Category Archives: Big Book Study Aids

Basic Text occurrences of certain words

Alcoholics Anonymous“, our Basic Text, was written to be conversational…

“You may already have asked yourself why it is that all of us became so very ill from drinking.  Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body.  If you are an alcoholic who wants to get over it, you may already be asking – ‘What do I have to do?’
“It is the purpose of this book to answer such questions specifically.  We shall tell you what we have done.” (page 20)

“Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you…”
“If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were…”
“Let us tell you the rest of the conversation our friend had…”
“…the extraordinary experience which, as we have already told you…
“…A new life…or, if you prefer, ‘a design for living’ that really works.” (pages 21-28)


occurrences of recover-ed-ing-s-y

We A.A.s do not stay away from drinking,
we grow away from drinking [one day at a time].”
(Al-Anon, “Lois Remembers“, page 168, quoting Bill)

“We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 132)


recover, recovered, recoveries, recovering, recovers, recovery

Preface to Third Edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous
Because this book has become the basic text for our Society and has helped such large numbers of alcoholic men and women to recovery, there exists a 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 untouched in the course of revisions made for both the second and the third editions.


Foreword to First Edition

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.

…[since] our first printing of this book… Alcoholics Anonymous has mushroomed into nearly 6,000 groups whose membership is far above 150,000 recovered alcoholics.

…when the broker (Bill W.) gave him (Dr. Bob) Dr. Silkworth’s description of alcoholism and its hopelessness… It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent recovery.
Hence the two men set to work… Their very first case, a desperate one, recovered immediately and became A.A. number three. -Foreword (Second Edition)

By the end of 1939 it was estimated that 800 alcoholics were on their way to recovery.

…the large numbers of recoveries


Foreword to Third Edition

The basic principles of the A.A. program, it appears, hold good for individuals with many different lifestyles, just as the program has brought recovery to those of many different nationalities. The Twelve Steps…they trace exactly the same path to recovery that was blazed by the earliest members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
…Each day, somewhere in the world, recovery (not mere sobriety) begins when one alcoholic talks with another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope.


The Doctor’s Opinion

We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the reader will be interested in the medical estimate of the plan of recovery described in this book.

In the course of his (Bill W.’s) third treatment (late 1934) he acquired certain ideas concerning a possible means of recovery… This man and over one hundred others appear to have recovered.
NoNameYet comment: Dr. Silkworth risked his medical reputation by saying anything at all, and that is why we see “a possible means” (mere speculation) and “appear to have” (no certainty presented) in his first-and-brief letter of two.

…unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.

Though the aggregate of recoveries resulting from psychiatric effort is considerable, we physicians must admit we have made little impression upon the problem as a whole.

He had but partially recovered from a gastric hemorrhage and seemed to be a case of pathological mental deterioration.


Chapter 1: Bill’s Story

…the market had gone to hell again…would recover, but I wouldn’t. (page 6)


Chapter 2: There Is A Solution

…thousands of men and women… Nearly all have recoveredsolved the drink problem. (page 17)

Many (dropping into oblivion every day) could recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. (page 19)

Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. (page 20)

…So he returned to this doctor (Carl Jung), whom he admired, and asked him point-blank why he could not recover. (page 26)

The doctor said: “… I have never seen one single case recover, where the state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you.” (page 27)

Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered. (page 29)


Chapter 3: More About Alcoholism

We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery.
…lost the ability to control our drinking…no real alcoholic ever recovers control. (page 30)

We have tried every imaginable remedy (to recover control of our drinking). In some instances there has been brief recovery (normal drinking), followed always by a still worse relapse. (page 31)

We first saw Fred about a year ago in a hospital where he had gone to recover from a bad case of jitters. (page 39)


Chapter 4: We Agnostics

If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered (from ‘chronic’, as in ‘no effective mental defense against the first drink’ (page 43) long ago. (pages 44-45)


Chapter 5: How It Works

Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves… There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest. (page 58)
NoNameYet comment: The idea of giving oneself over to the ages-old, man-made, ego-driven idea of not drinking one-day-at-a-time and the idea of completely giving oneself over to taking the Twelve Steps to have our problem solved for us are not the same thing! Trying to stay sober one-day-at-a-time is dependent upon human power where the Steps are about trying to grow away – not stay away – from drinking one-day-at-a-time…and we do that by growing along spiritual lines for the remainders of our lives in order for “no effective mental defense” to be and remain completely removed.

Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery… (page 59)


Chapter 6: Into Action

…the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned in the preceding chapter. (page 72)

Unwilling to be honest… Small wonder many in the medical profession have a low opinion of alcoholics and their chance for recovery! (page 73)


Chapter 7: Working With Others

To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss…
Perhaps you are not acquainted with any drinkers who want to recover. (page 89)
NoNameYet comment: ‘desire to stop drinking’, ‘want to recover’ and ‘wish to recover’ (Tradition Three) all mean the same.

If he says yes (he wants to quit for good and if he would go to any extreme to do so), then his attention should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered…one of a fellowship who, as part of (maintaining and sharing) their own recovery, try to help others and who will be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you. (page 90)

…insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be little chance he can recover by himself. (page 92)

It is important for him to realize that your attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in your own recovery. Actually, he may be helping you more than you are helping him. (page 94)
NoNameYet comment: Thinking of “strenuous work, one alcoholic with another” as “vital to permanent recovery” occasionally leads some of us to the erroneous conclusion that “strenuous work, one alcoholic with another” is more like “how it works” (as some kind of ‘service work’ effectively replacing Steps One through Nine) than part of Step Twelve taking us back to the beginning for the sake of the suffer where we find “You can help when no one else can – You can secure their confidence when others fail” (page 89) actually making the difference…and here is more of that overall perspective:

…if your prospect does not respond at once…[not] desperate enough…leave such a person alone [as] he may soon become convinced he cannot recover [on human power. Do not spend ‘too much time’ there and thus] deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy (same as ‘recover‘). One of our Fellowship failed entirely with his first half-dozen prospects. He often says that if he had continued to work on them, he might have deprived many others, who have since recovered, of their chance. (page 96)

Suppose now you are making your second visit to a man. He has read this volume and says he is prepared to go through with the Twelve Steps…the program of recovery. (page 96)

Permit [a man to impose upon you for money, connections, or shelter] and you only harm him… You may be aiding in his destruction rather than his recovery. (pages 96-97)

Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. (page 97)

Should [the family] accept and practice spiritual principles, there is a much better chance that the head of the family will recover. (page 97)

…no undue haste for the couple to get together. The man should be sure of his recovery
Let no alcoholic say he cannot recover unless he has his family back…his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God. (pages 99-100)


Chapter 8: To Wives

He knows that thousands of men, much like himself, have recovered. But don’t remind him of this after he has been drinking…for the more you hurry him the longer his recovery may be delayed. (page 113)

…spectacular and powerful recoveries. (page 113)

The slightest sign of fear or intolerance may lessen your husband’s chance of recovery. (page 120)


Chapter 9: The Family Afterward

Our women folk have suggested certain attitudes a wife may take with the husband who is recovering (as in ‘becoming recovered‘). (page 122)

At the beginning of recovery a man will take, as a rule, one of two directions. (page 125)

He is striving to recover fortune and reputation and feels he is doing very well. (page 126)

Although financial recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we could not place money first. (page 127)

We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others. (page 132)

A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling… We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. (page 133)

Whether the family goes on a spiritual basis or not, the alcoholic member has to if he would recover. (page 135)


Chapter 10: To Employers

…accepted the principles and procedure that had helped us. He is undoubtedly on the road to recovery. (page 139)

After satisfying yourself that your man wants to recover and that he will go to any extreme to do so, you may suggest a definite course of action. (page 142)

