Big Book Discussion
“For if an …..and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others….”(If you are having trouble enlarging your spiritual life, try work and self-sacrifice for others)
“If he did not work, he would surely drink…..”( this was the group experience, if they didn’t work with others, they usually drank. I have the same experience today)
“It was fortunate…..for a year and a half……..I was not too well at the time and was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment…..” ( I have always been impressed with Bill’s humility to admit things were tough for the first 1 ½ years he was sober, even while working the steps and having a sudden and profound spiritual experience)
“this nearly drove me to drink, but I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going” (After working what later became AA’s first 11 steps, Bill would work step 12 when he felt shaky. That is exactly what I was taught when I was new. They got me to step 12 as fast as possible, so on the occasion I was close to a drink, I had a program and a message to carry to the next alcoholic. I would get out of myself and take some unselfish action and my desire to drink would be lifted. Dr. Bob also talked of having trouble with craving alcohol for 2 ½ years. He would work with another alcoholic to take out some insurance against a drink.)
“We meet frequently so newcomers may find the fellowship they seek” ( Bill tells us exactly why we have meetings that meet at the same time and place, so newcomers can find us and learn about the 12 steps. Bill later wrote in the pamphlet “The Group” that the sole purpose of an AA group is the teaching and practicing of the 12 steps. Those are Bills words, not mine.
To recap, here are some of my favorite parts of Bill’s story,
Pg 7, “Self-knowledge is not the answer to alcoholism but critical to step 1”
Pg 9 “at 2 months sober, Ebby had carried what later became the AA message to Bill minus step 1 which was done by Dr. Silkworth”
Pg 11 “Doctors had pronounced Ebby incurable, God did for Ebby what he couldn’t do for himself, and Ebby and Bill had admitted complete defeat and in so doing had taken step 1.”
Pg 12 “Ebby said, why don’t you choose your own conception of God? Bill said it was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Higher Power.”
Pg 13 “Bill did what later became the 12 steps in a few days”
Pg 15 “for 1 ½ years Bill was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment even after his profound spiritual experience. When all other measures failed, he would work with another alcoholic to save himself’’
“At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the last time…….There I humbly offered myself to God” To me this sounds a lot like what later became step 3.
‘’I ruthlessly faced my sins” this looks like step 4 “and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch” this sounds just like steps 6 and 7!
“My schoolmate visited me ( from what I have read, Ebby visited Bill after he had been in the hospital for 3 days) and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies” I think that became step 5!
“We made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment.” Could that be step 8?
“I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability.” That reads like step 9 to me.
“I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciousness within…..I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength……never was I to pray for myself, except as my request bore on my usefulness to others….” This looks like what became step 11.
“My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator….” Sound like the 1st part of step 12.
“These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known. There was utter confidence…..” Bill hadn’t really done much yet, but he had “decided” to do it and began to have a spiritual experience.
“My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic!” this last statement reads just like the 2nd and 3rd part of step 12. As you can see, Bill began doing what later became the 12 steps in just a few days. I don’t know how the steps have become such a drawn out exercise for so many? As a chronic alcoholic, I could never stay sober more than a few weeks without working the steps and applying the disciplines of steps 10,11, & 12 in my daily life. Now it’s been 20 plus years with no problems.
The AA program is remarkably simple. Bill described exactly how he did it in just a few pages. If you have as yet not found an answer to your alcoholism, or if you are still restless, irritable, and discontent while sober, try doing what Bill did, That’s what my sponsor taught me and that’s the way I pass it on to my sponsees. if you put half the effort into the steps as you did into drinking, it never fails.
It seems that Bill did all those things after his
spiritual experience. He did not do those things to acquire
a spiritual awakening. The only thing Bill did was to do
surrender himself to God. I believe that Bill's white light
spiritual experience was a gift from God to Bill and to the
suffering alcoholic. Unlike a normal gift, this was a gift that we have to ask for. And it comes with a condition; In
order to keep it we have to give it away. We give it away
by sharing about it with other alcoholics. We share it humbly without self-pride. EGO deflation at great depth is the beginning of the process. Let's put the horse back
in front of the cart. I believe we can save the multitudes
of suffering alcoholics who are out there. ANONYMOUS
carefully read pages 13 and 14. to me, the second paragraph on page 14 is clear that Bill had fully accepted what later became our steps prior to his spiritual experience. Ebby had already visited him and he did what would later become the 5th step with Ebby. He had a spiritual awakening as a result of what is now the first 11 steps. then he felt he should carry "that" message to other alcoholics. It's pretty straight forward.
Our group has gotten back to the practice of working with newcomers out of the big book. the newcomers keep coming and keep getting sober and happy. it works perfectly.
