1. The first two chapters in the Big Book, "Bill's Story," and "There is a Solution," were written years before the rest of the Big Book. They were used as part of the pioneers' original fund raising efforts, and present an overall view of the program.
2. In R.A.'s Annotated Multilith Big Book, please turn to Chapter One, Bill's Story, on page 1. We are going to read the first paragraph all the way through the end of the top paragraph on page 2. Starting with the first paragraph, Bill says:
"War fever ran high in the New England town to which we new, young officers from Plattsburg were assigned, and we were flattered when the first citizens took us to their homes, making us feel heroic. Here was love, applause, war; moments sublime with hilarious intervals. I was part of life at last, and in the midst of the excitement I discovered liquor. I forgot the strong warnings and the prejudices of my people concerning drink. In time we sailed for "Over There." I was very lonely and again turned to alcohol.
"We landed in England. I visited Winchester Cathedral. Much moved, I wandered outside. My attention was caught by a doggerel on an old tombstone:
'Here lies a Hampshire Grenadier
Who caught his death
Drinking cold small beer.
A good soldier is ne'er forgot
Whether he dieth by musket
Or by pot.'
"Ominous warning - which I failed to heed
"Twenty-two, and a veteran of foreign wars, I went home at last. I fancied myself a leader, for had not the men of my battery given me a special token of appreciation? My talent for leadership, I imagined, would place me at the head of vast enterprises which I would manage with the utmost assurance.
"I took a night law course, and obtained employment as investigator for a surety company. The drive for success was on. I'd prove to the world I was important. My work took me about Wall Street and little by little I became interested in the market. Many people lost money - but some became very rich. Why not I? I studied economics and business as well as law. Potential alcoholic that I was, I nearly failed my law course. At one of the finals I was too drunk to think or write. Though my drinking was not yet continuous, it disturbed my wife. We had long talks when I would still her forebodings by telling her that men of genius conceived their best projects when drunk; that the most majestic constructions of philosophic thought were so derived.
"By the time I had completed the course, I knew the law was not for me. The inviting maelstrom of Wall Street had me in its grip. Business and financial leaders were my heroes. Out of this alloy of drink and speculation, I commenced to forge the weapon that one day would turn in its flight like a boomerang and all but cut me to ribbons. Living modestly, my wife and I saved $1000. It went into certain securities, then cheap and rather unpopular. I rightly imagined that they would some day have a great rise. I failed to persuade my broker friends to send me out looking over factories and managements, but my wife and I decided to go anyway. I had developed a theory that most people lost money in stocks through ignorance of markets. I discovered many more reasons later on.
"We gave up our positions and off we roared on a motorcycle, the sidecar stuffed with tent, blankets, change of clothes, and three huge volumes of a financial reference service. Our friends thought a lunacy commission should be appointed. Perhaps they were right. I had had some success at speculation, so we had a little money, but we once worked on a farm for a month to avoid drawing on our small capital. That was the last honest manual labor on my part for many a day. We covered the whole eastern United States in a year. At the end of it, my reports to Wall Street procured me a position there and the use of a large expense account. The exercise of an option brought in more money, leaving us with a profit of several thousand dollars for that year."
3. Remember this was in the 1920s and no one had thought to do this before.
4. Bill actually went around and visited different businesses. He would stop in where the men had lunch. He would make friends with them. He would learn about what they were planning to do with the company. He would find out how their morale was and what their future plans were.
5. Based on these field reports he would go back home. He would make recommendations to his friends on Wall Street. They would make investments in the companies he suggested. Bill became a multimillionaire doing this.
6. The first year they made several thousand dollars. This may not seem like much money now, but it was a large income for the 1920s.
7. He spent a year traveling around. Think of his wife. How many wives would let their husbands put them on a motorcycle and travel around for a year.
8. This goes to show that Bill had a unique wife and a unique relationship with her.
9. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 2, please read the first and second full paragraphs. In them, Bill says:
"For the next few years fortune threw money and applause my way. I had arrived. My judgment and ideas were followed by many to the tune of paper millions. The great boom of the late twenties was seething and swelling. Drink was taking an important and exhilarating part in my life. There was loud talk in the jazz places uptown. Everyone spent in thousands and chattered in millions. Scoffers could scoff and be damned. I made a host of fair weather friends.
"My drinking assumed more serious proportions, continuing all day and almost every night. The remonstrances of my friends terminated in a row and I became a lone wolf. There were many unhappy scenes in our sumptuous apartment. There had been no real infidelity, for loyalty to my wife, helped at times by extreme drunkenness, kept me out of those scrapes."
10. Bill was now so wealthy that he had a penthouse apartment. He had even bought the apartment next-door and broke through making an apartment that was twice as large.
11. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 2, in the third through the sixth paragraphs, Bill says:
"In 1929 I contracted golf fever. We went at once to the country, my wife to applaud while I started out to overtake Walter Hagen. Liquor caught up with me much faster than I came up behind Walter. I began to be jittery in the morning. Golf permitted drinking every day and every night. It was fun to carom around the exclusive course which had inspired such awe in me as a lad. I acquired the impeccable coat of tan one sees upon the well to do. The local banker watched me whirl fat checks in and out of his till with amused skepticism.
"Abruptly in October 1929 hell broke loose on the New York stock exchange. After one of those days of inferno, I wobbled from a hotel bar to a brokerage office. It was eight o’clock — five hours after the market closed. The ticker still clattered. I was staring at an inch of the tape which bore the inscription PKF 32. It had been 52 that morning. I was finished and so were many friends. The papers reported men jumping to death from the towers of High Finance. That disgusted me. I would not jump. I went back to the bar. My friends had dropped several million since ten o’clock — so what? Tomorrow was another day. As I drank, the old fierce determination to win came back.
"Next morning I telephoned a friend in Montreal. He had plenty of money left and thought I had better go to Canada. By the following spring we were living in our accustomed to style. I felt like Napoleon returning from Elba. No St Helena for me! But drinking caught up with me again and my generous friend had to let me go. This time we stayed broke.