To get over drinking will require a transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place recovery above everything, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business.
Can you have every confidence in his ability to recover? (page 143)
NoNameYet note: “Those who do not recover are people who cannot (they seem mentally incapable of) or will not (become intellectually willing to) completely give themselves to this simple program…constitutionally (mentally or intellectually) incapable of being honest with themselves.” (page 58)

Naturally this sort of thing decreased the man’s chance of recovery. (page 145)

An alcoholic who has recovered, but holds a relatively unimportant job, can talk to a man with a better position. (page 146)

If he is [drunk], and is still trying to recover, he will tell you about it even if it means the loss of his job. (page 146)

If he is conscientiously following the program of recovery he can go anywhere your business may call him. (page 147)

The right kind of man, the kind who recovers, will not want [a disproportionate amount of time and attention]. (page 149)


Chapter 11: A Vision For You

The age of miracles is still with us. Our own recovery proves that! (page 153)

He has helped other men recover, and is a power in the church from which he was long absent. (page 158)

Understanding our work, [the doctor] can [suggest our approach to a patient] with an eye to selecting those who are willing and able to recover on a spiritual basis. (page 162)

When a few men in this city have found themselves, and have discovered the joy of helping others to face life again, there will be no stopping until everyone in that town has had his opportunity to recover – if he can and will. (pages 163-164)


Appendix I: The A.A. Tradition

Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity. (Tradition One)

…we may refuse none who wish to recover. (Tradition Three)


Appendix II: Spiritual Experience

…the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms.

…many alcoholics have [incorrectly] concluded that in order to recover they must acquire an immediate and overwhelming “God-consciousness” followed at once by a vast change in feeling and outlook…
Most emphatically we wish to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual concepts…
Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery.



Introduction to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

…collective experience within the Fellowship on how A.A. members recover, and how our society functions.

…because the book (“Alcoholics Anonymous”) has helped so many alcoholics find recovery, there exists strong sentiment within the Fellowship against any change to it.


Foreword to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide fellowship of more than one hundred thousand alcoholic men and women who are banded together to solve their common problems and to help fellow sufferers in recovery from that age-old, baffling malady, alcoholism.

This book…presents an explicit view of the principles by which A.A. members recover and by which their Society functions.

…after a large amount of failure in getting alcoholics to recover, three successful groups emerged…[yet] it was hard to find two-score of sure recoveries in all three groups (collectively).

…in April 1939…the recoveries numbered about one hundred…[new] book was called “Alcoholics Anonymous”…the spiritual ideas of the Society were codified…the application…was made clear. The remainder of the book…described their drinking experiences and recoveries.

…in 1939…the recovered alcoholics carried their message…

Proof that alcoholics could recover had been made.


Step One in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

…a statistical fact that alcoholics almost never recovered on their own resources.


Step Twelve in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

…if these are facts of life for the many alcoholics who have recovered in A.A., they can become the facts of life for many more.


Tradition One in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Our Twelve Steps to recovery are suggestions…

The A.A. member has to conform to the principles of recovery. His life actually depends upon obedience to spiritual principles.

…most individuals cannot recover unless there is a group.

[Just as] we had once struggled and prayed for individual recovery, just so earnestly did we commence to quest for the principles through which A.A. itself might survive.


Tradition Three in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

How could we know thousands of these sometimes frightening people were to make astonishing recoveries and become our greatest workers and intimate friends?


Tradition Five in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

The unique ability of each A.A. to identify himself with, and bring recovery to the newcomer in no way depends upon his learning, eloquence, or on any special individual skills… These legacies of suffering and of recovery are easily passed among alcoholics, one to the other.

Finally, he saw that I wasn’t attempting to change his religious views, that I wanted him to find the grace in his own religion that would aid his recovery.


Tradition Eight in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Almost no recovery from alcoholism has ever been brought about by the world’s best professionals, whether medical or religious.


Tradition Nine in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant.


Tradition Ten in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Since recovery from alcoholism is life itself to us, it is imperative that we preserve in full strength our means of survival.


