The book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, or ‘The Big Book’, as AA members fondly refer to it, is, upon first look, an archaic tome at best.
I got my Big Book, shortly after going to my first AA meeting, about seven or eight months ago. I remember being baffled by the readings. Who wrote this atrocity? I thought to myself. The language was dated and unapproachable. Yet, there I was with all those folks, assembled in a small little room, eyes fixated on the chairperson, who read on and on for what seemed like forever. I was hardly expecting this, an episode of reading rainbow with a former street junkie. I thought AA was where people came to sober up!
I was so preoccupied with the whole concept of AA at my first few meetings, that I was hardly listening to the text being read at all. My eyes darted from person to person in the room. I observed what I could. Fixated on what exactly happened in these rooms. Strangely enough, it never occurred to me that the 12 Steps actually came out of a text.
As time went on and meeting regulars got to know my face, they started to bug me about things. Did I have a sponsor? Have I got a Big Book? Have I read the Big Book? Read the first 164 pages of the Big Book! Read the first 164 pages of the Big Book and highlight all the passages that you see yourself in! Did you read Bill’s story yet? If you want to stay after the meeting, we can go to a coffee shop and read the Big Book together…..
My first instinct was: Calm. Down. Muthafuckas.
I was still unsure if I was even supposed to be in an AA meeting at all. And suddenly it was like a creepy-ier, culty-ier version of Oprah’s book club. In the beginning, all the shit people were yelling in my ear about The Big Book, really freaked me out. For a short while, it actually turned me off to the idea of AA altogether.
But, I kept coming back. I saw that people were getting something amazing out of this program. And, I wanted it really fucking badly. So, I decided to open my ears and listen. Then, I opened my eyes and read. And now, I’m in it. I’ve figured out what I am and what I’m doing here in AA. And, who would have thought it?! I fucking love The Big Book! Yes, some of its language is antiquated, but, it’s a pretty amazing tool to have. If you’re an alcoholic reading Alcoholics Anonymous, there is just no way you’re not going to identify with it. Every time I reread a passage, I see something new in it (or inside myself), something I hadn’t seen before.
It lays everything out, simply: Information. Steps. Suggestions. And, of course, the stories that make me feel, well, not so alone.
Still a newcomer myself, I can totally understand why the über newcomer is turned off by The Big Book. I was right there not too long ago. It’s foreign, old, and yes, let’s just say it: It’s scary. Seeing yourself in a text like that isn’t easy. You’re admitting to a lot by subscribing yourself to the pages of The Big Book. But, once you’ve got that acceptance under your belt, it’s the text that unfolds the solution that AA offers.
And, the solution, now that’s pretty fuckin’ awesome, dusty words and all.