why for me “just don’t drink” doesn’t work. If I could just not drink, I wouldn’t have the subtle insanity with alcohol.)
“The actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge. This is a point we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience.” (This is the 3rd example of self-knowledge being insufficient to overcome alcohol. Bill, Rolland, and Jim all had knowledge of themselves as alcoholics and they all drank again. I think this is important if The author wants to emphasize and re-emphasize to smash home. If you’re an alcoholic, you know what smashed means!)
Jim tells how he was having a normal day at the office and stopped for lunch when “suddenly (that means right now!) the thought crossed my mind that if I were to put an ounce of whiskey in my milk it couldn’t hurt me on a full stomach. I ordered a whiskey and poured it into the milk…..but I felt reassured as I was taking the whiskey on a full stomach…..He had much knowledge about himself as an alcoholic(this is the second time since bill’s story where they say self-knowledge isn’t enough for the real alcoholic) Yet all reasons for not drinking were easily pushed aside in favor of the foolish idea that he could take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk! Whatever the precise definition of the word may be, we call this plain insanity. How can such a lack of proportion of the ability to think straight, be called anything else( I think this is the insanity referred to in step 2 along with Bill’s definition of insanity)……….we have sometimes reflected more than Jim did upon the consequences. But there was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink. Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out( this is the manifestation of the obsession with alcohol, the insane idea that it’s ok to drink just before we drink. This is why most alcoholics die. We start and cant stop)……..we now see that when we began to drink deliberately, instead of casually, there was little serious or effective thought during the period of premeditation of what the terrific consequences might be” ( this is why real alcoholics can’t “think through the drink” if we could, we wouldn’t be real alcoholics. If I could’ve honestly thought through the consequences, I wouldn’t have walked out of treatments and jails and started drinking like the booze was water. The authors again make a clear distinction between the hard drinker and the alcoholic. The alcoholic is without defense against the first drink while the hard drinker can stop or moderate on their own power, no Higher Power is needed for the hard drinker. )
My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic. Whether I consider
myself a recovered alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic,
I state that my name is Joe and I am an alcoholic. I
would never state that I am a "real alcoholic". Occasionally
a member will state their name and that they are a "real"
alcoholic. They seem to be saying that they are different,
that the rest of us are not real alcoholics. Does this
violate our tradition of unity? Picky? maybe. ANONYMOUS
Given the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous lets us be members based on how crazy we are, isn't it surprising we ever agree on anything? Members frequently give me a golden opportunity to sit down and shut up and I'm sure they return the favor once in a while for me. I sometimes count backwards from 500 by sevens when people aren't doing what I WANT THEM TO. I haven't gotten to four hundred yet.
my big book says real alcoholic 9 times pages 21,23,30(twice)31,34,35,92, and 109. ask yourself why would they repeat real alcoholic over and over? Then read tradition 3 long form. it says our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcholism. then the next time you go to a meeting sit back and listen carefully. listen to who has to work the steps to servive and who seems able to put the plug in the jug and do little else. it won't take long for you to determine who has an alcohol problem and who is alcoholic. those who have an alcohol problem stop drinking and their life gets better. those who suffer from alcoholism stop drinking and life gets so unbearable they must drink. those that can't stand to be sober long are what I would call the real alcoholic.
My Big Book is speaking directly to me as an individual.
It is up to me to decide if I am really an alcoholic. It is
a self-diagnosis. I am not there to try to determine who
has an alcohol problem and who is an alcoholic. It seems that you are saying that a member is not really an alcoholic and cannot be an AA member, if they sit in the
meeting without working the steps. Are you saying that if
they stay sober without working the steps, they are not
real alcoholics to begin with? I think we ought to open
the door wide enough for anyone with a drinking problem
to enter. If any member states that they are an alcoholic,
REAL OR UNREAL, I just take their word for it. ANONYMOUS
My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic. Whether I consider
myself a recovered alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic,
I state that my name is Joe and I am an alcoholic. I
would never state that I am a "real alcoholic". Occasionally
a member will state their name and that they are a "real"
alcoholic. They seem to be saying that they are different,
that the rest of us are not real alcoholics. Does this
violate our tradition of unity? Picky? maybe. ANONYMOUS
“What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who repeats time after time the desperate experiment of the first drink?..........
Our first example is a friend we shall call jim……..he did no drinking until he was 35. In a few years he became so violent when intoxicated he had to be committed…….he came into contact with us. We told him what we knew of alcoholism and the answer we had found (mental obsession, physical allergy, and spiritual program of action) He made a beginning…..all went well for a time, but he failed to enlarge his spiritual life (on page 14 of bill’s story he talked about enlarging you spiritual life through work and self sacrifice for others. I would say Jim didn’t do any 12 step work)…..he found himself drunk half a dozen times in rapid succession. On each of these occasions we worked with him, reviewing carefully what had happened.( these are good AAs. Jim slips 6 times and they keep working with him!) He agreed he was a real alcoholic and in a serious condition. ( the authors are using “real alcoholic” again) He knew he faced another trip to the asylum if he kept on…..yet he drank again. ( that’s 7 slips!)
