AA GSO Watch
The Big Book Comes Alive --Charlie Big Book Study Transcript - Originally Taped in Mesa, Arizona, February 6-8, 1987
[Joe & Charlie Table of Contents] [Tape 1 Side B]
(Tape 1, Side A)
CHARLIE: Hi everybody, my name is Charlie P - ----, and I'm a very grateful recovering alcoholic.
Audience: Hi, Charlie.
CHARLIE: Because I'm a member of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and by the grace of the Power that I found in the Twelve Step program of "Alcoholics Anonymous", I haven't found it necessary to take a drink for 6,309 days today, one day at a time, and for this I'm very grateful. Sure is good to be in Arizona, doing a Big Book study. We talked about this seems like two or three years ago--and I thought it was going to be a long time and all of a sudden here it is. We're sitting in the middle of Arizona and get to talk about the thing we love to talk about the most. The only thing I can really say at the present time, from the looks of the visitors that stood up, there must be some damn heavy drinkers down there in Tucson.
CHARLIE: Hell of a bunch of them up here.
JOE: Bill and A1 back there.
CHARLIE: Yeah, we just saw two good friends come in from Los Angeles. How about that. Hi Bill and A1. Good to see you all. We always like to say at the beginning of one of these things that we do not consider ourselves to be the gurus of the Big Book. We are most certainly not experts on anything period. We do not speak for A.A. as a whole. Nobody can do that. And you are most certainly free to agree or disagree with anything that we say this weekend as you see fit. In fact we would recommend you pay no attention to anything that we're going to say, if you can't reconcile it with what's in the Big Book or other A.A. Conference approved material. We're just a couple of drunks who happened to meet years ago, and found a mutual interest in the Big Book, and began to study it together, and hopefully we've learned a couple of things about it. We love to share what little bit we know with other people. We like to laugh and we like to cut up and we love to have fun. We believe we should be Joyous, happy, and free. We love to tell jokes and from time to time we'll do that. I think we'll find there's a lot of humor in the Big Book--a lot of things we can laugh at and have a good time with.
We try to keep one of these things just as informal as we possibly can. We know the mind can only absorb about what the rear end can stand. Some of these sessions will become quite long. You may feel the need to get up and walk around a little bit. If you do, please feel free to do that. That won't bother us at all. You may feel the need to get up and go get yourself a cup of coffee. As I understand it., coffee will always be there. So if you need a cup of coffee, please feel free to go get that at any time. You may feel it necessary to get up and go get rid of a cup of coffee and if you do,
Audience: (laughter) please feel free to do that also.
What we really want to do is have a good time this weekend: all of us enjoy it, all of us kind of make it a learning session. Maybe we can learn something about our Big Book, and about the twelve steps contained therein, the program of recovery. Hopefully, we'll all leave here Sunday, being able to look back over a weekend that we've really had a good time and we've learned a few things also. Joe.
Audience: Hi Joe.
JOE: Through God's grace and because of this program working each day of my life, I haven't found it necessary to take a drink of alcohol since March the tenth of 1962, and for this I'm grateful.
Usually in the beginning, I...tell you a little bit about what the Big Book study is all about; where we'll be coming from this weekend. As Charlie said, this began some years ago. Along about 1971 I began my work with alcoholics, and I do--I work with alcoholics today. It was during this time of my life, about fifteen for sixteen years ago, that I became interested in looking at the Big Book in a different light. In order to work with people, I knew that I needed to know more about the workings and the applications of the Big Book.
So I ... began to study--I began to study at this time, and this was about a year and a half before I met Charlie...As I studied I found I began to get just a few insights into the Big Book. I began to share these things with other people--attempt to. But I found to my amazement very few people were interested in the Big Book. In my community I couldn't find anybody to talk to, and I began to wonder if I wasn't wrong. Maybe I was the only one who had this interest. In fact, I became somewhat of a nuisance around A.A. When they saw me coming they would run off because they didn't want to hear about the Big Book.
I remember this period of time. In...the spring of 1973, I was asked to introduce the speaker at the Al-Anon convention. And quite naturally I volunteered. My wife today says in A.A. that I would volunteer for anything before I found out what it was. I did volunteer to introduce the speaker. I looked at the program and I see this guy's name on there, Charlie P. I'd never met Charlie before. He lives about 225 miles from me. I hadn't met him before. As I introduced him that night--I met him just before the meeting and introduced him that night. I told the audience that I was very disappointed in the speaker because I'd seen his name was Charlie P. and I thought it was going to be Charlie Pride. This guy wasn't even the right color
JOE: After the meeting was over that night and everybody got through talking to him, we were standing around behind the podium. I guess it's been a memorable day of my life in Alcoholics Anonymous, the night we met. I began to immediately do my usual thing. I began to share with him my great interest in the Big Book, and that I was studying the Big Book, and these things that I saw. And he was very interested. He was the first person I had met in Alcoholics Anonymous who was interested in what I was saying. So we became mutual friends that night over the Big Book. I think right that night we made plans to see each other. At different times...Charlie would...come to Little Rock, and sometimes we would meet at different conferences. We would study the book together, and make notes, and...over a period of years we were able to piece together the information we'll be talking about tonight on the Big Book. Some weekends I would travel to Charlie's farm on the hill. As he said, and we would spend the weekend studying the Big Book. This went on from about 1973 to 1977. We studied the book together for almost four years.
We would have these little studies together in the hotel rooms at conferences. Sometimes people would come in and sit in the meetings. They would ask--when they found out what we we're doing--they'd say: can we sit in? I said well, it don't make any difference. I remember the first guy that came in. Charlie asked me would it be alright. I said, I guess it's alright. Over the period of these four years, finally the hotel room would be full at each conference on Saturday evening when we would study the Big Book.
What we did--we went to Lawton, Oklahoma, and there were thirty-five people there that night we did the Big Book study. This is where the Lawton tapes were made. The first tapes were of the Big Book study that weekend. These tapes went all over A.A. and all over the world. This is actually what started us in the Big Book study. It was a small beginning, like every thing else in Alcoholics Anonymous. We'll be--last year we probably did over thirty Big Book studies all over the United States and Australia and Canada.
Actually the growth of it began--up until about 1980 we would do five or six Big Book studies a year. Very few people in A.A. had really reached some of the tapes. But in 1980 a great friend of ours we have that's passed on, Wesley, in Florida. He was a great student of the book. He was very enthused--we met him in Omaha late in 1978--and he was quite enthused because he had been a student of the book for many years, but he had never really unlocked the total concept of the Big Book. He had been a student of the book way before Charlie and I came into the program. He was quite enthused with...the way we...saw the Big Book.
He asked could he--in 1980 he was the chairman of the international luncheon at the international conference in New Orleans--he asked Charlie and I, could he give away a hundred sets of Big Book tapes. And we told him...we have nothing to do with any tapes or anything. We told him we don't have anything to do with tapes. I guess so ...you can give them away. It doesn't make any difference. So he was over the international luncheon and what he did--he gave away a hundred sets of Big Book study tapes as door prizes. You would have had to have known Wes, he was a cunning and baffling alcoholic.
CHARLIE: Powerful too.
JOE: He was powerful. He was over the luncheon so, he seated each person. He knew where each person would be seated. So he chose the people to win these tapes.
