"The whole spiritual journey might be summed up as humble hope." Thomas Keating

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's a fellowship, not a book club

I have always been grateful that I went to a few meetings before being exposed to any of the literature.  If I had read the Big Book while drinking I would have been much less open to coming to AA.  The 1930's inspirational literature style of it would have driven me nuts.  Reading the Big Book after being exposed to how people apply the program in their lives made all the difference.

The literature contains principles that form our common ground.  For that reason the Big Book, the 12 and 12, AA Comes of Age and the other classics are very, very important.  They are not, however, sacred texts that should be taken as the ultimate test of every practice or idea.  Our experience as a fellowship plays that role.  If we don't know more about recovery and living in sobriety than Bill Wilson did in 1939 then we have been doing something very wrong for the last 73 years.


  1. I also remember reading the 12 & 12, and being very critical of it's text. I had problems getting through a step without complaining to my sponsor about some such poorly written paragraph, or format. He asked me if it was easier for me to be critical of the book than it was to be critical of myself. Was I avoiding an honest look at who I am through the steps as written, by concentrating on the printed material infront of me. He made a very valid point, so I stopped analyzing the sentences and began to turn it around to look at myself.

    After I stopped my critiquing of the books, it was as if they became viable tools for me to bring into sobriety with me. They had far deeper meaning when I took their principles and understood that they are timeless, even though their presentation may not be.

    It is true, they are not sacred texts, and shouldn't be viewed as such. But they are a map for many who are trapped in the labyrinth of alcoholism.

  2. I agree that they do constitute a map for recovery and I am constantly amazed at how much Bill and the rest of the first 100 got right in the BB.

    I do think, though, that it is important to take them in historical context. For example, one of the reasons I think the Big Book is superior to the 12 + 12 is that the BB was a genuine group effort while the 12 + 12 was written by Bill in light of his work with Ed Dowling on his problems with faith. Realizing that helped me open up to the text as a human document. I guess you could say it helped me be more tolerant of the aspects I found irritating.