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Alcoholics Anonymous Sues for The Big Book

alcoholics anonymous

It is probably fair to say that the when Dr. Bob and Bill W met for the first time, they did not have even the faintest of idea as to the impact their mission would have on history. Two newly sober drunks just trying to live a life free from alcohol, who realized that the only way to keep what they had was to give it away. To help others experience the gift through fellowship, community and all that is possible free from the fog of inebriation.

From small beginnings, and a serious learning curve, a small group of people would go on to lay the framework for what would become a lifesaving gift for not just alcoholics, but society. Their fellowship was free from monetary incentives or prestige, designed to function in relative obscurity for decades before an invitation into the light by the ever-changing culture. The program was breaking down the stigma that has accompanied addiction for time immemorial, forcing the world to see that alcoholics and addicts were not morally bankrupt individuals, unable to control their selfish wants and desires. But, rather, millions of people who were sick, needed treatment and compassion. Not jail cells, sanatoriums or being castaway as social pariahs.

Over the last 82 years, the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has undergone several changes in how meetings are conducted, but one thing has remained relatively unchanged—the 12 steps and the book that explains how to work them. Wording has changed, but the traditions and principles have held true. The program could work for anything that makes one’s life unmanageable. As testament to the power of the program, you can remove the word alcohol and replace it with anything that you are powerless over. And if you work the program honestly, recovery is possible.

The Big Book

If you have ever attended a meeting of AA, then you probably noticed a number of texts sitting up on the front table. Books approved by the Alcoholics Anonymous World Services (AAWS), deemed to be beneficial in the effort to stay sober—no matter what. The most important book happens to be the biggest, hence the working manuscripts moniker the “Big Book.” It includes within the writing instructions for working the program with the help of others, followed by several personal stories that recovering alcoholics can relate to.

One the major focal points of the program is the idea that while we all have different stories, inside each one can be found similarities. Powerlessness, unmanageability, surrender, acceptance and resolve. All of which can be found inside the stories in The Big Book. Like many other books that have served as spiritual compasses for humanity, the basic text of AA has helped people climb out of the abysmal depths of despair into the light of the spirit. Giving energy to those who have and are making the journey to help others out of the lonely cave of addiction.

The first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism (called The Big Book because of how thick the pages were) was published in 1939, written mainly by Bill Wilson. Much like the other spiritual texts of antiquity, The Big Book has outsold most writings to ever grace a printing press. To date, the basic text has sold over 30 million copies, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, and has served as footprint for numerous organizations whose aim is to help people recover from debilitating spiritual crises. The Library of Congress deemed the book one of 88 “Books that Shaped America.” Some twenty-years after the creation of AA the American Medical Association (AMA) declared alcoholism a medical illness, so it was fitting when the thirty-millionth copy of The Big Book was presented to the AMA.

But, What Happened to The Original Manuscript?

Any Big Book, no matter the edition has the power to save lives, but who could not help but wonder where the original manuscript landed after 78 years. It turns out that very question is the subject of a lawsuit filed on Monday by AAWS. The organization is suing the auction house, Roberts and QuestRoyal Fine Art, a New York gallery, who have plans to auction the manuscript on June 8th, Reuters reports. The manuscript was intended to be gifted to AAWS but was purchased in 2007 for $992,000 at Sotheby’s just three months before by one Ken Roberts. And according to the plaintiff, Roberts does not have the right to consign the manuscript because it had been gifted to AA in 1979.

The manuscript is an original, historical document of unique importance to AAWS, and undeniably is a critical piece of its history,” and the defendants “are wrongfully detaining the manuscript for their own pecuniary gain,” the complaint said.

For more information on the case: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. v Roberts et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 652676/2017.

Celebration of Founder’s Day

This court case may go on for quite a while; however, it is important to remember that Alcoholics Anonymous Founders’ Day 2017 will be celebrated in Akron, Ohio, on June 9, 10, and 11th. You may want to consider joining in the anniversary festivities.

Reading For Addiction Recovery

addiction recoveryAs 2016 comes to a close, with Christmas and Hanukkah on our doorstep and New Year’s following close behind, it could be easy to end on a grim note. With overdose death rates holding strong, the result of increased use of heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, overdose deaths now take more lives annually than traffic accidents. Lawmakers continue to draft legislation for combating opioid addiction, but there are still many fears about how the various programs like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and 21st Century Cures Act will work and be funded to ensure addiction recovery is accessible.

Millions of Americans still struggle accessing addiction treatment and mental health services in several regions across the United States. So, at this point, the best thing everyone can do is hope that 2017 will be a better year regarding addiction recovery across the country. We should not find ourselves becoming discouraged, but rather remain optimistic about the addiction-focused legislation passed this year.

Rather than talk about the dark side of addiction this holiday week, we feel it is important that we discuss the millions of people across the globe who are dedicated to “living one day at a time.” It is often said that recovery is the most difficult thing people with an alcohol or substance use disorder will ever do. Which speaks to the paradox of addiction. Turning one’s back on substances that are in fact trying to kill you, would seem like a logical, even easy choice—at least to someone who has never walked down the dark road of addiction. Those who are actively working a program know this reality all too well, which is why they must make a daily commitment to abstain from drugs and/or alcohol and invest their energy in living a spiritual life. It is extremely challenging to stay the course year in and year out, but with the help of recovery programs and those working them—we can, and do recover from the pernicious disease of addiction.

Reading for Recovery

Those who found sobriety in the rooms of 12-step recovery, whether that be in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, are all too familiar with the “Big Book.” They also know that without its guidance, long term recovery would be even more difficult to achieve. Inside the tomes of recovery, you will hear your own story of addiction (or a variation of it), and you will learn what is required of you to achieve continued recovery. The basic texts of AA and NA are essentially “how to” guides to working a program, helping people all over the planet work the “steps” and help others do the same. It probably comes as little surprise that TIME Magazine included AA’s basic text on their list of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923 (the first year of the magazine’s publication).

The basic texts of addiction recovery are invaluable assets to society, considering that one’s mental illness has a negative impact on the entire community. It is fair to say that the world would be a little bit darker, if it were not for such books being written. We would be remiss if we did not point out that there are other books that can help people in recovery on their journey to be their best self. If you have been in the program for some time now, it is likely that you have read some recovery related literature. And maybe the writings of others helped you on your path. If so, then you may be interested to learn about, “Out Of The Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery.” Written by authors Neil Steinberg (“Drunkard: A Hard-Drinking Life) and Sara Bader (the creator of Quotenik), the book could prove to be a useful resource on the road of addiction recovery. “Out of the Wreck I Rise” is:

Structured to follow the arduous steps to sobriety, the book marshals the wisdom of centuries and explores essential topics, including the importance of time, navigating family and friends, Alcoholics Anonymous, relapse, and what Raymond Carver calls ‘gravy,’ the reward that is recovery. Each chapter begins with advice and commentary followed by a wealth of quotes to inspire and heal.”

Staying Proactive During the Holiday Break

Those of you in the program who will be traveling over the holidays may want to consider the recovery companion. You could have a lot of down time at airports or train stations, a perfect opportunity to invest in your program. There is much to be learned about addiction from authors who have struggled with the disease themselves even if, like Hemingway, the battle was lost.

At PACE Recovery Center, we hope that everyone has wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah, one that does not involve picking up a drink or a drug. Please remember, if you find yourself in times of trouble, help is always just a phone call away.

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