JOE: He picked out the people to win these tapes so they would go back to all countries, to every state and every community. So actually this was when the great interest in the Big Book study began. So...Charlie and I have had the great opportunity to go to many states and many places and overseas and Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the Bahamas, to talk with people about the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous." But still we feel it's the same simple thing as the beginning, a group of people getting together to learn more about the program (in) "Alcoholics Anonymous."
We always kind of like to go back to the summer of 1937, when two fellows in Akron, Ohio, a guy named Dr. Bob Smith and another fellow named Bill Wilson, sat down in Dr. Bob's kitchen. They counted heads on the number of people that they knew that were staying sober on this information that had been presented to them throughout the latter part of the 1930's .
Bill had learned some of this information from a guy named Dr. Silkworth in the Towns Hospital in the summer of 1933. Bill had learned some of this information from a fellow named Ebby Thatcher in the fall of 1934. Ebby had learned some of this information from a fellow named Rowland Hazzard, who had learned it from Dr. Jung over in Switzerland. Ebby had brought this information to his old friend Bill in New York City, trying to help Bill recover from the disease of alcoholism.
When Bill found out a total of three things, then Bill was able to recover from his disease. He found out first from Dr. Silkworth what his problem was, (p. 7, par. 2) the disease of alcoholism. He had never known that before. He found out from Ebby what the solution would be for his problem, (p. 12, par. 4) the need for a vital spiritual experience, (p. 27, par. 5) which had come from Dr. Jung through Rowland H. through Ebby to Bill. He also found out from Ebby a little practical program of action (p. 9, par. 7) that Ebby had learned from a group of Christian fundamentalists who were practicing First Century Christianity, called the Oxford Groups. (p. xvi, par. 1)
Based upon these three pieces of information, Bill was able to take the practical program of action, apply it in his life, and have what he always referred to as a vital spiritual experience, and recovered from his disease of alcoholism. Then he in turn in 1935, had visited with this Dr. Bob in Akron, and he had brought some of the information to Dr. Bob. Basically, what is the problem: the disease idea of alcoholism. Then Dr. Bob through the application of the practical program of action from the Oxford Groups had also had what he referred to as a vital spiritual experience, and recovered from his disease. (p. xvi, par. 3)
And I think for the first time they realized that maybe they did have the answer to the disease of alcoholism. Maybe if all alcoholics knew these three things: what is the problem, what is the solution, and what is the practical program of action, that perhaps they would be able to help literally hundreds and then thousands of people to recover from this disease.
I'm almost sure that night Bill said, "Dr. Bob what do you think we ought to do with this information?" And probably Dr. Bob said, "Beats the hell out of me Billy Boy, what do you think?"
Audience: (laughter) Maybe this was the time the first group conscience really came into being in Alcoholics Anonymous because they decided that they didn't need to make this decision by themselves. They said there's several of us here in Akron that are staying sober. Let's call a meeting of these people, and during that meeting we will discuss and decide what to do with this information. ("Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age'' pp. 144 146)
They called a meeting. That night at that meeting there were approximately eighteen people there. The whole thrust of the meeting was: what are we going to do with this information so in turn, we can give it away and help other people? Thank God that their idea was not that, well, there's forty of us, already sober and that's enough. We don't need to help anybody else. Thank God their idea wasn't that now that we're sober we'll say home and let the other people go to the devil. The whole thrust and idea of the meeting was how can we best present this information to other alcoholics suffering in the United States and Canada, and basically throughout the world.
Joe and I always laugh about that. We don't know any alcoholics that need to be retrained. Most of us have got four or five occupations.
CHARLIE: You damn near have to have if you're practicing alcoholic.
Maybe the top floor would be a live in, work out arrangement, where they could live and work in a structured environment for an extended period of time.
The second thing they voted upon and decided that night was to hire and train a group of paid missionaries to send them out throughout the world to carry this great message to all who suffered.
And probably some pragmatic individual in the back of the room said those are great ideas, but where in the world are we going to get the money to pay for that? And somebody came up with the idea that maybe we ought to write a book. And if we write this book, we will give all this information that we have learned ourselves during this two year period from 1935 to 1937. This book will carry this information to alcoholics throughout the world. It will be such a great best seller that we will almost immediately make millions of dollars. Then we'll take that money, and we'll build the hospitals and hire and train the missionaries.
Thank God only one of the three come true. The three things they decided that night--the only one that came true was the writing of the book. The book was to give to the person in Arizona, the person in California, the one in Oklahoma, the one in Florida, the same information that all forty of those people had had to learn themselves in order to recover from their disease. Because they knew they would not be able to see everybody on a one on one basis. They were all in the Northeastern part of the United States.
But the book was to be written in the same sequence, the same information, the same knowledge that those forty people had all used also. All forty of them had recovered basically on three pieces of information. Number one: What is the problem? Number two: What is the solution? And number three: The practical program of action necessary to find that solution.
Of course they told Bill to write the book. They said Bill, you know more about it than anybody else, after all you're the one who started this thing. You've been sober longer than any of the rest of us, and at that time it was about three years. They said, now Bill, this is not to be your book. This book is to be the collective knowledge and experience and wisdom of all forty of us. When the book is completed, it will carry the message of how we recovered from our disease, so other people can apply it in their life in the same manner. And by putting it down in the written form, it will remain the same. It will not become garbled, nor will it be lost in the future.
They reserved the right to read each chapter as it was written. They said, Bill, we will read it. We will delete what we don't like. We will change what we want to, and we'll add in whatever we think is necessary. And whenever the book is through, it will be a compilation of the knowledge and experience of all of us, not just one alcoholic.
Joe and I have always said that if we ever found a reason to study the table of contents, that's where we would start. And today we think we found that reason. So if you would, and you have your book, and you're ready to go, let's open her up to the table of contents (page roman numeral v), and we'll start there.
You have some handout sheets which you received at the door. From time to time we'll be putting a little picture up here on the wall behind us which will match your handout sheets as we go through in order to discuss certain points in the book. Joe.
JOE: As Charlie has said, you know the great simplicity of the Big Book is laid out on a basic...plan of any problem solving method. We have many different problems in our lives. But all these problems can be solved with one procedure.
The first step in problem solving is to find out: what is the problem? And this is the foundation. This is why (in) the First Step we say we're powerless over alcohol--that our live are unmanageable. This is a problem statement. This is a statement of what the problem is. The first thing you do in problem solving is to find out: what is the problem? When you go to a doctor, the first thing the doctor does is make a diagnosis, to find out: what is the problem? Because the problem is that information that determines the solution. So what is the problem is the most important information, and that is the first step.
You know, we say alcoholism is a unique illness. It's the only illness in which the patient has to make a self-diagnosis. And it's very hard to do, too, by the way. Most alcoholics living today in our time--with all the treatment, and all the A.A., and all the information--most alcoholics, 95 out of every 100 alcoholics, will die never knowing they were alcoholics. Alcoholism is a strange illness, it's the only illness that tells the patient he ain't got it. That's the way you can tell who's got it. The one who swears he ain't got it, has got it.
Then after the first section of the book...we'll come into: what is the solution to the problem? That will be Chapter Two, There is a Solution More About Alcoholism and We Agnostics. These three chapters will give us the information for the solution to the problem.