“my friend sat before me, and he made the point blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead,……..” Ebby is still with Bill in Bill’s home. Ebby no doubt had an incredible impact on Bill. Bill knew Ebby as a hopeless drunk and now here he is sober. Bill and Ebby had already done what later became AA’s 1st step, they both had admitted complete defeat.
“I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil…….” It must have been obvious to Bill that Ebby had had a dramatic change in feeling and outlook. Remember, Ebby was only 2 months sober and had begun living the oxford group way of life. He was living off the charity of others and working a daily program of action. He was changed and Bill could see it.
“My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, “why don’t you choose your own conception of God” What a gift the oxford groups gave to AA – no religion if you don’t want it, only spirituality.
“It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning. I saw that growth could start from that point. Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend. Would I have it? If course I would! Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough.” I think this is where Bill began what later became step 2. He came to believe in a power greater than himself and he started in the only place you can, with a foundation of willingness. I fully agree with Bill. I believe God is a gentleman. Gentlemen don’t go where there not invited and don’t stay where there not welcome. When I asked, He came. I have been inviting Him daily since.
‘’No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found……..Alcohol was my master………I stepped from the hospital a broken man. Fear sobered me for a bit. Then came the insidious insanity of the 1st drink……I was off again………( to me the insidious insanity is the idea it’s ok to drink just before we drink when we are stone cold sober. It’s the lack of proportion of the ability to think straight when it comes to alcohol. To me that’s the insanity I came to believe God could help with in step 2)
Near the end of that bleak November, I sat drinking in my kitchen………the cheery voice of an old school friend asked if he might come over. He was sober……..Rumor had it he had been committed for alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped……
The door opened and he stood there, fresh skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened……..But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to suspend his commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. That was two months ago and the result was self-evident. It worked! He had come to pass his experience along to me-if I cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Certainly I was interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless.”
From what I have read one man was Rolland H- the certain American business man from page 26 the other was Shep C. Both were members of the Oxford group. A third man Cebra was involved. He was also a member of the oxford group, but more importantly his father was the judge. From what I understand, the “religious idea” was first century Christianity. To be maximum, the oxford group members would give up their possessions and carry the message of nondenominational Christianity. The practical program of action was what I believe to be the 5 C’s- confidence, confession, conviction, conversion, and continuance. This is what later became AA’s steps 2-12, with step 1 coming from Dr. Silkworth and William James. What stands out most to me is that Ebby was 2 months sober, fresh skinned and glowing, and was already passing his experience along to Bill if he cared to have it. No strings attached, take it or leave it. Bill took it because he was hopeless, and Ebby had an answer.
Bill’s story page 7
“…….I was placed in a nationally-known hospital for the ………rehabilitation of alcoholics……..I met a kind doctor who explained that though certainly selfish and foolish, I had been seriously ill, bodily and mentally………my incredible behavior in the face of a desperate desire to stop was explained. Understanding myself know, I fared forth in high hope. For 3 or 4 months ……..surely this was the answer-self-knowledge. But it was not for the frightful day came when I drank once more.” Bill experienced what every treatment center alcoholic becomes, a smart drunk. We learn all about alcoholism, we learn all about ourselves, we see psychiatrists and therapists. We learn so much about ourselves, we think we understand ourselves so much, that drinking is unthinkable. Then, with no daily program to fall back on (12 steps), we drink and wonder how it happened.
Self-knowledge is critical. If I didn’t think I was an alcoholic and was going to eventually die of alcoholism, I would never have taken the remaining 11 steps, who would? For alcoholics like me, self-knowledge alone is insufficient. Bill makes this point clear further on in the book when he talks about Rolland H, Fred, and Jim. They all knew they had to stop drinking but found themselves drunk. Bill, Fred, and Jim had been given Dr. Silkworth’s “cart before the horse idea” they all were told about the hopelessness, mental obsession and physical allergy, and the progressive nature of alcoholism, yet they all drank again. They hadn’t done what later became steps 2-12.
For me, the first 6 pages of Bill’s story are just like everyone else’s, he started drinking, had to drink more to chase that feeling, eventually the problems caused by drinking outweighed the benefits of drinking.
The last sentence on page 6 of Bills story, Bill says “A Dr. came with a heady sedative. Next day found me drinking both gin and sedative. This combination soon landed me on the rocks.” I think Bill was an alcoholic who, towards the end of his drinking abused alcohol and a prescription. I take notice that out of 16 pages of Bill’s story, he used 3 sentences to describe his drug use. I feel if Bill can “briefly” describe his drug use, we should be free to describe ours “briefly” while telling our story. If I can’t describe it “briefly” chances are I am in the wrong fellowship, or if I feel the need to talk more than Briefly about my drug use, I should attend a fellowship that pertains more to my primary problem. In doing so, I will be able to identify with others and give talks from a podium without breaking theirs or ours tradition of singleness of purpose.
