The Big Book, the principal literature for Alcoholics Anonymous, is a book originally written by Bill Wilson is 1939. Within the book is the solution, including the 12 steps, to quit drinking for those who think they have a problem with alcohol. Due to its popularity and demand, the book has been revised over the years with the book currently on its 4th edition. However, except for the stories contained within, much of the book has remained unchanged since its first publication.
Table of Contents
- Preface, All Editions and The Doctor’s Opinion
- Bill’s Story
- There is a Solution
- More About Alcoholism
- We Agnostics
- How it Works
- Into Action
- Working with Others
- To Wives
- The Family Afterward
- To Employers
- A Vision for You
What is the Big Book in AA?
Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as the Big Book, is a book written by Bill W and others who have found a way to recover from alcoholism. It’s the bible of A.A. The phenomenon of alcoholism plagued individuals all throughout history with no precise answers on how to stop the insanity. Bill Wilson, co-founder of the movement that is Alcoholics Anonymous, along side William Silkworth M.D. together started what is referred to today as the greatest achievement towards understanding and treating alcoholism.
Their stories can be found in the Big Book as they dive into their experience with the disease. Through trial and error, they came up with a way to combat the elusive demons of alcoholism. The A.A. program outlines a few simple rules and steps to take in order to remain sober. The 12-steps are the foundation of the A.A. program and to this day millions of people have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state to live happy and prosperous lives.
Preface, 4 Editions and The Doctor’s Opinion (pages xi-xxxii)
The roman numeral pages in essence show the timeline of Alcoholics Anonymous and how it began. Starting with the Preface, then continuing to show the forward to each edition (4 total editions) and finally The Doctor’s Opinion (written by Doctor Bob). Reading the Preface and each edition shows the profound growth and impact the program has had and the success rate that followed its introduction. It also gives the skeptic a different perspective on the concept of alcoholism. In these pages you will see statistics in the form of precise data showing the number of people coming forward to receive help and the growth from the year 1939, when the movement started, until present day.
- Read the Preface online
- Read the Forward to the First Edition online
- Read the Forward to the Second Edition online
- Read the Forward to the Third Edition online
- Read the Forward to the Fourth Edition online
- Read the Doctor’s Opinion online
Chapter 1 – Bill’s Story (page 1)
A story of Bill Wilson’s life, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and his battles with alcoholism. If you are new to A.A., one thing you will find is that we share our experiences through stories. Stories allow us to relate to one another and to find hope in what it’s like now that we are sober.
- Read the full chapter “Bill’s Story” online.
- Watch Bill W (and his wife!) in his own words on youtube.
Chapter 2 – There Is A Solution (page 17)
Chapter 2 begins to describe the alcoholic and the behavior that goes along with being an alcoholic. The alcoholic and those affected by him or her can learn a lot from reading this chapter as both can relate to what is written. Even though the alcoholic knows that taking a drink is like touching a hot stove, there is no defense from this urge to drink. However, the defense or solution to quit is by the alcoholic doing the following:
- Leveling their pride
- Confess their shortcomings with another alcoholic
- Having a vital spiritual experience
The solution allows the alcoholic to change their ideas, emotions, and attitudes with a completely new set of conceptions.
- Read the full chapter “There is a Solution” online.
Chapter 3 – More About Alcoholism (page 30)
If reading chapter 2 wasn’t convincing enough, chapter 3 goes into further detail about the alcoholic’s dilemma. Due to the alcoholic’s obsession to drink, which never goes away, there is this belief that someday he will be able to control his drinking. This illusion remains constant throughout an alcoholic’s life, even in recovery, which is why it’s important to join a fellowship.
In order to convince themselves that they are not alcoholic, he will switch to only drinking beer or never having it in the house. The list could go on forever. That fact is that the alcoholic has the inability to leave alcohol alone, no matter how great the desire. This crazy desire will only subside from the defense of a higher power.
- Read the full chapter “More About Alcoholism” online
Chapter 4 – We Agnostics (page 44)
About half of those who come to alcoholics anonymous are either atheist or agnostic. When having to choose between death by alcohol or being open-minded to a higher power, most do choose to believe and get sober. What’s found by most that do seek, is that God does not make it hard for those who seek him. The spirit is all-inclusive for those who try to find Him or whom ever their conception of God is.
When the alcoholic finds the acceptance to believe in a power greater than themselves, a path to recovery can begin.
- Read the full chapter “We Agnostics” online.
Chapter 5 – How It Works (page 58)
Chapter 5, “How it Works”, is the meat and potatoes of the Big Book. It’s the instruction manual for working the program of alcoholics anonymous, known by most as the twelve (12) steps of AA. Chapter 5 introduces an important understanding about selfishness that the alcoholic, up until this point at least, is probably unaware of. Further, it describes the necessity to rid both this selfishness and self-centeredness from our lives (habits). The alcoholic can’t rid this character defect on their own. They must seek God’s and their fellows’ help.