Now, once we get these two things, these are the foundation for recovery. The main purpose of our book, is to show us how to recover. The...next ten steps, Steps Three through Twelve are a planned program of action that will bring about the solution that will overcome the problem. So in Chapters Five, Six and Seven is the planned program of action.
It's a very simple process. What is the problem? We say it's (powerlessness.) And it's obvious. If the problem is (powerlessness,) the solution would be power. And if the problem is (powerlessness) and the solution is power, the main purpose then, is ten Steps (Three through Twelve) which will enable us to find that Power which will solve our problem.
Now, the book that I have in front of me happens to be a second edition of the book. Probably most of yours are going to be a third edition. The first paragraph will read a little bit differently. Mine says:
(p. xi, par. 1) 'This is the second edition of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" which made it's first appearance in April of 1939. More than 300,000 copies of the first edition are now in circulation.' But then my book says:
(p. xi, par. 2) 'Because this book has become the basic text for our Society and has helped such large numbers of alcoholic men and women to recovery, there exist a sentiment against any radical changes being made in it. Therefore, the first portion of this volume, describing the A.A. recovery program, has been left largely untouched...'
But I think--if we would look at a textbook in it's simplest form--I think we could say that a textbook is a book that is used to teach with. We also have an aversion to the word teaching. But Bill Wilson tells us in the pamphlet "Problems Other Than Alcohol" that the sole purpose of an A.A. group is to practice and teach the Twelve Steps of "Alcoholics Anonymous.' If we will take teaching to it's simplest terms, I think then we can find some words we can begin to live with.
You know, teaching is nothing more than taking information from the mind of one human being, and in some form or other transferring it to the mind of another human being, thereby increasing the knowledge of the other human being. Whatever it is we're teaching the subject on, really doesn't make any difference. As the information is transferred, and it enters the mind of the other human being, then the other human being's knowledge of that information, knowledge of the subject matter, increases and becomes better.
Now, a textbook is nothing more than a tool that is used to teach with by the written word. There's lots of ways to teach, but a textbook does it by the written word. It takes information out of the mind of one or more human beings, puts it down in the written form. Then the user of the textbook in the reading and the studying of that book transfers that information into their mind, thereby increasing their knowledge of the subject matter also.
A textbook always assumes that the user of the book will know very little about the subject matter, almost always starts at a very simple point. Then as you progress through the book and your knowledge increases, the material presented to you becomes harder and harder. But you can understand it because your knowledge is increasing all the way through the book.
For instance, if I had a textbook on mathematics, and let's say my friend Joe here knows nothing about mathematics at all. Joe can't even add and subtract. Oh, he can count okay. He can count to twenty-one if he's standing there naked and got everything there where it's supposed to be.
CHARLIE: I said that one night and he said no, twenty and a half that's all we could do.
I say, Joe, I want you to go to Chapter Five. There are problems in there dealing with algebra. I want you to work those algebra problems and then come back and see me. Joe being a good fellow, of course, will open the book up to Chapter Five. He would see those algebra problems, and they look like so much Greek to him. Remember he can't even add and subtract. Chances are he'll close the book up, lay it on a shelf, and may never pick it up again.
But if I said, Joe, in this textbook on mathematics, Chapter One deals with addition and subtraction. If you'll read it and study it, ask questions when you need to, by the time you're through with Chapter One you'll know how to add and subtract and you can work those problems at the end of Chapter One on addition and subtraction. And sure enough he does this and he learns how to add and subtract.
Then I say, Joe, Chapter Two is based on multiplication and division. Based on what you learned in One, you can now go to Two and learn how to multiply and divide. And sure enough he does that. And then Three: to fractions and decimals, and Four: to something else, gradually preparing Joe's mind for Chapter Five. By the time he gets there, with the information he now has, he can read and study Chapter Five, and learn how to do algebra.
We think one of the greatest mistakes being made in A.A. today, is the newcomer walks in the door we hand him the Big Book "Alcoholics Anonymous," we say go to Chapter Five and do what it says and you'll be okay. They go to Chapter Five and they open it up. They read "How it Works." They see the Twelve Steps of "Alcoholics Anonymous," and they're just so much Greek to them, period. They don't understand the why or the wherefore of it at all.
Step One says we admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable. He says, hell, I'm not powerless over nothing. Step Two says we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. He says Man, don't tell me I'm crazy. Yeah, I do stupid things when I'm drinking, but I'm not crazy. But if you're not powerless and you're not nuts, then you don't need Step Three to turn you will and your life over to the care of Somebody greater than you are. So they close the book up. They lay it on the shelf and may never look at it again.
We think it is a textbook. And we think it's designed as all textbooks, starting with The Doctor's Opinion, beginning to explain to us what the problem is. If we can once understand the problem, then we can begin to look for the solution. But until we know the problem, we'll never know what the solution is. And after we once find the solutions then we can look for a practical program of action necessary to bring (about) that solution. But if we don't know the true solution, then the practical program of action will also be wrong.
So we think it is a textbook, and it should be treated as such. And it takes a lot of reading. It takes a lot of studying. It takes the ability to get rid of old ideas, and be able to change our minds, and absorb new information and new ideas into our head. But if we follow the process, then most surly we can expect recovery as that first forty, who later became one hundred, did too. It also said:
(The word "largely" is not found in the third edition.)
Now the Big Book has undergone three editions. The first in 1939, the second in 1955, and the third in 1976. The only reason for the last two editions, the second and the third, was because the stories in the back of the book, which were put in with the first edition, were basically all of men, most of them fairly old, and most of them real low bottom drunks. By 1955 that picture had begun to change. More and more women were coming into A.A. The average age was becoming lower and lower, and bottoms were becoming also higher and higher at the same time. The stories in the back of the first edition no longer accurately reflected the membership of A.A. in 1955, and they are there for the reader to identify with.
So they decided they needed to change some of those stories. They took some out, and added some more in, and moved a few around, and came out with the second edition. But the first 164 pages, the basic recovery program, was left largely untouched. The same thing happened in 1976 with the third edition. But the actual recovery program was left untouched.
It has worked so well for so many people over this period of years that even we, grandiose controversial alcoholics have never yet found a reason to change the recovery program, the written word in the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous." Now, I think it's very important for me to understand that. To know that the book I'm using today--whether it's the first edition, second edition, or third edition--I'm using the same basic recovery program that was used in 1935, 1937 and through 1939. It worked for them, and it'll also work for me today.
Let's look for forward a moment at the forward to the first edition. In the forward to the first edition there's a statement that says:
(p. xiii, par. 1) 'We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.'
Again two short ideas. First, we're more than one hundred men and women. That alerts me to the fact that I'm not reading a one person, one author book. Now most books I read have been authored by one individual. And with my keen, intellectual. alcoholic mind, when I read a book that's been authored by one individual, if I disagree with what he says, I say, well, who's he to think he's smarter than I am. I just ignore what he has to say and then go on with the rest of the book. But if I do that with the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous," I'm not going to be arguing with one person, I'm going to be arguing with one hundred.
Remember the first forty told Bill to write it, but let us see the chapters as you complete them. We will add to, delete from, and change around whatever we want. When we're through with it, it will be the story of how all forty of us recovered, which by 1939 turned out to be this first one hundred. So when I argue with the book today, I'm arguing with one hundred people, not dust one.
