World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous)

 

The Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous)

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism
2nd edition cover, 1955
Author Bill W.
Country United States of America
Language English
Subject Alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
Publication date
April 10, 1939 (1st ed.)
1955 (2nd ed.)
ISBN
OCLC 408888189

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism (generally known as The Big Book because of the thickness of the paper used in the first edition) is a 1939 basic text, describing how to recover from alcoholism, primarily written by one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Bill W. but with one chapter, "To Employers" written by Henry Parkhurst.[1] It is the originator of the seminal "twelve-step method" widely used to attempt to treat many addictions, from alcoholism and heroin addiction to marijuana addiction, as well as overeating, sex addiction, gambling addiction, with a strong spiritual and social emphasis.

It is one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold 30 million copies.[2][3] In 2011, Time magazine placed the book on its list of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923, the beginning of the magazine.[1] In 2012, the Library of Congress designated it as one of 88 "Books that Shaped America." [4]

Contents

  • History 1
  • Synopsis 2
  • Reception 3
    • First Edition 3.1
    • Later Editions 3.2
  • Legacy 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

History

Wilson's home Stepping Stones in Katonah, NY, where his writing desk is part of museum
Bill W. at one time was a successful Wall Street businessman, but his career was in shambles because of his chronic alcoholism.[5] In 1934 Bill W. was invited by his friend and drinking buddy Ebby T. to join the Oxford Group, a spiritual movement based on the “Four Absolutes” of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love. Bill W. met Dr. Bob in May 1935, and the men shared their stories with one another. The two began to work on how to best approach alcoholics and began trying to help men recover from alcoholism. The idea for the book developed at least as early as 1937 when Bill W. and Dr. Bob realized their system had helped over 40 men stay sober for more than 2 years. The book was meant to carry their message far and wide. Wilson started writing the book in 1938 [6] with the financial support of Charles B. Towns (1862–1947), an expert on alcoholism and drug addiction who was a supporter and creditor of Alcoholics Anonymous and lent Wilson $2500 ($40,365 in 2012 dollar values).[7][8]

The Big Book was originally published in 1939 by AA founders Bill W. and Dr. Bob. The book serves as the basic text of AA. There has been a series of reprints and revisions, as well as translations into dozens of languages.[9] The second edition (1955) consisted of 1,150,000 copies. The book is published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. and is available through AA offices and meetings, as well as through booksellers. The 4th Edition (2001) is also freely available online.[10] Marty Mann (1904–1980) wrote the chapter "Women Suffer Too" in the second through fourth editions of the Big Book.

U.S. President Richard Nixon received the millionth copy of the book,[11] while the 25-millionth copy of the Big Book was presented to Jill Brown, warden 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.[12] The thirty-millionth copy of the book was presented to the American Medical Association in 2010, which declared alcoholism as an illness in 1956.[13]

Synopsis

The book[14] consists of over 400 pages. Bill's Story and Dr. Bob's Nightmare and the personal experiences of some alcoholics are detailed as well as the series of solutions which evolved to become the twelve-step program. How to use the twelve steps is explained using examples and anecdotes. Some chapters target a specific audience. One chapter is devoted to agnostics, while another is named "To Wives" (most of the first AA members were men), and still another is for employers. The second part of the book (whose content varies from edition to edition) is a collection of personal stories, in which alcoholics tell their stories of addiction and recovery.

Frequently mentioned sections are:

  • the "Twelve Steps" at the beginning of Chapter 5 "How It Works"
  • the "Twelve Traditions" in the Appendix
  • the "Ninth Step Promises" in Chapter 6 "Into Action" preceding the 10th Step.

The main goal of the book is to make it possible for the reader to find a power greater than himself to solve his problem. The writers indicate that an alcoholic "of our type" can under no circumstances become a moderate drinker: only abstinence can lead to recovery. By way of anecdotal evidence, the example is provided of a man who, after 25 years sobriety, began to drink moderately and within two months landed in hospital. The reasoning is: once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.

