I have been attending AA meetings for about a year.  I have 15 months and 14 days of sobriety yet I still don’t feel the serenity. I am not happy, joyous and free.  Life has been a little rough the past few months, and I have maintained my sobriety throughout, but am I just white knuckling it, or am I truly sober?

I have yet to read the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous from cover to cover.  My rationalization for this is because it is too dated.  When I went to my first meeting, one of the men said to me, get the Big Book and read the first 164 pages.  I may have read the first 64 pages, then it went to the bottom of the reading pile.

I still took the book with me when we went away last summer, and to Florida this winter.  I did not open it once.  It could actually double as a paperweight right now.

Two weeks ago, an interesting “old timer” came to our little home group meeting.  This person is intriguing,has very long term sobriety and that sense of serenity surrounds him.  I was drawn to him, I needed to find out how he got that and has maintained it for 24 years.

We became Facebook friends, and immediately started using the chat feature to discuss alcoholism, AA, and the Big Book.  I outed myself, and told him I have not read it.  I got the usual reaction when I tell anyone from AA that I haven’t read the book; WHY NOT?

I knew the only way I would actually pick it up and read it is if I was held culpable.  I suggested we do a Big Book discussion group, all two of us.

Yesterday, we got together to discuss Chapter 1.   I was explaining to him that I still have not found a Higher Power, nor can I really commit to the concept of a Higher Power, the whole process seems to still illude me.  I have moments of YES iI think I have this, but it is not a constant ribbon running through my life. I do not feel it daily.

I then disclosed, that frequently when things get to emotionally painful, my go to thought is : DRINK!  Or DRINK + PILLS!  That was when he said, maybe you aren’t done drinking yet.  Followed by, frequently people need to relapse to really be ready to embrace this program.  There was also discussion about putting my sobriety first every day.  Do I do that?  I don’t know.

All of these months of ups and downs with being sober, and maybe I need to relapse to get this program?  How does that make sense?  Is relapse a prerequisite for finding serenity and letting a higher power guide my life?  Will I find the answers to all of this in the book that I have been using as a paperweight for over a year?

I guess I will find out.  Chapter 2 on Monday



26 thoughts on “BIG BOOK STUDY

  1. Relapse is absolutely NOT a prerequisite!

    The thing I see here is that you’ve decided “too dated” somehow validates not doing a very simple task: reading a book. It will not in any way harm you to actually read it, and it might just help you get where you want (need?) to be.

    So … what’s really stopping you?


  2. I do not know nearly as much as you…as I am just at 4 months sober…but, I can assure you that relapse is NOT an answer. The last time I thought I was “not done drinking yet” and relapsed, I spent the next five YEARS drunk.

    I know what you mean though. I see those serene people and they do seem to have that big book quoting in common. I am going to take your advice and actually read the book myself. After all, I’ve had it for 4 months :).

    i look forward to hearing what you think of chapter two…


  3. I don’t think relapse is a solution for what you are writing about. It seems less that you are questioning whether you are an alcoholic or not, but what do you want to do about it.

    I know I am an alcoholic, drug addict, eating disorder – practicing those addictions is not really going to convince me of that – it’s something I know. The only thing a relapse might do is make me more desperate to try any means for recovery that I previously rejected. What I consider problematic is that there really is no assurance that there will be another shot at recovery. As someone who operated pretty consistently in a black out when drinking, I consider myself extremely fortunate not to have killed myself or anyone else in that state. As my academic advisor used to talk about with testing sometimes the “forgivability of the error” is too great to mess around.

    Here is a challenge about the Big Book being “too dated” – folks read Alice in Wonderland by Carroll, Sufi Mystics, Buddhists, A Christmas Carol by Dickens, the Torah, the New Testament, Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Pilgrims Progress, etc. etc. for insights on modern life – all quite a bit older than the 1930s ramblings of a drunk named Bill Wilson – and seem to get by the sexist, antiquated, etc. etc. concepts and language.

    Personally, my “go to” AA literature is less the Big Book and more the 12 & 12. But I did unearth my Big Book to find this quote on p. 570 (1976 – 3rd Edition)

    “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” – Herbert Spencer

    Best wishes as you go forward in recovery!

    • Excellent point Robert. I guess that is why I finally decided to give it another try, along with the fact that I feel like something just isn’t right. Like I am missing something.
      Great quote. Thank you for your comment.

    • Well said. I was going to mention Beethoven and the Beatles being too dated; Monet, da Vinci, Picasso; anybody over 30… Haha.