These one hundred have recovered from the same thing that's tearing me up as a practicing alcoholic, the hopeless condition of the mind and of the body. It's a little bit harder to argue with those people.
Now, Joe and I have both been in A.A. long enough to know that there's only one requirement for membership in Alcoholics Anonymous, and that's a desire to stop drinking. You know you can come to an A.A. meeting. You can stand up in the middle of the meeting.' You can say I don't like you suckers at all. Hate your old damned Twelve Steps, and I can just barely stand your lousy old coffee. But I'm a member of Alcoholics Anonymous because I've got a desire to stay sober. And nobody can say anything about that at all. You know, you don't even have to be sober to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. It helps if you are.
CHARLIE: But you have to be, to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
But those things all deal with membership in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Big Book has nothing to do with the fellowship. The Big Book deals with the recovery, only. The purpose of this book, is to show other alcoholics precisely how the first one hundred recovered from the disease of alcoholism. If I want to recover as they do, then there's probably some things I am going to have to do, which I won't necessarily want to do.
It's kind of like making a cake. If we go to one of our great potluck meetings, and let's say you're there, and you've made a beautiful cake--my favorite is strawberry cake. I take a bite of that cake, and oh man, it's good. The texture's right. The icing is right. The moisture content is right, and it just melts in my mouth. And I say, who made this cake? Well, you being a good cook will probably say, I did. And I say, well, you tell me how you did it. And you say, sure.
You'll sit down, and you'll write out for me, a set of directions or instructions on how to make that cake. You'll tell me the ingredients to put in it, the amount of the ingredients, the sequence in which to mix them together, the temperature at which to bake it, and how long to bake it.
Now, I take your directions home in my kitchen, and I follow them to the nth degree, to the best of my ability. When I take that cake out of the oven and let it cool off, and take a bite out of it, I believe I can expect it to taste exactly like yours did.
But if I take your directions home in my kitchen, and with my keen, intellectual, alcoholic mind
Audience: (laughter) I say, I don't believe that ought to have four eggs, it just needs two. Or instead of two and a half cups of sugar, I'm going to put four in it. Instead of baking it at 350, I'm going to bake it at five and a quarter. I'm going to bake it for forty-five minutes. When I take it out of the oven, and I let it cool off, and I take a bite of it, certainly I'm going to be biting a piece of cake. But I wonder how closely it would resemble your cake, which was my reason for making it in the first place.
Now, the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous" has given us a precise recipe on how to recover from the disease of alcoholism, exactly as they recovered. If we follow it exactly as they did, then I think we can expect the same thing that they got from it, recovery from a hopeless condition of the mind and of the body. (p. 20, par. 2) Your know, there are no musts in A.A., but there's probably some things that we'll need to do if we want to recover as the first one hundred did. Joe. (See Transcriber's Note on "musts.")
(p. xv, par. 3 p. xvi, par. 1) 'The spark that was to flare into the first A.A. group was struck at Akron, Ohio, in June 1935, during a talk between a New York stockbroker and an Akron physician. Six months earlier, the broker had been relieved of his drink obsession by a sudden spiritual (top of p. xvi) experience, following a meeting with an alcoholic friend who had been in contact with the Oxford Groups of that day.' Bill's vital spiritual experience came (after) his contact with Ebby, who had been in a contact with the Oxford Groups. (p. xvi, par. 1) 'He had also been greatly helped by the late Dr. William D. Silkworth, a New York specialist in alcoholism who is now accounted no less than a medical saint by A.A. members, and whose story of the early days of our Society appears in the next pages. From this doctor, the broker had learned the grave nature of alcoholism.' Now, we can see right here the three things we were talking about. From the doctor he learned the problem. (p. 7, par. 2) Ebby brought him the solution (p. 12, par. 4; p. 27, par. 5) and the recovery plan of the Oxford Groups. (p. xvi, par. 1-2) 'Though he could not accept all the tenets of the Oxford Groups, he was convinced of the need for moral inventory, confession of personality defects, restitution to those harmed, helpfulness to others, and the necessity of belief in and dependence upon God. 'Prior to his journey to Akron, the broker had worked hard with many alcoholics on the theory that only an alcoholic could help an alcoholic...' From Bill's spiritual experience in Towns (Hospital) in December of 1934 up until May of 1935, he had worked with a lot of alcoholics, but had helped no one. He just stayed sober himself. (Joe says elsewhere, in effect, that Bill was starting people off at Chapter Five.) (p. xvi, par. 2) 'The broker had gone to Akron on a business venture which had collapsed, leaving him greatly in fear that he might start drinking again.' Bill went around--mostly he was kind of overwhelmed during these months by what had happened to him, that had completely changed his life--and he went around during this period of time grabbing drunks off the bar stools trying to get them to accept his planned program of action. It didn't work. Just before going to Akron, he went to see Dr. Silkworth. Dr. Silkworth said, Bill, you ought quit going around here trying sell that white flash, that you had, to these people. He said, the first thing you need to do is to explain to them what the problem is, what I told you, and then maybe they will buy into your program of action. This was a very, very, important meeting as far as "Alcoholics Anonymous" was concerned, because this was just before Bill went to see Dr. Bob in Akron. (p. xvi, par. 2) 'He suddenly realized that in order to save himself he must carry his message to another alcoholic. That alcoholic turned out to be the Akron physician.' This was Dr. Bob.
By the way, we see how God was working in these people's lives. Bill has the experience at Towns (Hospital) and began to take part in the Oxford Groups' meetings in New York before he went to Akron. Dr. Bob was in Akron, and he was in the Oxford Groups. It's very strange that Dr. Bob had been in the Oxford Groups for two and a half years. He knew more about their program than Bill. He had been in the Oxford Groups a longer time. He would go each Sunday... (to) T. Henry Williams' home. There were six members of the Oxford Groups. They would meet there each Sunday. They would sit around in this little group, and they would share their shortcomings. This is where our steps came from. They would share what God had done for them. Each Sunday though, as they would go around, Dr. Bob wouldn't have much to say. Everybody in the group shared, and Dr. Bob wouldn't say anything. Henrietta, she was a fireball of the group...
(Transcriber's Note: There may be no musts in the fellowship of A.A., but the word "must" appears 75 times from p. xxiii to p. 164)
(End of Tape 1, Side A) [Joe & Charlie Table of Contents] [Tape 1, Side B Contents] [Top]
(Tape 1, Side B)
Finally one Sunday Dr. Bob said, I would like to share something with you people, you all have been open with me. He was very guarded because of being a professional person, a doctor with a drinking problem. He would do all his drinking at home. This was a hidden thing for Dr. Bob. Dr. Bob said, I have a problem with drinking, and I can't stop.
Somebody in the group said, Dr. Bob, would you like for us to pray for you? He said, yes. Somebody else said, down on our knees, and Dr. Bob agreed. All these six members of the Oxford Groups got down on their knees, and began to praying for help for Dr. Bob. This was many weeks before Bill came to Akron. (See Dr Bob and the Good Oldtimes pp. 53-60)
You know, another thing they had in the Oxford Groups: they always felt you could get guidance from God. This became our Step Eleven. They also felt that one member could receive guidance for another member. God could tell you what you needed to tell the other person.
CHARLIE: I think some of those people are still around today.
