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 3, Side B]
(Tape 3, Side A)
The poor old alcoholic, in order for us to recover, we've got to give up the two things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts: one is alcohol, and the other is self-centeredness, very, very simple things, but extremely difficult to do.
Bill said: (p. 14, par. 3) 'These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound.'
And Bill thought he was going crazy.
He said: (p. 14, par. 4-5) 'For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He listened in wonder as I talked.
'Finally he shook his head saying, "Something has happened to you I don't understand. But you had better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were."'
I don't think any of us really know what took place in Bill's life that day, because we were not there, and we were not Bill Wilson. But we do know this: that this happened to Bill about December tenth or eleventh of 1934. We do know that Bill didn't die until January of 1971. We do know that Bill never had to take another drink of whiskey or alcohol in any form whatsoever as long as he lived. Something profound took place in Bill's life that day as the result of this practical program of action which had been brought to him by Ebby from the Oxford Groups itself.
You see Bill was the first human being to know all three things. He knew what the problem was. He knew what the solution was. He knew the practical program of action. When he applied it in his life then he recovered from his disease of alcoholism. People today, they think, well, Bill, just had this great white flash, you know, with nothing to prepare him to have that. We can see in Bill's Story where he actually did take the Steps. Long, long, before they were ever written, Bill took them and applied them in his own life. Joe.
We said that we are powerless, and obviously it's going to be power (that) would be the solution. Since we can't...do anything about the body, we can only work in the mind, it says that we believe that that Power will have to work in the mind rather than the body. So now that we see we have a physical allergy and a mental obsession, we believe that the answer is power working in the mind. Therefore, I came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. Right on this page, on page seventeen, and it's not by chance this chapter is titled, There is a Solution. Okay, let's write the prescription.
CHARLIE: As we read Bill's Story, we most certainly identified with Bill. We most certainly saw Bill recover from his disease. The recovery process he used is still kind of hazy in our mind up to this point. We aren't really sure what took place there. But Chapter Two is going to show us exactly what happened to Bill. It's going to bring that about by saying to us: there is a solution. It's going to describe not only what happened to Bill, but what happened to many other people also.
In the beginning, the people who had recovered were Bill and Ebby. They were the fellowship of that day, at the very beginning, two people. But now we're going to talk about thousands of people. The same thing took place in their lives. It's going to show us exactly what took place. Joe.
JOE: (p. 17, par. 2) 'We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds. '
It's talking about the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous as it exists today, or at the time that this book was written. The fellowship is made up of people of many different sections of the country. It's made up of different occupations. It's made up of different--we have different political backgrounds. We have different economic backgrounds. We have different social backgrounds. We have different religious backgrounds. Alcoholics Anonymous is probably the most mixed up group of people in the world. You can see people with all kind of social backgrounds from the highest to the lowest, all kind of occupations, all kind of religions. In fact, you know it's amazing to me--and I see so many large groups of Alcoholics Anonymous--it just amazes me what we really are. We are so mixed up. If we didn't talk about "Alcoholics Anonymous" this weekend, or took the Big Book out of our midst, we couldn't carry on a decent conversation. I mean, what would we talk about. We couldn't. We are so different. Usually people that come together--like they have the same religion, or they have the same political background, same social background--they have something in common. We have none of those things in common. We are normally people who would not mix. You see, we should have never know each other.
(p. 17. par. 2) 'But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful.'
Now, we're very, very close, although we should never known each other. And he goes on to, and Bill had the--to really understand the Big Book--this book was written like a lot of great books. It speaks to a lot of different kinds of people. He had the sheer ability, though God's guidance, to paint pictures. He used parables to teach. He uses this parable of the fellowship like, he said, we're like passengers on a great liner. In this time in 1939 (that was) the way to travel to Europe. This was a very appropriate illustration, because the way to travel to Europe was on the great ocean liners.
On the great ocean liners, he says: (p. 17, par. 2) 'We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain's table.'