"We went to live with my wife’s parents. I found a job; then lost it as the result of a brawl with a taxi driver. Mercifully, no one could guess that I was to have no real employment for five years, or hardly draw a sober breath. My wife began to work in a department store, coming home exhausted to find me drunk. I became an unwelcome hanger on at brokerage places."
12. Bill and Lois really went from the top to the bottom.
13. It is important to point out that this is not due to Bill's lack of intelligence or desire to work. Bill was very hard working. He was innovative. He had a loyal supportive wife. A lot of the things that people might have blamed for his drinking simply didn't exist.
14. Yet, in spite of being at the top, having everything to live for, Bill still drank.
15. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 2, starting with the bottom paragraph, and continuing through the first four paragraphs on page 3, Bill says:
"Liquor ceased to be a luxury; it became a necessity. "Bathtub" gin, two bottles a day, and often three, got to be routine. Sometimes a small deal would net a few hundred dollars, and I would pay my bills at the bars and delicatessens. This went on endlessly, and I began to waken very early in the morning shaking violently. A tumbler full of gin followed by half a dozen bottles of beer would be required if I were to eat any breakfast. Nevertheless, I still thought I could control the situation, and there were periods of sobriety which renewed my wife’s hope.
"Gradually things got worse. The house was taken over by the mortgage holder, my mother in law died, my wife and father in law became ill.
"Then I got a promising business opportunity. Stocks were at the low point of 1932, and I had somehow formed a group to buy. I was to share generously in the profits. Then I went on a prodigious bender, and that chance vanished.
"I woke up. This had to be stopped. I saw I could not take so much as one drink. I was through forever. Before then, I had written lots of sweet promises, but my wife happily observed that this time I meant business. And so I did.
"Shortly afterward I came home drunk. There had been no fight. Where had been my high resolve? I simply didn’t know. It hadn’t even come to mind. Someone had pushed a drink my way, and I had taken it. Was I crazy? I began to wonder, for such an appalling lack of perspective seemed near being just that."
16. When you get a chance, it is recommended that you read Bill's Story in A.A. Comes of Age. It starts on page 52. Bill goes into far more detail about the things he has written in the Big Book. However, for our current purpose we do not need to go into these details right now.
17. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 3, the fifth paragraph says:
"Renewing my resolve, I tried again. Some time passed, and confidence began to be replaced by cocksureness. I could laugh at the gin mills. Now I had what it takes! One day I walked into a cafe to telephone. In no time I was beating on the bar asking myself how it happened. As the whisky rose to my head I told myself I would manage better next time, but I might as well get good and drunk then. And I did."
18. Do you see his mentality? It's the same mentality that causes someone on a diet that has an extra string bean, to say, "Well I broke my diet. I might as well go on a binge." This type of thinking is not sane.
19. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 3, in the sixth paragraphs, Bill says:
"The remorse, horror and hopelessness of the next morning are unforgettable. The courage to do battle was not there. My brain raced uncontrollably and there was a terrible sense of impending calamity. I hardly dared cross the street, lest I collapse and be run down by an early morning truck, for it was scarcely daylight. An all night place supplied me with a dozen glasses of ale. My writhing nerves were stilled at last. A morning paper told me the market had gone to hell again. Well, so had I. The market would recover, but I wouldn’t. That was a hard thought. Should I kill myself? No — not now. Then a mental fog settled down. Gin would fix that. So two bottles, and — oblivion.
"The mind and body are marvelous mechanisms, for mine endured this agony for two more years. Sometimes I stole from my wife’s slender purse when the morning terror and madness were on me. Again I swayed dizzily before an open window, or the medicine cabinet, where there was poison, cursing myself for a weakling. There were flights from city to country and back, as my wife and I sought escape. Then came the night when the physical and mental torture was so hellish I feared I would burst through my window, sash and all. Somehow I managed to drag my mattress to a lower floor, lest I suddenly leap. A doctor came with a heavy sedative. Next day found me drinking both gin and sedative. This combination soon landed me on the rocks. People feared for my sanity. So did I. I could eat little or nothing when drinking, and I was forty pounds under weight."
20. So now he's describing someone who is really at the bottom. He's depressed, he's suicidal, and he's physically, emotionally and spiritually a total mess.
21. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 3, in the eighth and ninth paragraphs, Bill says:
"My brother in law is a physician, and through his kindness I was placed in a nationally known hospital for the mental and physical rehabilitation of alcoholics. Under the so-called belladonna treatment my brain cleared. Hydrotherapy and mild exercise helped much. Best of all, I met a kind doctor who explained that though certainly selfish and foolish, I had been seriously ill, bodily and mentally.
"It relieved me somewhat to learn that in alcoholics the will is amazingly weakened when it comes to combating liquor, though it often remains strong in other respects. My incredible behavior in the face of a desperate desire to stop was explained. Understanding myself now, I fared forth in high hope. For three or four months the goose hung high. I went to town regularly and even made a little money. Surely this was the answer — self knowledge."
22. This is something that is often misunderstood. Especially in today's world when therapy is so readily available. Most people did not know that therapy even existed. Remember this was the 1930's. There may have been a few psychologists or psychiatrists on the East and West Coasts.
23. Therefore, while self-knowledge might seem like a good option, for most people it wasn't a practical answer.
24. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 4, in the first through fourth paragraphs, Bill continues by saying:
"But it was not, for the frightful day came when I drank once more. The curve of my declining moral and bodily health fell off like a ski-jump. After a time I returned to the hospital. This was the finish, the curtain, it seemed to me. My weary and despairing wife was informed that it would all end with heart failure during delirium tremens, or I would develop a wet brain, perhaps within a year. She would soon have to give me over to the undertaker, or the asylum.