JOE: Henrietta got a message in the kitchen one night. Something spoke to her within her inner being, not in a voice, and said, Dr. Bob you shouldn't drink any more whiskey, not one drop. She said to herself, what does that mean? Well, they didn't have the First Step, so they didn't know what that meant. They didn't have Dr. Silkworth's work at that time, because Bill hadn't brought it. So, she did call Dr. Bob, and told him to stop by her house. On the way to his office, by the next morning, on a Monday morning. She said, Dr. Bob, God spoke to me last night and said you shouldn't drink any more whiskey, not even one drop. Dr. Bob said, what does that mean? She said, I don't know.
JOE: But they continued to pray for Dr. Bob.
(p. xvi, par. 3) 'This physician had repeatedly tried spiritual means to resolve his alcoholic dilemma but had failed. But when the broker gave him Dr. Silkworth's description of alcoholism and it's hopelessness, the physician began to pursue the spiritual remedy for his malady with a willingness he had never before been able to muster. He sobered, never to drink again up to the moment of his death in 1950.'
What Bill brought to Dr. Bob was the First Step. Once he got this, then he was able to go.
'Hence the two men set to work almost frantically upon alcoholics arriving in the ward of the Akron City Hospital. Their very first case, a desperate one, recovered immediately and became A.A. number three.'
This is the man on the bed. (Bill D., their first successful case, in the popular painting.)
(p. xvii, par. 2-5) 'He never had another drink. This work at Akron continued through the summer of 1935. There were many failures, but there was an occasional heartening success. When the broker returned to New York in the fall of 1935, the first A.A. group had actually been formed, though no one realized it at the time.
'By late 1937, the number of members having substantial sobriety time behind them was sufficient to convince the membership that a new light had entered the dark world of the Alcoholic.
'A second small group had promptly taken shape at New York. And besides, there were scattered alcoholics who had picked up the basic ideas in Akron or New York and were trying to form A.A. groups in other cities.
'It was now time, the struggling groups thought, to place their message and unique experience before the world. This determination bore fruit in the spring of 1939 by the publication of this volume. The membership had then reached about 100 men and women. The fledgling society, which had been nameless, now began to be called Alcoholics Anonymous...'
You know a. Charlie said, this book doesn't say anything about the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous" talks about recovery. In fact the Big Book was really written before the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. There weren't but one hundred people. They were even nameless. This nameless group of people wrote this book. There was a lot of discussion about what to name the book. We won't go into all that. There were a lot of arguments about this. (Transcriber's note: see the book "Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age," page 165 for details.)
So the one hundred people wrote the book, and they named the book "Alcoholics Anonymous." "Alcoholic" Anonymous" is a textbook which contains a planned program of recovery from alcoholism. Now, once the A.A. book was written, then the first one hundred took the name off the book and put on their fellowship. So there are two A.A.'s, really. One is a book, and the other is a fellowship.
In 1939, quite naturally, the people in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous practiced the same program that was in the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous." They were identically the same. I can't imagine that. So, the program in the Big Book has been unchanged. Nobody has ever changed the program in the book, but the program in the fellowship has gradually changed. You know, people change. We've added a few things; left out a few things; brought in some new things. In fifty years, the program in the fellowship, hardly, in some places, even resembles the program in the book.
It's sort of like the people who meet in those churches on Sunday morning. You know, if you go home and read their book, they don't even sound like their program.
JOE: What we're going to be talking about this weekend--and you might go back to your groups, and we hope this is what this is all about, to really look in our fellowship. What we're going to be talking about is not the program in the fellowship (of) Alcoholics Anonymous. We're going to be talking about the program that's in the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous," that was used (and has been) given to us--that's unchanged--by the first one hundred people. It is a program, precise program, of recovery from alcoholism.
Joe and I got into a meeting not long ago. They were talking about group depression, sexual dysfunction; God I could name another half a dozen subjects. I looked at Joe, and I said, Joe where in the hell are we anyhow? He said, I don't know, we must be at B.B. And I said, B.B., what's that? He said, beats the hell out of me, but it's not A.A. is it?
And, really, we only have one program of recovery, and it's in the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous"." In many of our groups today, we talk about everything but that. I think that is the responsibility of the older members of Alcoholics Anonymous: to be sure that the newcomers, when they come in, realize that there is a program of recovery. It is in the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous," and that it's never been changed.
In our zeal to help people, maybe in our zeal to play the numbers game and say we've got five million instead of one million, we tend to water down our program. We tend to be afraid to offend the newcomer, and maybe they'll run off, or something like that. You know, it is our responsibility to tell the newcomer what A.A. really is.
The newcomer doesn't know that. The only way they're going to learn that, is for the older members to be sure that we bring this out, and they understand that. I think we have come to a sorry place when we are letting the newcomers determine the program that we're going to use within our own groups. I think that's up to us to determine our program, and then the newcomer fits into that program. Now, that's what we're about, and that's what we're for. That's what the Big Book is about. Joe.
JOE: Okay, here's a--we would like to read this on roman numeral twenty, at the top of the page.
In 1939 when this book was written, and they were using in the fellowship the program in the Big Book, half the people who came to A.A. got up and stayed sober. Twenty-five percent had some problems and got sober-se .. later on. So, when they were using this program in the book in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, 75% of the people who came to A.A. got sober. And I wonder today, are 75% of the people who come to A.A. getting sober?
If we got back to what we were talking about--this is what this weekend is all about--getting our fellowship back to the program in the Big Book, back to what really works.
CHARLIE: Okay, let's flip over now to The Doctor's Opinion. We got started a little late tonight, and probably we're going to run on without taking a break, so we don't have to stay too late tonight. But if any of you feel the need to go somewhere, go get you a cup of coffee, or whatever you want to do, as we go along.
In The Doctor's Opinion, let's go to roman numeral twenty-four, and we'll start looking at what the problem really is. Here it tells me:
(p. xxiv, par. 3) 'The physician who, at our request, gave us this letter, has been kind enough to enlarge upon his views in another statement which follows. In this statement he confirms what we who have suffered alcoholic torture must believe---that the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind.'
For the first time in written history, we see reference to the fact that the body of the alcoholic is sickened as well as his mind. Up until this time, most people didn't know what the problem was. Since they didn't know what the problem was, they always tried to apply the wrong solution and the wrong program of action. Very few alcoholics recovered from their disease.
Most people back in the time we're talking about, in the mid-thirties, they said that alcoholism is a matter of will power. They said alcoholism is a lack of moral character. They said that alcoholism is a sin. (You're) just (a) morally no good human being. All the things they referred to were matters of the mind. You know, will power, moral character, sin, no good human being none of those referred to the body at all. It's no wonder that people never came up with what the proper solution is.
The interesting fact, too, is that all those names put on the alcoholic and all those reasons for drinking were always put on us by people who either did not drink or people who could drink safely. They're the ones who said it was a matter of will power. They're the ones who said it's moral character. They're the ones who said it's sin. We never did say. And we probably didn't care, we just kept right on drinking. But it was people who did not have the disease that tried to determine what the disease is.
They knew nothing about the disease. Therefore, every time they tried to identify the problem, they had the wrong diagnosis. For the first time in written history, we see reference to the fact that the body of the alcoholic is sickened as well as the mind.
JOE: I like to compare that to something in our time. In the present day, where we were with alcoholism in 1935 is where we are today with cancer. Many people very hastily will say we are looking for the solution to cancer. But really the researcher is trying find out: what is cancer? What is the problem? The solution we can discover, if we find out: how it works, what is it?