On these great ocean liners there were all types of people on there, but these people were separated. The steerage, this was the cheapest way to go. The steerage section was way down in the bottom. You were a peon if you were in the steerage section. You just barely had fare to get over. The accommodations weren't very good. You stayed down in there. Once a day they said they would take the people from the steerage section and allow them to go up on the fan tail to get some air. The water would spray over on them, but then they had to go back down there. As you came from deck to deck, as you changed, your economic situation got better, and your social background got better, your religious background got better, you could go higher and higher and higher on the vessel. When you got on the uppermost decks, where they had suites and all the finery, those people ate in a special dinning room. And if you were a very special person in that special dinning room, you could sit at the Captain's table.
In fact, the closer you got to the Captain's right hand, that's where--that was prestige on down the table. When you got at the Captain's table, you had the right social background, you had the right money--economic background, and you had to have the right religion. You had to have everything. It was a long way from the Captain's table to the steerage section. In fact, these two men should have never met on their journey. Just like we should have never met on the journey of life. We have nothing in common, none of the ordinary things. But during that night--and I talk about the Titanic all the time-when they hit that iceberg, when they went overboard, when they hit that water, these two people had something in common. They had a common problem. .
CHARLIE: They had cold, wet rear ends. That's what they had.
JOE: That's the beauty of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Although we should have never met, we come from so various backgrounds. We were thrown together. The only thing that we have in common, the only thing that we have in common, is that we suffer from the disease of alcoholism. That's about the only thing. That's the only thing we have in common. This is what binds us. You know, this is what binds us together. Suffering and problems are great bonds.
(p. 17, par. 2) 'Unlike the feelings of the ship's passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways.'
I'm sure that night once the ships passengers were rescued and they got back to land, the guy from the steerage section probably said, this guy is too big for me. I don't need to be fooling around with him. And I'm sure the guy from the Captain's table said, I shouldn't, be associating with this guy. They went back to their (old lives), because their disaster was over. But we will always be alcoholics.
(p. 17. par. 2) '... our joy does not subside as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us.'
Remember, in 1939, they couldn't foresee it. This book was actually written before the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, because they didn't have but one hundred. They were very fortunate in a way. They couldn't go to ninety meetings in ninety days. They didn't have that many.
JOE: You know, you can really get hooked on the fellowship, just go to meeting, go to meetings, go to meetings, go to meetings, go to meetings. But the book says that meetings, fellowship is not enough. It's sort of like, you know, Charlie and I say it's just like going to P.T.A. meetings for ninety days. It will not make you a parent.
CHARLIE: There is a process you have to go through.
CHARLIE: There are some steps you'll have to take.
CHARLIE: Many of you may balk at some of them.
JOE: Nor will going to A. A. meetings make you a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous. He says, that is not enough.
He says: (p. 17, par. 2-3) 'But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined.
'The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution.'
CHARLIE: This is the first great waning in the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous."
'The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action. This is the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.'
Warning us that even though the fellowship is a powerful thing, that that by itself is not enough. We will also need the Power which comes from the solution--common solution. I think one of the greatest tragedies in the world today, is we've got literally millions of people coming to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, and who are doing nothing but enjoying the fellowship. They're doing nothing about the common solution.
Remember, Dr. Silkworth told us we would need to change. He said we would need a psychic change. (p. xxvii, par. 1-2) The fellowship will not bring that about. The psychic change is brought about through the common solution. There's where we change our mental attitudes and outlook upon life. (p. 84, par. 1) There's where we learn to live and be sober and peaceful and happy and serene at the same time.
I see people coming to A.A. and doing nothing but the fellowship, and they don't change. They stay afraid. They stay angry. They stay irritated. They stay restless and discontented. The same old shame, fear, guilt, and remorse keeps eating them up, and after a while they disappear.