As our Big Book was being written, it probably was meant to be a work book. But just before the
book went to print, major changes were made. Without those changes Alcoholic's Anonymous would
have been just another Twelve Step Program. Those steps had been around in one form or another
for centuries. A.A. as a Twelve Step Program appears to be just another religion. One of the major
corrections was the change to "path". This originally read "follow our directions". Another major
change was to offer the book and fellowship in a suggestive manner. A.A has no musts. We simply
offer help by sharing our own experience, strength and most importantly our hope.
Bill was just four years sober when he completed the Big Book. Dr. Bob was sober three and
a half years and the others less than that. To say that Bill's hand was guided by God is just
a fallacy. Bill wrote the first part of the book practically by himself. Bill, himself wrote that
we realize we only know a little, that more would be revealed. To satisfy the Catholic contingent,
Heaven was changed to Utopia. Although I am not Catholic, I believe Utopia was a good choice.
Bill was concerned about scaring away prospects (this was from his first six months of personal
experience, using what I call the "How It Works" approach.)(violent exertion)
Bill described his effort during those six months as "spectacularly unsuccessful".
We have a method/technique of carrying the message to other suffering alcoholics. We simply
talk about ourselves, and tell no one what they are to do. The Big Book, IN ITS ENTIRETY, offers
a simple explanation. ANONYMOUS
I'm not saying Bill was Jesus, but Jesus only was in ministry around 3 years. A couple thousand years later the Christian religion has 2.4 billion followers. At around 3 years sober, Bill helped author a book that described the AA recovery program, about 100 years later he has around 2 million members. Not bad for a drunk.
I find it interesting that Bill wrote more would be revealed. The only changes in the big book since then have been the story section. I think that is where more is revealed.
I think that small group of drunks that later named themselves Alcoholics Anonymous after the title of their book was led by God. I would like to see you write a book that would become the basic text for 2 million plus alcoholics, that a couple hundred recovery groups would model themselves after, while being translated into 70 languages and selling over 40 million copies to date.
Yes AA has no musts, but the big book has around 100 “must” in it. Try reading it in it’s entirety and see. As far as directions, my big book specifically says directions on pages 29 & 85. Have a look.
I also think Bill was well aware of his success in staying sober himself and his failure to sober up others during his first 6 months. I am certain Bill took that into consideration 3 years later after they began having success. That is the formula outlined in the big book. There is a chapter titled “working with others” that specifically explains how to carry the message.
It’s funny that you say share experience, strength, and hope. My sponsor took me through the steps as outlined in the big book. My experience is doing the 12 steps as written in the book, my strength is my relationship with my higher power as a result of working the steps out of the book, and my hope is that I can share my experience using the book with others who want it. Like Bill said in chapter 7, pg 96 –“ you are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer.” If you don’t like what we offer, do it your own way. if that doesn't work, maybe you will be deperate enough to try it the big book way.
“We feel we had gone on drinking many years beyond the point where we could quit on our will power. If anyone questions whether he has entered this dangerous area, let him try leaving liquor alone for one year.” ( this is testing if you have developed the mental obsession with alcohol described earlier in the book. If you have the subtle insanity that precedes the first drink like a real alcoholic has, it is highly unlikely you can stop for a year on your own. We are not saying go to AA meetings every day for a year and if you stay dry your not an alcoholic. We are saying stay dry a year on your own. When the book was written they didn’t need or have AA meetings every day. They used the daily program of action described in the 12 steps.)
We think few to whom this book will appeal can stay dry anything like a year…..most of them within a few weeks. (From day one, the big book had appeal to me. I could relate and see I could recover if I followed what the authors did, which later proved to be true. Now what about those who the book does not appeal? All I can say is they are not alcoholics of my type. I was convinced I was in the grip of a progressive and fatal illness. It was a no brainer to pick up the book and follow it’s suggestions.)
“We are assuming of course, that the reader desires to stop. Whether such a person can quit on a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not.” (Don’t be upset if you’re an atheist or agnostic and have decades of sobriety. Your simply not an alcoholic of my or the first one hundreds type. If you have stopped drinking on a nonspiritual basis (I think Bill means using the 12 steps), you don’t need a spiritual program of action. By definition, if you did quit on your own power, you may have been a hard drinker since a hard drinker can eventually quit. Please just be careful in AA when you tell newcomers to not drink and go to meetings. Alcoholics of my type have been dying in AA for years with that advice)
“There was a tremendous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible…..this utter inability to leave it alone, no matter how great the necessity or the wish” (this doesn’t sound like a disco drunk, this is the real alcoholic. Like what has been written, if you can quit on your own power, our hats are off to you because we couldn’t.)
“How then shall we help our readers to determine, to their own satisfaction, whether they are one of us?.....we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.” (Even if you have the physical allergy to alcohol, if you never drink again, you will never have a problem with alcohol. My wife if allergic to shell fish, red dye, and pistachios. I have never seen her knowingly ingest any of those allergens in years. She needs no program. When I ask her how she does it, she just says it will make me sick or kill me. I would be crazy to think I could have some and get away with it. If she had the mental obsession like I do, at some time in the future, she would think It’s ok to eat pistachios just before she eats them. I was stone cold sober every time I walked out of a jail or treatment and started drinking again. The crux of my problem with alcoholism is my mental state just before I drink. My spiritual experience through working the steps protects me in those strange mental blank spots. Are you one of us? The book will help us determine that.)