In the book it is written that it is impossible to quit drinking by oneself. A new attitude or set of values also would not help. Whosoever is an alcoholic must admit that they cannot help themselves alone. Only a "higher power" can help. An example of a man named Fred is given, who had no control over his drinking, but finally leads an "infinitely more satisfying life" than before thanks to the previously unexplained spiritual principles of AA. 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. "For most cases," Silkworth claimed, "there is no other solution" than a spiritual solution. Today "many doctors and psychiatrists" confirm the effects of AA.[15]

Reception

First Edition

At the time of the publication of the first edition, The Big Book was typically well received by most critics, referred to by one reviewer as “the greatest redemptive force of the twentieth century.”[16] A reviewer for the New York Times stated that the thesis of the book had more of a sound base psychologically than any other book on the subject and that the book is unlike any other book ever published.[17] Other critics called the book extraordinary and stated that it deserved the attention of anyone worried about the problem of alcoholism.[18] It was noted by the American Association of Psychiatric Social Workers that contact with the members of an A.A. group increases one’s respect for their work. “To the layman, the book is very clear. To the professional person it is at first a bit misleading in that the spiritual aspect gives the impression that this is another revival movement” and that “it is more impressive to the professional person to watch the technique in action than to read the book.”[19] However, not all reviewers, especially those in the medical field, found merit in the book. The review that appeared in the October 1939 volume of the [22]

Later Editions

When the second version of The Big Book was released in 1955, reviewers once again gave their opinions, with reception still mostly positive. One reviewer stated that the pages of the book were American legend and would “remain there, through the full history of man’s pursuit of maturity.”[23] This was the case with the release of the third edition in 1976 as well. The journal Employee Assistance Quarterly in 1985 asked three professionals in the field of addictive behaviors to review the book, with each reviewer asked to answer the following questions:[24]

  1. In light of current professional views of alcoholism, is the Big Book still appropriate in understanding the nature of the alcoholism and/or other addictive behaviours?
  2. Does the Big Book provide an adequate explanation of alcoholism recovery?
  3. Is the therapeutic approach to alcoholism as depicted in this text consisted with contemporary efforts to treating addictive behaviours like alcoholism?
  4. Does this text adequately reflect how Alcoholics Anonymous and other self-help groups currently practice?
  5. In your opinion, does the Big Book represent an effective therapeutic model for alcoholism and/or other addictive behaviours?

