Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
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Preface and Forwards
The Basic Text
Personal Stories from the Big Book, Third Edition
Pioneers of A.A.
Dr. Bob and the nine men and women who here tell their stories were among the early members of A.A.’s first groups.
All ten have now passed away of natural causes, having maintained complete sobriety.
Today, hundreds of additional A.A. members can be found who have had no relapse for more than thirty years.
All of these, then, are the pioneers of A.A. They bear witness that release from alcoholism can really be permanent.
Doctor Bob’s Nightmare – A co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The birth of our Society dates from his first day of permanent sobriety, June 10, 1935.
Alcoholic Anonymous Number Three – Pioneer member of Akron’s Group No. 1, the first A.A. group in the world. He kept the faith; therefore, he and countless others found a new life.
(2) Gratitude in Action – The story of Dave B., one of the founders of A.A. in Canada in 1944.
(3) Women Suffer Too – Despite great opportunities, alcohol nearly ended her life. An early member, she spread the word among women in our pioneering period.
(4) Our Southern Friend – Pioneer A.A., minister’s son, and southern farmer, he asked, “Who am I to say there is no God?”
(5) The Vicious Cycle – How it finally broke a Southerner’s obstinacy and destined this salesman to start A.A. in Philadelphia.
(6) Jim’s Story – This physician, one of the earliest members of A.A.’s first black group, tells of how freedom came as he worked among his people.
(7) The Man Who Mastered Fear – He spent eighteen years running away, and then found he didn’t have to run. So he started A.A. in Detroit.
(8) He Sold Himself Short – But he found there was a Higher Power that had more faith in him than he had in himself. Thus, A.A. was born in Chicago.
(9) The Keys of the Kingdom – This worldly lady helped to develop A.A. in Chicago and thus passed her keys to many.
They Stopped in Time
Among today’s incoming A.A. members, many have never reached the advanced stages of alcoholism, though given time all might have.
Most of these fortunate ones have had little or no acquaintance with delirium, with hospitals, asylums, and jails. Some were drinking heavily, and there had been occasional serious episodes. But with many, drinking had been little more than a sometimes uncontrollable nuisance. Seldom had any of these lost either health, business, family, or friends.
Why do men and women like these join A.A.?
The seventeen who now tell their experiences answer that question. They saw that they had become actual or potential alcoholics, even though no serious harm had yet been done.
They realized that repeated lack of drinking control, when they really wanted control, was the fatal symptom that spelled problem drinking. This, plus mounting emotional disturbances, convinced them that compulsive alcoholism already had them; that complete ruin would be only a question of time.
Seeing this danger, they came to A.A. They realized that in the end alcoholism could be as mortal as cancer; certainly no sane man would wait for a malignant growth to become fatal before seeking help.
Therefore, these seventeen A.A.’s, and hundreds of thousands like them, have been saved years of infinite suffering. They sum it up something like this: “We didn’t wait to hit bottom because, thank God, we could see the bottom. Actually, the bottom came up and hit us. That sold us on Alcoholics Anonymous.”
(1) The Missing Link – He looked at everything as the cause of his unhappiness—except alcohol.
(2) Fear of Fear – This lady was cautious. She decided she wouldn’t let herself go in her drinking. And she would never, never take that morning drink!
(3) The Housewife Who Drank at Home – She hid her bottles in clothes hampers and dresser drawers. In A.A., she discovered she had lost nothing and had found everything.
(4) Physician, Heal Thyself! – Psychiatrist and surgeon, he had lost his way until he realized that God, not he, was the Great Healer.
(5) My Chance to Live – A.A. gave this teenager the tools to climb out of her dark abyss of despair.
(6) Student of Life – Living at home with her parents, she tried using willpower to beat the obsession to drink. But it wasn’t until she met another alcoholic and went to an A.A. meeting that sobriety took hold.
(7) Crossing the River of Denial – She finally realized that when she enjoyed her drinking, she couldn’t control it, and when she controlled it, she couldn’t enjoy it.