Any you say, "Where did John go?" Well, haven't you heard, John's back out there drinking again. Or John got killed in a car wreck last Saturday night. Or John shot himself last week. I think again, this is the responsibility of us older members to make this clear to every newcomer that walks in the door of a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that there's two parts to the solution. One is this tremendous fellowship, and it is great. I don't think we could survive without it. But the other is the common solution, the vital spiritual experience (p. 27, par. 5) which will be brought about by the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet. (p. 25, par. 2)
He said, well, why don't I bring my car, and I'll drive to your house. Then you can ride, and I'll do all the driving, and you can rest. And I said, great, that'll be fine. Now, Joe drives from Little Rock, Arkansas to where I live in Maysville, Arkansas, two hundred and twenty-five miles. We get in Joe's car and we start toward Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can tell by looking at us that we're people that normally would not mix.
CHARLIE: After all, he's bald-headed, and I'm not.
CHARLIE: On the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma, we we're going to pick up another guy, the first fellow that I asked to sit in on us. He was going to meet us in the parking lot of the Hotel, Tulsa, Oklahoma. His name is Tony, last name is V. We picked Tony up. We get--all three--get in the car, and we're heading down the Turner Turnpike to Oklahoma City. Now, here's the black guy doing the driving. The Mexican, he's sitting over here riding shotgun. And the honky lying in the back seat, sound asleep.
CHARLIE: We got to Lawton, Oklahoma. We're doing the Big Book study, and we did this page. Just as Joe finished up, with what he just finished up, I looked on the front row. The whole front row was filled with Indians from the Anadarko Indian Reservation.
That day we really realized what Bill's saying to us. We are people who normally would not mix with each other at all. We are so varied in our backgrounds. The thing that binds us together, and the thing we have in common, and we must never forget this, is our fellowship that comes from the disease of alcoholism, our escape from the common disaster. It's so strong and so important. We love it so much, and we tend to forget that that's only part of the powerful cement. That's only one element. The other element -lies in the common solution.
About a year ago, Barbara and I, my wife, fortunately were invited to go on a cruise. We we're allowed to be speakers on that cruise. That Saturday we spoke, then that night we were invited to the Captain's table. We were setting there at the Captain's table eating dinner. All of a sudden I just busted out laughing. Everybody looked at me and said, "What's the matter with you?" I said, by God I finally made it from the steerage to the Captain's table.
CHARLIE:It was quite an experience for me. The Captain explained the ship, and he said, "Is there anything you want to see?"
I said, "Yeah, I want to go down to the steerage section." The next day he got a member of the crew to take me down and look at the steerage section. Now, that was so important in my life. This thing that we have escaped from -- that common peril-- the rest of this chapter is going to be devoted to these two Step # 1 Big Book Page # 20-2i Tape 3A-7 things as being the solution.
The first half of this chapter is going to talk about we people who make up this fellowship. It's going to talk about the alcoholic. It's going to explain to us why the fellowship alone is not enough.
The last half of the chapter then will explain to us what the actual solution is. The book never leaves us hanging anywhere. It never makes a statement that it does not further explain. He's going to show us in the first half of this chapter why we must have the solution which is in the last half of this chapter.
I think we ought to take a ten minute break, and then we'll jump right on in with the solution.
Looking at this first page of Chapter Two. We've been able to see the diagnosis for alcoholism in the Doctor's Opinion. Now, here on page (seventeen) we see the solution. We see that it is not only within the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, but also within the common solution. Let's go over to page twenty.
On page twenty it says: (p. 20, par. 2-3) 'You may already have asked yourself why it is that all of us became so very ill from drinking. Doubtless you are curious to discover how and why, in the face of expert opinion to the contrary, we have recovered from a hopeless condition of mind and body. If you are an alcoholic who wants to get over it, you may already be asking--"What do I have to do?"
'It is the purpose of this book to answer such questions specifically. We shall tell you what we have done.'