"They did not need to tell me. I knew, and almost welcomed the idea. It was a devastating blow to my pride. I, who had thought so well of myself and my abilities, of my capacity to surmount obstacles, was cornered at last. Now I was to plunge into the dark, joining that endless procession of sots who had gone on before. I thought of my poor wife. There had been much happiness after all. What would I not give to make amends. But that was over now.
"No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master.
"Trembling, I stepped from the hospital a broken man. Fear sobered me for a bit. Then came the insidious insanity of that first drink, and on Armistice Day 1934, I was off again. Everyone became resigned to the certainty that I would have to be shut up somewhere, or would stumble along to a miserable end. How dark it is before the dawn! In reality that was the beginning of my last debauch. I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes."
25. Now notice that he is making the transition. He's saying how bad things were and now he is saying that there is a solution. And it produced happiness, peace, and usefulness.
26. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 4, starting with the fifth paragraph, and continuing through the end of the top paragraph on page 5, Bill says:
"Near the end of that bleak November, I sat drinking in my kitchen. With a certain satisfaction I reflected there was enough gin concealed about the house to carry me through that night and the next day. My wife was at work. I wondered whether I dared hide a full bottle of gin near the head of our bed. I would need it before daylight.
"My musing was interrupted by the telephone. The cheery voice of an old school friend asked if he might come over. He was sober. It was years since I could remember his coming to New York in that condition. I was amazed. Rumor had it that he had been committed for alcoholic insanity. I wondered how he had escaped. Of course he would have dinner, and then I could drink openly with him. Unmindful of his welfare, I thought only of recapturing the spirit of other days. There was that time we had chartered an airplane to complete a jag! His coming was an oasis in this dreary desert of futility. The very thing — an oasis! Drinkers are like that.
"The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened?
"I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it. Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. He wasn’t himself.
" 'Come, what’s all this about?' I queried.
"He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he said, 'I’ve got religion.' "
"I was aghast. So that was it — last summer an alcoholic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion. He had that starry-eyed look. Yes, the old boy was on fire all right. But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin would last longer than his preaching.
"But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to suspend his commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. That was two months ago and the result was self-evident. It worked!"
27. Let's stop for a moment and look at what Bill writes here.
28. He is talking about Ebby, someone he had known for years. They had been drinking companions. Suddenly he is sober. Not only sober but "fresh-skinned and glowing."
29. Ebby tells Bill about the program he had been introduced to. This was the Oxford Group.
30. Two Oxford Group members had stopped Ebby from being committed. Without their intervention, Ebby would have been locked up in a sanitarium for the rest of his life.
31. They told Ebby about the program. They gave him some important information that is often overlooked today.
32. They told him about two things. They are "a simple religious idea, and a practical program of action."
33. Most people have no problem understanding that the "practical program of action" is what we today call the Twelve Steps.
34. However, many people have never heard of the "simple religious idea."
35. Bill describes this "simple religious idea" a little further on into his story. He describes it as "a God personal to me, who was love, superhuman strength and direction." A God who "is concerned with us humans, when we want Him enough."
36. It is important to understand that the concept of a "simple religious idea" is separate from the "practical program of action."
37. It is also important to understand that the Twelve Steps make no sense without this "simple religious idea."
38. For example, if someone doesn't understand this concept of God, how can they truly admit that they are powerless? Without the concept of a Loving Creator who will do for them what they can't do for themselves, admitting they are powerless would be almost impossible.
39. If someone doesn't understand this concept of a loving creative intelligence that is concerned with us, then how are they going to believe that God could restore them to sanity? How could they take the second step?
40. If someone is not at least willing to experiment with this concept, how can they make a decision, to turn their life, and their will, over to the care and direction of a God that they don't really understand?
41. On the other hand, turning their life and their will over to a loving creator, a creative intelligence, a spirit of the universe underlying the totality of things that is concerned with them when they want Him enough, does make sense.
42. Without this concept of a loving God, how can someone possibly make a searching and fearless moral inventory of his or her defects of character?
43. Without this "simple religious idea," most people are too afraid to do the Fourth Step inventory. It's this concept that allows the Fourth Step to be fearless.
44. Without this concept, how can someone admit to God, to themselves and to another human being, the exact nature of their defects of character?
45. Without this "simple religious idea," how can someone become ready to have God remove his or her defects of character?
46. Why in the world would someone ask any other concept of God to remove his or her defects of character?
47. It is essential for someone to understand this "simple religious idea" if they want to work the Twelve Steps.
48. Someone does not need to believe in this concept of God in order to work the Twelve Steps. However, they do need to understand it, in order to work the Twelve Steps
49. They can come to believe in this concept of God later, as they work the Twelve Steps. However, they will not be able to understand the Twelve Steps, unless they at least know about the God described by this concept.
50. Not knowing about this "simple religious idea" is why so many people are overwhelmed by the prospect of working the Twelve Steps. This is why many people don't work the Twelve Steps.
51. Without knowing about, or understanding this concept, many people who try to work the Twelve Steps, misunderstand what taking each step requires.
52. For example, many people try to take the First Step by admitting that they are incompetent, rather than powerless.
53. They still believe that they are responsible for controlling their problems and behaviors, but that they keep screwing up.
54. Admitting that they are powerless means that they have to understand that they don't have the ability to control their problems and behaviors.
55. One of R.A.'s members shares:
"When I started working out at the gym, I walked in and I saw these guys throwing around these one hundred and fifty pound free weights.
"I thought to myself, 'Well I should be able to do that too.'
"I walked over to a hundred and fifty pound free weight someone had put down. I couldn't budge it.
"It wasn't my incompetence that was stopping me. I was literally, physically, incapable of moving that weight.
"Just because I saw other people doing it, did not give me the ability to do it.
"It turns out that I only had the ability to lift a thirty five pound weight.
"So that is what I had to start working with. And over the months I got stronger. I moved up in weight and eventually, maybe a year later, I was lifting one hundred and fifty pound weights."
