Big Book Discussion
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.)
I love that definition of the alcoholic. It is so simple and clear and it explains my disease perfectly. I ALWAYS use it when speaking to outside groups at treatment centers and other institutions.
I like to combine it with Dr. Silkworth's explanation that alcoholics drink because we like the effect produced by alcohol. Again - simple, clear understandable and perfectly describes my alcoholic experience. I may have drank to deal with being shy, awkward, anxious, depressed,plagued by underlying conditions...but no matter the underlying reason, if any, alcohol produced an effect that worked for me.
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.
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?
The obvious problem, is the hard drinker doesn't need a spiritual experience, a dependence on God or a life of service to stop drinking. Its not a problem for him of course, and lucky him...but for a chronic alcoholic like me, my life needed to be changed completely, I desperately needed a new way of living, and a new director.
So if I am in AA meetings that are full of hard drinkers staying sober on a social fellowship and not on the intended power, what's the message for the real alcoholic that comes into the room?
Of course through our 3rd tradition, anyone with a drinking problem is welcome. I agree, if a real alcoholic happened into a meeting loaded with problem drinkers and heard "just don't drink, go to 90 meetings in 90 days, meeting makers make it, take what you want and leave the rest, work your program, ect, we would have a real problem.
When we describe aa steps and that it's a spiritual program of action, the alcoholic can take it or leave it and at least when he leaves it he knows what to do when he's ready. For example, I spent a few hours last week going through the steps in the big book with a member who has been attending aa for 30 plus years and at one time strung together 18 months dry. He was astonished by how simple the instructions are and disturbed how after 30 years in AA not one member - including his sponsor had taken the time to show him. He had been attending aa meetings with hard drinkers who came for social reasons.
Bill W. wrote the Big Book for the problem drinker to
determine for himself/herself whether they are a real
alcoholic. We have no business judging anyone's alcoholism.
What's the point? If I could have stopped drinking using
my own will, I would have stopped. I would have had no need for AA. I could not stop drinking
after the first drink, and at times could not resist that
When I gave up fighting alcohol and came into the rooms
of AA, I was already practicing the steps. I am powerless
over alcohol and have decided to ask God for help. He has
helped me through the AA fellowship. I practice the steps
because I want to, not because someone tells me I have to
do them. Why complicate a mud puddle? The Big Book is
not difficult to understand. Do we need teachers to
explain what Bill meant by each page? Personally "I Think
I agree 100% with you up to "the big book in not difficult to understand" It's not difficult for you to understand and that's your experience. since it's your experience, it is 100% true. now think of someone else. they have a learning disability, low reading comprehension, can't read or write at all, ect. Now the big book is difficult for them to understand. they may need someone to read it to them, read it slow and discuss, ect. this is my experience which is different form your's, but it is also 100% true.
Also, just reading or hearing anothers interpetation broadens and deepens my understanding. my favorite example is the last sentance of page 85, it says "we shouldn't be shy on this matter of prayer." to me that alway meant embarassed. at 20 years sober while in a big book meeting, someone said " you can also be 2 eggs shy of a dozen." In that instant my understanding of that 1 sentance was changed. I wondered how much more my understanding of the big book would change if I was able to set aside what I thought I knew about the big book, the program, and God. That is the essance of the set aside prayer if you've ever heard it.
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.
I greatly appreciated your story. I feel you used the responsibility pledge in the context it was meant to be used. I think it was more of why we need to adhere to our steps and traditions rather than lets be here for everyone. often it is used as a reason for a nonalcoholic to be an AA member, which sounds nice, but would be against traditions 1,3,&5. whenever that happens I read the paragraph below from "prblems other than alcohol"
"Sobriety -- freedom from alcohol -- through the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps, is the sole purpose of an AA group. Groups have repeatedly tried other activities, and they have always failed. It has also been learned that there is no possible way to make non-alcoholics into AA members. We have to confine our membership to alcoholics, and we have to confine our AA groups to a single purpose. If we don't stick to these principles, we shall almost surely collapse. And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone."