Again we see a word which really doesn't deal in generalities. We saw the word "precisely" in the Forward (p. xiii, par. 1) And now we see the word "specifically" coming into being.
It says: (p. 20, par. 4-5) 'How many times people have said to us: "I can take it or leave it alone. Why can't he?" "Why don't you drink like a gentleman or quit?" "That fellow can't handle his liquor." "Why don't you try beer and wine?" "Lay off the hard stuff . " "His will power must be weak." "He could stop if he wanted to." "She's such a sweet girl, I should think he'd stop for her sake." "The doctor told him that if he ever drank again it would kill him, but there he is all lit up again."
'Now these are commonplace observations on drinkers which we hear all the time. Back of them is a world of ignorance and misunderstanding. We see that these expressions refer to people whose reactions are very different from ours.'
It said: (p. 20, par. 6) 'Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they have good reason for lt. They can take it or leave it alone.'
This is the one we talked about last night, the moderate or social drinker. It's not a big deal for them. They have one, two, or three drinks. They get a slightly tipsy, out of control, nauseous feeling, and they just stop drinking. They can take it or leave it alone. They really don't much care one way or the other.
(p. 20, par. 7; p. 21, par. 1) 'Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair (top of p. 21) him physically and mentally. It may cease him to die a few years before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason--ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the warning of a doctor--becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention.'
We see this person all the time. We call him the hard or heavy drinker. This is the guy that said, when I was in the service I was an alcoholic also, but then when I got out of the service I got married, and I just quit drinking and I don't see why you can't either. They drink exactly like us. But if a sufficiently strong reason present itself to them, they will either stop drinking entirely, or they will learn to moderate their drinking. These people are not alcoholics.
If you're a drinker, you're going to fit into one these three categories. Now what about the real alcoholic. We just love that term there, real alcoholic.
(p. 21, par. 2) 'He may start off as a moderate drinker...'
And many of us did.
(p. 21, per. 2) ' ...he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker...'
Some of us were binge drinkers, we didn't drink every day.
(p. 21, par. 2-3) '...but at some stage of this drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.'
'Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you...'
Remember now, we're describing the people who make up this fellowship.
(p. 21, par. 3-4: p. 22, par. 1) '...especially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking. He is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is seldom mildly intoxicated. He is always more or less insanely drunk. His disposition while drinking resembles his normal nature but little. He may be one of the finest fellows in the world. Yet let him drink for a day, and he frequently becomes disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social. He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong moment, particularly when some important decision most be made or engagement kept. He is often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything except liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly dishonest and selfish. He often possesses special abilities, skills, and aptitudes, and has a promising career ahead of him. He uses his gifts to build up a bright outlook for his family and himself, and then pulls the structure down on his head by a senseless series of sprees. He is the fellow who goes to bed so intoxicated he ought to sleep the clock around. Yet early next (top of p. 22) morning he searches madly for the bottle he misplaced the night before. If he can afford it, he may have liquor concealed all over his house to be certain no one gets his entire supply away Step # 1 Big Book Page # 22-23 Tape 3A-9 from him to throw down the wastepipe. As matters grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to work.' Remember, this was written in 1938 and 1939. (p. 22, par. 1) 'Then comes the day when he simply cannot make it and gets drunk all over again. Perhaps he goes. to a doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with which to taper off. Then he begins to appear at hospitals and...' Treatment centers.
They used to call them sanitariums, today they call them treatment centers, same deal.
CHARLIE: They're a place they send people like us to try to do something for us. Most of this description was written in the male gender, because back in the '30's, the only people that they were dealing with, of course, basically were all men. It wasn't until just before the Big Book was written, that the first woman came along. But if a lady should read this simply transferring her for he, then surly most women could find themselves within that description also.
I think all of us who are alcoholic, whether we are eighteen, or sixteen, or twelve, or sixty-two, surly we can find ourselves somewhere within this description. I doubt if any of us could match everything there, but all of us can match some of that description of the alcoholic, a very comprehensive picture of the alcoholic.