      I’m glad you’re giving it a read, L. There’s some good stuff in it.

  4. Okay, first let me explain the context of ‘maybe you need to get drunk again’. For AA to work, there are twelve steps. The first 164 pages explain those steps. If you are not willing to do those steps in your daily life, you are not willing to go to any length to get sober. You have not read those pages so you are clearly not willing to go to any length. Got that?

    If you’re not willing to go to any length, the easiest way to get there is to make one’s life worse, in a hurry. Thus, his suggestion you get drunk. Quickest way to become willing – other than just doing it.

    Now, the reason you aren’t getting the good parts of the program is that this is s program of action, not osmosis. You get the promises AFTER the 9th step. You’re only getting part of that because you did quit drinking but you’re falling short because you’re not fixing the problems that you drank over.

    It’s not rocket science. You need to get to work. Right now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 – and definitely do not get drunk.

    All you have to do is the first three words on page 112. Go look it up. Right now.

  5. Hi, my name is Annie and I am an alcoholic! Boy, that was tough to say when I started AA. I am 55 years old and struggled with the Big Book until I found a great sponsor to do “Step Work”. He walked me through page by page and had to explain things to me that I couldn’t see on my own. This morning, after our meeting I did my 7th Step with him and actually hit our knees and prayed! It was overwhelming.
    Relapsing is not a requisite.
    I wish you a happy recovery!

  6. oh man….

    i thought the BB was dated to, sexist, talked to much about god…blah blah blah.
    But , for me, READING the BB was not the answer…taking action, getting a sponsor and working the steps…that’s where AA came alive for me. I think reading and discussing is all well and good, but find a woman who has the kind of serenity you want and ask het to sponsor you. You have to do the work, you have to work the steps.
    i think we hit all kinds of bottoms, sometimes, even when we are sober…you don’t have to drink, you’re hitting one now. You are sober but not content in your sobriety, not happy,and that is awful, I agree. I hit that same bottom about a year and a half in and, while i had done the steps there were other things i needed to attend to.
    It’s a constant process, action,action, action. And then, once we get it, we have to help someone else…that’s how it works.

    I’ll have 4 years next week, and i got that with the help of my sponsor and the steps. You can do it, I have utter faith in you!

    • Totally agree with everything said here; the Big Book pretty much meant nothing to me until I started working the steps with a sponsor. Maybe some people have an awakening after reading it on their own, but it didn’t happen for me until I started really working the steps.

  7. Perhaps your answer isn’t in AA.
    I think needing to relapse to really want sobriety is a crazy though. I have read the big book. I think there is a lot of good in the 12 steps. But I need something different. Yoga, therapy, Buddhism, meditation.

    Is your life better now? Are you more comfortable with yourself? Do you have a greater sense of self?

    Could a therapist be a better option? Support to the AA process? Do you have underlying depression? Poor health?

    There all influence our view of life.

    I can promise you one thing, the secret to happiness and serenity is not in a bottle. It is in you, waiting to be discovered.


    • You are right Anne. I believe that he was saying, I had not really embraced the program, so maybe I am not ready yet. My life is better, because I do not wake up every day and say, ugh, I am a loser drunk. I still wake up every day and say ugh…So that is where I am after 15 months. Re: the “maybe you’re not there yet”.
      Therapy would probably really be helpful at this point in my life. I have the therapy of running every day, but I find that my mind is still very restless. Clearly there is more that needs to be addressed, and worked on.

      • Yes!
        What you have written is hugely insightful!
        But scary. Just because you haven’t fully embraced the AA philosophy doesn’t mean you need to drink more.

        It means you realize there are bigger issues going on in your life that need to be addressed.

        Read Louise hays book you an heal your life. It might spark something in you.

        But definitely do not drink just to prove “the program” is right. That’s insanity.

  8. Oh wow I am amazed that he said this (or messaged it) You have put so much work into the last 15 months and 14 days that to start again just to start the cycle blows my mind. Hey don’t get me wrong I am not saying this in a holy shit don’t you dare manner it is more of a holy shit how would I cope if someone said that to me. Please if there is a higher power don’t let anyone say that to me. My mind would grasp on to that and torture me with it so badly convincing me to just go and have a night off and drink. I couldn’t do it, I refuse to start back at day 1. I refuse to ever go back as I don’t know if I would come out of it again. I would be so full of self loath for starting again when in the first 5 months of being sober I seriously wanted to kill myself. The constant battle with my inner voices telling me to drink was exhausting and I just wanted them to stop and leave me the hell alone. Not only would I have to deal with this again but I would have even lower self esteem because I picked up that bottle AGAIN with full knowledge of what it has taken to end up where I am now. I struggle with the higher power part as well and wonder to myself is it such a bad thing, I don’t know and no offense to anyone that holds their higher power right up there I just don’t feel it. Sorry that turned a bit into about me but I am trying to express to you I have followed your journey and you have worked so hard to get to where you are and I am proud of you for it. If you chose to test the theory I will be here to keep cheering you on.