Dr.’s Opinion page xxx-xxxii
“the classification of alcoholics………….( the dr. list 5 types) All these ……..have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon….may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people…..it has never been , by any treatment ………the only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence. To me what the Dr. is saying is there are several different types of alcoholics, but what we all have in common is once we start to drink we all develop the phenomenon of craving. To me this means about halfway through the first drink, we are thinking about the next and must have the second. One is too many and a thousand never enough.
“among physicians, the general opinion seems to be that most chronic alcoholics are doomed ( he’s not talking about “disco” drunks) what is the solution?...........a man was brought in to be treated for chronic alcoholism………He had lost everything worthwhile in life and was only living, one might say, to drink……..He accepted the plan outlined in this book. One year later he called to see me…….from a trembling, despairing, nervous wreck, had emerged a man brimming over with self-reliance and contentment. To me, the Dr. is saying that there is a plan and it is outlined in the big book. If you follow that plan in a short time you will have an entire psychic change.
“I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book through, and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray William D. Silkworth, M.D.” It sound like the Dr.’s prescription is reading the big book and praying! Simple instructions from a man that had worked with over 40,000 alcoholics.
Dr.’s opinion xxvii-xxix
‘’We believe………that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker’’ non-alcoholics never get “thirstier” as they drink, this only happens in chronic alcoholics. Did you ever buy a case of water and get thirstier as you drank it? Ever throw up the water and drink more?
“Frothy…….the message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight (there are not musts in AA) In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power greater that themselves, if they are to re-create their lives.” Again, there are no musts in AA, but Silkworth uses “must twice in this paragraph. What’s so important that the good Dr. uses must twice in the same paragraph?
“We feel……that we have found nothing which has contributed more to the rehabilitation of these men that the altruistic movement now growing up among them” I have heard many people say AA is a “selfish” program, clearly since altruistic means “unselfish”, the Dr. knows AA is an “unselfish” movement.
“Men and women drink……..They are restless ( restless is like a dog looking for a place to lay down), irritable (irritable is easily irritated, annoyed, showing bad temper, and abnormally sensitive) and discontented ( discontented to me is unhappy, unsatisfied, and frustrated), unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks………this is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience and entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery. On the other hand………….finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.” I use restless, irritable, and discontent for my sobriety barometer. To me when your recovered you are usually happy, joyous, and free. Did Silkworth really write “easily control your desire for alcohol, a requirement, and rules all in one sentence? I have heard many times in AA meetings that there are no rules or requirements and that you are always recovering. I think Dr. Silkworth is saying if you are a chronic alcoholic, you are required to follow some rules, ie the 12 steps and then you will be recovered, meaning you will easily control your desire for alcohol.
follow some rules, ie the 12 steps. I question this "opinion". Is there anything in our literature which
indicates that the "few simple rules" are the twelve
steps? The principals contained in the twelve steps
had been available for a long time. Surely "the little
doctor" had tried them in his search of a remedy for
alcoholism. When Dr. Silkworth first wrote about
following a few simple rules, the twelve steps
had no even been written. How could it be possible that
he was referring to something that did not yet exist.
I have read a lot of AA material over the past four
decades, especially in the past ten years. I don't understand the simple rules to be the 12 steps. I would
certainly not call the 12 steps simple.
Dr. Silkworth had worked intensively with alcoholics
for many years. The 12 steps were certainly not foreign
to him. He had very limited success working with
suffering alcoholics, using them.
Total release from the fatal dilemma of chronic alcoholism was a gift from God to Bill Wilson. Bill
describes that spiritual awakening in detail in two
places: Page 2 in "As Bill Sees It" and Page 63 in
"Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age". I find it quite
interesting that Bill toned down this awakening when
he wrote his story in the Big Book. I believe he did this
to avoid scaring any alcoholic away.
The "few simple rules" are explained in AACA, the
paragraph beginning at the bottom of page 67, continuing
on page 68. These are the rules we must pay attention to,
and follow, if AA is going to recover. ANONYMOUS
Whenever an alcoholic begins his lead with how long he’s been sober to prove a point, I think of myself and how just because I’ve been doing it for a long time, I think it’s right. Anyway, I believe Dr. Silworth was describing the steps as rules, that’s just my opinion, which only matters to me. However, Dr. Silkworth was well aware of the program prior to the book being written. They had an AA floor at Towns hospital according to Ed Towns. Even with that being said, at least the first 2 chapters of the big book were written before he wrote the Dr.’s Opinion. If you have the book “pass it on’’, look at the bottom of page 200 and the 1st paragraph of page 201. Dr. Richards of John Hopkins in Baltimore suggested (after at least reading the first 2 chapters of what would become the big book without stopping) getting a number 1 physician to write an introduction. Again, read pages 200 & 201 of “Pass It On” for further clarity.