It says: (p. 22, par. 2-4: p. 23, par. 1-2) 'This is by no means comprehensive picture of the true alcoholic, as our behavior patterns vary. But this description should identify him roughly.
'Perhaps there never will be a full answer to these questions. Opinions vary considerably as to why the alcoholic reacts differently from normal people. We are not sure why, once certain point is reached, little can be done for him. We cannot answer the riddle.
'We know that while the alcoholic keeps away from drink, as he may do for months or years, he reacts much like other men. We are equally positive that once he takes any alcohol whatever into his system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental sense, which makes it virtually impossible for him to (top of p. 23) stop. The experience of any alcoholic will abundantly confirm this.
'These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.'
We talked last night, if I don't ever take the first drink, I cannot trigger the allergy. If I don't trigger the allergy, then the craving will never be produced, and I won't end up drunk, and sick, and in all kinds of trouble.
(p. 23, par. 2-3) 'If you ask him why he started on that last bender, the chances are he will offer you any one of a hundred alibis. Sometimes these excuses have a certain plausibility, but none of them really makes sense in the light of the havoc an alcoholic's drinking bout creates. They sound like the philosophy of the man who, having a headache, beats himself on the head with a hammer so that he can't feel the ache. If you draw this fallacious reasoning to the attention of an alcoholic, he will laugh it off, or become irritated and refuse to talk.
'Once in a while he may tell the truth.'
Strange as it may seem, we--once in a great while--we do tell the truth.
CHARLIE: I was talking to a lady the other day in Al-Anon. Her husband is still drinking. She said, Charlie, all he does is lie, lie, lie. How can you tell when one of you guys are lying. I said, honey, you watch him closely. When you see his lips moving then he's probably lying to you.
CHARLIE: That's about booze (but) sometimes we do tell the truth.
(p. 23, par. 3) 'And the truth, strange to say, is usually that he has no more idea why he took that fires drink than you have. Some drinkers have excuses with which they are satisfied part of the time. But in their hearts they really do not know why they do it. Once this malady has a real hold, they are a baffled lot. There is the obsession that somehow, someday, they will beat the game. But they often suspect they are down for the count.'
Remember, an obsession of the mind is an idea that is so strong it overcomes all other ideas, and it makes you believe a lie, something that's not true. The great obsession of every alcoholic is someday, somehow, we're going to beat the game. We try every way in the world to beat it. We just know that we can. But the truth is we can't. The truth is we can't. The obsession of the mind is what takes us back to drinking.
Page twenty-four. Squiggly writing. (p. 24, par. 2) 'The fact is that most alcoholics for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink. '
Joe made the statement last night that in order for will power to work, the mind has got to see something wrong with what it's wanting to do. But if the mind doesn't see anything wrong with what it's wanting to do, then will power is nonexistent. At certain times, our mind cannot remember with sufficient force the suffering and the pain and the humiliation of the last drunk. It always says this time it's going to be different. This time we're not going to get drunk and got in Jail. This time we're not going to get drunk and get in a car wreck. We're going to have two drinks and enjoy ourselves like other people. We really believe that we can do that.
(p. 24, par. 2-3) 'We are without defense against the first drink.'
'The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.'
CHARLIE: Certainly we were that way when we were growing up. I remember, we always heated with either wood or coal. On Saturday night every kid had to take a bath whether you liked it or not. You had to have one whether you needed it or not. Mother would always put an old zinc washtub behind the heating stove in the living room. She heated the water on the kitchen stove, then she would bring it in and put it in the washtub. The oldest kid would take a bath first, and then the next, and the next, and the next. By the time you got to the littlest one, that old water was getting kind of cruddy, you know. But you still had to take a bath.
