Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Big Book - A Review

“It’s more than a book.  It’s a way of life”

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism is generally known as The Big Book because of the relative size of the first edition.  Originally published in 1939 by AA founders Bill W. (William Griffith Wilson) and Dr Bob (Robert Holbrook Smith), the book serves as the basic text of AA.  The book is published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. and is available through AA offices and meetings, as well as through booksellers.
In the introduction to the Big Book, William Duncan Silkworth, M.D., a specialist in the treatment of alcoholism, endorses the AA program after treating Bill W, the founder of AA, and other apparently hopeless alcoholics who then regained their health by joining the AA fellowship. He claimed:
"For most cases there is no other solution than a spiritual solution”.
“I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book through, and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray”.

ISBN-13: 978-956-291-265-5

The first 164 pages cover Bill’s Story and the basic program of AA, incorporating the “twelve step method” that is used widely to treat many addictions including:
Heroin, marijuana and other drug addictions
Gambling addiction
Sex addiction
It is also a source of support for family members of alcoholics with a strong spiritual and social emphasis and is often used in conjunction with psychological and pharmacological methods of addiction treatment.  One chapter is devoted to agnostics, while another is named "To Wives" (the first AA members were only men), and still another is for employers. This first part of the book ends with following words:
“Our book is meant to be suggestive only.  We realize we know only a little.  God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.  Ask him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick.  The answers will come, if your house is in order.  But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got.  See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others.  This is the Great Fact for us.
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God.  Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past.  Give freely of what you find and join us.  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.
May God bless you and keep you – until then.”  

(Reprinted from The Big Book of Alcoholics anonymous, page 164, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.)

These words are what we call “the promises” in our meetings – they incorporate the steps of the program and if followed correctly, these promises can come true for anyone suffering from addiction.
The second part of the book is a collection of personal stories, in which alcoholics tell their stories of addiction and recovery, the first one being Dr Bob’s Nightmare.  There are three sections – The Pioneers of AA, They Stopped in Time and They Lost Nearly All.  These cover just under another 400 pages, hence the name “The Big Book”.
Here are some interesting facts about the book:
·         It is one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold 30 million copies by 2011.
·         Time magazine placed the book on its list of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923.
·         U.S. President Richard Nixon received the millionth copy of the book.
·         The 25-millionth copy of the Big Book was presented to Jill Brown, of San Quentin State Prison, at the International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to commemorate the first prison meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous taking place at San Quentin in 1941.
My recommendation:
This book including the steps and the personal stories that I could relate to, saved my life.  I would suggest to anyone who has a friend or family member that is suffering from any of the above addictions, to read the book with an open mind.  I have also suggested to concerned people that come into the rooms worrying about a friend or family member, that they purchase a copy for the alcoholic or addict.  As with recovery, you cannot force them to read it but after a while it may grab their attention or their interest and you never know – it could save their life.
The Big Book can be read online but unfortunately it is not in ebook format yet.  Paperbacks, hard copies and audio can be purchased from most book stores but you will find them at Amazon and Hazelden Publishing at a really small price.
I still have the 3rd edition hardcover book which I purchased over fifteen years ago.  I think it is time for an update to the 4th edition – the limited addition in my picture looks great and it’s a paperback!

My rating for this book is 10/10

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