Below are a few snippets from the big book that suggests the Dr. either knew the steps, what was in the book, or what was going to be in the book when he wrote the “Dr.’s Opinion”
Pg xxv “we of alcoholics anonymous believe that the reader will be interested in the medical estimate of the plan of recovery described in this book……..he acquired certain ideas concerning a possible means of recovery…..’’
Pg xxvii “…….one of the leading contributors to this book came under our care……he acquired some ideas which he put into practical application at once”
Pg xxxi “He accepted the plan outlined in this book”
Just for fun, I’ve listed 3 short descriptions of the program from the big book not including page 58.
Pg xvi “he was convinced of the need for moral inventory, confession of personality defects, restitution to those harmed, helpfulness to others, and the necessity of belief in and dependence upon God.”
Pg 98 “the only condition is that he trust in God and clean house”
Pg 164 “Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit you faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of you past. Give freely of what you find and join us” the program sure is simple to me. It was simple to Dr. Bob who told Bill on his death bed to “keep it simple”.
I also feel the Dr. may have been referring to the requirement on page 25 of the big book, which was written prior to him writing the Dr.’s Opinion it says “There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation” It’s easy to see the steps in those 2 sentences, very simple.
Chapter 5 may or may have not been written prior to Silkworth writing the Dr’s Opinion. More than likely, the book was written in its entirety prior to writing the opinion. Would you write an introduction to a book that wasn’t written yet? I sure wouldn’t.
Bill also wrote that in the 3 years prior to writing the book he and Bob had “perfected” the program. Deflation at depth is step 1, then he put God next in steps 2 & 3, just as Dr. Silkworth had suggested.
Could you tell me in our literature where Dr. Silkworth suggested to Bill to put God in steps 2 and 3?
I believe that Dr. Silkworth's advice to Bill W. was to
put God on the mantle in full sight, for anyone who needs
or wants Him. We ought not point to God saying "That One
is God; May you find Him now? No, you will not find this
written anywhere either. ANONYMOUS
Get out the book “AA Comes of age”, carefully read the last sentence of page 67 and the first paragraph of page 68. Up to this point, Bill had God up front and only he was staying sober. The last couple of sentences are where Silkworth tells Bill to put God after step 1. He says’’ coming from another alcoholic, one alcoholic talking to another, maybe that will crack those tough egos deep down. Only then can you begin to try out your other medicine, the ethical principles you have picked up from the oxford groups”. If that’s not enough for you, maybe you would like to hear it from Bill W himself? Search Bill W at one of the speaker web sites like xaspeakers.com. You can listen to Bill talk about putting God right up front in step 2. Bill has a few good talks on tape of how the book came together. It won’t take you long to see how Bill was heavy on the spiritual at the beginning because it was so important to him. Like I said earlier, it was Dr. Silkworth who told Bill to give them the hard medical facts first and then maybe they can swallow the spiritual program. This is the approach he use with Dr. Bob. You can read about that on page 68 of AA comes of age as well.
I did find written "that one is God. May you find Him now!" My big book has it at the top of page 59. Your book doesn't say "that one is God. May you find him now!? you must have the 5th edition of the big book.
Thanks for all your work pulling all this information together. Perhaps those with an open mind will be able to see what the AA program is and what has made it work for hundreds of thousands since put together. If some don't get it, it's not surprising. We are all brought here by our shortcomings after all.
It does take a lot of work to pull all this information
together. Bill W. put forth great effort to write the Big
Book. He wanted it simple enough that the suffering
alcoholic could understand it. Any further necessary explanation is contained in Bill's later writings. In
my opinion this poster is trying to explain what each
sentence or paragraph means from his viewpoint.
I believe every alcoholic ought to read the Big Book
for himself/herself and develop their own interpretation.
The book is available for about $10.00. Make the investment.
I believe that teachers, advisors, sponsors, teaching
their own interpretation of the Big Book can be very
harmful. BTW, Alcoholics Anonymous almost collapsed in 1992. I am beginning to understand why.
the hughs act from 1972 requiring insurance companies to pay for alcohol treatment ended in 1992. this caused the freindly neighborhood treatment centers to close. when that happened potential alcoholics were no longer being bussed to AA by the millions.
Now that we have less and less professionals doing our 12 step work for us, I think it's time we get back to the basics of the big book and do what has proven to work for alcoholics who are willing to do the work to stay sober.
