Big Book Discussion
Please share your thoughts on various chapters and stories from the Big Book.
“We were now at Step Three. Many of us said ( I think Bill uses many here because some of the more agnostic members were not talking to their maker, it was God as they understood Him) to our Maker, as we understood Him: God, I offer myself to thee-to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do thy will always!”( on page 87 Bill says we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers….. this 3rd step prayers is one I incorporate into my morning meditation) We thought well before taking this step ( I have been to some groups that open their meeting with the third step prayer. Obviously any newcomers have not “thought well” about taking this step.) making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him. (I knew I had taken this step because it was only a decision. I carried out the decision by continuing on with step 4 at the bottom of 63 where it says “next…..”
We found it very desirable to take this spiritual step with an understanding person……..But it is better to meet God alone than with one who might misunderstand. (having a spiritual awakening is the purpose of these steps. We are working towards a personal relationship with the Higher Power of our understanding) The wording was, of course quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation. This was only a beginning (to me this is the 3rd step warning, this is only a beginning), though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once. (one definition of effect is a change as a result of an action. The 3rd step promise is if we take this step honestly and humbly, a change comes, sometimes a great one. But again, this is only a beginning, there is a reason we have 9 more steps. Many of us work 1,2,3, feel the great effect then return to active alcoholism or dry drunkenness by not continuing on with the last 9 steps. If real alcoholics could consistently stay sober with 1,2,3, AA would be a 3 step program instead of 12.
“When we sincerely took such a position (described on last paragraph of 62- quit playing God, He is the director……), all sorts of remarkable things followed (these remarkable things are the 3rd step promises). We had a new employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well (this is the 3rd step condition, performing His work well not ours). Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs (this is how I can tell if I’m on the right footing, how interested I am in my plans and designs). More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn”( what a promise! The warning comes on page 64- though our decision was vital and crucial, it could have no permanent effect unless followed by the 4th step)
“This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work.( the fellowship only has one requirement, a desire to stop drinking. The program of AA has many requirements and musts. I need to pay close attention to where the book says first, next, ect and simply do what it says. So FIRST, I have to quit playing God. To me that means stop telling God what to do and stop directing others. Also keep in mind I am lying every time I feel there is no God, because even in those moments what I am really saying is I am God) Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal (person in charge of an organization): we are his agents( a representative of an organization). He is the Father, and we are His children. (again, I pay close attention to NEXT. The book is giving me directions for carrying out step 3. This is exactly why this chapter is titled “How It Works” and why the language changed dramatically on page 58. Pages 58 to 103 give clear cut directions for working steps 3-12 as apposed to the 12x12 where Bill wrote essays about the steps, not directions for working them. If the 12x12 was meant for directions, Bill would have described them as directions instead of essays) Most ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.” ( a keystone is the wedge shaped stone between the two pieces of an arch. Without the keystone, the structure will not stand on it’s own. In meditation, I pondered the relationship between a director and those directed, a Principal and his agents, a Father and His children. I then started our relationship accordingly.)
Having children has helped me put my relationship with my HP in perspective and to understand what my HP wants for me. I want my children to be productive members of society and to be happy, successful and fulfilled. I do almost anything to help them achieve their dreams and take great satisfaction in seeing them grow and become who they were meant to be. I think of my HP having the same sort of love for me.
“so our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making.( in 100% of all my problems I have ever had, the common denominator is me!) They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so.( I had no idea how selfish I really was. Every time I drank, I was only thinking of myself and how I felt.) Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible.(selfishness will kill me because when I am selfish, I only think of myself. I put myself first and when I do that, I usually eventually think it’s ok to drink just before I drink.) And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to.(I had ideals that YOU had to live up to, not me. I was a bankrupt idealist. I set the bar so high that I didn’t even bother) Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much my wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.”(self-will doesn’t overcome self-will. If I could will myself to be less selfish, I would have done that long ago and I wouldn’t need any of these embarrassing steps. I need to always remember that selfish-self-centeredness is the root of my troubles and my troubles are basically of my own making. Then I have a chance to do something about my problems with God’s help through the 12 steps. As long as my problems are your fault, I am helpless to overcome my problems.)
I am just listening/reading. Thanks!
I read from the chapter A Vision for You last night and remembered my initial feeling and belief I had when I read it the first time many years ago. I belong among many members of sober alcoholics.
“Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles” (all my problems boil down to selfish-self-centeredness. When I’m resentful, it’s because I didn’t get my way in the past. When I’m angry it’s because I’m not getting my way right now. When I’m fearful, it’s because I’m afraid I’m not going to get my way in the future. In regards to selfishness and drinking, I have never taken a drink thinking it would make me a better husband, father, friend or coworker. I have always taken a drink thinking only of myself and the relief a drink temporarily brings. Every single drink I have ever took was based on selfish motives. Then later after consuming enough alcohol to developing alcoholism, it was based on alcoholism.) “Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate……..we invariably ( invariably means always) find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.” ( I can look at almost every instance in my life and see how my selfishness put me in a position to be hurt. When a family member died, was hurt, or lost a job, I was so selfish that I felt it happened to me! My life was instantly made lighter when I realized how selfish I am and how life happens to everyone. )
god has no room in my recovery
BB We Agnostics, p.47 WE AGNOSTICS chapter
When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God.
it is a shame more people don't put emphasis on what god is to you, that is the individual. what I do see & hear is people pushing jesus christ & christianity. I do understand that AA's concepts, principles, steps come from religious bodies & even the bible. after saying all that I would like to point out no where in the 1st 164 pages (where the program of action that is AA is outlined) how you need to believe or what you need to believe. what it does say,
"BB Into Action, p.87 INTO ACTION chapter
Be quick to see where religious people are right."
it is suggesting to keep an open mind which there are plenty of people at AA meetings who are as closed minded as can be, on occasion I myself will be intolerant of the truth or others with new ideas. thanks to learning how to apply the steps I can do my best to make amends and claim progress, not perfection. reminding me to be more tolerant of others, no matter how ignorant I think they are.
what I would like to here more of is the people who are atheist speak up. I know there are plenty of atheists with long term recovery. I also understand why they don't speak up, as being chastised & preached to by people who seem to think its they're job to convert the world. like most religions that act like they own god.
excuse me while I climb of my soap box now
Would you believe the answer to your statement was made 75 years ago on page 34 of the big book? Read the third sentence of the 2nd full paragraph. It says “whether such a person can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not”
Can you choose whether you will drink or not? I couldn’t. I needed the help of living on a spiritual basis.
I am glad you are here and I am grateful for your recovery!
I have come to believe that is the reason A.A. works so
well. We do not require that any alcoholic believe in God.
It is only a suggestion and is offered to the member, new
or early timer, in a suggestive manner. We only offer what
worked, or works for us, as individuals. We do not push our
beliefs on anyone. You can choose your own higher or no
God at all. If the group is staying sober and you cannot
stop drinking, or stay stopped, just become a part of the
group. I think that you will agree that the group is
a power greater than yourself. Hopefully, they are sober.
If not, look for another group.
Of course this is only wishful thinking on my part. In
today's A.A. we try to cram God down everyone's throat.
my guess is you are over sensitive to any talk of God in AA. that's too bad since AA is based on spiritual priciples. If there were no talk of a higher power in AA it would be like not talking about the wet part of the ocean. also it seems you are butting heads with tradtiion 1 and 4. every time you complain about aa, you are upsetting our unity. every time you complain about a group you are forgetting group autonomy. each AA member and group can believe as they see fit.
I hope some day you begin to practice AA's suggested 12 steps and 12 traditions. maybe then you can get over your resentments and focus on yourself.
What exactly are the spiritual priciples you insist
that AA is based upon? Are they spiritual or are they
religious? I understand the Four Absolutes to be our
guide to improving spiritually. Absolute Honesty, Absolute
Purity, Absolute Purity and Absolute Love are to be our
objectives. We need always to strive for improvement,
although absolute perfection is out of our reach.
It does seem strange that I would consider all the
God Talk in AA to be detrimental. That sounds like having
a girl too pretty or a car too fast.
It is really a case of balance. We must offer the
Truth with an equal amount of Grace. Offer the newcomer
Chapters one thru four, before revealing the truth in
Chapter five. Let him/her read Chapter Five without any
Tradition Four has two storm signals. You
ought to know what they are. ANONYMOUS
Read big book pages 59&60, especially the second paragraph on of 60. It explains the spiritual principles. Also I think the foreword to the 12x12 describes the 12 steps as a group of principles, spiritual in nature that if practiced as a way of life can expel the compulsion to drink and make u happily whole,
"Of course this is only wishful thinking on my part. In
today's A.A. we try to cram God down everyone's throat."