Long story, short...Fellow AA's suggested to me..."Don't Drink, Get a Sponsor, Work the Steps, and Go To Meetings. It has been exceptionally helpful to me-EVEN NOW-as I, God-willing, "One Day at a Time," have 4 years sobriety this March 2014. I cannot guarantee anything in my sober life, Except Joy, Understanding, Tolerance, Kindness, Serenity, so on and so forth...if I am willing to be willing to stay sober. Plus, I have went 51/2 years sober and that was after rehab as a teen, and going in and out of AA until I, Myself surrendered, and accepted my alcoholism, today, I am in my late 30's. And, honored to call AA my family and friends.
If you don't drink, use a sponsor, work the steps, and go to meetings, all the sobriety bases should be covered!
Don't be upset! I am not an atheist or agnostic but this
message is very upsetting to me. The first 100 members did
consist of these liberals. They greatly influenced the
spiritual pitch and tone of the Big Book. See page 163 in
AACA. Bill calls them the radical left wing who made a
tremendously important contribution.
You are doing Alcoholics Anonymous a great disservice
by writing such falsehoods and explaining Bill's writings
as you personally see it. At least get your information
It is really members, who have reversed the decisions
made by Bill and the first hundred members, who have
caused the near collapse of A.A. ANONYMOUS
i resemble that remark!!!
isn't it the purpose of this big book topic forum to discuss how we interpret the book? How am I supposed to grow in understanding if I never hear your personal opinion of various chapters of the book?
Please let us know exactly what information is incorrect or a "falsehood" so we can investigate for ourselves. If your personal opinion makes it a falsehood, that dosen't make it a falshood.
I don't believe there are any falsehoods. There are so many interpretations because of individual experience, station in life, current circumstances(stressful or not), current medical condition(i.e. general health, psychiatric medications, etc.) and on and on. Most of all, as our spiritual lives progress, so do our interpretations. We are all-inclusive! Acceptance of others, no matter their place in life is our greatest strength and God's greatest gift to us. We no longer fight...alcohol, others, anything so we embrace and Love. When I was in the midst of my alcoholism and driven by this ridiculously powerful ego, all my thoughts seemed real and valid. Why would I denounce that? All I can do is offer my current opinion and show through action, a new way of life for me. I Love to hear other opinions. It helps me look from a different perspective outside of myself. Wasn't that always my problem? God bless you all!
You indicated that, of the first one hundred members
involved in the writing of the Big Book, none were atheists
or agnostic. That is a falsehood. I find your messages
confusing and dangerous. You intersperse your own opinions
as if they are actually in the Big Book.
I believe the Big Book to be written in simple
language. Anything that needs to be explained is
written in "More will be Revealed". A lot of it needed
to be explained and Bill spent the rest of his life
Did you ever read the second chapter in
"Language of the Heart? The title is 'Rules' Dangerous
but Unity Vital? Bill explains this better than I
could ever have done. Bill explains the entire Big Book
in his continued writings. We don't need to. ANONYMOUS
“A man of 30 was doing a great deal of spree drinking……once he started he had no control whatever…..He remained bone dry for 25 years…..then he fell victim to a belief which practically every alcoholic has- that his long period of sobriety and self-discipline had qualified him to drink as other men….in 2 months he was in a hospital…..he went to pieces quickly and we dead within four years….(this man may be from the book “a common sense of drinking”)…….Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic….if we are planning to stop drinking, there must (have you heard there are no musts in AA?) be no reservation of any kind……..(to me this man was a potential alcoholic when he quit. He had what sounds like the physical allergy, but had not yet developed the mental obsession. Once he started drinking after 25 years dry he found he couldn’t stop as he had done in the past. This is why being a real alcoholic is so deadly. We cant leave liquor alone for long while sober and once we start to drink we cannot stop on our own power. We are powerless over alcohol.
“We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking…..try it more than once….it may be worth a bad case of the jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition” (Who would guess that the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous would suggest that you drink to diagnose yourself! I have heard a couple AA members over the years say they would never suggest someone try drinking thinking they may die during the diagnosis. The fact is if they don’t think they are alcoholic, they are going to drink whether we suggest it or not, so don’t worry about killing anyone. This self-diagnosis is meant to test the physical allergy discussed earlier in the book. If you can drink and stop whenever you want, you don’t have the physical compulsion, therefore you are nonalcoholic. Marty M. the first women to stay permanently sober in AA suggested in her book to have 2 drinks a day for 6 months. If you can do that without having a physical compulsion, you are not an alcoholic, at least not by the big book’s definition.)
“Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic” (once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic)
“Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class……” ( I’ve often felt this is why so many want to introduce themselves at AA meetings as an addict, addicted, chemically dependent, ect. It’s easier to admit a highly addictive substance has you beat. It’s hard to admit that alcohol which 80% of the public can use without any problems has you beat. AA’s only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. Please respect our singleness of purpose and introduce ourselves as alcoholic or I am so and so and I have a desire to stop drinking. When a newcomer comes to AA to learn about recovery from alcohol and he doesn’t really believe he is in that class, all the alcoholics and something elses can kill that newcomer. The newcomer who is already looking for a reason to be different hears everything but alcoholism turns his head to the wall and dies. You know the type, he says “yes but” to everything that is said. “you don’t understand,’’ I’m different,” and “I know, I know.” When they are real goofed up they say all four in one sentence, “yes but I’m different, you don’t understand, I know what to do.”)
