The last in our newcomers guide to programme literature, today we’re going to cover ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, otherwise affectionately known the world over as ‘The Big Book’.

Written largely by Bill W (one of the founders of AA), the Big Book was originally published in 1939 and hasn’t changed significantly between the original and and now current fourth edition. To this day the book remains the basis for most twelve step recovery programmes around the world for its spiritual solution to addiction. Meetings for fellowships that cover things like Gambling, Overeating or other drugs like Cocaine all use this as the basic reading foundation and process of twelve step recovery.

I remember being given my first copy which is sitting in front me as I type this. As a newcomer the hardback version at nearly 600 pages long can feel very imposing when you’re given your first copy. I remember flicking through the pages or hearing readings during meetings and thinking that I’d never be able to connect with this.

The language sounds epic and almost shakespearean in places “Rarely have we ever seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path”. It’s hard to follow at times, especially for anyone who might find reading difficult or for newcomers who are fresh into recovery and facing physical withdrawls or emotional/mental upheaval which is common in the early days of recovery.

While the language might not be the easiest for everyone to connect with and understand today, the entire basis and solution of recovery is outlined and lies within it’s pages. Reading through this with your sponsor essentially takes you through the twelve steps of recovery, it gives you a guide and set of principles to follow, a spiritual solution to the illness of alcoholism and a programme for daily living which in my experience absolutely works.

While I found the language difficult to understand in my early days (some have even gone so far as to write versions aimed at simplifying and modernising the language), I love how a book written so long ago in middle america still has so many messages which resonate with me personally today.

If you’re new It’s also worth noting that while the hardback fourth edition is nearly 600 pages long, the working of the twelve steps can be covered (depending on how your sponsor works) in the first 100 or so pages. The later sections are largely “Personal Stories”, a series of short stories around other people’s experience and journey of recovery. I’ve met people with multiple years sobriety who’ve yet to read all of these and I certainly haven’t read them all yet myself.

My advice is to stick with it if you’re finding any parts of the book difficult, take it slowly and read it slowly with a sponsor who will be able to help you with any of the language, principles or steps which are outlined as the programme of recovery.

/ J