As a newcomer, considering AA, you have certainly helped me make my decision.
If you have decided not to consider AA, that is a
tragic decision. AA worked for me and has worked for
millions of alcoholics. My message was not directed at
you. It was directed toward those AA members and groups
who overdo the God Talk. I believe that most alcoholics
approaching us have already tried religion. When they
hear HIW read, it may sound like another attempt at
proselytizing. Maybe someday all groups will stop
reading chapter five to newcomers. That is a major
part of the problem. Try Alcoholics Anonymous. Give us a
chance. Just keep an open mind. Try several different
meetings. AA offered me a way out of the misery of
drinking many years ago. At least investigate. ANONYMOUS
you can read in AA comes of age that mort began reading hiw in california meetings in 1939 or 1940. If reading hiw is so detrimental to AA, surely AA would have colapsed on the west coast, midwest, and east coast by now.
maybe reading hiw is just being honest with everyone about what AA really is about. honesty, open mindedness, and willingness are the essentials to recovery. If a newcomer won't get over their oversensitiveness to a higer power that just shows they are still closed minded and unwilling to go to any lengths for sobriety. that mean we can turn our attention to those newcomers who are ready and willing to give AA a try.
“Being convinced, we were at step 3 (the first 60 pages of the big book helped me do steps 1 and 2), which is we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood him. Just what do we mean by that( to me my will is how I think and my life if how I act) and just what do we do (before the requirement, the only way I have found to begin this process is to continue on this the remaining 9 steps. I have to remember that this is a decision. Have you heard the story of 3 frogs on a log? 2 frogs decide to jump, how many are left?-3, they only decided to jump, they didn’t take the action necessary to carry out their decision.)
The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success……”( now we have all heard there are no musts or requirements in AA. There are however requirements in the big book. Let’s remember that the big book dealt with low bottom alcoholics at the time it was written. What are requirements for me as a low bottom chronic alcoholic are simply suggestions to those who haven’t sunk that low “yet.” I had to ask myself, am I convinced that living my life based on self-will only leads to more failure? Yes, for me I am convinced. I usually put myself first and came out last. I never realized if I put your needs first, I would become happy, joyous, and free! Have you noticed that the language in the book changed at page 58?
“our description of the alcoholic (the chapters- Dr.’s Opinion and more about alcoholism), the chapter to the agnostic (the chapter We Agnostics), and our personal adventures before and after ( I think this is Bill’s story and the stories in the back of the book), make clear 3 pertinent ideas:
A that we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives
B that probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism
C that God could and would if He were sought.”
( I think A,B, & C equals steps 1 & 2. Especially since the next paragraph starts with “Being convinced we were at Step Three.” If you are having trouble with steps 1 and 2, I suggest rereading the first 60 pages of the big book including the Dr’s Opinion along with the stories in the back of the book. My hope is that while reading one of the stories you will be able to identify with the alcoholic the way I identified with Bill’s story.)
“Many of us exclaimed, “What an order! I can’t go through with it.” Do not be discouraged, No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints.” (the principles are referring to the 12 steps. None of us maintain anything like working the steps perfectly. I am reminded of Clarence S. who was sponsored by Dr. Bob and started the 3rd AA group . He said when they held the first meeting separate from the Akron group, a bunch of them showed up at the meeting in Cleveland and one of the members from Akron was going to “whip me” as Clarence said it. None of those early members where saints, and none of us are either.) “The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.” (to me the point of all the steps and AA is to grow spiritually. To grow enough to have a Higher Power that will relieve my obsession with alcohol. The oxford groups preached spiritual perfection. They gave Bill W a hard time because he wasn’t what they called “maximum.” Bill wanted to focus on helping alcoholics while the oxford groups wanted to save everyone. 80 years later, AA is still here 2 million strong and the oxford group is gone. Again, we claim spiritual progress not perfection. I want to see spiritual growth in myself. I was warned by my sponsor. He said at 1 year sober, you don’t want to be 3 months sober 4 times. At 10 years sober, you don’t want to be 1 year sober 10 times, ect. He wanted me to keep growing through continually working the steps. I will never be perfect at working the steps, at the same time It’s impossible to outgrow them.)