“Literature has played a major role in AA’s growth……In country after country where the AA seed was planted, it has taken root, slowly at first, then growing by leaps and bounds when literature has become available. Currently, Alcoholics Anonymous has been translated into…….” In 2013 the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” had sold 40 million copies and had been translated into 70 languages including
American sign language and braille.
“While our literature has preserved the integrity of the AA message……… .” That’s exactly why our big book is so important, it has preserved the integrity of the AA message. Our founders found within a few years of the start of our fellowship that the message was being garbled and alcoholics were not being helped as much as they could have. After the big book was published, it’s documented in “AA comes of age”, that in Cleveland they had a 90% success rate by using personal sponsorship and the big book to indoctrinate newcomers to the fellowship. My home group has about the same recovery rate, just a little better. We meet twice a week now and use the first 164 pages of the big book as a format for the meeting. To start each meeting we read 1 tradition long form from the back of the big book and also cycle through some pamphlets like “the Group’ and ‘problems other than alcohol”, ect. Then we read from the 1st 164 pages of the book, then start over when we are done. The two meetings are staggered, when one is starting over, the other is about halfway through. It’s amazing, it’s 100% solution based.
By the time I came to AA, I was willing to do anything to stay sober. I started out in what would be considered an easy going AA group. I enjoyed the meetings and fellowship but was not challenged much regarding working the steps - except by one guy. He always referred to the steps when he shared and talked about getting a sponsor and working the steps. One day I told him that I felt like he was talking to me when he shared. He said, "I am". I asked him to be my sponsor and he introduced me to his Men's Step Study Group where I worked the steps and built the foundation of my AA program.
The difference in success rate between the groups was obvious. Lots of people drifted in and out of the easy going group while they stuck like glue in the men's step study group. I wondered over the years what created the difference.
We have a saying in my career field, "work with the willing". I think that applies in this case as well. The principles-based step group tended to attract AA members who were willing to do the work of steps, service, sponsoring others...and scare off others who were less willing. The easy going meeting probably attracted many more folks who just wanted to go to a meeting or were just checking out AA or fulfilling a legal requirement. Thus its success rate was lower.
I thank God for both meetings. I wouldn't have discovered one without the other.
“The 12 steps that summarize the program may be called………but they trace exactly the same path to recovery that was blazed by the earliest members of AA” In 1976 when the foreword to the 3rd edition was written, the “program” was still the 12 steps.
“Each day, somewhere in the world, recovery begins when one alcoholic talks to another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope.” I have always felt that experience is what it was like before the steps, strength is what happened- worked the steps, hope, is what it’s like now, after working the steps. I think this is part of why we have a singleness of purpose. How can I share my experience as an alcoholic if I’m not an alcoholic? How can I explain how I was powerless over alcohol and worked the steps to find the power if I’m not an alcoholic? It’s almost too simple to comprehend.
“six months earlier” Bill was six months sober, traveling, working, carrying the message, ect.
“from the Dr., Bill had learned the grave nature of alcoholism” Alcoholism is progressive and fatal, self-knowledge isn’t enough to overcome alcoholism, alcoholics have a mental obsession that compels them to start drinking and an allergy of the body that compels the alcoholic to drink more once they start.
“he was convinced of the need for moral inventory (step 4 ), confession of personality defects (step 5 ), restitution to those harmed (step 9), helpfulness to others (step 12) and the necessity of belief in and dependence upon God (steps 2,3,11)”
“the broker had worked hard with many alcoholics on the theory that only an alcoholic could help an alcoholic, but he had succeeded only in keeping sober himself……..He suddenly realized that in order to save himself he must carry his message to another alcoholic……’’ There are no ‘’musts’’ in AA, but there is a must here!
“The physician had repeatedly tried spiritual means to solve his alcoholic dilemma but had failed. But when the broker gave him Dr. Silkworth’s description of alcoholism and its hopelessness, the physician began to pursue the spiritual remedy…..( this is the cart before the horse idea from Silkworth. Bill kept talking about his spiritual experience. Silky told him to give the hard medical facts first) This seemed to prove that one alcoholic could affect another as no nonalcoholic could ( singleness of purpose). It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic with another was vital to permanent recovery.” Bill needed Bob, just like we need newcomers. This was written by Bill W in 1955. Bill was around 16 years sober and was writing about what was “vital to permanent recovery”. Bold statement, but true!
“It was now time, the struggling groups thought, to place their message and unique experience before the world. This bore fruit in the spring of 1939 by the publication of this volume…….The fledgling society, which had been nameless, now began to be called Alcoholics Anonymous, from the title of its own book.” This leads me to believe that the AA message is in the book and the society named itself after the book that described what the AA message is.