Tradition Twelve in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Enthusiastic over the spectacular recovery of a brother alcoholic, we’d sometimes discuss those intimate and harrowing aspects of his case meant for his sponsor’s ear alone.


Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, by permission of AAWS


occurrences-of-fellow-s-ship-ships

The words “fellow“, “fellows“, “fellowship” and “fellowships” can each be used in various ways, and our comprehensions or understandings of their nuances – shades of difference or delicate gradations – can often be quite dependent upon context. For example:

“‘I know I must get along without liquor…  Have you a sufficient substitute?’
“Yes…a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous…” (“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 152)

How can a group of people be a substitute for the effect of a few drinks?! But in looking more closely, it is the spiritual fellowship shared within an autonomous A.A. fellowship – not the group itself – that has just been mentioned as our “sufficient substitute” for alcohol…and now the details of that common-for-all benefit as “fellows”, both male and female, within that fellowship are freely shared next from within our text:

“There you will find release from care, boredom and worry.
“Your imagination will be fired.  Life will mean something at last.
“The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead…”

…and now ponder these following two versions, one brief and one expanded, of that paragraph’s next sentence:

1. “Thus we find (the A.A. group), and so will you.”

2. “Thus we find (the fellowship we share within our A.A. fellowships), and so will you…
“…in your own community…make lifelong friends…new and wonderful ties…escape disaster together…commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey…give of yourself that others may survive and rediscover life…learn the full meaning of ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.'” (pages 152-153)

“Some day we hope that every alcoholic who journeys will find
a Fellowship of (Anonymous Alcoholics) at his destination.” (page 162)


fellow, fellows, fellowship, fellowships

Preface to Third Edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous
The second edition…the chief change was in the section of personal stories, which was expanded to reflect the Fellowship’s growth.
NoNameYet note: As there mentioned, “the Fellowship” is really more like an overall, ad-hoc “society” of recovered alcoholics actually recognizable or identifiable only by their respective memberships within our autonomous A.A. fellowship groups as “organism”, not organization.


Foreword to First Edition
When writing or speaking publicly about alcoholism, we urge each of our Fellowship to omit his personal name, designating himself instead as “a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.”


Foreword to Second Edition
Figures given in this foreword describe the Fellowship as it was in 1954.

Our earliest printing voiced the hope “that every alcoholic who journeys will find the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous at his destination.”
NoNameYet note: As dependent upon context, that is not true. Please see the excerpt below from page 162.

We had to unify our Fellowship or pass off the scene.


Foreword to Third Edition
In spite of the great increase in the size and the span of this Fellowship, at its core it remains simple and personal.


The Doctor’s Opinion
“…present his (Bill W.’s) conceptions to other alcoholics, impressing upon them that they must do likewise with still others…has become the basis of a rapidly growing fellowship of these men and their families.”
William D. Silkworth, M.D.


Chapter 1: Bill’s Story
Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. (page 9)

“We commenced to make many fast friends and a fellowship has grown up among us of which it is a wonderful thing to feel a part…”
We meet frequently so that newcomers may find the fellowship they seek. (page 15)


Chapter 2: There Is A Solution
…there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. (page 17)

“That fellow can’t handle his liquor.” (page 20)

Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you, especially in his lack of control…
He may be one of the finest fellows in the world. (page 20)

He is the fellow who goes to bed so intoxicated he ought to sleep the clock around. (page 21)

The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s universe. (page 25)


Chapter 3: More About Alcoholism
Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. (page 30)

“We admit we have some of these symptoms, but we have not gone to the extremes you fellows did, nor are we likely to, for we understand ourselves so well after what you have told us that such things cannot happen again.” (page 38)

Let him tell you about it: “I was much impressed with what you fellows said about alcoholism, and I frankly did not believe it would be possible for me to drink again..
“I rather appreciated your ideas about the subtle insanity which precedes the first drink, but I was confident it could not happen to me after what I had learned…
“I reasoned I was not so far advanced as most of you fellows, that I had been usually successful in licking my other personal problems, and that I would therefore be successful where you men failed.” (page 40)