56. Being powerless has nothing to do with being incompetent. If somebody can't control their drinking, or their eating, or their emotions, it's not because they are incompetent. It is because they simply don't have the ability, the power, to control it.
57. One of R.A.'s members shares:
"When I came into the program, I was confused. I didn't understand why some people didn't have the ability to control their emotions. I couldn't see why some people had the ability to control themselves, while others—including me—did not.
"I wondered why I was different from those who just seem to be born with the ability to let God work in their lives. For my whole life, I had been rejecting God, and never let him do anything for me.
"Then, I had someone ask me what seemed like silly questions. They asked me how tall I was. They then asked me what color my eyes were. I told them my height and that my eyes were blue. They then asked why I was that height and why my eyes were blue. I had to reply that I didn't know why.
"Then, they asked me why I wasn't six inches taller, or six inches shorter, and why weren't my eyes a different color. Again, I had to admit that I didn't know why. I said that I was just the way I was. Next they said that some people are born tall so they can play basketball, while others are born small so they can fit into the car at the circus that holds a dozen people. They then made the point that none of these people had made a decision to be either tall or small. I had to agree.
"They then pointed out that my height and eye color weren't because of a conscious decision that I had made. They said that these traits had nothing to do with anything I had decided or anything I had done. Again, I had to agree.
"They went on to point out that I just happened to be my height and I just happened to have my eye color. They said that everyone, tall or short, just happens to grow to their height and everyone just happens to have the eye color they are born with.
"They then shocked me. They said there might be some genetics or nutritional factors involved, but that these things are never a matter of choice. Then they told me that they believed everyone's personality and problems just come along because they are simply born that way.
"They told me that no one thinks they are at fault, or to blame, if they are not the height they want to be, or have the eye color would prefer. No one thinks that, if only they had done this or done that, gone to this or that meeting, read this or that book, they could have changed their height or eye color.
"Most people can readily recognize that these are aspects of themselves that they are powerless over. However, most people feel that that they have other aspects of their life which they should be able to control. They think that the only reason they can't control them is because they are incompetent.
"They might as well say that their incompetence caused their height or eye color. Further, they might as well beat themselves up for having the personality or problems they were born with.
"They don't seem to understand that there is nothing wrong with being one height or another, having one eye color or another, being born with one type of personality or another, or being born with certain problems. None of this is a matter of choice. It is just the way they are born.
"So called 'normal people' seem to be born with the ability to make decisions and act on them. I am different. I may have been born with this ability, but somewhere along the way, I lost it. I now understand that I am the way I am because I was just born this way.
"I did not make a choice to be this way. I am powerless to change the way I am, just as I am powerless to change my height or eye color. I was now able to see the difference between being powerless and being incompetent.
"I came to see why it is important to at least understand the program's 'simple religious idea.' This idea is the foundation of the Twelve Step Program of Recovery. Understanding this concept is a prerequisite for successfully working the Twelve Steps.
"Without this concept of a loving, concerned, creative intelligence underlying the totality of things, the Twelve Steps make no sense. Without the concept of a personal God who will do for me all those things I can't do for myself, I could not recover."
58. So let's continue reading, in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 5, in the first full paragraph, Bill says:
"He had come to pass his experience along to me — if I cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Certainly I was interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless."
59. Notice that it says that Ebby had come to pass his "experience" along to Bill.
60. You notice that I stressed the word "experience" before and I just wanted to stress it again. This was not Ebby's theory, his hope, and his dreams. This was his experience.
61. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 5, starting with the second full paragraph, referring to Ebby, Bill says:
"He talked for hours. Childhood memories rose before me. I could almost hear the sound of the preacher’s voice as I sat, on still Sundays, way over there on the hillside; there was that proffered temperance pledge I never signed; my grandfather’s good natured contempt of some church folk and their doings; his insistence that the spheres really had their music; but his denial of the preacher’s right to tell him how he must listen; his fearlessness as he spoke of these things just before he died; these recollections welled up from the past. They made me swallow hard.
"That war-time day in old Winchester Cathedral came back again.
"I had always believed in a Power greater than myself. I had often pondered these things. I was not an atheist. Few people really are, for that means blind faith in the strange proposition that this universe originated in a cipher, and aimlessly rushes nowhere. My intellectual heroes, the chemists, the astronomers, even the evolutionists, suggested vast laws and forces at work. Despite contrary indications, I had little doubt that a mighty purpose and rhythm underlay all. How could there be so much of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence? I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who knew neither time nor limitation. But that was as far as I had gone."
62. It is important to note that Bill says that they spoke for hours.
63. Now let's note that not only did Bill believe in a Power greater than himself, he's actually defining the Power he believes in.
64. He describes it as "A spirit of the universe that knew neither time nor limitation"
65. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 5, in the fifth paragraph, Bill says:
"With ministers, and the world’s religions, I parted right there. When they talked of a God personal to me, who was love, superhuman strength and direction, I became irritated and my mind snapped shut against such a theory."
66. So, after describing what he already believes in, Bill goes on to talk about another concept. He describes a God personal to him, who was love, superhuman strength and direction. This is the concept that irritated him and caused him to close his mind.
67. Where did this description of God come from and why would Bill bring up at this point? The only explanation is that this is the description of God that Ebby had just spent hours presenting to Bill.
68. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 5,in the sixth and seventh paragraphs, Bill says:
"To Christ I conceded the certainty of a great man, not too closely followed by those who claimed Him. His moral teaching — most excellent. For myself, I had adopted those parts which seemed convenient and not too difficult; the rest I disregarded.
"The wars which had been fought, the burnings and chicanery that religious dispute had facilitated, made me sick. I honestly doubted whether, on balance, the religions of mankind had done any good. Judging from what I had seen in Europe and since, the power of God in human affairs was negligible, the Brotherhood of Man a grim jest. If there was a Devil, he seemed the Boss Universal, and he certainly had me."