“Here are the steps we took (past tense meaning this is what they did), which are suggested as a program of recovery: steps 1-12” (to me this is the program of AA. If you have not been able to find permanent recovery from drinking, try these 12 spiritual principles. If you have found another way, I am happy for you. Clarence S, the founder of AA in Cleveland said there are exactly 200 words in the 12 steps. I remember thinking he must have had time on his hands to count them. I had to see for sure and yes, Clarence was right, exactly 200 words. I personally believe the list of the 12 steps are the short form. I have seen many follow them to the best of their ability and do well, however I remember my sponsor saying “if you work the steps off the wall, you will have an off the wall program.” I also believe that the first 164 pages of the big book are the long form of the steps. I continually study and practice what I interpret in the first 164 pages to the best of my ability. As a result, I have gotten more and more happy and serene over the years. I almost always feel well regardless of what anyone says or does. I think this is the essence of the first 1/3 of step 12- having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the first 11 steps. Then the 2/3- we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, you know, how we worked those first 11 steps and found recovery from alcoholism. Then the last 1/3 of step 12- practicing these principles in all our affairs. I think that is trusting God, Cleaning house, and helping others in our day to day lives.
Of course this is my limited interpretation. If what I have experienced so far continues, my interpretation will change and evolve as I grow in effectiveness and understanding.
Sorry, but I am finding the long apologetics or exegeses on the big book boring. I am curious to know what those who suggest the big book was divinely inspired mean by that. Does that elevate the big book to the status of the Christian Bible, which some believe is the literal "word of God" and therefore doctrinally inerrant? Does it suggest that later writings by Bill W were not "divinely inspired" and therefore are not as worthy of study? If so, was Bill being falsely humble when he suggested "we know only a little - more will be revealed?"
I always think of the example of the apostle Paul, who after his "white light - burning bush" experience did not sit down and hammer out the epistles, rather he spent several years working and apparently in study before starting his public ministry. It was only later, in light of his experiences in dealing with life on life's terms and helping others to do the same, that he wrote the epistles.
I’ve googled lists of the most spiritual books of the 20th Century, and the book titled “Alcoholics Anonymous” is on all the lists I’ve found. You can take the Big Book at whatever status level you choose, that is your business. And you don’t really need to believe in a god for this thing to work and for you to stay sober. Nor do I think Bill W. was attempting to imitate the apostle Paul. The first draft was not published, thank goodness. He had some excellent help. Humility not withstanding, our founders were simply attempting to get the message out the best way they had available at the time. And not a one of them was a saint. That is according to a talk in Ft. Worth, TX, Bill W. gave in the early 50’s. I have a cd of that talk. We are lucky to have the book and not the other stuff they had in mind.
"The first draft was not published, thank goodness". Very
few A.A. members have any idea what you mean by that statement. The manuscript was changed drastically. It was
originally written as a book of directions. It was written
to tell other alcoholics how they could recover. It was
revised to be a story book, a book of suggestions. They
changed "directions" to "path". They altered the method
(technique) of carrying the message to others. Sad to say,
but today's A.A. has returned to the first draft. Some
prospects respond favorably. Most are doomed. ANONYMOUS
Your constant haranguing on this subject reminds one of the Jaywalker story in the Big Book except yours is self pity because hundreds of thousands of AA members won’t succumb to your will. I don’t think you have picked up a single convert since you started. Everyone in AA is wrong but you? One difference between you and the jaywalker is that you are pushing newcomers instead of yourself under a bus with your twisted view. For their sake, please just stop.
Given the thousands of years that alcoholism tortured drinkers and their families without any end other than jail institutions or most often death, the 12 Steps that can take an alcoholic to lifelong sobriety are indeed a miracle.
The third step is especially precious in that it casts aside the religious prejudices that might have been expressed.
I am living my 25th year of sobriety one day at a time.
Something much larger, kinder and more loving than any man keeps me sober and gives meaning and usefulness to the hell I went through before I got sober.
There are spiritual experiences in the step work and especially the step prayers. And the beauty of it just increases with repetition.
"Given the thousands of years that alcoholism tortured drinkers and their families without any end other than jail institutions or most often death, the 12 Steps that can take an alcoholic to lifelong sobriety are indeed a miracle."
Not at all. You might as well say that any modern discovery is a miracle because we have gone without it before.
The 12 steps are a guide for living. Maybe Bill could have formulated them better, maybe worse.