Chapter 4: We Agnostics
About half of our original fellowship were of exactly that type. (page 44)

Many times we talk to a new man and watch his hope rise as we discuss his alcoholic problems and explain our fellowship (as a “sufficient substitute”). (page 45)


Chapter 5: How It Works
Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. (page 62)


Chapter 6: Into Action
More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life…presents his stage character…the one he likes his fellows to see. (page 73)

“I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows…”
Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. (page 76)

We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. (page 84)


Chapter 7: Working With Others
To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss. (page 89)

You should be described to him as one of a fellowship who, as part of their own recovery, try to help others and who will be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you. (page 90)

On your first visit tell him about the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. (page 94)

Offer him friendship and fellowship. (page 95)

One of our Fellowship failed entirely with his first half dozen prospects. (page 96)


Chapter 9: The Family Afterward
…on earth…is where our fellow travelers are, and that is where our work must be done. (page 130)

Most (fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds) give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. (page 133)


Chapter 10: To Employers
…the vice president of a large industrial concern…remarked: “I’m mighty glad you fellows got over your drinking.” (page 148)


Chapter 11: A Vision For You
It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous
Thus we find the Fellowship, and so will you…
High and low, rich and poor, these are future fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. (page 152)

They will approach still other sick ones and fellowships of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up in each city and hamlet, havens for those who must find a way out…
Perhaps the best way of treating you to a glimpse of your future will be to describe the growth of the fellowship among us. (page 153)

Two days later, a future fellow of Alcoholics Anonymous stared glassily at the strangers beside his bed…
“Who are you fellows, and why this private room?…
“You fellows know your stuff all right, but I don’t see what good it’ll do. You fellows are somebody…”
Said the future Fellow Anonymous: “Damn little to laugh about that I can see.” (page 157)

…a devil-may-care young fellow whose parents could not make out whether he wanted to stop drinking or not. (page 158)

“The way you fellows put this spiritual stuff makes sense…” So one more was added to the Fellowship.
They shared their homes, their slender resources, and gladly devoted their spare hours to fellow-sufferers. (page 159)

Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object (for setting apart one night a week for a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life) was to provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems. (pages 159-160)

A community thirty miles away has fifteen fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Being a large place, we think that some day its Fellowship will number many hundreds. (page 161)

Some day we hope that every alcoholic who journeys will find a Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous at his destination. (page 162)

So our fellow worker will soon have friends galore. Some of them may sink and perhaps never get up, but if our experience is a criterion, more than half of those approached will become fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. (page 163)

God…will show you how to create the fellowship you crave.
Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows… We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny. (page 164)



Introduction to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
“Bill W., who along with Dr. Bob S. founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, wrote (‘Alcoholics Anonymous’) to share 18 years of collective experience within the Fellowship on how A.A. members recover, and how our society functions.”
“In recent years some members and friends of A.A. have asked if it would be wise to update the language, idioms, and historical references in the book to present a more contemporary image for the Fellowship. However, because the book has helped so many alcoholics find recovery, there exists strong sentiment within the Fellowship against any change to it. In fact, the 2002 General Service Conference discussed this issue and it was unanimously recommended that: ‘The text in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, written by Bill W., remain as is, recognizing the Fellowship’s feelings that Bill’s writing be retained as originally published.'”

“We hope that the collective spiritual experience of the A.A. pioneers captured in these pages continues to help alcoholics and friends of A.A. understand the principles of our program.”


Foreword to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
“Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide fellowship of more than one hundred thousand alcoholic men and women who are banded together to solve their common problems and to help fellow sufferers in recovery from that age-old, baffling malady, alcoholism.”

“A.A.’s Twelve Traditions apply to the life of the Fellowship itself.”

“How can a set of traditional principles, having no legal force at all, hold the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous in unity and effectiveness? The second section of this volume, though designed for A.A.’s membership, will give such inquirers an inside view of A.A. never before possible.”