69. This next paragraph is very important. So as you are reading it, please read it slowly. Try to absorb what it is saying.
70. It makes it clear that Ebby was talking to Bill, about the concept of a God personal to him, who was love, superhuman strength and direction.
71. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 5, in the eighth paragraph, Bill says:
"But my friend sat before me, and he made the point-blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead, suddenly taken from the scrap heap to a level of life better than the best he had ever known!"
72. Bill writes that Ebby "made the point blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself."
73. Now we get back to that, "simple religious idea." Because if God weren't personal to him, who isn't love, superhuman strength and direction, why would God do for him what he couldn't do for himself?
74. Why would some kind of impersonal Power care about doing for Ebby, what he couldn't do for himself?
75. However, a God personal to him, who was love, superhuman strength and direction, could, and would do for him what he couldn't do for himself.
76. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 5 in the ninth paragraph, Bill continues by saying:
"Had this power originated in him? Obviously it had not. There had been no more power in him than there was in me at that minute; and this was none at all."
77. So Bill is admitting his powerlessness. He is even proving it by continuing to drink as Ebby is talking to him.
78. Bill knew Ebby. Bill knew that Ebby had never had the power to stop drinking. Yet, now Ebby was sober. So Bill knew that the power to stop did not come from within Ebby.
79. Bill was still drinking. He knew that he did not have the power to stop. Bill knew he did not have any power in him.
80. Therefore, the only explanation that made sense, that was even possible, was the explanation that Ebby was presenting.
81. Ebby had clearly made his point that God had done for him what he could not do for himself.
82. It is important to note that Ebby did not say God had given him the power to control his life or his drinking, but that God had done it for him.
83. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 5, in the bottom paragraph, Bill says:
"That floored me. It began to look as though religious people were right after all. Here was something at work in a human heart which had done the impossible. My ideas about miracles were drastically revised right then. Never mind the musty past; here sat a miracle directly across the kitchen table. He shouted great tidings."
84. What were religious people right about? We only need to go back a couple of paragraphs where Bill wrote that, "With ministers, and the world’s religions, I parted right there. When they talked of a God personal to me, who was love, superhuman strength and direction, I became irritated and my mind snapped shut against such a theory."
85. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the top paragraph, Bill continues. He says:
"I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil."
86. Bill had an advantage over everyone else. He had known Ebby for years. It had been years since Bill had seen Ebby sober. This left Bill with no doubt that something miraculous had happened to Ebby.
87. That is why, in R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, in the next paragraph, Bill says:
Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans, when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view.
88. However, the people reading the Big Book did not know Ebby. Therefore, many people must have questioned how Bill was so quickly, "convinced that God is concerned with us humans, when we want Him enough."
89. So four paragraphs were added to the later editions of the Big Book.
90. Bill re-worked some concepts he had written in the Multilith Big Book on page 21. He added the four new paragraphs between the first and second paragraphs on page 6. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book, we show these paragraphs on page 6a.
91. When you read these paragraphs, you will see that Bill is addressing those who did not know Ebby. Therefore, they had a problem with Bill being convinced so quickly of the change in Ebby.
92. We have placed these four paragraphs on a separate page because they obviously would not fit between the lines.
93. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6a, in the four paragraphs Bill added, he says:
Despite the living example of my friend there remained in me the vestiges of my old prejudice. The word God still aroused a certain antipathy. When the thought was expressed that there might be a God personal to me this feeling was intensified. I didn't like the idea. I could go for such conceptions as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind or Spirit of Nature but I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however loving His sway might be. I have since talked with scores of men who felt the same way.
My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, "WHY DON'T YOU CHOOSE YOUR OWN CONCEPTION OF GOD?"
That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last.
IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF BEING WILLING TO BELIEVE IN A POWER GREATER THAN MYSELF. NOTHING MORE WAS REQUIRED OF ME TO MAKE MY BEGINNING. I saw that growth could start from that point. Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend. Would I have it? Of course I would!
94. In the first added paragraph he addresses the skeptics. He says that, "Despite the living example of my friend there remained in me the vestiges of my old prejudice."
95. In the next sentence, he says, "When the thought was expressed that there might be a God personal to me this feeling was intensified."
96. Remember that the concept of a personal God is the "simple religious idea" that Ebby described. It is the foundation that the practical program of action, the Twelve Steps, is built upon.
97. He then goes on to restate his original understanding of a Power greater than himself. He says, "I could go for such conceptions as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind or Spirit of Nature but I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however loving His sway might be."
98. For those who do not know, the word Czar, sometimes spelled with a T instead of a C, is a corruption of the title Caesar. Caesar was the ruler of the Roman Empire. Over time, other rulers also used versions of this title. For example, the German Kaiser, and the Russian Tsar. So, Czar simply means an Emperor or King.
99. Bill then writes, "I have since talked with scores of men who felt the same way." Talking to scores of men showed Bill the need for these additional four paragraphs.
100. In the second of these four paragraphs, Bill writes that, "My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, 'Why don't you choose your own conception of God?' "
101. Unfortunately, experience has shown that this has become one of the most misunderstood passages in the Big Book.
102. Some people have mistakenly taken this passage to mean that they can use a concept like a tree, a bus, or a light bulb, as their Higher Power.
103. While this often can help someone start on a spiritual path, this often makes it much more difficult for them to work the Twelve Steps. This is because they are forgetting, or just don't know about, the "simple religious idea."
104. A tree, a light bulb, or a bus, are not going to be concerned with us personally. A tree, a light bulb, or a bus is not going to want to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
105. Someone will have a hard time admitting that they are powerless, if there is nothing or nobody that's going to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
106. A tree, a bus, or a light bulb, are not going to be able to restore us to sanity. I don't care how well they are built. And I really think that 99.999999% of people will have a very difficult time truly surrendering their life and their will to a tree, a light bulb, or a bus.