(8) Because I’m an Alcoholic – This drinker finally found the answer to her nagging question, “Why?”
(9) It Might Have Been Worse – Alcohol was a looming cloud in this banker’s bright sky. With rare foresight he realized it could become a tornado.
(10) Tightrope – Trying to navigate separate worlds was a lonely charade that ended when this gay alcoholic finally landed in A.A.
(11) Flooded With Feeling – When a barrier to God collapsed, this self-described agnostic was at Step Three.
(12) Winner Takes All – Legally blind but no longer alone, she found a way to stay sober, raise a family, and turn her life over to the care of God.
(13) Me an Alcoholic? – Alcohol’s wringer squeezed this author—but he escaped quite whole.
(14) The Perpetual Quest – This lawyer tried psychiatrists, biofeedback, relaxation exercises, and a host of other techniques to control her drinking. She finally found a solution, uniquely tailored, in the Twelve Steps.
(15) A Drunk, Like You – The more he listened at meetings, the more he came to know about his own drinking history.
(16) Acceptance Was the Answer – The physician wasn’t hooked, he thought—he just prescribed drugs medically indicated for his many ailments. Acceptance was his key to liberation.
(17) Window of Opportunity – This young alcoholic stepped out a second-story window and into A.A.
They Lost Nearly All
The fifteen stories in this group tell of alcoholism at its miserable worst.
Many tried everything—hospitals, special treatments, sanitariums, asylums, and jails. Nothing worked. Loneliness, great physical and mental agony—these were the Common lot. Most had taken shattering losses on nearly every front of life. Some went on trying to live with alcohol.
Others wanted to die.
Alcoholism had respected nobody, neither rich nor poor, learned nor unlettered. All found themselves headed for the same destruction, and it seemed they could do nothing whatever to stop it.
Now sober for years, they tell us how they got well. They prove to almost anyone’s satisfaction that it’s never too late to try Alcoholics Anonymous.
(1) My Bottle, My Resentments, and Me – From childhood trauma to skid row drunk, this hobo finally found a Higher Power, bringing sobriety and a long-lost family.
(2) He Lived Only to Drink – “I had been preached to, analyzed, cursed, and counseled, but no one had ever said, ‘I identify with what’s going on with you. It happened to me and this is what I did about it.’”
(3) Safe Haven – This A.A. found that the process of discovering who he really was began with knowing who he didn’t want to be.
(4) Listening to the Wind – It took an “angel” to introduce this Native American woman to A.A. and recovery.
(5) Twice Gifted – Diagnosed with cirrhosis, this sick alcoholic got sobriety—plus a lifesaving liver transplant.
(6) Building a New Life – Hallucinating and restrained by sheriff’s deputies and hospital staff, this once-happy family man received an unexpected gift from God—a firm foundation in sobriety that would hold up through good times and bad.
(7) On the Move – Working the A.A. program showed this alcoholic how to get from geographics to gratitude.
(8) A Vision of Recovery – A feeble prayer forged a lasting connection with a Higher Power for this Mic-Mac Indian.
(9) Gutter Bravado – Alone and unemployable, he was given two options by the court, get help or go to jail, and his journey toward teachability began.
(10) Empty on the Inside – She grew up around A.A. and had all the answers—except when it came to her own life.
(11) Grounded – Alcohol clipped this pilot’s wings until sobriety and hard work brought him back to the sky.
(12) Another Chance – Poor, black, totally ruled by alcohol, she felt shut away from any life worth living. But when she began a prison sentence, a door opened.
(13) A Late Start – “It’s been ten years since I retired, seven years
since I joined A.A. Now I can truly say that I am a grateful alcoholic.”
(14) Freedom From Bondage – Young when she joined, this A.A. believes her serious drinking was the result of even deeper defects. She here tells how she was set free.
(15) A.A. Taught Him to Handle Sobriety – “God willing, we . . . may never again have to deal with
drinking, but we have to deal with sobriety every day.’’