I'll never forget. One night in the middle of the winter, I was behind that heating stove, in that tub taking a bath. I leaned over and when I did I stuck my rear against that stove. Now, that thing raised a blister on my rear end about the size of my hand, and it hurt like hell. You know, I've never had an obsession of the mind to stick my ass on a hot stove since.
CHARLIE: Never have I had that. But alcohol has burned me repeatedly, over and over and over end over, and hurt me just as bad. Yet, the obsession of the mind says, Charlie, it won't burn you this time. Always the obsession of the mind says it's going to be okay.
The kind of defense that keeps us from normal dangerous situations, painful, hurtful situations, that defense isn't there when it comes to alcohol. There's something missing in our heads. There's a switch that doesn't turn right, or something is gone up here that most people have in their head. We seem to not have that.
(p. 24, par. 4-5) 'The alcoholic may say to himself in the most casual way, "It won't burn me this time, so here's how!" Or perhaps he doesn't think at all. How often have some of us begun to drink in this nonchalant way, and after the third or fourth, pounded on the bar and said to ourselves, "For God's sake, how did I ever get started again?" Only to have that thought supplanted by "Well, I'll stop with the sixth drink." Or "What's the use anyhow?" 'When this sort of thinking is fully established in an individual with alcoholic tendencies, he has probably placed himself beyond human aid...' Step # 1-2 Big Book Page # 24-25 Tape 3A-12
Now, If we've placed ourselves beyond human aid, then the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous will not bring about recovery from our disease. Because the fellowship is made up of a bunch of human beings.
(p. 24, par. 5: p. 25, par. 1) '...and unless locked up, may die or go permanently insane. These stark and ugly facts have been confirmed by legions of alcoholics (top of p. 25) throughout history. But for the grace of God, there would have been thousands more convincing demonstrations. So many want to stop but cannot.'
This thing that it's just described to us is a hopeless condition of the mind and of the body. This thing it's just described to us tells us we're either going to die or go permanently insane. But it says, there is a solution to what they just described.
Now then, We're going to start looking at the common solution. We've been looking at the people in the fellowship. Now we can see why we're going to have to have this common solution. Because we've placed ourselves beyond human aid. Let's look at the solution and see what it is.
JOE: (p. 25, par. 2-3) 'There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the levering of our pride, the confession of shortcomings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness- and futility of life as we had been living it. When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.
'The great fact is just this, and nothing less: the we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences (Fully explained-Appendix II)...'
It finally gets down to what the common solution of alcoholic is: a deep and effective spiritual experience. Now, what does this do?
(p. 25, par. 3) '...which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God's universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.'
If we would not notice that asterisk in the book--you know, spiritual experience is a very lofty term, and it threw off a lot of early readers of the Big Book. So we'll put an asterisk in there, and it says: (p. 25 at the bottom) '*Fully explained--Appendix II.'
When they published the first printing of the first Big Book, it did not have an asterisk in there. The reader, by reading this book, when it says spiritual experience, he had to use his own concept of what a spiritual experience was. It threw a lot of the readers off, because from our religious background, and from our education, and growing up, we all have all kinds of different concepts of spiritual experience. So they put an Appendix in the book, in the back of our book on page 569, to explain to us: what are they talking about, when they say spiritual experience.
It would be very difficult to continue on if we had the wrong conception of the term, spiritual experience. An appendix-when we see an appendix--means something that has been added to the book since it was published to make it more complete. This appendix was added--and if you would continue from here with the wrong idea of spiritual experience the whole book would totally collapse.
CHARLIE: Remember, a textbook is used to transfer information from the mind of one person through the written word to the mind of another. If our understanding of the words are different, then the information we receive will be the wrong information. I think most of us had a conception of a spiritual experience before we ever came to A.A. I know I did.
I was raised in a good old Southern Baptist church. I don't knock my Southern Baptist church. I loved it then. I love it today. But it seems as though in my Southern Baptist church as I was raised up, about the only thing I ever really heard about God was hellfire and damnation. That you go to hell for lying, and cheating, stealing, and drinking whiskey, and committing adultery. By the time I got to A.A., I'd been doing that for about twenty-six years.