“…a well-known surgeon and a New York broker. Both were severe cases of alcoholism and were destined to become co-founders of the A.A. Fellowship.”

“The basic principles of A.A., as they are known today, were borrowed mainly from the fields of religion and medicine, though some ideas upon which success finally depended were the result of noting the behavior and needs of the Fellowship itself.”

“The book was called ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, and from it the Fellowship took its name.”

“The book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ became the basic text of the Fellowship, and it still is.”


Basic Text references to our Basic Text

… the basic text for our Society …
… the main purpose of this book.
… the plan outlined in this book.
… the great news this book carries …
… the purpose of this book …
… few, to whom this book will appeal …
Its main object is to …

Since anything beyond a passive or casual reference to itself within any given book (such as on an introductory or dedication page) is somewhat unusual, we have taken a look at such references appearing within “Alcoholics Anonymous“, our Basic Text.


References within “Preface”


We begin here with references to our Basic Text as found within its Preface (and with these following excerpts being from its Third Edition):

“This is the third edition of the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’…
“…the basic text for our Society…”

Interestingly, or at least within the realm of computer programming, the word “basic” is also an acronym meaning “Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code”. We are not mere computer chips or being “programmed”, of course, yet that idea of “instruction code” within “Basic Text” still seems to hold a bit of significance or at least a degree of symbolism here since the word “text” clearly represents our Basic Text as being a “textbook” or a “manual of instruction” in our particular “branch of study.” (Wikipedia) And to carry that thought a bit farther, we might also consider the following from the Forewords to our “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“:

“…the infant Society determined to set down its experience in a book…(where) the spiritual ideas of the Society were codified for the first time in the Twelve Steps, and the application of these Steps to the alcoholic’s dilemma was made clear.”

Codifications need to be decoded in order to be applied, and our Basic Text is where we are shown how the A.A. program of recovery can be applied to our problem in order to bring about permanent recovery from chronic alcoholism. Do with these thoughts as you wish, of course, but “Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code” seems to us, at least in principle, to be appropriate here. In fact, later on in our textbook we will see expressions such as “clear-cut directions…showing how we recovered.” (page 29)

Although our book’s Preface is not meant to be definitive, we might nevertheless also note the idea of “society” here, and just as we have observed at the beginning of “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”. Some people might occasionally prefer to think of or to perceive A.A. as being some kind of corporation, organization or even a “national institution” (Foreword to Second Edition) of one kind or another, but we are actually much more of an ad-hoc society or “organism” than anything even close to any of those.

Moving along:

“…this book…has helped…large numbers of alcoholic men and women to recovery…”

Ponder that thought the next time you might hear someone suggest our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.

“All changes made over the years in the Big Book (A.A. members’ fond nickname for this volume) have had the same purpose: to represent the current membership of Alcoholics Anonymous more accurately, and thereby to reach more alcoholics.”

The above from the Preface to our book stems from this within:

“To be gravely affected, one does not necessarily have to drink a long time nor take the quantities some of us have… But try [to] get them to see it!
“As we look back, 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…” (pages 33-34)

So much for anything like “Just don’t take the first drink one-day-at-a-time”, eh?! The idea there during our 12th-Step work is to try to help others see and accept their own ultimate hopelessness far sooner than their own drinking and their eventual attempts to stop altogether might ever drive them to it.


References within “Foreword to First Edition”


Here is the second sentence shared in the Foreword to our book’s First Edition:

“To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.”

In our book’s pre-publication manuscript, the above appeared as this:

“To show other alcoholics PRECISELY HOW THEY CAN RECOVER is the main purpose of this book.”

Continuing on:

“For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary.”

Few people seem willing to tolerate this today, but that idea of no further authentication being necessary would indicate this book “says it all”, so to speak. Even Dr. Silkworth mentioned feeling “a sense of real satisfaction when I was asked to contribute a few words on a subject which is covered in such masterly detail in these pages.” (“The Doctor’s Opinion“, italic added) And of course, the subject being covered in our book is permanent recovery from chronic alcoholism…and then with everyone everywhere in mind:

“We think this account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the alcoholic.”