“Of alcoholics who came to AA and really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that way; 25% sobered after some relapses…..” Do we have a 75% success rate today? What are we doing different from what they were doing in 1955?
“Yet it is our great hope that all those who have as yet found no answer may begin to find one in the pages of this book……” If you came to AA meetings and are sober and loving life, I am happy for you. If you are like me and couldn’t stay sober on fellowship alone, may you begin to find the answer in the pages of the big book, like I did 20+ years ago.
What are we doing different from what they were doing in
1955? These are my observations of changes since 1970. I
was not in the fellowship in 1955. We started reading "How
It Works" aloud at meetings as part of the format. IMO,
that was our most tragic mistake. Our fellowship became
a Twelve Step Program Fellowship, as the result of that
mistake. We accepted the 24hr book as approved literature,
although this little black book had been rejected by our
General Service Conference. We adopted the ritual of
chanting. This spoiled the reverence of our meetings.
"My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic" was never meant
to be a greeting or salutation. It is an admission in simple terms that I am an alcoholic. Chanting makes us
look weird in the eyes of the public. Public opinion of
AA is vital to our survival. We started sharing by "show
of hands" instead of going around the room. This allows
all kinds of EGO problems. We began the "ring around the
rosy" hold hands and pray closing, coercing everyone to
join in praying. Prayer has played a major part of
recovery for most of us, but we ought to pray on our
own time, not at AA meetings or AA events. The concept
of sponsorship has become distorted. Earlier sponsors were
servants, not teachers or preachers, Today's sponsor gives
the appearance of being a cult leader. Sure, cults work for
some alcoholics. These are some of the changes I have seen
in the past three decades. Most of these mistakes are
at the group level, and are limited to meetings in the
East and Northeast. Some early timers may remember past
meetings differently. These are my opinions and observations. ANONYMOUS
“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.
big book, 4th edition page xi 2nd paragraph says: Because this book has become the basic text for our society and has helped such large numbers of alcoholics men and women to recovery, there exists strong sentiment against any radical changes being made in it. Therefore, the first portion of this volume, describing the A.A. recovery program, has been left largely untouched in the course of revisions………..
By definition basic means forming an essential foundation or starting point or the essential facts or principles of a subject or skill. A definition of text is the main body of a book or other piece of writing. Anyone who can read English can put together what the authors meant by “basic text”.
If you are confused as to whether the AA program is the meetings or the steps, I think the statement “the first portion of this volume, describing the A.A. recovery program…..” settles that question.
For me, I can easily put this all together, the big book is the foundation, starting point, the essential facts and principles of the subject of recovery in AA put together in a book. So, would you agree the AA recovery program is described in the first 164 pages of the big book?
The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, was originally intended to be a work book. It ended up being a story book, The
Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. Its original purpose was
to give instruction and direction. In the final analysis the entire book is to be offered in a suggestive
manner. On page 154 Bill writes that "our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize that we know
only a little.". Let us remember that Bill was sober less than five years when the book was written. And God
did not take Bill's hand and guide it. Bill wrote that many times he felt like throwing the whole thing
out the window. I am really grateful that Bill W. made an effort to explain much of the Big Book in
AACA and LOTH. These further explanations are of great value. Without them our Big Book may appear to be
a study guide, and nothing more. ANONYMOUS
I find it difficult to believe that Bill W didn’t further “explain” the big book during one of the 16 printings of the first edition of the big book from 1939-1955, or one of the 16 printings of the second edition from 1955-1974. If the true explanation is in another book, I would think the group conscience of AA would have had plenty of opportunity to “explain” the big book after Bill’s death in the third edition in 1976, during one of the 74 printings. Where were you in 2001 when the 4th edition came out? Certainly they could have “explained” the big book by then in the foreword to the 4th edition or at least by the 28th printing in 2011. Or as I suspect, the big book explanation is in the big book and it simply means what it says.
In 1952, Bill did say on page 17 of the 12x12 “the book “alcoholics anonymous” became the basic text of the Fellowship, and still is”
Now that I think of it, if the founders of AA really didn’t have an accurate description of the AA program in the first printing of the first edition of the big book, they most certainly would have made those corrections for the second printing of the first edition.
In the second printing of the first edition, the story “the lone endeavor” by Pat C was deleted from the big book. I heard the story from an old tape of Jim B, the author of “the vicious cycle” in the big book. He said Pat was sober a few months after receiving a multilith copy of the big book. He was sober alone with the book. He was the first to have success with the book alone. They asked if they could use his story in printing and he said yes. Afterword, they sent him money to come to NY. Jim B said he, Bill W, and Hank P went to meet Pat at the train. After the train was empty, they asked about Pat. They found him drunk on the train and sent him back west. It was too late to remove his story for the first printing of the first edition, but it was removed from the second printing of the first edition.