Prior to this time, in 1935, the world did not understand alcoholism. As Charlie said, it was more or less the nonalcoholics trying to determine what was wrong with the alcoholic. Since the beginning of time, this was one of the greatest problems that has faced Man.
CHARLIE: He was the social worker of that day.
JOE: He was the social worker of his time. People brought him all kinds of problems. Solomon in Proverbs 23:29 said, who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has wounds without cause? He said, they that tarry long at the wine.
CHARLIE: They were all winos in those days.
JOE: Back in those days everybody--they didn't have nothing but wine--everybody was a wino. And he went on to describe (that) he would be as one who lieth down in the midst of the sea. You know, you're tossing around a lot. Or sleeping at the top of a mast. You know the meat of a ship. You will say they have beaten me and I felt it not. You know, the next morning you feel like somebody was beating on you. And he sure knew some of us fellows, because he said, shine eyes shall behold strange women. Audience: (laughter)
JOE: And thy heart will utter perverse things. Then he made a final statement. It's wisdom is profound. Because in his final statement he says, but still yet, they will rise in the morning and seek it yet again. That description would fit the alcoholics of 1987. It's wisdom. He knew it, and he could describe it, but he didn't understand it. (See the end of this transcription of Tape 1B for a different translation of this passage)
None of the great minds down through history understood alcoholism. As Charlie said, they tried solutions but they never understood the problem. Finally, I think the first person--Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was the father of American psychiatry, in 1780 something--he was the first person who said it was a disease process. He said it's a disease, but he couldn't explain it. And still (they tried) all (kinds) of things.
Finally, it all began in Towns Hospital. Dr. Silkworth went to work at the Towns (Hospital) for forty dollars a week. He went there because he couldn't get a job where he wanted Lt. He took a Job at Towns Hospital working with drunks for forty dollars a week.
CHARLIE: In 1930.
JOE: In 1930. It was there at the Towns Hospital he began to-he was there every day, he never saw anybody recover. Everybody died. They got sick, and came back, and died. They got sick and came back. Dr. Silkworth worked with it every day, day in and day out. He said, I know you say :these people are weak. They say it's a sin. But he said, I discern there's some force in these people. He began to discern something in them, a force of destruction. It was there that he accumulated this idea. He said, you know, I believe part of it is in the body and part of it is in the mind. This is what he shared with Bill. This is what he wrote in front of the Big Book today.
Finally, he said, alcoholism is a disease. He gave us how the disease worked, in front of the Big Book. It wasn't published in the medical journals. It was published in the front of the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous." Finally in 1956, I believe, the American Medical Association, based on this concept and it's success, the solution and the recovery plan, based on this problem, it proved that this is a disease. They finally accepted the fact that alcoholism i. a disease. (See "Pass It On," page 304.) The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association...and the whole world believes that alcoholism is a disease. It began with Dr. Silkworth at the Towns Hospital.
This is the foundation of the Big Book, because it describes: what is the problem? The whole rest of the book, the solution and recovery plan, is based on the Doctor's Opinion, the First Step, when he tells us the exact nature of the problem of alcoholism. CHARLIE: Therefore we see the statement:
(p. xxiv, par. 3-4) '... That the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind. It did not satisfy us to be told that we could not control our drinking just because we were maladjusted to life, that we were in full flight from reality, or were outright mental defectives. These things were true to some extent, in fact, to a considerable extent with some of us. But we are sure that our bodies were sickened as well. In our belief, any picture of the alcoholic which leaves out this physical factor is incomplete.
Now, if we are to use this as a textbook, and if a textbook is meant to take information from the mind of one human being, transfer it through the written word to the mind of another human being, then the way that other human being receives it will be based upon their understanding of the words that are used. If the person who receives it, if their understanding of the word is different than the person who wrote it, then the information will be garbled information. We find that there are many, many words in the Big Book--that many of us have an incomplete, or a wrong, understanding of the word.
I assumed that if you had an allergy there would always be some outward visible sign or manifestation of that allergy. I knew that. I knew that if you were allergic to strawberries, and you ate them, you break out in a rash. I knew that if you were allergic to milk and you drank it you had a bad case of dysentery. I knew that if you were allergic to ragweed's, and you got around them, your eyes and nose would itch, water, and you would begin to sneeze.
And I said, I can't be allergic to alcohol, because it doesn't make me do these things. You know, it doesn't make me break out in a rash. It doesn't make me have a bad case of dysentery. Oh, once in a while it would, depending on what I had been drinking.
CHARLIE: But usually it didn't. It never did make my eyes and nose itch, water, and cause me to sneeze. I said, I can't be allergic to alcohol. I simply don't understand what you're talking about. They said, you don't need to, just don't drink it.
Now, that's okay for a while. But if you've got a keen, intellectual, alcoholic mind like mine is, you got to find out. So one day, I found that I had to go to the source of words, and the source which explains the meaning of these words, which happened to be the dictionary. I looked up the word allergy, to see how it applied in my life. I found four or five different definitions. But I found one that I think fits me exactly.
I looked back in my life to see where I had been abnormal when it comes to alcohol. Because if I'm allergic to it, then I must be abnormal with it. You know, to my amazement I found out, I didn't know what was normal and what was abnormal.
CHARLIE: The only thing I knew about drinking was the way I drank. The people who drank with me drank the same way. So I assumed the way we drank was normal, and all these other people drank abnormally. I knew nothing about normal drinking' period.
So it became necessary for me to find out: what is normal, and what is abnormal? I began to talk to some of these normal, social, moderate drinkers. I said, will you (tell) me how you feel whenever you take a drink of alcohol? They say something like this, well, we can go home from work, tired, tense, and wrought up from the day's struggles, and we can have one or two drinks before dinner. We get a warm, comfortable, relaxing feeling. Then we'll go ahead and have dinner, and probably won't drink any more that night.
Well, I don't feel that way when I drink alcohol.
CHARLIE: I take a drink of alcohol, and I put it in my mouth. As it passes over my lips, my lips begin to tingle and burn. As it hits my teeth they begin to chatter up and down. It hits my tongue, and my tongue begins to grow, and swell and expand. It hits my cheeks and they begin to vibrate in and out. I feel it passing up through my sinus cavities in my forehead. I get a feeling up here which is absolutely, indescribably, wonderful. Now, I haven't even swallowed the damn stuff yet.
CHARLIE: I just got it in my mouth.
When I swallow it, and it goes down through my esophagus, wonderful things begin to take place. My chest begins to grow and expand, and get bigger and bigger and bigger. It hits my stomach and it explodes like a bomb. I can feel it immediately racing out through my arms, and they get longer and longer. It hits my fingers, and they begin to tingle and vibrate. At the same time, it's racing through my legs, and my legs are getting longer and longer. I'm getting taller and taller. It the bottom of my feet, and my feet and toes get a hot, burning, exciting sensation. They want to get up and go somewhere and do something.
I don't understand a warm, comfortable, relaxing feeling.
CHARLIE: I never had that in my life. That's one way I'm abnormal. I find out that those normal, moderate, social drinkers, which number about nine out of ten people, their reaction is the warm, comfortable, relaxing feeling. My reaction is that hot, burning, tingling, exciting, turned on, get up and go somewhere and do something that alcohol did for me.