From PROBLEMS OTHER THAN ALCOHOL
I agree 100%. You are welcome if you think you have a problem with alcohol, then you decide based on our stories and book if you are an alcoholic.
Let’s take a look at tradition 3, just for good discussion. Trad 3 short form says “desire to stop drinking,” trad 3 long form says “our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism,’’ what would you suggest be done about people attending closed AA meetings who have no desire to stop drinking, are attending to get a court slip signed, or have mental illness, have a desire to stop drinking, but are not alcoholic or suffer from alcoholism? I personally think they should be welcome to attend “open” speaker meetings where these people can come and listen to the AA message without speaking. I think there is a real issue with this fragment is non-alcoholics speaking at open or closed meetings. They will never accept our program or traditions since their life doesn’t depend on it. The biggest issue I have is when the real alcoholic does come to that meeting, he hears non-AA’s sharing their experience with not working or needing anything but a weekly group therapy meeting. This real alcoholic finds it impossible to stay sober or happy, returns to drinking, and thinks AA doesn’t work when in reality he never worked the program, he just went to some meetings.
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
No I am not trying to re-write the big book. The purpose of this forum is to discuss different parts of the big book to get as many viewpoints as possible so the reader or writer can broaden their understanding of the book. Think of a book club that reads a book and gets together to discuss the book. If you have 100 readers in that club, you may get 100 interpretations. None are wrong because it’s each person’s interpretation. If you think we are doing more than that, that’s your problem. If you don’t like it, read the other forums.
AA will survive as long as it’s God’s will for AA to survive. I see a direct correlation between the hughes act from 1972-1992 ending and the decline in AA membership. The hughes act required insurance companies to pay for treatment for alcoholics, addicts, ect. The membership numbers from 72-92 were largely bolstered by treatment centers sending everyone to AA during treatment and usually a 9 month aftercare program. If you read the 2011 AA membership survey, you will see around 27% of AA members in 2011 were sober less than 1 year. That would be somewhere around 540,000 members with less than 1 year. Of those 540k, maybe half are only problem drinkers, which is fine. I’ve sponsored many. They come to AA, quit drinking, leave AA after a while and live their life. I see nothing wrong with making a distinction between the real alcoholic and these problem drinkers. I have had many conversations with real alcoholics who can’t understand why these other members (who happen to only be problem drinkers) can simply put the plug in the jug and be happy. They wonder why they keep relapsing when they are going to meetings like everyone else. Then the light bulb comes on and they realize they are the real alcoholic described in the big book where half measures avail nothing and the result is nil until they let go absolutely. Then they get down to business, work the steps as a way of life and recover.
I really do not see much discussion; only one man's
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.
Heard a lecture in rehab about spiritually. Three levels. What I think, what I say and what I do.
What I think can be done on a barstool, drink in hand. “I drink too much; I ought to do something about it.”
What I say can be done on a barstool, drink in hand. “I drink too much; I ought to do something about it.”
And then there is what I am willing to do. Stop drinking and do the things that have been proven to keep people from drinking.
The first two are worthless unless they are part of a journey to the third. What you shared shows you operating at the third level despite what you thought you thought or what you told yourself. People who don’t believe that they have a drinking problem that needs a solution do not join Alcoholics Anonymous. You didn’t achieve perfection. Who has? “We admitted…” doesn’t say accepted perfectly and for all time.
I admitted that I was a real alcoholic and it didn't give me perfect relief from wanting to drink again. Nothing I've read says it's supposed to.
I don't have any problem with anyone at a closed meeting not introducing themselves in any manner. I think I'll start introducing myself as "I'm Gary and I have a desire to continue to stay stopped from drinking". Sure, I'm an alcoholic but no law says I have to repeat it just because it's become common to do so. I sometimes attend a meeting with a fellow who introduces himself as "a drug addict with a desire to stop drinking". Quite a tongue twister but it's fine with me.
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.)