CHARLIE: And I knew God wasn't going to have anything to do with me. I knew he'd already told Saint Peter, when that little four-eyed sucker gets up here, send him downstairs.
Also in the Baptist church I had seen a spiritual experience, or what I thought was one. In our Southern Baptist church, we have revival meetings. Normally we go to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. But during revival week, you go every night of the week. The whole purpose of the revival meeting is to bring as many souls to Christ as you possibly can, through saving them through the church. During the revival meeting, you don't trust your own preacher. You go out and you get the best one you can find anywhere in the county.
I'll never forget, during this one particular revival meeting night, they'd brought in a preacher from another part of the county, and he was good. He was so good you could actually feel the heat and smell the smoke as he was doing his preaching.
CHARLIE: At the end of the sermon, you then had what are called, alter calls. Anybody that wishes to be saved, they come to the kneeling bench in front. They kneel. They pray, and everybody prays, and hopefully they're saved.
I'll never forget this particular night. After the preacher was through, my aunt Molly, who was a long tall slender lady-fine, fine lady, bless her soul, she's gone now--but she decided that night that she wanted to be saved. She came to the kneeling bench, and she kneeled. She was praying. The preacher was standing there with his hand on her head, he was praying. Everybody else was praying.
All of a sudden, Aunt Molly just fell over sideways on the floor. She began to kick. She began to jerk and tremble all over. Suddenly she began to speak in a language that I'd never heard before. It sounded just like gibberish to me. The next thing I knew she jumped up. She began running back and fourth through that church house jumping over the pews, shirttail never touching the back of the pew.
Here I am eight, nine, ten, eleven years old; just sacred the living hell out of me. I turned to my Dad, and I said, "What's wrong with Aunt Molly?"
He said, "Well son, I believe she's having a spiritual experience."
CHARLIE: When I read on page twenty-five in the Big Book that I'm going to have to have one of those things I said. "There ain't no way."
CHARLIE: Thank God they recognized this. That people would not have the same understanding of those words that they had. So when the second printing of the Big Book came out, they put the appendix in the back, and explained to us what they mean by spiritual experience. Without that appendix, I don't believe I could have gone any further than page twenty-five. If we got to have one, maybe we ought to go back there and see what one of them is.
JOE: Okay, he says, the terms--there's a plural there, two terms-we're going to be looking at, "spiritual experience" and "spiritual awakening." So right away we see there are two ways that we can do this. ?"
(p. 569, par. 1) 'The terms "spiritual experience" and "spiritual awakening" are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms.' ?"
I love where he says careful reading. We drunks don't do a lot of careful reading. But if we read this carefully, we can see that it says that this spiritual experience brings about the personality changes good enough, sufficient, to recover from alcoholism. This is what it does. ?"
(p. 569, par. 2) 'Yet it is true that our first printing gave many readers the impression that these personality changes, or religious experiences, must be in the nature of sudden and spectacular upheaval-. Happily for everyone, this conclusion is erroneous.' ?"
(End of Side A of Tape 3) [Joe & Charlie Table of Contents] [Top]
(Tape 3, Side B)
JOE: (Appendix II, p. 569, par. 2) 'In the first few chapters a number of sudden revolutionary changes are described. Though it was not our intention to create such an impression, many alcoholics have nevertheless concluded that in order to recover they must acquire an immediate and overwhelming "Godconsciousness followed at once by a vast change in feeling and outlook.'
The fires readers that read the book, and many people yet today who don't read Appendix II, get the impression from the book, because of Bill's sudden change in Bill's life. There are a number of sudden spiritual experiences mentioned in the book. The reader who reads this without reading the appendix, he comes up with the idea that the only way I'm going to recover is have the same sudden thing that Bill had. He said, they're trying to diaper this. This is not true.