    • Good God NO. I will NOT test that theory, or drink again, today, right? I think he was telling me that I am just coasting. Not really embracing the bones of the program. And quite honestly, after rereading Chapter 2 last night, I am not. I am just not drinking, watching the number of sober days get higher, but not really working on it. The comment was an eye opener, smack up side the head for sure. If I keep doing what I am doing, I could possibly drink again. I need something more, clearly, or I never would have asked him to do this with me. He has that Phil Robertson kind of peace about him, I WANT that, badly.
      I too, suffered through the first, god knows how many months. Since the beginning of the year, I feel like I have gone back emotionally to those early months.
      I am willing to try anything, to get what I see in him when he speaks at meetings and we talk privately. I wish I could buy it, and wear it.
      No alcohol testing happening here, I know how that experiment goes, I am going to try this one.
      Thanks for the comment, it is always nice to know that I am not alone in my struggles.
      Stay strong, and I will try to also! XO

      • Whew I wanted to show you my support (and always will) but my insides where screaming NO!!! Thank you so much for reassuring me that you aren’t even contemplating testing the theory. Kia Kaha we will stay strong together xoxo

  9. Oh man. I feel you on the higher power thing. I tried so hard for so many months. I even tried the “fake it ’til you make it” approach, but nothin’! What I’ve come to realize is that a lot of people have to get to AA by way of desperation. Sounds like that is not you. It’s not me either. So without that all out I’ve hit my lowest low point of desperation…you may not have the willingness that is necessary to put the program first. People who have lost every thing…well, they have nothing but the program so their focus is 100%! I still have a very demanding job that comes first. I admit it. I am not at desperation, I just want to quit drinking. And as such, I’ve been driving the BB around in my car (similar to yours being a paper weight). I get short bursts of energy toward the program (I hope your energy continues), but eventually life gets in the way. But I continue plodding along because I never want to get to that low. I never want to be the person who is there out of desperation. Someone said something at a meeting recently that stuck: “if I don’t truly believe I’m an alcoholic, I WILL drink again.” I think that is what your friend meant. Hang in there. I go on and off the pink cloud and sometimes wonder if it’s all worth it. But deep down, we know it is. XO.

    • Thanks, I agree with you about the depth of your bottom some how correlating with how involved you get in the program. It also seems to correlate to being in rehab. I have never done 90 meetings in 90 days, so I haven’t been thoroughly indoctrinated. This has been great so far. We are doing Chapter 3 tomorrow, the whole HO thing, so it will be interesting.
      I often wish there was an app for this, like there is for every other thing. Serenity Tracking, Higher Power seeking app. 🙂

  10. Wonderful post and man, some kick ass comments there. Robert beat me to the classics thing – old books we read that were written a long time ago, etc. But regardless, the one thing I was taught early on was to identify, not compare or contrast. yeah, Bill W was a stock speculator from the 1930’s. YES, he was WHITE, a MAN, and from NYC. So what? What is great is that the book talks about the stuff inside – the sticky stuff. The emotions, the shame, the rollercoaster. You can be gay, black, living in rural Oslo and living in the year 2015 and get it. But only if you want it.

    That serenity thing…I get. I know some dudes like that. They, like you say, wear the damn serenity like a cloak and you can feel your own energy just looowwwerring being in their presence. That doesn’t come overnight, but it can, but only after taking the suggestions from the book.

    I ain’t gonna hammer you about this, and you have a lot of loving comments here. AND you are taking action…and that’s the key! So i am so very happy for you that you are going ahead with this 🙂


  11. If it helps i can SHARE (no preaching….) my concept of what a higher power means to me, perhaps it will help; I doubt it it will hurt. I usually don’t leave links in comments, I think it’s tacky, but in this case I’ll take my chances.

    By the way…..the miracle so often spoken of when you hear “stick around and the miracle will happen” is on page 85 of the fourth edition; may you should re-consider getting a little past page 64…

    With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

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