Happy 76th Birthday!

the big book aa

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Just a few days ago, April 10th to be exact, the Big Book celebrated its 76th birthday!

How cool is that? One of the most influential books of all time (if I do say so myself!) has been around for over seventy-five years. It’s helped millions of alcoholics recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. It’s restored families, saved marriages, and offered hope to so many people.

The Big Book is my favorite book and that’s coming from someone who LOVES books. I started and finished The Bell Jar this week and it’s only Thursday! Still, no other book compares to the Big Book. Perhaps that’s because no other book has literally saved my life (although a few have impacted me pretty substantially).

Anyway, that’s just my personal opinion of the book. Guess what? It’s gotten all sorts of other accolades over its seventy-six years! A quick Google search turns up some interesting details:

    • The Big Book is one of the best selling books of all time. It’s thought to hover right around the 50th place mark. It’s sold, in total, over 30 million copies (yes, I said million!)


    • The Big Book is included in Time’s list of the 100 most influential books of all time


    • The Big Book was recognized by the United State’s Library of Congress as one of the eighty-eight “books that shaped America”


  • Early after its release, one reviewer called the Big Book “the greatest redemptive force of the twentieth century.” The New York Times said the book was unlike any other book ever published. Another reviewer “called the book extraordinary and stated that it deserved the attention of anyone worried about the problem of alcoholism.”

And that’s just what a quick search turned up! Yeah, it’s safe to say the Big Book is one-of-a-kind and has changed addiction treatment forever.

How the Big Book Changed America

That’s a bold claim, right? Saying that the Big Book changed America isn’t just a statement. It’s a declaration and it needs to be backed up with fact. Well, guess what? It did change America.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous changed how America views and treats alcoholism and addiction. Before that fateful day in April of 1939, alcoholism was thought of in the same way it had been for hundreds of years. That is to say, alcoholism was viewed as shameful secret, a moral problem, and a personal failure.

Around the time AA was founded in 1935, doctors all over the country were starting to measure alcoholism by scientific, rather than moral, standards. The Big Book is an example of the right thing at the right time. Its publication coincided with an increasingly medical and scientific view of the disease of alcoholism (emphasis on the word disease).

After April 10th, 1939, alcoholism and addiction as a disease began to be widely accepted. Certainly this wasn’t only because of the book, but it galvanized thousands, and eventually millions, of people to see alcoholism in a whole new light.

Equally as important as the Big Book changing the paradigm of alcoholism treatment, is how it changed that paradigm. Remember, those in the medical community were already starting to think of alcoholism as a disease, but what about normal women and men? What about the wife up the street with an alcoholic husband? What about the store clerk with an alcoholic wife? What about the worried parents with an alcoholic child?

The Big Book spoke to these people directly. It used simple, everyday language to explain complex ideas. It spoke of spirituality in a way that made even the most agnostic or atheist person say, “Well, maybe they’re right.” It tackled issues of guilt, shame, remorse, sex, lies, and so much more with grace and dignity. In short, it gave a human touch to alcoholism.

Let’s all take a moment to be thankful it did. If the Big Book wasn’t written, well, I wouldn’t be typing these words. I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t be reading them. I’m indebted to this book and, of course, to Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob. It’s with the deepest respect that I take off my metaphorical hat and say Happy Birthday!

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