Note the title of this chapter. I think the authors want to give us more information about alcoholism! “most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics.(to me a real alcoholic has the mental obsession-the idea that it’s ok to drink just before I drink, physical allergy- once I start I seldom have control over how much I drink, spiritual malady from page 64, and my drinking progressively gets worse- explained at the bottom of page 30)………The idea that somehow , someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. ( I may have enjoyed it but I wasn’t controlling it and I may have occasionally controlled my drinking, but I sure wasn’t enjoying it!)……..We learned we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. (It’s that simple. To me my innermost self is my thought life. When I concede that I am an alcoholic in my thought life, I have made my first step. As you can see there is no drinking history to be written or anything like that. I have yet to read about taking a written drinking history in any AA literature. It may be a good idea, but it’s not AA. I took my first step while being 12 stepped by other members of AA.) The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.” (If you’re an alcoholic, you know what smashed means! We alcoholics are delusional when it comes to alcohol. The delusion I am like other people when it comes to alcohol has to be smashed)
“We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control.” (the authors used real alcoholic again. If you can recover control of your drinking, maybe your not a real alcoholic. If you can’t control your drinking, maybe you are a real alcoholic)………..We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.” (being convinced to a man means all of us. Alcoholics of our type-I am assuming they mean the real alcoholic has a progressive illness. I drank with drunks that never got any worse, therefore they are not alcoholics of my type since I continually got worse with a progressive illness called alcoholism. I have also witnessed alcoholics get progressively worse while sober although I don’t think the authors are referring to dry drunks who commit suicide. Again, a real alcoholic, the type that can relate to the authors of this book have a mental obsession, physical allergy, and a progressive illness, over time we get worse never better. If you can’t relate, congratulations! Your not an alcoholic of my type.)
“ A certain American business man (Rolland H.)…..he had floundered from one sanitarium to another. He had consulted the best know American psychiatrists. Then he had gone to Europe, placing himself in the care of ……the psychiatrist, Dr. Jung who prescribed for him. (from what I have read, Freud, Adler, and Jung were the top 3 psychiatrists in the world at the time. Rolland’s family had money and he was under Jung’s care for 1 year.) …….he believed he had acquired such a profound knowledge of the inner workings of his mind and its hidden springs that relapse was unthinkable. Nevertheless, he was drunk in a short time. (In Bill’s story he talked about self-knowledge not being enough, now Rolland, one of the men that carried the message to Ebby is used as another example of self-knowledge not being enough. In the next chapter, Fred and Jim’s stories will be more examples of self-knowledge being insufficient to overcome alcohol. Many times I have heard alcoholics say “I know, I know” and within a few weeks they are drunk again.)
After drinking again, Rolland returned to Jung and asked him why he couldn’t recover. The Doctor said Rolland was utterly hopeless, however Rolland stayed sober until his death by following the spiritual principles of the Oxford groups.
“some of our alcoholic readers may think they can do without spiritual help. Let us tell you the rest of the conversation our friend had with his doctor. You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mine existed to the extent that is does in you.” (Jung was speaking from his experience with alcoholics. He had never seen one chronic alcoholic recover- strong words from one of the top 3 shrinks in the world at that time!)
…….Is there no exception? Yes………Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences…….they appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements . Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them…..our friend was somewhat relieved,…..he was a good church member……( Jung told him) while his religious convictions were very good, in his case they did not spell the necessary vital spiritual experience. ( I love Jung’s description of a spiritual experience. I have seen it many times over the years in AA. Also of importance is Jung recognizing ordinary religion has very little effect on a chronic alcoholic. If it did we wouldn’t need AA, we could simply attend church and recover. Also of importance is the fact that alcoholics of Rolland’s type rarely stay sober without spiritual help. If you have stayed sober without a vital spiritual experience, it simply means you have not progressed as far as Rolland and I have and there is nothing wrong with that.)
“We….sought the same escape with all the desperation of drowning men. What seemed at first a flimsy reed, has proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God” ( I like numbers. 10% of a 24 hour period is 2.4 hours. Am I willing to put 10% of my day toward step work so I can live free of alcohol for 100% of my life? Am I willing to give 5% or 1.2 hours? What would a drowning man do to live? I also love this promise of what seems little at first eventually proves to be God if you seek with the desperation of a drowning man. If you haven’t found a Higher Power, try earnestly seeking.)
“We have no desire to…….If what we have learned and felt and seen means anything at all, it means all of us…….ar e the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon simple and understandable terms as soon as we are willing and honest enough to try.” (All we have to do is have enough willingness and honesty to start. If you are an atheist or agnostic, simply say “I am an atheist and I need some help.” That’s all you need to start, I know from experience.)