A miracle is something that has no earthly explanation and can only be supernatural. The 12 steps grew out of the Oxford Group, Carl Jung and Bill Wilson's experiences, all quite earthly in nature, (even the flash of white light episode happened while under the influence of quite earthly, hallucinogenic drugs).
"(even the white light episode happened while under the influence of quite earthly, hallucinogenic drugs)". You have
every right to your own beliefs. Even Bill W. questioned his
own sanity when he had the spiritual awakening. Bill called
the doctor to his bedside, to get the doctors evaluation. I
don't have the doctor's exact words, but I believe the doctor told Bill that this was the real thing, the miracle
that Bill, Lois and the doctor had been hoping for.
To dismiss the spiritual awakening experienced by Bill
voids the whole message of recovery. A miracle did occur.
The second miracle occurred when a technique was developed
to pass this message on to another suffering alcoholic.
"This was it!" Bill wrote on Page 70 in AA Comes of Age.
I believe this to be one of the most important landmarks
in A.A. History. Read it sometime. Read page 2 in As Bill
Sees It. Bill describes his Spiritual awakening in detail.
I take his word for it. I believe, because the same gift
was given to me in the spring of 1970. ANONYMOUS
Bill asked Dr. Silkworth if he was going insane. The Dr. said "no, whatever has happened to you, you better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were"
Also bill was not on hallucinagenic drugs. He was given Belladona, a sedative. from what I understand it was somewhat like vallume.
I think the whole AA fellowship and program is nothing short of miraculous. If you read our history, there is no earthly reason why AA should have even started, much less lasted since 1935!
My personal story is nothing short of miraculous. I should have died drunk many years before I found the AA program and fellowship.
Seeing that Bill and the early AA's were just like us, I can imagine he and they would be mortified by the way we lionize them and the BB. They were just trying to find their way and in the BB shared what they had discovered and what worked to that point. When they wrote, "we know only a little, more will be revealed", they expected that we would continue to experiment, continue to learn and continue to share the results of our experience.
Bill and early AA's were wise, smart and humble enough to learn from the failures and successes of what had been done before and from their own experiences. They borrowed freely from the past and added what they learned as they bumbled their way to sobriety. The result is the program of AA that we have today.
It is rather astounding when you consider that a broken down drunk of a stock broker and shaky proctologist ignited one of the world's great spiritual movements. Today, I am able to sit in a meeting or in this forum with Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, Atheists, Buddhists, Agnostics...but most of all Alcoholics, and we all recover together.
Divinely inspired or not, it's pretty amazing.
I can't speak for others but I call AA literature divinely inspired and by that I mean it provides information of a quality far above that commonly developed by us mortals. A quantum leap from an almost universal death sentence by alcoholism to a simple solution for those who want it. It worked for me. The religious book you mention didn't. Those of us who have looked have seen that God has sent many messengers. For me the most recent the author of a small book entitled “Conversations with God”. I don’t usually mention non conference approved literature but you mentioned yours, so I included mine. Inerrant? Any words chosen are imperfect to convey a perfect though. Any words written must be read, any words spoken, heard. This path always allow errors therefore our God-given powers of reason shouldn't languish when we seek our truth.
I offer no judgment of Bill W., his intensions or humility, false or otherwise. It was not him but the words he wrote that transformed my life and many I have had the joy of seeing do the same.
I believe that Bill's sudden release from the obsession/
compulsion to drink was a gift from God. And I don't find
that hard to believe, because the gift was also given to
me in the same manner. I was not in a hospital bed and
did not see any white light. It was not the result of any
medication. I was absolutely clean and dry for months
before my spiritual experience. This belief is further
enforced at almost every meeting when others share that
this physic change has happened to them.
Bill wrote the Big Book from his own experience and
the experiences of his friends. He wrote it to keep the
story from being garbled as time passed. Another purpose
was to make lots of money to carry out his other visions.
I was adamant that the BB was "divinely inspired"
until I read it thoroughly and understood it completely.
I studied the book and also studied Bill's explanation of
his writings. More has been revealed. But very few A.A.
members care enough about Alcoholics Anonymous to
investigate. Too many want to do their own teaching. This
has gone on much too long. Any A.A. member with ten
year's sobriety ought to have read Bill's writings in
Language of the Heart", AA comes of Age, Pass it On,
and the book Bill W. I met an AA member last year who
had never heard of The Language of the Heart writings.
He is sober thirty years and "works in the field".
