The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous
Members of A.A. affectionately refer to the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" as the "Big Book". It is the basic text of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, and has helped large numbers of alcoholic men and women, young and old, recover.
As of December 2009, 30,664,881 copies of the Big Book have been sold or otherwise distributed (source AA GSO NY). Thus it ranks high on the list of best-selling books ever. The 25 millionth copy of the Big Book was published in 2005, so currently over a 1 million copies of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, are sold each year. In 2010 the 30 millionth book was presented to the American Medical Association which has long recognised alcoholism as a disease.
More impressive still, it has sold this many copies even though it is available free online in English, Spanish and French. Testimonials to A.A. are included in the Big Book in the form of personal stories wherein A.A. members describe their difficulties, their victory over them, and their hope that others may also recover.
Structure of The Big Book
The Big Book has several sections
- The Doctor's Opinion
The Basic Text
The basic text: The first 164 pages were authored by one of the founders of A.A.
- Personal Stories occupy the following 400-odd pages. These are divided into three sections corresponding to stages in A.A.'s development:
- Part 1: Pioneers in A.A. This group of ten stories shows that sobriety in A.A. can be lasting.
- Part 2: They Stopped in Time Seventeen stories may help you decide whether you are alcoholic; also, whether A.A. is for you.
- Part 3: They Lost Nearly All Those who believe their drinking to be hopeless may again find hope in these fifteen impressive tales
Personal Stories Part I : PIONEERS IN ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
Dr. Bob and the nine men and women who here tell their stories were among the early members of A.A.’s first groups. All ten have now passed away of natural causes, having maintained complete sobriety. Today, hundreds of additional A.A. members can be found who have had no relapse for more than thirty years. All of these, then, are the pioneers of A.A. They bear witness that release from alcoholism can really be permanent.
Personal Stories Part II : THEY STOPPED IN TIME
Among today’s incoming A.A. members, many have never reached the advanced stages of alcoholism, though given time all might have. Most of these fortunate ones have had little or no acquaintance with delirium, with hospitals, asylums, and jails. Some were drinking heavily, and there had been occasional serious episodes. But with many, drinking had been little more than a sometimes uncontrollable nuisance. Seldom had any of these lost either health, business, family, or friends. Why do men and women like these join A.A.? The seventeen who now tell their experiences answer that question. They saw that they had become actual or potential alcoholics, even though no serious harm had yet been done. They realized that repeated lack of drinking control, when they really wanted control, was the fatal symptom that spelled problem drinking. This, plus mounting emotional disturbances, convinced them that compulsive alcoholism already had them; that complete ruin would be only a question of time. Seeing this danger, they came to A.A. They realized that in the end alcoholism could be as mortal as cancer; certainly no sane man would wait for a malignant growth to become fatal before seeking help. Therefore, these seventeen A.A.’s, and hundreds of thousands like them, have been saved years of infinite suffering. They sum it up something like this: “We didn’t wait to hit bottom because, thank God, we could see the bottom. Actually, the bottom came up and hit us. That sold us on Alcoholics Anonymous.”
Personal Stories Part III : THEY LOST NEARLY ALL
The fifteen stories in this group tell of alcoholism at its miserable worst. Many tried everything—hospitals, special treatments, sanitariums, asylums, and jails. Nothing worked. Loneliness, great physical and mental agony—these were the common lot. Most had taken shattering losses on nearly every front of life. Some went on trying to live with alcohol. Others contemplated suicide or wanted to die. Alcoholism had respected nobody, neither rich nor poor, learned nor unlettered. All found themselves headed for the same destruction, and it seemed they could do nothing whatever to stop it. Now sober for years, they tell us how they got well. They prove to almost anyone’s satisfaction that it’s never too late to try Alcoholics Anonymous.