“ In the following chapter, there appears an explanation of alcoholism, as we understand it (This is AA’s explanation of alcoholism, you may have another from a professional, that’s ok, but this is AA’s explanation and it makes sense to us), then a chapter addressed to the agnostic……we find such convictions no great obstacle to a spiritual experience.”(If you’re an atheist or agnostic, don’t worry, about half of us once were too. Who says an atheist can’t practice prayer and meditation? We are not talking religion, we are talking spirituality, spirituality of your choice.)
“Further on, clear –cut directions are given showing how we recovered.” (I think that’s recovered #8 so far. I have heard the big book described as a story book. Have you ever read a story book that gives clear-cut directions? I know just prior to the book going to the publisher, the authors changed most of the directions to suggestions. I wonder why they left this directions and changed the rest? Personally, I had been beaten up enough to take some directions and it works for me when I read the big book and follow the directions. Later on pg 85 the book says “If we have carefully followed directions……” read it for yourself.”
“There is a solution (Italics-important) Almost none of us liked the self-searching (steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 & 10) the leveling of our pride ( I think 9, but could be all the steps since they are all ego deflating), the confession of shortcomings (steps 5,6,7) which the process requires for its successful consummation.” (this requirement doesn’t sound like a suggestion. I think the whole program is suggested, you know, take it or leave it, but if you take it there are requirements.)
“When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved ( solved=recovered), there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet” ( I’m going out on a limb here but after the last paragraphs description of the steps as requirements, I think the simple kit of spiritual tools is the steps. Being laid at our feet must at least mean talking about them since Bill wrote in “the group” that the sole purpose of a group is the teaching and practicing of the steps.)
“The great fact is just this……He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.” (as a result of using the required spiritual tools, the fact is they ready us for a deep and effective spiritual experience. This spiritual experience accomplishes recovery from alcoholism, that which we couldn’t do for ourselves. If you can stay sober without a spiritual experience, you simply are not as seriously alcoholic as we were, see the paragraph below.)
“If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle of the road solution………we had but two alternatives: one was to go on to the bitter end, blotting the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This we did because we honestly wanted to, and were willing to make the effort.” (If you have found a middle of the road solution to your alcoholism, it just means you were not as seriously alcoholic as we were. To accept spiritual help to me is the 12 steps. The steps are the constant on this page. Whenever an alcoholic does the steps, he must do it because he wants to, not because someone is cramming them down their throats. That being said, talking about the steps is not cramming them down your throat. If we don’t talk about how we work the steps, how is the real alcoholic going to know what to do when he decides he is willing to make the effort?
“At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. This tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long before it is suspected” (Every alcoholic? Let’s remember this the next time we suggest that you “just don’t drink no matter what”. If we are talking to a real alcoholic, they can’t stop no matter what. If they can, they are a hard drinker, not an alcoholic. Yes, the tragedy is that almost every alcoholic is beyond the point of choice, long before we know it. By the time we want to stop, most of us can’t. If you can quit for good on your own, I am happy for you but your probably only a hard drinker.)
“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink. “(This paragraph is written in italics for a reason- it’s important! Many times I woke and swore I would never touch another drop and within minutes I would completely forget what alcohol would do to me and I would drink again. How many times have I spent thousands of dollars for detoxes and treatment centers only to get drunk on the way home or within a few weeks. I am without defense against the first drink. When I am stone cold sober, I cannot recall the devastation alcohol always caused me towards the end of my drinking. If I can’t recall my consequences, I certainly won’t recall yours.)
“The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us………When this sort of thinking is fully established in an individual with alcoholic tendencies, he has probably placed himself beyond human aid, and unless locked up, may die or go permanently insane.” (Probably- the authors give the rationalizing alcoholic a break by occasionally using words like “most” or “probably”. They knew alcoholics would focus on the one time it wasn’t always or never. The authors knew alcoholics because they were alcoholics. Some may say they don’t believe in anything beyond human aid and that they are happy and sober today. I think that’s great. They simply are not alcoholics. Again, I am an alcoholic, meaning I have a mental obsession coupled with a physical allergy. By the big books description, if I can stop for good, I do not have the mental obsession, therefore nonalcoholic.)
“None of us makes a sole vocation of this work”(AA isn’t all we do, we have family, friends, jobs, hobbies, a life, ect. This doesn't sound like go to 90 meetings in 90 days or go to meetings every day forever)
“we feel elimination is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations, and affairs” ( not drinking is just the start. What are our principles? Is it confession, restitution, and usefulness to others? In other words the steps and traditions? Where do we demonstrate these principles? Homes, occupations, and affairs sounds like everywhere.
“…….close by hundreds are dropping into oblivion every day. Many could recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. How then shall we present that which has been so freely given to us? We have concluded to publish an anonymous volume setting forth the problem as we see it. We shall bring to the task our combined experience and knowledge. This should suggest a useful program for anyone concerned with a drinking problem” (This doesn’t sound like a description of a story book. The author just said the program of AA is in the book. This group of about 40 chronic alcoholics had stayed sober from a few weeks up to about 3 ½ years when they began writing the big book. Aside from the Washingtonian society, this has never been done before. Even more miraculous is that this group of sober drunks put their combined experience in a book with the idea that if you follow what they did you can recover too. My experience confirms Bill’s writing. I have used the book’s suggestions as a program for sobriety and it works.
