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Written By: Fiona Stockard

The Big Book Broken Down – Part Ten

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. It was founded in June of 1935, just celebrated its seventy-ninth anniversary, and boasts over two million members.

AA’s central text is the Big Book. With a sponsor and a Big Book, AA members work the twelve steps, and “recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” (title page).

Big Book

Today, I’ll be breaking down a section of the chapter Working With Others.

Working With Others

This chapter, as the name ever so subtly suggests, is about working with other alcoholics. This usually takes the form of sponsorship, though there are many ways to be of service to our fellow drunks!

The chapter opens by saying, “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail” (p. 89).

That’s the truth! Sponsorship, or even generally helping other alcoholics, is the heart of AA. It’s the only way to stay sober no matter what.

Guess what else? Working with newcomers has a lot of other benefits as well. Case in point, Working with Others reads,

“Life will take on new meaning. 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” (p. 89).

The chapter then goes on to offer suggestions for finding active alcoholics. Remember, the Big Book was written in 1939. There wasn’t a multibillion-dollar rehab industry around then!

Most of these suggestions are pretty outdated. They do offer a few good points, though, like –

“…cooperate; never criticize. To be helpful is our only aim” (p. 89).

“If [s]he does not want to stop drinking, don’t waste time trying to persuade him [or her!]” (p. 90).

“If [s]he does not want to see you, never force yourself upon him [or her!]” (p. 90).

And finally –

“Tell him enough about your drinking habits, symptoms, and experiences to encourage him to speak of himself…give him a sketch of your drinking career…when he sees you know all about the drinking game, commence to describe yourself as an alcoholic” (p. 91).

Those all stand the test of time pretty well! It doesn’t matter if it’s 1939 or 2014, those are solid ways to approach, talk to, and help newcomers.

So, what about once you’ve approached a new woman? How do you convince her you know what you’re talking about? How do you make it clear that you have a solution to active alcoholism?

Simple! Working with Others says, “Show him [or her!] the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree…If [s]he is alcoholic, [s]he will understand you at once. [S]he will match your mental inconsistencies with some of his own” (p. 92).

That’s identification. If I’m talking to a newcomer and she starts nodding her head and saying, “yeah, yeah, that’s me!” I know she’s identified with me. I know that, despite being new to AA, she’s found some hope in what I’m saying. And hope, my friends, is what Alcoholics Anonymous is all about.

Working with Others offers some more ideas on how to foster identification. The chapter reads,

“Show him [or her!], from your own experience, how the queer mental conditions surrounding that first drink prevents normal function of the will power…Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind which accompany it” (p. 92).

This installment of Faith Facts Friday, with your lovely host Fiona, ends on one of my favorite passages from the Big Book. Remember that idea of hope? Here Working with Others spells it out explicitly,

“…he has become very curious to know how you got well. Let him ask you that question, if he will. Tell him exactly what happened to you. Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic that he does not have to agree with your conception of God. He can choose any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. The main thing is that he be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that he live by spiritual principles (p. 93).

Tune in next week for a breakdown of the rest of Working with Others!

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