Thanks for the message. It is nice to see some are
still awake. ANONYMOUS
I don't care whether it was divinely inspired or not. The Big Book has been a tool for me to stay sober. For that I am truly grateful to God.
“Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! (It’s only page 58 and the authors already reminding us that we deal with alcohol and it’s subtle insanity) Without help it is too much for us. (If I could have beat alcohol alone, I would have done it a long time ago.) But there is One who has all power-that One is God. (If I don’t have the power, and you don’t have the power, that leaves the Higher Power) May you find Him now!” (one definition of “may” is expressing possibility. To me all the authors are doing is expressing the possibility that I may find God now)
“Half measures availed us nothing. (nothing means nothing. About half the steps are directly related to the 4th step. In 4 we took an inventory, in 5 we read that inventory to another person and God, in 6 we were ready to have God remove the defects we found in our inventory, in 7 we asked God to remove the shortcomings we found in our inventory, in 8 we had a list from our inventory, in 9 we made amends for our part in our inventory, in 10 we continued to take inventory, and in 11 in the big book you take an evening, morning, and during the day inventory. In a nutshell, if we skip step for, we have really taken half measures.) We asked His protection and care with complete abandon” ( I call this the how it works prayer. It’s incredibly simple, “God, please protect and care for me.” I not only say this prayer here, but on page 87 in step 11 it says “we sometimes select and memorize a few short prayers,” so I also say this prayer as part of my morning meditation.)
“our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now( “in a general way”, I keep the specifics for my sponsor or psychologist. What we used to be like-before working the steps, what happened-how we worked the steps, and what we are like now-living the steps as a way of live.) If you have decided you want what we have ( sobriety, freedom from alcohol, and a happy, joyous, and free life) and are willing to go to any length to get it-then you are ready to take certain steps.” ( I think those certain steps are listed 1-12 on the next page.)
“At some of these we balked ( I balked at steps 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11, & 12) we thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. ( I tried to stay sober on meetings and step none but could not)……some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely” (the definition of “NIL” is none, nothing, zero. Some of my old ideas was the steps are horse and buggy stuff, I can do this my way, I know what I need to do, and after I stay dry awhile I can drink again later without any consequences.)
Have a great day.
This chapter is discretely titled “how it works” If you are wondering how the program of AA works, you may find that answer in this chapter.
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” (I have a friend who sobered up in the 1960’s. He often says “rarely have we seen a person who has thoroughly followed our path” how true. How many have come to meetings and never follow the path because they are surrounded by people sitting in chairs at a meeting who have never followed the path? How many more will die because they were told to keep coming back instead of follow our path? the original manuscript said “directions” in the last full paragraph of page 85 the authors kept the word “directions” the authors use many words with the same meaning throughout the book. A path is a way that has been followed by enough people that it keeps the vegetation down and is obvious to all who come along that this is the way. If I was dropped in the middle of a forest and left to die, I wouldn’t pass up a path that has been traveled by many thinking I was better off going my own way, blazing my own trail. As soon as I came across that path, I quit going my own way and follow where many others have gone before to safety. Only someone who suffers from alcoholic insanity would come across a path that leads to certain survival and think “ hey looks like a lot of people have recovered this way, good for them but I’m doing this my way”.) “ Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program,” ( My experience confirms the preceding statement. I have some sponsorees right now who have been sober a number of years. At first they wouldn’t give themselves completely to the program and they continued to drink. After getting beat up enough they surrendered and became willing to do the work. to me the simplest description of the AA program was from Dr. Bob’s last talk when he said it “simmers down to love and service”. I also like “trust God, clean house, and help others.”) “usually men and ……….incapable of being honest……….they are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty………many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest” ( Make no mistake, there is a reason Bill talks honesty 3 times in the first paragraph of how it works. Even though to this day I have trouble at times with rigorous honesty and may suffer from emotional disorders, I can recover if I have the capacity to be honest!)
In the pamphlet "THREE TALKS TO MEDICAL SOCIETIES", Bill
W. wrote Quote: "You may inquire, "Just how does A.A. work?"
I cannot fully answer this question. Many A.A. techniques
have been adopted after a ten-year process of trial and
error which has led to some interesting results. But as laymen, we doubt our own ability to explain them. We can
only tell you what we do, and what seems, from our point
of view, to happen to us". end quote.