“Of necessity……Most of us sense that real tolerance of other people’s shortcomings and viewpoints and a respect for their opinions are attitudes which make us more useful to others. (what a great measure of one’s emotional sobriety- real tolerance of other people’s shortcomings, viewpoints, and opinions. I can always tell when I’m getting too dry, lack of tolerance for shortcomings, viewpoints, and opinions) Our very lives as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs” ( this doesn’t sound like a selfish program- “our very lives depend on our thoughts of others and how we can help them” I had put myself first my whole life and I was never happy. It never occurred to me until AA that if I help you and think of how I can help you that I would find happiness in you doing well)
“We hope this volume will inform and comfort those who are, or who may be affected.” I think this means what it says. This book is full of information pertinent to becoming a recovered alcoholic. Certainly if you are affected by alcoholism, this should comfort you as a hopeless drunk.
“But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution (this solution= 12 steps leading to a spiritual experience), who is properly armed with facts about himself (mental obsession, physical allergy & spiritual malady), can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished.” I think this was another reason why AA eventually split from the oxford groups and developed traditions 1,3,&5. If AA is full of nonalcoholics speaking at AA meetings, no understanding is found and nothing can be accomplished for the still suffering alcoholic.
“That the man who is making the approach has had the same difficulty(we are at least alcoholic), that he obviously knows what he is talking about(you can’t talk about where you haven’t been),that his whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real answer(you can’t lead someone where you haven’t gone), that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou…….no lectures to be endured-( if you want what we have…if not, that’s your business) these are the conditions we have found most effective. After such an approach many take up their beds and walk again.” If you haven’t recovered from alcoholism, or your home group is having difficulties, read that last 2 paragraphs carefully and follow the book’s suggestions.
“opinions vary considerably as to why the alcoholic reacts differently from normal people” It seems every couple years there is a new reason why alcoholics can’t stop drinking once they start. At first it was weak will, a vitamin deficiency, high or low blood sugar, damaged pancreas, weak enzymes in the liver, ect. It really doesn’t matter because like the book says “These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink……Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.” Having an understanding that my body has an abnormal reaction to alcohol is important but I have to realize the main problem is my mental obsession. If I had the power to stay away from the first drink, my allergy to alcohol would be a side note. My real problem with alcohol is that when I am stone cold sober, at certain times I think it’s ok to drink just before I drink. Then the allergy kicks in and I can’t stop once I start. If I stray too far away from the program the insidious insanity of the first drink will creep back in. I will have one of those famous mental blank spots and I will drink again. It doesn’t matter how long I have been sober or how much knowledge I have. I can’t stay sober on yesterday’s work, just like you can’t win today’s baseball game with yesterday’s homerun.
“Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body.” There it is again-recovered, yes recovered. That is 7 times up to page 20 the authors have used recovered. Yes I will always have a physical allergy to alcohol. If I drink I will be compelled to drink more. Yes I am capable of having my mental obsession with alcohol return. If I don’t practice the disciplines of steps 10,11,&12 on a daily basis, I will not grow spiritually and I am sure to drink. I am recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. I have been taught a spiritual program of action that when practiced as a way of life expels the compulsion to drink and makes me usefully and happily whole.
“if you are an alcoholic who wants to get over it, you may already be asking-“What do I have to do?” It is the purpose of this book to answer such questions specifically. We shall tell you what we have done.” I like this as a qualifier- It is a display of willingness. Do you want to get over it? Are you asking what do I have to do? If so, the big book will answer your questions specifically. The authors will tell you exactly what they have done.
First the authors will summarize some points, “How many times people have said to us: I can take it or leave it alone. Why cant he?........we see that these expressions refer to people whose reactions are very different from ours.”
“Moderate drinkers have little trouble giving up liquor entirely…….They can take it or leave it alone.”
“Then we have a certain type of hard drinker….If a sufficiently strong reason-ill health, falling in love,…..this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult an troublesome and may even need medical attention.” AA is full of the hard drinker and that’s ok. The hard drinker can stop without spiritual help. The hard drinker can stay sober by attending AA meetings without working the steps. The hard drinker can choose not to drink for today. The hard drinker is the guy who’s relatives say “ I have an uncle who used to be an alcoholic. One day he just quit.” The hard drinker comes to AA, puts the plug in the jug and wonders why others can’t.
“But what about the real alcoholic?.......at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink……He is seldom mildly intoxicated. He is always more or less insanely drunk….He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong moment…..He is the fellow who goes to bed so intoxicated he ought to sleep the clock around. Yet early next morning he searches madly for the bottle he misplaced the night before…….he may have liquor concealed all over his house….as matters grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative…….perhaps he goes to a doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with which to taper off……” this is the real alcoholic, not a disco drunk. He has a full blown case of mental obsession, physical allergy, and spiritual malady. The real alcoholic will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on his own power, he has lost the ability to control his drinking. An alcoholic by definition cannot “just not drink.” If he could, he would be a certain type of hard drinker, not an alcoholic. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that even in the 1930’s, alcoholics where using alcohol and drugs.
