Written By: Fiona Stockard

The Big Book Broken Down – Part Eleven

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

Picking up from last week, Working with Others urges us to use simple language when working with sponsees. It reads, “…you had better use everyday language to describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing any prejudice…” (p. 93).

Remember, the goal of sponsorship, of any service work, is to be helpful. We can’t be helpful if we’re using ten-dollar words! That’s only going to confuse people.

What about working with newcomers who have strong religious backgrounds? Don’t worry, the chapter has that covered too. It says –

“Your prospect may belong to a religious denomination. His religious education and training may be far superior to yours…But he will be curious to learn why his own convictions have no worked and why yours seem to work so well…To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action” (p. 93).

This is absolutely true! I’ve worked with many women who know more about a particular religion than I do. Their knowledge didn’t keep them sober though. This goes back to one of the pillars of A.A. – knowledge isn’t enough to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Self-knowledge doesn’t work. Religious knowledge doesn’t work. Knowledge in any form isn’t enough. We need, as the Big Book says, “self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action.”

How do we get to action? Simple. Working with Others says, “Outline the program of action, explaining how you made a self-appraisal, how you straightened out your past and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful to him” (p. 94).

There you have a very vague description of the twelve-steps. Our self-appraisal is the fourth step. Straightening out our past is the ninth step. Being helpful to others is the twelfth-step.

Through working these steps (and the other nine!), we have a spiritual experience. And that, my friends, is what sobriety is all about!

Getting back to helping newcomers, the chapter touches upon some common roadblocks we, as sponsors, experience. It says –

“Your candidate may give reasons why he need not follow all of the program. He may rebel at the thought of a drastic housecleaning which requires discussion with other people” (p. 94).

and –

“Tell him you once felt as he does, but you doubt whether you would have made much progress had you not taken action” (p. 94).

and –

“If he is not interested in your solution, if he expects you to act only as a banker for his financial difficulties or a nurse for his sprees, you may have to drop him until he changes his mind” (p. 95).

and finally –

“If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or prefers some other spiritual approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience. We have no monopoly on God; we merely have an approach that worked with us” (p. 95).

I can’t overstate these enough! Not everyone who asks for our help will really want it. I’ve sponsored more than my share of women who call for a few weeks, maybe even work the first couple of steps, and then disappear.

On the flip side, I’ve been that woman! I pulled the disappearing act myself. I had quite a few sponsors before I actually worked the steps.

What made this last time different? I’m not sure. I think I was ready to commit to going through all of the steps. I didn’t pull the disappearing act. I stuck around.

Guess what? It’s led to a life beyond my wildest dreams!

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