As you can see, if the book was found later to have a mistake, it was corrected. There is a reason the first 164 pages of the book has not been changed over the years. It works.
I don’t care if the REASON that the book Alcoholics Anonymous was written was to teach Martians how to roast marshmallows. The RESULT of it being written is that those of us who read it and follow it’s instructions RECOVER and what is REMARKABLE is that it is nearing eighty years old, changed little and nothing has come close to replacing it.
Some alcoholics hang around AA and without doing much more seen to get some RELIEF and maybe even keep the disease in REMISSION. Some of us aren't satisfied with only that and do what is suggested to achieve RECOVERY.
If alcoholics want to hang around AA to get RELIEF
and are able to keep their disease in REMISSION, that is
good enough for me. Those of you who aren't satisfied
seem to be making demands on the rest of us, telling
us what you want us to do. Do you love us so much and are concerned about our sobriety, that you want to teach us
the truth? How about a little less truth and a lot
more grace? Faith without works is dead. Works without
faith is just as dead. Bill tells us on page 8 Language
of the Heart that "the 12 steps are not crammed down
anybody's throat. They are not sustained by any human
authority." Instead of telling AA members what they
must do, Why not just share your own experience,
strength, and most importantly, HOPE. ANONYMOUS
"Bill wrote many times" Please expand on where Bill wrote "many times". I don't recall reading this in AA literature, so please help me find the passages you speak of.
as far as Bill being less than 5 years sober and writing the basic text of AA, the book AA got it's name with 40 million copies in circulation, translated into 70 languages plus american sign language and brail. I think you have proved that GOD "was" involved in writing the book. how else could a relative newcomer write it?
Bill W. wrote in AACA (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age)
page 160: quote: I was exhausted. On many a day I felt like
throwing the book out the window. end quote.
While you have the book (AACA) open, study page 13 where Doctor Silkworth admonishes Bill for preaching to prospects. He tells Bill to stop preaching to them.
Bill W and his friends wrote the Big Book, from their
own experiences with alcohol.
Bill's release from the obsession/compulsion to drink
was a gift from God. That is where God was "involved". The
rest was provided by the WISDOM of Dr. Silkworth and our
other pioneers. ANONYMOUS
Jim, give me a hand here. I am still looking for the
passage where Bill wrote that many times he was so
frustrated that he was tempted to throw the book
out the window and forget the whole thing. I remember
reading it but now can't find it. I think Bill wrote
that many times he thought of throwing the whole thing out the window. I remember reading it. I believe he wrote
it only once. Maybe in Pass It ON. Anonymous.
Of course Bill's suggestion comment is on page 164. The entire
book is to be offered in a suggestive manner. It helped me.
You are welcome to try it if you want. If you have arrived
at the doorstep of AA, chances are you will find it
helpful, I would advise you to avoid Chapter Five "How
It works", until you have absorbed the first four
chapters. First Things First. In AA we have no musts. When
you get to chapter Five, don't let it frighten you away.
The steps are also suggestions. and are offered in a
The entire program is suggested. Personally I needed the
fellowship, a place where I felt I belonged. ANONYMOUS
I find it interesting that "this book is suggested" comes on page 164 after the directions for the AA recovery program. Would you agree that if it was truly only suggested, maybe the suggestion should be on page 1 instead of 164? If the authors where so concerned about scaring you off, I certainly would expect the suggestion to be upfront instead of on the end. I feel they knew if you were really and truly a desparate alcoholic, you would take the directions.
Try to understand the urgency to get the message out to
the world, that a solution to alcoholism had been found
by this man from New York and some of his friends. Bill
knew that alcoholics were suffering and dying from the
curse of alcoholism, while he had a remedy which
could save them. The chapters had already been written.
At the last minute, needed changes became obvious. But
the work done so far could not be changed. Changes like
the words "you must" to "we ought". Directions was
changed to following a path. Bill covered it all in
making the book suggestive in nature. The history of
AA is explained in AACA and LOTH. A lot of the confusion
is due to the apparent lack of understanding of suggestion.
I doubt that many alcoholics realize how desperate they
are. How do they know how desperate they are. Drinking
was the only friend I had left.
The Book was an offer to anyone who wanted to get better. I found a new wonderful life. How could anyone
refuse such an offer? But we have to offer it to them
without a trace of arrogance or an ounce of pride.
