April 9th, 2018

The Power Of The AA Big Book

Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction in an outpatient setting got its start in modern times in the 1930’s with the founding and expansion of Alcoholics Anonymous. The success of that approach provided confidence to my staff and I when, 50 years later, we established the Kolmac outpatient rehabilitation program.

Having grown to be an international organization with over 118,000 groups and two million members, AA faces the challenge of how to maintain consistency in its message. Creating and disseminating literature describing the AA approach has been one of the tools that the organization has used to accomplish this daunting task. The cornerstone of this literature is the “AA Big Book.”

The importance of this book was well described to me by my colleague, Anita Gadhia-Smith: “The Big Book has been the bedrock of the AA program for countless people. Many who have not embraced traditional religion are able to digest and apply the ‘practical Christianity’ and spiritual principles found in the book. Believers and nonbelievers alike are able to relate to the Big Book and its teachings.”

When I asked for comments from people in recovery about the impact that the book had had on them, here is what I received:

  • “The Big Book saved me from trying to think my way out of my piled-up problems and gave me actions that had worked for other people just as messy and hopeless as I was.”
  • “The message the Big Book sent was that I was not alone. I remember after reading those words, whether I liked it or not, I knew that I belonged. Whether I wanted recovery or not, those words changed my drinking forever.”
  • “The book saved my life. It was like someone wrote a book about my life story.”
  • “The Big Book revealed to me that my addiction was greater than any substance. Its words were so relatable, it was hard not to see myself in its pages, even when I wasn’t fully ready to surrender.”
  • “I’m constantly amazed at the rational insights the Big Book provides. It’s clearly the touchstone of my recovery.”
  • “The Big Book, with its simple suggestions and humble stories, has been a template for my life. I do not think I would have survived otherwise.”

There are few books that can claim to have had this great an impact on so many peoples’ lives. On May 5th, news outlets will carry stories about how much money was paid at auction for the original typed working manuscript of the Big Book. As is evident from the above quotes, however, from a human value perspective, the cash value is irrelevant.

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