  • Big Book Online Fourth Edition - Alcoholics Anonymous

External links

  • Ernest Kurtz (1979). Not-God: a history of Alcoholics Anonymous. Hazelden Publishing. 363 pp.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous. Pass it On The Story of Bill Wilson and How The A.A. Message Reached the World, New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984.
  • Dick B. (1998). Utilizing Early A.A.'s Spiritual Roots for Recovery Today. Good Book Publishing Company. p. 85.  
  • George H. Jensen (2000). Storytelling in Alcoholics Anonymous: a rhetorical analysis. SIU Press. p. 43.  
  •  
  • Anonymous (2010). The Book That Started It All: The Original Working Manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous. Hazelden Publishing.  
  • Writing of the Big Book: History of the Writing of 'Alcoholics Anonymous' by Mitchell K., August 2, 2006
  • Anonymous (1939). Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, 1st ed.. A.A. World Services. 
  • Anonymous (1955). Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, 2nd ed.. A.A. World Services. 
  • Anonymous (1976). Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, 3rd ed.. A.A. World Services. 
  • Anonymous (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, 4th ed.. A.A. World Services. 
  1. ^ a b "Self-Help / Instructional: The Big Book by Alcoholics Anonymous".  
  2. ^ Akron Beacon Journal on The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: While the title of the book is actually Alcoholics Anonymous, the members of AA refer to it as the Big Book. This is the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous, AA's text on how to stay sober. "And this year is also the 70th anniversary of the publication of A.A.'s Big Book, which has sold nearly 30 million copies since 1939." (11 June 2009)
  3. ^ Twelve Step Programs Worldwide about "Alcoholics Anonymous", the book affectionately known as "The Big Book". The 25 millionth copy of the Big Book was published in 2005, and about 1 million copies are sold each year. This means that as at 2010 there have been about 30 million copies sold, ranking it high on the list of best-selling books ever. More impressive still, it has sold this many copies even though it is available free online in English, Spanish and French - links provided."
  4. ^ http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/books-that-shaped-america/
  5. ^ “Alcoholics Anonymous Over 70 Years of Growth,” Alcoholics Anonymous, accessed 28 March 2013, [1]
  6. ^ Galanter, p. 503
  7. ^ Inflation Calculator: http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl
  8. ^ Alcoholics Anonymous, p.196
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ "Big Book Online Fourth Edition". Aa.org. Retrieved 2013-03-14. 
  11. ^ Alcoholics Anonymous Founder’s House Is a Self-Help Landmark New York Times, July 6, 2007.
  12. ^ http://www.aa.org/lang/en/press.cfm?thisyear=2010-01-01&PressID=1 25 Millionth Alcoholics Anonymous 'Big Book' To be Given in Gratitude to Warden of San Quentin
  13. ^ http://www.aa.org/lang/en/press.cfm?PressID=19&thisyear=2012-01-01
  14. ^ Alcoholics Anonymous (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous (4 ed.). New York City: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.  
  15. ^ "Big Book Online, Chap. 3" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-03-14. 
  16. ^ “Alcoholics Anonymous (Second Edition),” review of ‘’Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism,’’ ‘’Best Sellers’’, Vol. 15:96, August 15, 1955, [3]
  17. ^ Hutchinson, Percy, “Alcoholic Experience,” review of ‘’Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism,’’ New York Times, June 25, 1939, [4]
  18. ^ Fosdick, Harry E., M.D., “Alcoholics Anonymous,” review of ‘’Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism,’’ [5]
  19. ^ ”Alcoholics Anonymous,” review of ‘’Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism,’’ ‘’The News-Letter,’’ American Association of Psychiatric Social Workers, Fall, 1940, [6]
  20. ^ “Alcoholics Anonymous,” review of ‘’Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism,’’ ‘’Journal of the American Medical Association,’’ Vol. 113(6), October 14, 1939, [7]
  21. ^ “Alcoholics Anonymous,” review of ‘’Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism,’’ ‘’Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease,’’ Vol. 42(3), September 1940, [8]
  22. ^ a b c Karl Mann, Derik Hermann, and Andreas Heinz, “One Hundred Years of Alcoholism: The Twentieth Century,” ‘’Alcohol and Alcoholism,’’ (2000) 35 (1):10-15, accessed 8 April 2013, [9]
  23. ^ “For Man’s Pursuit of Maturity: The New Big Book,” review of ‘’Alcoholics Anonymous, Second Edition, revised,’’ ‘’The A.A. Grapevine,’’ July 1955, [10]
  24. ^ “Alcoholics Anonymous: Third Edition (1976),” review of ‘’Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism,’’ Employee Assistance Quarterly, Vol. 1(1), Fall 1985, [11]
  25. ^ "Alcoholics Anonymous: Third Edition (1976)," review of Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, ‘’Employee Assistance Quarterly,’’ Vol. 1(1), Fall 1985, [12]
  26. ^ a b “Alcoholics Anonymous: Third Edition (1976),” review of Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, Employee Assistance Quarterly, Vol. 1(1), Fall 1985, [13]

References

See also

Before the publication of The Big Book, alcoholism in America was viewed largely as it had been in the 19th century.[22] The temperance movements of the 19th century and the recent experiment with [22]

Legacy

Abraham Twerski was the most positive of the three experts, claiming that “the continuing relevance of the Big Book to today’s alcoholic is precisely due to the fact that it does not seek to treat nor teach by its contents. Rather, it is a description of a program that is effective, and provides testimonials of people whom the program has helped.” Twerski also praised the ability of the 12-step program to treat other addictions as well “because the 12-steps are a protocol for personality, for growth, and for self-realization, a process of value to even the non-alcoholic or non-addicted individual.” Twerski’s praise is most easily summed up with his conclusion that “the Big Book and A.A. remain as effective today as the day they came into being, and are likely to remain unfettered by the continuing passage of time.” :[26]

G. Alan Marlatt also questioned the necessity of a need for a Higher Power but concluded that he was “impressed with the amazing success of A.A. over the past 50 years of its existence. If alcoholism is really a disease of the spirit (for which alcohol is no real solution), then it makes sense that the religious fellowship of A.A. provides fulfillment of the alcoholic’s underlying craving for union with a Higher Power. Especially if it keeps its members sober, which A.A. often does.” :[26]

[25]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.