I hate to say this, but including myself, I have yet to meet anyone without a trace of arrogance, or an ounce of pride, much less an alcoholic. Dr. Harry T. described alcoholics as having a narcissistic core dominated by feelings of omnipotence ( not verbatim, but close). Read from the second to last paragraph from Dr. Bob’s Nightmare, A man noted for his great humility. A man who had 12 stepped over 5,000 alcoholics in 15 years. If you do the math, that’s almost 1 alcoholic a day for 15 years!
“If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic , or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you. If you still think you are strong enough to beat the game alone, that is your affair. But if you really and truly want to quit drinking liquor for good and all, and sincerely feel that you must have some help, we know that we have an answer for you. It never fails, if you go about it with one half the zeal you have been in the habit of showing when you were getting another drink”
Even I can see a little pride and arrogance in Dr. Bob. Everyone has some. The day we think we don’t, we are back to our old delusional selves. The day we actually don’t, lay real still, because we are dead.
In the end, we are offering this program to those that think they need some help. like Bob said, if you think you can do it on your own, that's your affair.
“ We would like it understood that our alcoholic work is an avocation” to me, this suggests I have other interests besides AA. Our alcoholic work is not all we do. We have jobs, homes, hobbies, husbands and wives. If I go to AA meetings everyday, I won’t have time for the wife or kids. Eventually I won’t even have a wife, because she will leave from neglect. Even while going to all these meetings, I won’t have time for actual one on one 12 step work because I am too busy going to meetings. Of course I have to put my sobriety first, or else I will have nothing else, I just think there needs to be balance for an ordinary drunk like myself.
“We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary. We think this account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.”
Notice the word “recovered” is used twice in this paragraph. Rarely do I hear recovered anymore. I hear a lot of recovering. Much can be said pro and con, personally, I would rather be recovered than recovering. Many will say there is no cure for alcoholism. There is also no cure for the common cold. We all know the difference between recovery from a cold and being recovered. When we recover from alcoholism, we are symptom free. When we are recovering, to me, we still have many of the symptoms, but we are getting better.
“to show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered”- I was taught to use the book as a text book, not a novel. When it said we did this or do that, we did it and it works.
“we hope…….no further authentication will be necessary.” I’ve always felt they meant they wouldn’t have to write any more books.
If you have time, read the forward to the first edition along with the preamble written by the grapevine. The preamble was written by the grapevine editor at the time. Mostly from what was written in the forward. Check it out.
"Forward, " and, "Foreword," are two very different words.
'Bill W. firmly advocated the use of recovered... Recovered meant, "I'm well today" recovering meant "I'm still sick".' (from Mrs Marty Mann: the first lady of Alcoholics Anonymous, by Sally and David Brown, page 194).
However, the Big Book is NOT a textbook giving instructions; it is AA's basic text: 'The story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered frlom alcoholism' (title page). So the Big Book is a story book, not a text book.
And by the way it is foreword not forward.
Thanks for the correction and for the message. I often
wish for a better knowledge of the English language. Although I consider myself a recovered alcoholic (the
obsession/compulsion was lifted on a Saturday long ago),
I do not use the words recovered or recovering at
meetings. I only state my name and that I am an alcoholic
which, by the way is part of the first step. This stating
my name and that I am an alcoholic was never meant to be
a greeting or salutation. ANONYMOUS
Thank you for your quote.
I came into AA with a spiritual thirst, but I didn't want to quit drinking. The Big Book and meetings showed me how to let God into my life. I was so thrilled with the new way of life I put the plug in the jug after six weeks.
I recently suggested the site administrator add a big book discussion topic to the “what’s on your mind forum”. My feeling is to take a page or so and discuss it with other members of AA. I felt having this as a topic would give AA members a forum to discuss our basic text without giving other members the impression we were shoving the book down their throats. This way, if you don’t want to read or hear about the big book, don’t click on the big book topic.
With no further ado, let’s look at the first few pages of the big book, the page with the heading “other books”. This page gives a list of “conference approved” literature. What that mean so me, is simply the literature committee has reviewed and confers that this material aligns with AA principles. It does not suggest that other material is not approved, the conference only approves AA produced material.
I have made it a practice to reread the 12x12,AA comes of age, pass it on, dr bob and the good oldtimers, on an annual basis. I keep copies of the pamphlets the “group” and “problems other than alcohol” in my big book for reference at meetings. I feel there is a wealth of useful information in this literature. After studying these books, I have found many comments that are taken as facts in AA meetings wind up as fiction. For example, did you know Bill W gave Dr. Bob his last beer or that Dr. Bob didn’t work the 12 steps, because there wasn’t 12 at the time, he worked the 6 step word of mouth program.
Thank you Grapevine for providing a digital forum for us to discuss the book that gave me directions for recovery from alcoholism!
"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 than 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."