Now, I find another way that I'm different (from) them, too. The normal social drinker, they tell me that they can have one, two, or three drinks. They get a slightly tipsy, out of control, nauseous feeling. Now, that's a normal reaction to alcohol. We know today that alcohol is a toxic drug. We know that alcohol is a destroyer of human tissue. When you put anything in the body that destroys the body itself, the normal reaction is to get nauseous and vomit it back up. The normal social drinker gets that slightly tipsy, out of control, nauseous feeling. They don't want to drink any more than that, because they don't like that feeling.
I always thought all of my life that they used will power to drink one, two, or three drinks. But today I find out that they don't have to use will power, because they never want more than one, two, or three drinks. First drink, they get a little giggly. The second drink, they start getting a little sleepy. And the third drink, look out, they're going to vomit all over you every time.
CHARLIE: That's (a) normal drinker.
Now, what I thought was normal was the way I drank. You see, I take one, two, or three drinks, and I don't get that slightly tipsy, out of control feeling. I get that exciting, in control feeling.
Audience: (laughter) I don't get that nauseous feeling. What I do get is a craving that develops within my body. Which is a physical craving that demands more of the same. Where three drinks is all they want, when I've got three drinks in my body it's just now turned on. The physical craving becomes so strong that the body itself demands more of the same, regardless of what the mind says. So I have a fourth drink, and a fifth drink, and a sixth drink. The more I drink the more I crave, and I go seven, eight, nine, ten, fifteen, eighteen. Finally, I'm drunk and sick and in all kinds of trouble. That is the difference between normal and abnormal drinking.
Only one person out of ten feels the way that I feel. Only one person out of ten gets this craving in their body when they drink alcohol. The only difference between normal and abnormal is what the majority of people do. Nine of them drink it that safe way, one of them drinks it the way I do. Therefore, my reaction to alcohol is considered to be abnormal, or it is a physical allergy to alcohol itself, and I didn't know that.
You see, abnormal had become normal to me. The first time you drink and vomit, that might be abnormal. But my God, if you've done it every morning for five years, it's absolutely normal to do that.
CHARLIE: The first time you get in a car wreck is abnormal, but if you have one every week or two, that becomes normal, too. First time you get in divorce court, that's abnormal. If you got eight or ten of them though, that's normal. So, what I thought was normal, the way I drank, turned out to be the abnormal.
Most alcoholics (who)are drinking today don't know that. They believe that what they're doing is absolutely normal. It's -all these normal social drinkers which are abnormal. Therefore most alcoholics today well die from their disease, never knowing that we are abnormal, that we have an allergy to alcohol. Dr. Silkworth is the fellow who first determined this. He told it to Bill.
All successful treatment programs in the world today are based upon this one simple ice-: that the body of the alcoholic is abnormal--we have a physical allergy to alcohol. We'll never be like other people. We can never safely drink it. The only relief that the doctor can offer me today is: don't drink it. And you know, that's true with all allergies. If I've got an allergy to food, and I go to the doctor, he doesn't try to fix me up so) I can eat that food. He says, I believe you ought to quit eating that food.
Audience: (laughter) CHARLIE:The same thing is true with alcohol. The doctor says, I believe you ought to quit drinking it.
Audience: (laughter) [back] JOE: Okay, to further explain (this allergy). We see how the book never will tell us a subject (and just quit there.) Throughout this weekend we'll be talking about how it describes, and how it illustrates and broadens on those points. Now, he said this is a physical allergy. He's going to broaden on it on roman numeral page twenty-six.
(p. xxvi, par. 2) 'We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker.'
Now, there's some words here, again we need to understand, some... I didn't like.
Some words I don't like, I never understood them, but I don't like them anyway. One of them is the word chronic. If we look up chronic, it means more than once. So if you did it more than once you're chronic.
CHARLIE: That's true with a lot of things besides alcohol.
JOE: And a...phenomenon of craving...means that we know that it occurs, but it's unexplainable to us today. We can see that it occurs, but we can not explain what causes this to happen. And he says:
(p. xxvi, par. 2) 'These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve.'
And he says this never occurs in the average temperate drinker. Normal social drinkers do not crave alcohol. And again we want to be (careful with words.) You know a lot of times around A.A...we've gotten off (the track.) We've made a few changes, and we keep saying these things over and over. You hear a lot of people say, well I came to A.A. and I quit drinking. But I craved alcohol for two years or three years after I quit drinking. In the context of the Big Book, that's not true.
According to the Big Book, the only way we can crave alcohol is (to) put alcohol into the system. Now, he might have had a mental obsession to drink, but the only way you can crave alcohol is to put it into the system. If we never take the first drink, (we won't crave alcohol.) He says normal people never crave alcohol, normal social drinkers. That's just amazing to me.
I see them on these airplanes, and oh, I just love to watch them. God' You know, they get that little glass. The stewardess brings it by, and he gets one little ounce. One ounce, One, just one ounce.
CHARLIE: Costs them two and a half.
JOE: Cost two dollar, or three dollars. And he pours it in there. Now, they got them little sticks. I don't know what they're for.
JOE:And they stir a lot. They stir a lot! I don't know what they--they stir it all up. Once they get it stirred up they let it sit there. He reads his magazine. You know, goes to read it. And you're saying, why don't he drink that thing.
JOE: You know, it makes you nuts. Now, realize, when he's drinking, it takes him a half hour, or an hour. I've even seen them throw it
Step # 1 Big Book Page # xxviii Tape lB-11
away. Because they don't crave alcohol. In fact, you know, one day I saw a guy call her back. I said, he's going to get another drink. You know what he said? Give me some peanuts. Audience: (laughter)
JOE: I don't know what you need peanuts for.
JOE: But the real baffling thing for us to realize is that they do not crave alcohol. So that means every time they drink, they drink all they want! They get all they want, every time they drink. I drank alcohol for sixteen years, and I never can recall in my mind one time when I got enough.
JOE: Because it's not a visual thing. It's not a visual manifestation, but...the craving is what occurs in me. That doesn't occur in the average temperate drinker.
[back] CHARLIE: I think it's very important for us to remember as we progress through the book that this word craving always deals with the body, not the mind. In the context of the Big Book, the only way we crave it is after we've had one, two, or three drinks. That triggers the physical craving for more of the same. Now, the other term they're going to use is the obsession of the mind. But that deals with the mind craving always with the body. If we can remember that as we go through the book, then everything begins to fall in place, and begins to make sense to us. Let's go over to roman numeral twenty-eight. Here Dr. Silkworth is going to describe five different kinds of alcoholics. He said:
(p. xxviii, par. 3) 'The classification of alcoholics seems most difficult, and in much details outside the scope of this book. There are, of course, the psychopaths who are emotionally unstable. We are all familiar with this type. They are always "going on the wagon for keeps." They are over-remorseful and make many resolutions, but never a decision.'
JOE: This is type one. This is the first type.
CHARLIE: (p. xxviii, par. 3) 'There is the type of man who is unwilling to admit that he cannot take a drink. He plans various ways of drinking. He changes his brand or his environment.'
JOE: Type two.
CHARLIE: (p. xxviii, par. 4) 'There is the type who always believes that after being entirely free from alcohol for a period of time he can take a drink without danger.'
