Reports from the Bunker

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Problems and Prejudices with The Big Book of AA

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I want to start by saying that for me, where the Bible, all of the Sutra’s, the Tao Te Ching and every one of the library full of books I have read have failed, the Big Book of AA has succeeded.  It created for me, a path to God and today it is my Bible, there is every instruction I need to lead a spiritual, peaceful and most of all, sober life.  This is nothing short of a miracle, not only for what the program and the book have done for me, but what it had to overcome in order to do it, namely, my ego.  In recovery, being smart, analytic and defiant is a perfect recipe for failure and too often this type of personality does not make it.  Our mind is focused on finding flaws, issues, reasons to disagree and on uncovering the mechanics of everything.

When I first came to AA, I did this. I tore the Big Book apart, word by word and I started finding the psychological reasons that some of the Steps, the BB and the fellowship work. I was appalled at first, what terrible malignant genius was behind this?  I thought there must be some catch, some cultist purpose.  Then, I started learning the history and how much of the program was trial and error, how much was input from great minds like Carl Jung, whom I respected (I respected Bill more for translating his goofy existential language into concrete suggestions).  I learned too that there was nothing what-so-ever that AA was going to ask of me, beyond, not coming to meetings shitfaced.

Then, the most extra-ordinary thing happened, I took that keen analytic mind that had torn apart the texts of the great religions, great works of literature and philosophy and I simply shut it off, or rather turned the dial way down.  I don’t analyze the Big Book today, except to decipher what it is suggesting I do and how it relates to my own life and the more I come to that book with a different, less analytic and less defiant attitude, the more I seem to get out of the book and the fellowship.

I am encountering a growing number of people in recovery that express some dissatisfaction with the Big Book, or ignore it completely. Last night for example I heard a guy complaining about the book and when someone spoke to him he griped:

Even the book says this isn’t the only way, but there are people who tell me all of time that it is the only way

To clarify for anyone who shares this sentiment, what the book says is that AA is perhaps not the only way to get and stay sober, that they have no monopoly on it. However, the cold, hard reality is, that the Big Book, the program described in it and the fellowship ARE the only way to do AA. If you hear the promises and you want them, if you are looking for THIS spiritual solution, then the Big Book and the program within in it, are not negotiable.  I would suggest to anyone who disagrees and feels they know a better way than that described in the book, that they are either truly remarkable or very sick still with the problem of ego.

While it is true that the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking, one has to wonder why people that do not believe this show up at meetings? You wouldn’t major in Psychology if you didn’t believe in it’s value as a science would you?

I know, there are things that upon first read one can find fault or objection with in the Big Book, but there is the thing. There are some books that are written down, to a sort of lowest common denominator, ones that virtually anyone can read and find wonderful, the authors of these books took painstaking care to ensure it; we call them Easy Reads, Fluff books and they are the most common of books out there.  As a life long student of literature I can then also tell you about other books, uncompromising books, books that do not come to you but rather force you to come to them.  E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce wrote such books and I can tell you from experience that E.E. Cummings did not make it easy and was never going to step toward my point of view so I could understand. These are books that in order to get the fruits and the rewards from them, you are going to have to grow, change perspective and see things different than you did before.  In fact, the better part of the reward for seeking their understanding is that growth.

The Big Book is the same way. You will come to it, you will grow and learn and let loose all prejudice and control before you get anything from it. It is a perfect exercise and metaphor for how you are going to have to live your life in recovery if you want, not only to be sober, but also be happy joyous and free. Life isn’t going to come to you either, conform to your ideas, your rules, your woulds and shoulds. Instead you will have to learn to be humbled by it, grateful for it, grow in it and embrace challenge and change. You will need to let go of prejudice, fear, control and ego.

The end result is always the same and boils down to this; If AA is your chosen path

Read it looking for what fits you today, with gratitude and appreciation for the message and the men and women that put it into that book, shut down the ego and the critic. Look for what is right, rather than wrong and you might just find the promises coming true.

Read it with that “smart” brain of yours, disregard the suggestions and at best live on in misery with half measures, perhaps finding yourself back on a bar stool one day.

I guess this was a little bit ranty, but I feel strongly about this.

 

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Written by jamesjanus

May 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm

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