107. Therefore, when Ebby suggested to Bill, "Why don't you chose your own conception of God?" He was not saying that Bill could choose a light bulb, a tree, or a bus.
108. Once again, it is important to understand that Ebby had spent hours telling Bill about the "simple religious idea." He spent hours describing a loving God. A God personal to him, who did for him what he could not do for himself.
109. Therefore, Ebby was telling Bill that he didn't have to believe in the concept of a personal God right now. However, Bill now had the freedom to experiment with this concept. Bill didn't have to believe in it, but he could act as if he did believe in it, and then see the results he got.
110. Now how can we say that? We can say it because in the third of the added paragraphs Bill says, "That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last."
111. We can say it because we can go back a page in the Big Book to the description of those hours when Ebby talked to Bill.
112. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 5, in the fifth paragraph, Bill writes that he had always believed in a power greater than himself, that he was not an atheist. He says he simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who knew neither time nor limitation.
113. In the next paragraph, Bill makes clear that what he was having trouble with, was the concept of a God personal to him, who was love, super human strength and direction.
114. So, if Ebby was telling Bill to choose his own conception of God, and Bill already had a concept of God as a Spirit of the Universe who knew neither time nor limitation, then why would Ebby's statement hit Bill hard?
115. Why would Ebby giving Bill permission to use the concept of God that Bill already had hit Bill hard?
116. Why would Ebby giving Bill permission to use the concept of God that Bill already had, have melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow Bill says he had lived and shivered for many years?
117. Bill says he had always believed in a power greater than himself. So it had to be the realization that he could experiment with the concept that Ebby described, the concept of a God personal to him that hit Bill hard.
118. So, it had to be Ebby telling him that he could experiment with the concept of a personal God that caused Bill to write that he "stood in the sunlight at last."
119. Perhaps this would be clearer if Bill had written that it was only a matter of being willing to believe in a PERSONAL Power greater than himself that was required for him to make his beginning.
120. So, to recap this important point. When Ebby told Bill that he could choose his own concept of God, he was not suggesting that Bill choose a bus, a tree, or a light bulb.
121. Ebby was not giving Bill permission to use the concept of a Higher Power he already had. If Bill was being told he could keep believing in the concept he already believed in, why would that hit him hard?
122. Ebby was giving Bill permission to experiment with the concept of a God personal to him, who would do for him what he could not do for himself.
123. That's why what Ebby told Bill hit Bill hard!
124. And now we come to the paragraph that originally followed Bill saying, "I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil."
125. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the second paragraph, Bill says:
"Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans, when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view."
126. It does NOT make sense for Bill to be given the option of choosing a light bulb, a tree, or a bus as his Higher Power and for him to then say, "Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans, if we want Him enough."
127. It does NOT make sense for Bill to be given the option to choose the concept of a Higher Power he always had, a Spirit of the Universe, and for him to then say, "Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans, if we want Him enough."
128. It DOES make sense that being told that his preconceived notions no longer bound him, that he could experiment with the concept of a God personal to him, would hit him hard.
129. It DOES make sense that seeing Ebby sober, and his telling Bill that God had done for him what he could not do for himself, would convince Bill that "God is concerned with us humans if we want Him enough."
130. Bill was no longer limited to what he had always thought or believed in the past. This allowed Bill to say, "At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view."
131. The hours Bill spent talking to a sober Ebby caused Bill to write, back on page 5, "That floored me. It began to look as though religious people were right after all. Here was something at work in a human heart which had done the impossible. My ideas about miracles were drastically revised right then. Never mind the musty past; here sat a miracle directly across the kitchen table. He shouted great tidings."
132. In the next paragraph, Bill continues, "I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil."
133. Ebby had been just as hopeless a drunk as Bill had been. If Ebby could change, that was a miracle. Bill was able to see that the change in Ebby was more than superficial. It was real and dramatic.
134. Now Bill is able to relate Ebby's experience to one of his own.
135. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the third paragraph, Bill continues:
"The real significance of my experience in the Cathedral burst upon me. For a brief moment, I had needed and wanted God. There had been a humble willingness to have Him with me — and He came. But soon the sense of His presence had been blotted out by worldly clamors, mostly those within myself. And so it had been ever since. How blind I had been."
136. At this point the Big Book leaves out some details. However, Bill's story is covered in greater detail in A.A. Comes of Age. Bill's story starts on page 52 in that book. We suggest that you read it when you get a chance.
137. For example, in A.A. Comes of Age, Bill says that after his talk with Ebby, he went to an Oxford Group meeting. He describes how his experience there convinced him of the validity of what Ebby had told him.
138. Bill then goes on to tell how he signed himself into the hospital. He describes how Ebby visited him and explained more about the program. He describes how Ebby then took him through the program as it was at that time.
139. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the fourth paragraph, Bill says:
"At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the last time. Treatment seemed wise, for I showed signs of delirium tremens. I have not had a drink since."
140. In the later editions of the Big Book, they moved the last sentence of this paragraph, "I have not had a drink since." It was placed at the end of the next paragraph.
141. They made this change because just going to the hospital is not what stopped Bill from drinking. It was going through the program that stopped Bill from drinking. So that is why they moved that sentence.
142. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the fifth paragraph, Bill says:
"There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch"
143. In this paragraph we can see that Bill implemented the same spiritual principles that would later be detailed in the Twelve Steps. We can see that Bill took what would later become the Third Step. He says, "There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction."
144. Notice that he says that he humbly offered himself to God, as he THEN understood Him. In other words, this was not the same Spirit of the Universe that he believed in before Ebby spoke with him.
145. Bill was now offering himself to the new understanding he had of a God personal to him, who was love, superhuman strength, and direction. The God Bill now trusted would do for him, what he could not do for himself. The God Bill had come to believe would restore him to sanity.