JOE: Type three.
CHARLIE: (p. xxviii, par. 4) 'There is the manic-depressive type, who is, perhaps, the least understood by his friends, and about whom a whole chapter could be written.'
JOE: Type four.
CHARLIE: Now, the next type, type five I've always thought fit me real good. (p. xxviii, par. 5) 'Then there are types entirely normal in every respect except in the effect alcohol has upon them. They are often able, intelligent, friendly people.'
JOE: Type five.
[back] CHARLIE: I used to read that, and I'd say, how did he know so much about me. Now, he makes a point. He says: (p. xxviii, par. 6) 'All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.' If every alcoholic in this room tonight should take a drink of alcohol, God forbid that happen, but if we did, we would not all act exactly the same. In a few minutes, one of us would be over in the corner, and we'd be crying in our beer. Oh, boo hoo hoo, the world's not treating me right. In a few minutes, one would be right out in the middle of the floor, up on top of a table, whooping and hollering, and cutting up, and dancing, and having a hell of a good time. In a few minutes, two of us would be over in a corner, and we're going to get in a fight just as sure as anything. In a few minutes, there will be two in this corner putting the make on each other.
CHARLIE: We tend to do that also. Now, even though we would do different things after we had the one, two, or three drinks, there is one thing that each of us as alcoholics would do. As soon as we had the one, two, or three drinks, we would start looking for a fourth drink, and a fifth drink, and a sixth drink, and a seventh drink. We would have triggered our allergy, the phenomenon of craving would have developed, and we would simply be unable to stop drinking. Now, I know this is true because if we could drink safely without getting drunk, we wouldn't be sitting in this room tonight. We never would have come to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. We would still be out there drinking safely, if we could drink without that craving developing. I don't think it makes any difference whether it developed the first time we ever took a drink. Mine did. I drank alcohol twenty-sex years, I never remember taking a drink, one drink, of anything that had alcohol in it. When I had one beer, I had to have two. One shot of vodka called for two. One drink of whiskey called for two. One glass of wine called for two. I don't think I ever had one drink of anything with alcohol in it. I've always had the phenomenon of craving. Now, some of you I'm sure drank two years, four, five, six, eight, ten, maybe fifteen or twenty before you lost all control and this became apparent in your life. But it really doesn't make any difference whether we're born with it, or whether we drank ourselves into it. The fact remains, that's the way we are tonight. We're all in the same boat. That's why we're here in this room. I don't think is makes any difference how long it takes us to get drunk. Now, I'm the kind of alcoholic that if you give me a drink right now, at five minutes after nine, by midnight I've found me a cop and I'm in jail somewhere.
CHARLIE: Some of you may have one or two tonight, three or four tomorrow night, five or sex the next night. It may take you a week, ten day, or two weeks to get back on a fifth, and end up drunk, and sick, and in all kinds of trouble. But again it doesn't make any difference, because the one that triggers it, is that first one we take tonight. And that's the thing we've got in common in A.A. Some people say, I don't fit in A.A. That guy, he's been-in prison fourteen times. I've only been there three times, so I'm different than him.
CHARLIE: That woman has had seven divorcee. I only had five and I'm different.
CHARLIE: Or those old geezers are in their fifties. I'm only twenty-two, and I'm different. No, none of that counts at all. The only thing that is important, the only thing we've got in common, is what happens when we have one, two, or three drinks. And I know that we can't safely drink it. Because if we could, we most certainly would not be here tonight.
This is what Dr. Silkworth gave to us, back in 1934--1933 really--when he talked to Bill Wilson in the Towns Hospital. Today, we don't have to take this as an opinion anymore. In the doctor's days it was an opinion because he had no way to prove it. He called it the phenomenon of craving. Simply saying, as Joe said, I don't understand why it happens, but I know it occurs because I see it day after day after day with these people I'm working with. He treated something like 50,000 alcoholics. He most certainly had to learn something from them.
In those days though, they didn't know much about metabolism. They didn't know much about the breakdown of food, beverages, and other things we put in out bodies. They didn't know about these things we call enzymes. Today, we know this information. Today, the medical profession has proven to us beyond any shadow of a doubt, that The Doctor's Opinion is absolutely true.
[back] We want to share a little bit of that information with you before we leave this portion of the book because I think we'd be remiss if we didn't. Now, what we're going to talk about for a little bit, is not A.A. information. A.A. doesn't care. A.A. is not about to get involved in any controversy over why we're allergic. A.A. is satisfied with the fact that we are allergic. But I think maybe we ought to look at some of this newest information. I think it would explain to us exactly why we cannot drink like other people.
You've got a chart in your book called The Disease Concept of Alcoholism. Lets look at it for just a few minutes. Now, in this chart, you'll notice in the center column. This is the nine people who drink safely. They are at ease. When the normal drinker puts alcohol in their system, their system does exactly it would do with a piece of beefsteak. The mind and body can recognize what it is. The mind signals certain organs of the body to produce enzymes which attack the beefsteak or what ever it is, and breaks it down into materials that can be used, and materials that the body cannot use. The body uses what it can, and then it dissipates what it cannot use, gets rid of it, throws it off, normally through the urinary and intestinal tract. The body does the same thing with alcohol that it does with beef steak.
[back] The normal social drinkers put a drink in their system. The mind and the body senses what it is. The mind signals certain organs of the body to start the enzyme production. The enzymes attack the alcohol and begin to break it down into usable and unusable items.
In the first stage, it's broken down into a material called acetaldehyde. In the second stage, it's broken down into diabetic acid. In the third stage, it's broken down into acetone. Then in the final stage in the normal social drinker, it's broken down to a simple carbohydrate...water, suger, and carbon dioxide.
Now the suger can be used by the body. Sugar is energy. It has calories in it. It is an interesting fact, though, that they are empty calories. There's none of the amino acids, none of the vitamins, none of those things necessary for life. But it is energy and the body will take the sugar and burn it as energy, and store the excess as fat to be used at a latter date. The water will be dissipated through the urinary and the intestinal tract. The carbon dioxide will be dissipated through the lungs.
In a normal social drinker, the average metabolic rate, or breakdown rate for alcohol is one ounce per hour--in the normal drinker. This will vary some, of course, in the size of the body and the condition of the body, but the average is one ounce per hour. Theoretically speaking, the normal social drinker could drink one ounce per hour forever and not get drunk because their body can break it down and dissipate it and get rid of it. The only thing is, that if they try to drink more than that, they get that slightly tipsy, out of control, nauseous feeling. They either go to sleep or they puce, one of the two.
(Transcriber's note: A different translation of Proverbs 23:29 is: "Whose is the misery? whose the remorse? Whose are the quarrels and the anxiety? Who gets the bruises without knowing why? Whose eyes are bloodshot' Those who linger late over their wine, those who are always trying some new spiced liquor. Do not gulp down the wine, the strong red wine, when the droplets form on the side of the cup in the end it will bite like a snake and sting like a cobra. Then your eyes see strange sights, your wits and your speech are confused you become like a man to tossing out at sea, like one who clings to the top of the rigging: you say, 'If it lays me flat, what do I care? If it brings me to the ground, what of it? As soon as I wake up, I shall turn to it again.'"
From the New English Bible (c) copyright 1961, 1970 The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and The Syndics of the Cambridge University Press. All Right Reserved)
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