Written By: Fiona Stockard

The Big Book Broken Down – Part Two

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 chapter two, There Is a Solution.

There Is a Solution

The chapter opens by saying, “We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, know thousands of men and women who were once just as hopeless as Bill. Nearly all have recovered. They have solved the drink problem” (17).

This is the great promise of AA, a SOLUTION to alcoholism. AA doesn’t claim to keep only certain members sober. They don’t offer single digit recovery statistics. Rather, Alcoholics Anonymous lets people RECOVER from alcoholism.

Recover. As in get better. As in “the problem has been removed” (85). Of course, this only happens after some serious work with a sponsor and god!

The chapter goes on, “But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours” (18).

This is another pillar of AA, the idea that alcoholics can help fellow alcoholics, in ways no one else can. I’ve had a ton of great therapists, but they didn’t get me sober. Hell, they didn’t even help me to cut down.

Once I met this ex-problem drinker, who ended up being my sponsor, I started to change. Of course, I didn’t trust her all at once. She established trust by telling me her crazy experiences. She told me about how badly she wanted to stop drinking and using, but couldn’t. She shared her experiences, emotions, feelings, and thoughts, which were just like mine!

On the next page, it says, “We feel that elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs” (19).

I’ll explore this idea in greater detail in later columns. For now though, it’s important to remember that abstinence itself is only a beginning. Recovery is about much more than not drinking. It’s about living a life that benefits other people and society at large. I mean, how selfish and stupid would it be to get sober and still be an asshole!

Next, the chapter lays out some of the different types of drinkers. They propose there are moderate drinkers, hard drinkers, and alcoholics. The moderate drinker is your typical social drinker. They can take or leave booze. The hard drinker suffers consequences from their drinking, but ultimately is able to stop. The alcoholic though, pardon my French, but they’re f**ked. That is, they’re f**ked until they find a solution!

Maybe the solution to alcoholism is will power. Maybe alcoholics just don’t have enough will power. That makes sense, right? Nope. AA says, “ Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink” (24).

Okay, that makes sense. It’s definitely true to my experience. So will power doesn’t work. What about embarrassing and painful memories? What’s that they always say in rehab? Play the tape through? Wait, so that won’t work either?! What if I go to a lot of therapy and counseling? Surely a better understanding of myself will work.

Nope. The chapter goes on to say, “Above all, he believed he had acquired such a profound knowledge of the inner workings of his mind and its hidden springs that relapse was unthinkable. Nevertheless, he was drunk in a short time” (26).

Okay, I’m screwed. I can’t use will power and I can’t use therapy. What can I use to get better?

The answer’s simple. Remember when I talked about RECOVERING a little while ago? Well, according to AA, “ 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. But we saw that it really worked in others” (25).

The process they’re talking about is the twelve-steps. Through working the steps (all of the steps, in the correct order, under the guidance of a sponsor!!), we recover. Simple as that.

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