146. When Bill wrote the Twelve Steps, he says that he wanted to break these original concepts "into smaller pieces." Therefore, it would seem that Bill took the first three steps in reverse order. He took the Third Step, and then the Second Step.
147. Next we can see that Bill took what became the First Step. Bill writes, "I admitted for the first time, that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost."
148. We can see the Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh Steps. Bill says, "I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new found Friend take them away, root and branch"
149. We can see more of the steps in the next paragraph.
150. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the sixth paragraph, Bill says:
"My schoolmate visited me, and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies. We made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment. I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability."
151. We can see the Fifth Step. Bill says, "My schoolmate visited me, and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies."
152. We can also see the Eighth and Ninth Steps. "We made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment. I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability."
153. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the seventh paragraph, we can see the Tenth and Eleventh Steps. Bill says:
"I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciousness within. Common sense would thus become uncommon sense. I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me. Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others. Then only might I expect to receive. But that would be in great measure."
154. Bill then goes on to describe the results that Ebby promised once Bill completed working the program.
155. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the eighth paragraph, Bill says:
"My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of life which answered all my problems. Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements."
156. Notice the condition here. It says we get these results "when these things were done." In other words, the Twelve Steps have to be worked to get the promised results. We can't just talk about the Twelve Steps. We can't just read them. We have to actually complete them.
157. Also notice that we are given a list of "essential requirements." In some other fellowships, they say that there are no musts in the program.
158. While it is true that the pioneers deliberately did not put any "musts" in the Twelve Traditions, this is not the case with the Twelve Steps. The pioneers clearly say there are "essential requirements" for working the Twelve Steps. In addition, the Big Book uses the word "must" many times as it describes what we need to do as we follow the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" to work the Twelve Steps.
159. This next paragraph is also often taken out of context and misunderstood.
160. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the ninth paragraph, Bill says:
"Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all."
161. Notice that in context this is saying that working the Twelve Steps, fulfilling the program's "essential requirements" is "simple but not easy."
162. Also notice that it says "destruction of self-centeredness."
163. It doesn't say the lessening of self-centeredness. It does not say we must turn in SOME things to God.
164. Bill says, "I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all." He says ALL things.
165. It is also obvious that "the Father of Light" Bill is referring to is synonymous with that "Czar of the Heavens" that he spoke about just a little while ago.
166. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the tenth paragraph, Bill says:
"These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound."
167. So here Bill is saying that the "destruction of self-centeredness," and that we "must turn in all things" to God, are "revolutionary and drastic proposals."
168. Bill then goes on to tell us the effect of accepting these "revolutionary and drastic proposals." He says the effect was "electric." In other words, it was dramatic.
169. He says there was a "sense of victory," then "a peace and serenity," and "utter confidence."
170. Then Bill goes on to describe how he "felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound." This was Bill's spiritual experience.
171. In A.A. Comes of Age, on page 63, in the second paragraph, Bill goes into more detail. He says, "Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in the mind's eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, 'So this is the God of the preachers!' A great peace stole over me and I thought, 'No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right. Things are all right with God and His world.' "
172. We again suggest that you read Bill's story in A.A. Comes of Age when you get a chance.
173. As we have shared before, the "simple religious idea" is the foundation that the Twelve Steps are built upon. Perhaps if more people were introduced to the program with this concept, then they might also have a spiritual experience that is "sudden and profound."
174. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, in the eleventh paragraph, Bill continues by saying:
"For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He listened in wonder as I talked."
175. The friend, the doctor that Bill called was Dr. Silkworth.
176. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, the twelfth paragraph describes Dr. Silkworth's reaction to Bill's spiritual experience. Bill says:
"Finally he shook his head saying, 'Something has happened to you I don’t understand. But you had better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were.' The good doctor now sees many men who have such experiences. He knows they are real."
177. Dr. Silkworth was the chief physician at Towns Hospital. This hospital specialized in treating alcoholics and drug addicts. Dr. Silkworth knew Bill well. This was Bill's third time in Towns Hospital.
178. Dr. Silkworth could see, based on his years of experience that something fundamental had changed within Bill. The change in Bill's personality was that dramatic.
179. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 6, starting in the bottom paragraph, Bill continues:
While I lay in the hospital the thought came that there were thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be glad to have what had been so freely given me. Perhaps I could help some of them. They in turn might work with others.
180. This thought that came to Bill, eventually led to his working with others, and the creation of the Twelve Step program of recovery.
181. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 7, in the first full paragraph, Bill says:
"My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of my demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others, as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that."
182. Ebby is the friend that Bill is referring to. Bill says that Ebby "had emphasized the absolute necessity of my demonstrating these principles in all my affairs." Notice that a version of this wording became part of the Twelfth Step.
183. In fact, in the second sentence Bill says that Ebby told him that, "Particularly was it imperative to work with others, as he had worked with me."
184. Notice that Ebby said "imperative." He did not say that it would be nice if Bill worked with others. He did not just say that it was important. He wanted Bill to know that working with others is essential, required, and urgent.
185. The Book of James from the bible was one of the main readings at the early meetings. The phrase "faith without works is dead," comes from the Book of James.
186. It means that we need to take action to demonstrate our faith.
187. It means that even if we work all the other steps, if we don't move forward and start working with others, we may not get the results we are looking for. We may not recover.
188. Bill goes on to emphasize that this is "appallingly true for the alcoholic!" In other words, compulsive personalities are even more likely to be negatively affected by not working with others.
189. The next part of the paragraph presents one of the most important concepts of the program. On page 38 it says, "The spiritual life is not a theory. You have to live it." It also says that we need to "keep in fit spiritual condition." On page 46, it talks about being "spiritually fit." There are many other references to a spiritual life, and spiritual activities.
190. This is the key to understanding all the other references. It says, "For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead."
191. In other words, the way we stay spiritually fit, stay in fit spiritual condition, etc., is through "work and self-sacrifice for others."