“We of AA, know thousands of men and women who were once just as hopeless as Bill. Nearly all have recovered. They have solved the drink problem.” By my count, I have 6 times the book has referred to recovered alcoholics. This gave me hope that I could recover too for good and all.
“The feeling of having shared a common peril…..But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined.” Us all being alcoholic is a great start. We all come together as alcoholics. If that was enough, every jitter joint in the world would be curing alcoholics left and right.
“The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree……..This is the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.” I think the days of having a common solution are long gone. The good news for me is this, no matter what happens to me or AA, I can take the big book, follow it’s suggestions and recover from a hopeless condition of mind and body. The groups I know that are still awesome have a common solution. These groups teach and practices the 12 steps as a spiritual program of action. Not forcing the book or the steps down anyone’s throat, but there for anyone who feels they need some help.
“For if an …..and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others….”(If you are having trouble enlarging your spiritual life, try work and self-sacrifice for others)
“If he did not work, he would surely drink…..”( this was the group experience, if they didn’t work with others, they usually drank. I have the same experience today)
“It was fortunate…..for a year and a half……..I was not too well at the time and was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment…..” ( I have always been impressed with Bill’s humility to admit things were tough for the first 1 ½ years he was sober, even while working the steps and having a sudden and profound spiritual experience)
“this nearly drove me to drink, but I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going” (After working what later became AA’s first 11 steps, Bill would work step 12 when he felt shaky. That is exactly what I was taught when I was new. They got me to step 12 as fast as possible, so on the occasion I was close to a drink, I had a program and a message to carry to the next alcoholic. I would get out of myself and take some unselfish action and my desire to drink would be lifted. Dr. Bob also talked of having trouble with craving alcohol for 2 ½ years. He would work with another alcoholic to take out some insurance against a drink.)
“We meet frequently so newcomers may find the fellowship they seek” ( Bill tells us exactly why we have meetings that meet at the same time and place, so newcomers can find us and learn about the 12 steps. Bill later wrote in the pamphlet “The Group” that the sole purpose of an AA group is the teaching and practicing of the 12 steps. Those are Bills words, not mine.
To recap, here are some of my favorite parts of Bill’s story,
Pg 7, “Self-knowledge is not the answer to alcoholism but critical to step 1”
Pg 9 “at 2 months sober, Ebby had carried what later became the AA message to Bill minus step 1 which was done by Dr. Silkworth”
Pg 11 “Doctors had pronounced Ebby incurable, God did for Ebby what he couldn’t do for himself, and Ebby and Bill had admitted complete defeat and in so doing had taken step 1.”
Pg 12 “Ebby said, why don’t you choose your own conception of God? Bill said it was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Higher Power.”
Pg 13 “Bill did what later became the 12 steps in a few days”
Pg 15 “for 1 ½ years Bill was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment even after his profound spiritual experience. When all other measures failed, he would work with another alcoholic to save himself’’
“At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the last time…….There I humbly offered myself to God” To me this sounds a lot like what later became step 3.
‘’I ruthlessly faced my sins” this looks like step 4 “and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch” this sounds just like steps 6 and 7!
“My schoolmate visited me ( from what I have read, Ebby visited Bill after he had been in the hospital for 3 days) and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies” I think that became step 5!
“We made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment.” Could that be step 8?
“I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability.” That reads like step 9 to me.
“I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciousness within…..I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength……never was I to pray for myself, except as my request bore on my usefulness to others….” This looks like what became step 11.
“My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator….” Sound like the 1st part of step 12.
“These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known. There was utter confidence…..” Bill hadn’t really done much yet, but he had “decided” to do it and began to have a spiritual experience.
“My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic!” this last statement reads just like the 2nd and 3rd part of step 12. As you can see, Bill began doing what later became the 12 steps in just a few days. I don’t know how the steps have become such a drawn out exercise for so many? As a chronic alcoholic, I could never stay sober more than a few weeks without working the steps and applying the disciplines of steps 10,11, & 12 in my daily life. Now it’s been 20 plus years with no problems.
The AA program is remarkably simple. Bill described exactly how he did it in just a few pages. If you have as yet not found an answer to your alcoholism, or if you are still restless, irritable, and discontent while sober, try doing what Bill did, That’s what my sponsor taught me and that’s the way I pass it on to my sponsees. if you put half the effort into the steps as you did into drinking, it never fails.
It seems that Bill did all those things after his
spiritual experience. He did not do those things to acquire
a spiritual awakening. The only thing Bill did was to do
surrender himself to God. I believe that Bill's white light
spiritual experience was a gift from God to Bill and to the
suffering alcoholic. Unlike a normal gift, this was a gift that we have to ask for. And it comes with a condition; In
order to keep it we have to give it away. We give it away
by sharing about it with other alcoholics. We share it humbly without self-pride. EGO deflation at great depth is the beginning of the process. Let's put the horse back
in front of the cart. I believe we can save the multitudes
of suffering alcoholics who are out there. ANONYMOUS
carefully read pages 13 and 14. to me, the second paragraph on page 14 is clear that Bill had fully accepted what later became our steps prior to his spiritual experience. Ebby had already visited him and he did what would later become the 5th step with Ebby. He had a spiritual awakening as a result of what is now the first 11 steps. then he felt he should carry "that" message to other alcoholics. It's pretty straight forward.