Bill wrote "How It Works" and placed it in Chapter Five
in 1939. In 1944 Bill is telling us that even he cannot
fully explain what he calls a synthetic concept or a synthetic gadget.
Yet, you seem to be still trying to explain how A.A. works.
I met a lot of alcoholics who followed the path
in the 1960's, and left the path for me to follow in the
1970's. They were in front of me leading the way and
clearing away the brush and debris. No one was pushing me.
“We finally saw that faith in some kind of God was part of our make-up……….(When I honestly looked back on the times I knew I was going to die or go to jail, I always said the alcoholic prayer “God please get me out of this one and I will never drink again”) ……..We found the Great Reality deep down within us.”( I found to that God is in me and if that is true than God must be in you also. That was the end of most of my resentments with God’s kids. I finally started looking inward for God instead of outward)
“We can only clear the ground a bit. If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice ( step 2 action, sweep away contempt prior to investigation) enables you to think honestly (another step 2 action, developing honest thinking), encourages you to search diligently within yourself(another step 2 action to search within rather than without), then, if you wish, (yes, only if you wish. If you don’t want to, that’s your business) you can join us on the Broad Highway(to me the Broad Highway is the Fellowship of AA members who have a common solution as well as a common problem) with this attitude you cannot fail. (this is a guarantee!) the consciousness of your belief is sure to come to you (this is the step 2 promise! The consciousness of you belief is sure to come!)
To review “we agnostics” on page 47 we started step two with “willing to believe or believe”
On page 53 “God either is or isn’t”
Page 55 “God is part of our make-up” and the actions of sweeping away prejudice, thinking honestly, and searching diligently”
We will soon verify step 2 on page 60 in the a, b, & c’s.
“when we say others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the spirit of the universe, we had to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did” (My ideas brought me to alcoholic destructions. To this day, it’s hard to comprehend why I hung on to my old ideas so long!)
“We agnostics and atheists were sticking to the idea that self-sufficiency would solve our problems. When others showed us that “God-sufficiency” worked with them” ( I don’t think the authors wrote chapter 4 for a few agnostics and atheist. I think it was written as well for those who say they believe, but there actions show they don’t. I think the authors are saying the definition of atheist or agnostic in AA is someone who believes in self-sufficiency. You know, someone who says “I believe” but I’m doing it my way.)
“When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t. What was our choice to be?” (alcoholic, self-imposed, God is everything or else nothing. What was our choice to be? Like the book says, we were squarely confronted with the question of faith. No more bush league pinch hitter higher power. God either is or isn’t. have I been beat up enough by alcohol to admit that either God is and has the power to restore me to sanity or God isn’t and I can go on about my business living with my alcoholism as best I can. I chose God is!)
“we had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view.” (to me, this is another step 2 direction. I needed to change my point of view in regards to my attitude towards a higher power. Who am I to say there is no God? All I had to do was quit saying there is no God and that there may be one. My ever progressing alcoholism beat me into a state of willingness. I was finally willing to believe.)
“we were having trouble with our personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people.”(this list of 8 bedevilments are simply symptoms of untreated alcoholism. I have gone to this paragraph many times in meditation and self-examination. I have learned whenever I am feeling these bedevilments, I am simply working the program wrong. When I live within the disciplines of the 12 steps, I may still occasionally feel one or more of the bedevilments, but it is short lived and easily overcome by putting more effort into the program of recovery as described in the 12 steps)
“we asked ourselves this: Are not some of us just as biased and unreasonable about the realm of the spirit as were the ancients about the realm of the material?” (Here is another step 2 action. Why am I so quick to exchange a 9/16’’ wrench for a ½’’ wrench in the material world, yet I resist changing my point of view in the spiritual world? I kept relying on logic, yet my logic stood no chance against my ever progressing alcoholism. Too make it worse, when I was sober, I became increasingly restless, irritable, and discounted until I could drink again. My way didn’t work, by the spiritual way did.)
“Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spear-heads of God’s ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence was the last work, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end of all. Rather vain of us, wasn’t it? ( at first I didn’t like that the authors were basically saying that those of us that are atheist or agnostic are vain. After further review, I realized the authors were talking about themselves. This opened up my mind slightly to look at my own vanity as far as my agnosticism was concerned)
We, who have traveled this dubious path, beg you to lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion ( I think we can assume if the authors are begging us to lay aside prejudice, that is would be in our best interests to do so, even against organized religion. I have to make an effort to look at the good organized religion does, not my opinions of the bad. This is another step two action, lay aside prejudice against religion. From now on, let’s work with them, not against them.)…….many spiritually-minded persons of all races, colors, and creeds were demonstrations a degree of stability, happiness and usefulness which we should have sought ourselves” (It’s interesting how an alcoholic who is dying from alcoholism can turn up his nose to people of religion. Mostly they are stabile, happy, and useful, while the untreated alcoholic is restless, irritable, and discontented. One of my favorite sayings is “only an alcoholic can lay in the gutter while looking down at people of religion.
“we often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice. Many of us have been so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things made us bristle with antagonism. ( there is nothing new about newcomers being obstinate, sensitive, and prejudiced against spirituality. That’s the way about half of us are wired. This has been going on in AA since the 1930’s.) This sort of thinking had to be abandoned. (this is another step 2 action. When we feel obstinate, sensitiveness, prejudice, and bristling with antagonism, we had to abandon that train of thought.) Though some of us resisted, we found no great difficulty in casting aside such feelings. (action, when we feel obstinate, sensitive, and prejudice, we begin the practice of casting aside those feelings. As Bill wrote, it’s only as difficult as we make it.) Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness. (In AA, we let alcohol be the persuader. If you don’t want to work the steps, don’t work the steps. If you don’t want to live a spiritual program of action, that’s your business. When you get done doing it your way, we will be here to show you exactly how we got out from under. One of my favorite quotes is from Bill W in AA comes of age. He said, “there are 2 authorities in AA. One is malign and one is benign. Alcohol says I will kill you if you don’t do Gods will, and God says I am waiting for you to do God’s will.
“We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. “Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe,(This is another step 2 action, the agnostic says “I believe,” the atheist says “I am willing to believe”) that there is a power greater than myself? As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way(that he is on his way means to me it’s a start in the right direction. I have heard that you can get run over if you go to slow, even if your on the right track) It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built,” (this is how thousands have started out in AA. Remember, about half the fellowship is atheist or agnostic when they get here. Even the agnostic who coined the phrase “God as we understand Him” was as he said it “able to get over his brilliant agnosticism. If he can, so can we.)
“When, therefore we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. (to me this is why we say “higher power” and why we need to be sensitive to others spiritual beliefs. When each member speaks of God, remember it’s their conception and you choose your own. This is why AA is absolutely not a religion. A religion says “this is God” AA says you choose your conception of God) Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you form honestly asking yourself what they mean to you.( this is another step 2 action. When someone says a spiritual term, ask yourself what it means to you. This chapter talks a lot about prejudices and how to get over them) At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him. ( let’s remember this is just a start and the authors are showing us how to “come to believe” by beginning with a conscious relationship with your Higher Power)
“Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another’s conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate , was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with Him.”(simply start where your at! If you’re an atheist, just say “I am an atheist and I need help.” Also nothing here says you have to return to anything, just start where your at.)
“as soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe…(simply admit it’s possible-take the action)…we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps.(Step 2 is in this chapter, so I believe the other simple steps are steps 3-11, because at 12 Bill said “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps…”) We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him………It is open, we believe, to all men. (All we have to do is try at this point. To me, God is a gentleman. He doesn’t go where he is not invited and doesn’t stay where he is not welcome.)
“If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried……..but the needed power wasn’t there. Our human resources, as marshaled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly.” (what this says to me is the alcoholic cannot make himself less selfish. Saying I’m gonna do better is not enough. I just listened to an old tape of Father Bill. He was a monk with 3 doctorates, yet found he could not stay sober without AA. Father Bill had codes and philosophy galore, yet was hopelessly drunk)
“Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater then ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? Well, that’s exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.” ( so point blank, lack of power is our problem, we had to find a power, obviously it has to be a power greater than ourselves, and the main point of this book is to enable you to find this Power, and this book is Alcoholics Anonymous from which the AA fellowship took its name. So to me, the whole point of the big book, AA, 12 steps, and meetings is to find a spiritual experience that will solve my problem. This is the solution in the message of AA. If you can get sober by a code of morals or a better philosophy, your simply not the same type of alcoholic as I am or the first 100 who wrote the big book. I’m not saying you should drink. I’m saying if you can just quit, maybe you only have a physical craving for alcohol once you drink and don’t have the mental obsession that compels you to start drinking while sober, that’s all.)
“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.)