192. Notice that there are two parts to this process, work and self-sacrifice. This lets us know that just doing what is comfortable is not enough. Just working with others is not enough. There needs to be some degree of self-sacrifice involved. We need to go beyond what is comfortable. Even if it is just slightly beyond what is comfortable, it will have the desired effect.
193. The next part of the paragraph tells us what will happen if we skip this vital part of the program. It says, "If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that."
194. When the Big Book was written, it was not uncommon for alcoholics to die from their drinking. There were no effective treatments for alcoholism, drug addiction, or any other compulsive problem or behavior. There was no way to recover.
195. Even those who did not die often suffered such severe brain damage that they had to be locked up for the rest of their lives.
196. Today, many people look at this passage as referring to a spiritual death, rather than a physical death.
197. One of R.A.'s members shares:
"I believe that Bill meant that physical death was a possibility. However, I think it is more probable that he was talking about a spiritual disconnection.
"This is what I actually had. It was a type of walking death. I lay on the bathroom floor and begged to die. I had a large supply of pills and alcohol. I could not see a way out. My spirit was devastated."
198. At this time we need to address some points that are often discussed in other programs.
199. The Big Book tells us that it is "imperative" that we work with others if we want to recover. However, in some other programs, working with others is optional. Worse yet, in some programs, people are not allowed to work with others if they have not already stopped their behavior or solved their problems.
200. In our opinion, this is like telling someone that they must first cure their cancer, before they can take chemotherapy or radiation to treat their tumor.
201. It is sometimes explained that this practice is in place because if someone is not doing well, if they are not "in a good place" they do not have anything to give away.
202. Bill refutes this view within the next paragraph.
203. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 7, in the second paragraph, Bill says:
"My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems. It was fortunate, for my old business associates remained skeptical for a year and a half, during which I found little work. I was not too well at the time, and was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment. This sometimes nearly drove me back to drink. I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going."
204. First, Bill makes it clear that he and his wife, both started trying to help others. Not only did they go together to talk to others, they say that they "abandoned [themselves] with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems."
205. Look at this wording. They "abandoned" themselves with "enthusiasm." This was not a lackadaisical, casual effort to help others.
206. Also notice that their goal was to help others find "a solution to their problems." If they had wanted to say that they were helping others to just find sobriety, then that is what they would have said. Saying "a solution to their problems," seems to give their efforts a broader scope.
207. Now lets put this next sentence into perspective. Bill had a blinding light, wind on a mountaintop, spiritual experience. He then writes that for the next "year and a half" he "was not too well."
208. He goes on to say that he "was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment." He further says that these "waves of self-pity and resentment" nearly drove him "back to drink."
209. In some other fellowships, Bill would have been told that he could not work with others. They would say this was because if he "was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment," he had nothing he could give to others.
210. Yet Bill writes that he "soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going."
211. Working with others is what stopped Bill from drinking!
212. If Bill had not worked with others because he "was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment," the program might never have been created.
213. Working with others is an essential part of the recovery process. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 41, the first paragraph of the chapter "Working With Others" says, "Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure your own immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other spiritual activities fail."
214. Notice that it says that NOTHING will so much insure your OWN immunity from drinking as INTENSIVE work with others.
215. Also notice that it says that working with others works when other spiritual activities fail. Therefore, it is saying that working with others is also a spiritual activity.
216. It is saying that working with others will work. It says that this is true even if everything else you have tried has not produced the recovery you are looking for.
217. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 7, in the third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs, Bill says:
"We commenced to make many fast friends and a fellowship has grown up among us of which it is a wonderful thing to feel a part. The joy of living we really have, even under pressure and difficulty. I have seen one hundred families set their feet in the path that really goes somewhere; have seen the most impossible domestic situations righted; feuds and bitterness of all sorts wiped out. I have seen men come out of asylums and resume a vital place in the lives of their families and communities. Business and professional men have regained their standing. There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us. In one Western city and its environs there are eighty of us and our families. We meet frequently at our different homes, so that newcomers may find the fellowship they seek. At these informal gatherings one may often see from 40 to 80 persons. We are growing in numbers and power.
"An alcoholic in his cups is an unlovely creature. Our struggles with them are variously strenuous, comic, and tragic. One poor chap committed suicide in my home. He could not, or would not, see our way of life.
"There is, however, a vast amount of fun about it all. I suppose some would be shocked at our seeming worldliness and levity. But just underneath there is deadly earnestness. God has to work twenty-four hours a day in and through us, or we perish."
218. In the later editions of the Big Book, "God" in the last sentence was changed to "Faith." This was apparently done at the suggestion of Dr. Howard, a well-known psychiatrist.
219. He also made the suggestion to place the fellowship on a "we ought" basis instead of a "you must" basis. This suggestion led to most of the changes that make the pioneers' "clear-cut directions" harder to see in later editions of the Big Book.
220. In R.A.'s Multilith Big Book on page 7, in the sixth paragraph, Bill says:
"Most of us feel we need look no further for Utopia, nor even for Heaven. We have it with us right here and now. Each day that simple talk in my kitchen multiplies itself in a widening circle of peace on earth and good will to men."
221. The Catholic Church Committee on Publications was asked to review the Big Book. They recommended that the reference to heaven be removed from the Big Book. The reason was because "we Catholics are promising folks something much better later on!"
222. The Committee did not give their official approval. However, they did send word that the book was all right with them.
223. If you have read the Big Book before, we trust that reading it in this way allowed you to see its contents in a new and different light.
224. One of R.A.'s members shares:
I have been in other programs for a long time, and have read the Big Book many times. However, I have learned so much reading it this way. It's like I've never read it before.
225. Reading the Big Book in this way helps someone to let go of his or her preconceived notions about it. When someone reads the Big Book with preconceived notions, things that conflict with these notions don't register unless somebody stops, as we just did, and points them out.
Please use R.A.'s Questions and Answers Forum to ask any questions or make any comments about any of this.