Our group has gotten back to the practice of working with newcomers out of the big book. the newcomers keep coming and keep getting sober and happy. it works perfectly.
“my friend sat before me, and he made the point blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead,……..” Ebby is still with Bill in Bill’s home. Ebby no doubt had an incredible impact on Bill. Bill knew Ebby as a hopeless drunk and now here he is sober. Bill and Ebby had already done what later became AA’s 1st step, they both had admitted complete defeat.
“I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil…….” It must have been obvious to Bill that Ebby had had a dramatic change in feeling and outlook. Remember, Ebby was only 2 months sober and had begun living the oxford group way of life. He was living off the charity of others and working a daily program of action. He was changed and Bill could see it.
“My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, “why don’t you choose your own conception of God” What a gift the oxford groups gave to AA – no religion if you don’t want it, only spirituality.
“It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning. I saw that growth could start from that point. Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend. Would I have it? If course I would! Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough.” I think this is where Bill began what later became step 2. He came to believe in a power greater than himself and he started in the only place you can, with a foundation of willingness. I fully agree with Bill. I believe God is a gentleman. Gentlemen don’t go where there not invited and don’t stay where there not welcome. When I asked, He came. I have been inviting Him daily since.
‘’No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found……..Alcohol was my master………I stepped from the hospital a broken man. Fear sobered me for a bit. Then came the insidious insanity of the 1st drink……I was off again………( to me the insidious insanity is the idea it’s ok to drink just before we drink when we are stone cold sober. It’s the lack of proportion of the ability to think straight when it comes to alcohol. To me that’s the insanity I came to believe God could help with in step 2)
Near the end of that bleak November, I sat drinking in my kitchen………the cheery voice of an old school friend asked if he might come over. He was sober……..Rumor had it he had been committed for alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped……
The door opened and he stood there, fresh skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened……..But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to suspend his commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. That was two months ago and the result was self-evident. It worked! He had come to pass his experience along to me-if I cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Certainly I was interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless.”
From what I have read one man was Rolland H- the certain American business man from page 26 the other was Shep C. Both were members of the Oxford group. A third man Cebra was involved. He was also a member of the oxford group, but more importantly his father was the judge. From what I understand, the “religious idea” was first century Christianity. To be maximum, the oxford group members would give up their possessions and carry the message of nondenominational Christianity. The practical program of action was what I believe to be the 5 C’s- confidence, confession, conviction, conversion, and continuance. This is what later became AA’s steps 2-12, with step 1 coming from Dr. Silkworth and William James. What stands out most to me is that Ebby was 2 months sober, fresh skinned and glowing, and was already passing his experience along to Bill if he cared to have it. No strings attached, take it or leave it. Bill took it because he was hopeless, and Ebby had an answer.
Bill’s story page 7
“…….I was placed in a nationally-known hospital for the ………rehabilitation of alcoholics……..I met a kind doctor who explained that though certainly selfish and foolish, I had been seriously ill, bodily and mentally………my incredible behavior in the face of a desperate desire to stop was explained. Understanding myself know, I fared forth in high hope. For 3 or 4 months ……..surely this was the answer-self-knowledge. But it was not for the frightful day came when I drank once more.” Bill experienced what every treatment center alcoholic becomes, a smart drunk. We learn all about alcoholism, we learn all about ourselves, we see psychiatrists and therapists. We learn so much about ourselves, we think we understand ourselves so much, that drinking is unthinkable. Then, with no daily program to fall back on (12 steps), we drink and wonder how it happened.
Self-knowledge is critical. If I didn’t think I was an alcoholic and was going to eventually die of alcoholism, I would never have taken the remaining 11 steps, who would? For alcoholics like me, self-knowledge alone is insufficient. Bill makes this point clear further on in the book when he talks about Rolland H, Fred, and Jim. They all knew they had to stop drinking but found themselves drunk. Bill, Fred, and Jim had been given Dr. Silkworth’s “cart before the horse idea” they all were told about the hopelessness, mental obsession and physical allergy, and the progressive nature of alcoholism, yet they all drank again. They hadn’t done what later became steps 2-12.
For me, the first 6 pages of Bill’s story are just like everyone else’s, he started drinking, had to drink more to chase that feeling, eventually the problems caused by drinking outweighed the benefits of drinking.
The last sentence on page 6 of Bills story, Bill says “A Dr. came with a heady sedative. Next day found me drinking both gin and sedative. This combination soon landed me on the rocks.” I think Bill was an alcoholic who, towards the end of his drinking abused alcohol and a prescription. I take notice that out of 16 pages of Bill’s story, he used 3 sentences to describe his drug use. I feel if Bill can “briefly” describe his drug use, we should be free to describe ours “briefly” while telling our story. If I can’t describe it “briefly” chances are I am in the wrong fellowship, or if I feel the need to talk more than Briefly about my drug use, I should attend a fellowship that pertains more to my primary problem. In doing so, I will be able to identify with others and give talks from a podium without breaking theirs or ours tradition of singleness of purpose.