Our book can help the alcoholic understand himself or herself, and it can help others understand us and our alcoholism in ways that can be helpful all-around.

“…personal appeals which may result from this publication…”

Early A.A.s were a bit surprised when the initial release of our book did not result in the flooding of their post box.

“We shall be interested to hear from those who are getting results from this book, particularly from those who have commenced work with other alcoholics.”

As shared within:

“Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.” (page 89)


References within “The Doctor’s Opinion”


“We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the reader will be interested in the medical estimate of the plan of recovery described in this book.”

The above ties back to the Foreword to our book’s First Edition where we say, “we hope (for other alcoholics) these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary.” However, getting to that point was a two-stage process since Dr. Silkworth was at first hesitant over possible criticisms amongst his peers upon disclosure of his “physical allergy” theory explaining the alcoholic’s beyond-all-control drinking. So, and with the doctor’s first letter forever remaining unsigned, our “The Doctor’s Opinion” includes two letters from him along with our mention of our request for his second letter. We will find more insight in relation to all of that while later comparing our mention of an effective 12th-Stepper being one who is “properly armed with facts about himself/herself” (page 18) to how that idea first appeared in our book’s pre-publication manuscript as “certain medical facts”. Overall, however, and surprisingly to some people, A.A. never expresses any opinion anywhere as to whether or not alcoholism is an actual disease. Rather, we only say the good doctor’s theory “explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account.” (“The Doctor’s Opinion“)

Continuing on:

“The subject presented in this book seems to me to be of paramount importance to those afflicted with alcoholic addiction.” (Dr. Silkworth)

Dr. Silkworth understood alcoholism and what is needed to recover, and the subject of our book is that of applying the spiritual solution to the alcoholic’s dilemma in order to finally be rid of whatever it might be that has been making it impossible for him or her to “put the plug in the jug” and leave it there.

“…after many years’ experience as Medical Director of one of the oldest hospitals in the country treating alcoholic and drug addiction…a sense of real satisfaction when I was asked to contribute a few words on a subject which is covered in such masterly detail in these pages.” (Dr. Silkworth)

Dr. Silkworth had worked with thousands of alcoholics with very little success prior to the rise of A.A., so his sentiment here is not at all surprising.

“Many years ago one of the leading contributors to this book came under our care in this hospital and while here he acquired some ideas which he put into practical application at once.” (Dr. Silkworth)

You might notice the good doctor has said Bill put some acquired ideas into practical application at once, and in “Bill’s Story” we can read a little in relation to that:

“Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.
“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. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound.
“For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He (Dr. Silkworth) listened in wonder as I talked.
“Finally he shook his head saying, ‘Something has happened to you I don’t understand. But you had better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were.’ The good doctor now sees many men who have such experiences. He knows that they are real.” (page 14)

Returning to “The Doctor’s Opinion”:

“The classification of alcoholics seems most difficult, and in much detail is outside the scope of this book.” (Dr. Silkworth)

That statement might at first leave the impression we need to go looking elsewhere for more information, but the good doctor is only trying to drive this point home:

“All these (types of alcoholics I have just mentioned), and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving…the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity… The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.”

Some folks might want to believe the above represents an A.A. suggestion or directive of some kind to “Don’t drink”, but the doctor who knows he cannot make an alcoholic into a normal drinker is only saying abstinence is the only way to keep our allergy to alcohol from killing us. If “Don’t drink” were at the core of the A.A. program of recovery, that would be the next line in “The Doctor’s Opinion” and none of us would have any real need or reason to read any farther! But rather than anything like that, and in relation to the matter of abstinence, the good doctor instead mentions this kind of idea:

“He accepted the plan outlined in this book…
“He (became) ‘sold’ on the ideas contained in this book…
“I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book…and…remain to pray.”
(William D. Silkworth, M.D.)

Read our book carefully and pray (or not) as you will, but please let us know if you might ever find “Don’t drink” anywhere within it!