- Read the full chapter “How it Works” online.
Chapter 6 – Into Action (page 72)
Into Action details the need for the alcoholic to humble themselves. By doing step 5 and admitting their faults to another person, preferably a sponsor in AA, the alcoholic can complete their personal housecleaning. In addition to gaining humility, the alcoholic must gain a sense of fearlessness and honesty which only comes about when sharing their experience with another human being.
- Read the full chapter “Into Action” online.
Chapter 7 – Working With Others (page 89)
Chapter 7 (“Working With Others”) describes the twelfth step in great detail, especially about the rules of engagement when introducing alcoholics anonymous to a sick alcoholic. The twelfth step (from the 12 steps of aa) states that nothing helps the alcoholic more than working with other alcoholics. To help others is to help one’s self. Read the full chapter “Working with Others” online.
Common ways to work with other alcoholics:
- Show up to meetings (the most common)
- Be a sponsor to someone new to AA
- Volunteer to be of service at a meeting
- Help out at your local intergroup office
- Bring the message to those suffering at a detox or in jail
Chapter 8 – To Wives (page 104)
We see a chapter which is devoted to the explanation and understanding given to those closest to us and the affect our alcoholism has had on them and what they can do to support their loved one on this journey in their recovery.
- Read the full chapter “To Wives” online.
Chapter 9 – The Family Afterward (page 122)
An in depth look into the ideas and perspectives family members may have concerning their loved one’s recovery and their own expectations on where they think he/she should be. This chapter explains what the recovery process looks like and gives suggestions on how to approach re-integrating a relationship with their loved one in a healthy and loving manor by setting boundaries and holding them accountable.
- Read the full chapter “The Family Afterward” online.
Chapter 10 – To Employers (page 136)
Explains and recognizes the damage caused by us in active addiction with respect to our employers. Many alcoholics have struggled to keep our addiction a secret and although we may not have been approached on the subject, people notice our patterns and behaviors. Our job suffers because we are not performing at 100%. Therefor we find it necessary for our employers to gain some knowledge about who they are dealing with.
- Read the full chapter “To Employers” online.
Chapter 11 – A Vision For You (page 136)
Full of inspiration and hope for the future. We have been given instructions and guidance with the utmost detail on how to combat alcoholism up to this point and if we so choose to embark on this journey, countless blessing will arise from our hard work and dedication. Blessings and promises we could not have imagined coming true in our lives while we were still drinking. The program of AA and all that surrounds it, is a movement toward a better life and living with purpose in a world where so many are lost in the darkness. We are able to spread light, hope and grace to those who suffer so that they too may see their true purpose is to live healthily and happily.
- Read the full chapter “A Vision for You” online.
Where are the 12 Steps in the Big Book?
Page 62 goes on to famously talk about the alcoholic’s core dilemma, which is that their life is run on self-will run riot. Of course, the alcoholic is either unaware of this dilemma or he/she doesn’t believe their life is run this way. Page 62 also talked about another core issue: Selfishness. The sick alcoholic is typically selfish in all of their affairs. The only way to rid this problem is with God’s help and the answers to obtain God’s help come from working the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The alcoholic must rid themselves of their selfish behavior or else it will kill them. It’s impossible for the alcoholic to rid their problem of selfishness on their own power. Instead of playing God, like he or she normally tries to do, they must use God’s help to reduce their self-centeredness.
Page 86 is used as a way to reflect on your day. Before going to bed, turning to page 86 and answering the series of questions is a good way to analyze your behavior and emotions through out your day. By doing this reflection on a daily basis, you can learn more about your behavioral tendencies and correct them quicker when they arise.
Questions that are use on page 86 are as follows:
- Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid?
- Do we owe an apology?
- Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once?
- Were we kind and loving toward all?
- What could we have done better?
- Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time or were we thinking of what we could do for others?
- What were we grateful for today?
Page 164 is the final page of the Chapter “A Vision for You” which details what your life could be like if you gave yourself a chance within Alcoholics Anonymous. It suggest to ask God what you can do each day to help the man that is still sick and to abandon yourself to God.
Most alcoholics think, “is my life now going to be boring and glum if I go on without alcohol for the rest of my life?” And the answer is that the alcoholic will find that the most satisfactory and exciting years of their existence lies ahead within the fellowship.
Page 417 is written in the Personal Stories section by a physician who had a hard time accepting the fact that he had a drinking problem. As the story goes, he was not able to get sober until he finally had acceptance with not only his alcoholism, but all other facets of his life.