It says: (p. 569, par. 4) 'Among our rapidly growing membership of thousands of alcoholics such transformations, though frequent, are by no means the rule.'
People, still yet today, have sudden spiritual experiences in A.A. But this is very rare. And this is by no means the rule.
(p. 569, par. 4) 'Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James call. the "educational variety"...'
Most people in A.A. today have a spiritual experience of the educational variety. In the educational variety we can see that you will change as you learn, educational. As you learn and apply there will be a gradual change.
In the educational variety of spiritual experience, it says: (p. 569, par. 4) '...they develop slowly over a period of time. Quite often friends of the newcomer are aware of the difference long before he is himself .'
Bill said in his early days in his talk with Dr. Tiebout that about ten percent of the first one hundred people had sudden spiritual experiences. The rest of them had a gradual change. It took place over a period of time. I think even yet today--and I work with alcoholics every day, have been for the last fifteen years. I work with about three hundred people a year, and I know about five people that have had sudden spiritual experiences. It is something to see. But it's very, very rare. I've seen many, many people recover, through the educational variety. They start and by working the program, they gradually--you can see personality changes that even they can't see. I can see them doing better, but they don't think they're doing better.
As they work the program, they change gradually over a period of time. When he finally realizes...the person who is going through the educational variety: (p. 569, par. 4) 'He finally realizes that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone.'
In the educational variety, we've worked the program, we've worked the steps, and we do what we're told. Finally we realize that something has happened in our life. That is a spiritual awakening. The sudden kind is a spiritual experience. In the educational variety, we become aware of change--is a spiritual awakening. Both are just as effective. Both will occur-either one will occur as the results of the Steps. And both will produce personality change sufficient to recover from alcoholism.
(p. 569, par. 4) 'With few exceptions our members find that they have tapped...'
In the spiritual awakening: (p. 569, par. 4 p. 570, par. 1-2) 'they have tapped an unsuspected (top of p. 570) inner resource which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves.
'Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience.'
When we have awareness that we have changed, it's the same thing that happens in a spiritual experience.
(p. 570, par. 2-4) 'Our more religious members call it "God-consciousness."
'Most emphatically we whish to say that any alcoholic capable of honestly facing his problems in the light of our experience can recover, provided he does not close his mind to all spiritual concepts. He can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial.
'We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery But these are indispensable.'
It doesn't make any difference, whether it's a spiritual experience, or a spiritual awakening that will take (place) slowly over a period of months. One is sudden, one is along, they both produce the same thing, a personality change sufficient to recover from alcoholism. And either--every time anybody has ever worked the steps, the Twelve Steps, he is guaranteed--this is what the Twelve Steps guarantee, the only thing the Twelve Steps produce is a spiritual awakening or a spiritual experience. Either one will (be produced) ass a result of these Steps.
CHARLIE: They added this other statement some time latter. Which said: (p. 570, par. 5) '"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. "'
You see, not understanding what they meant by spiritual experience, I held this term in absolute contempt, based upon what I had seen happen years ago when I was a small child. When we hold it in contempt, then nothing's going to take place. But now that they've explained to me their meaning of the word spiritual experience, then I have an entirely different attitude toward it. This isn't such a bad deal at all. A spiritual experience is nothing more than a personality change sufficient to recover from the disease of alcoholism.
I can buy into those terms. That doesn't turn me off like this other stuff did. At the same time, I found two or three more things in here. One is that I will become aware of the fact when I've had one, when I become aware that I've tapped an unsuspected inner resource of strength that I presently identify with God as I understand Him. Everybody who has had this spiritual experience most emphatically will say, we certainly become aware of the fact that there is a Power greater than ourselves working within our lives. God as we understand dim, or whatever we want to call it. I think you need to notice also on page 569, different terms that he uses in the description of this spiritual experience.
In the first paragraph he talked about a personality change. In the third paragraph he talks about revolutionary changes. In the third paragraph, at the end of it, he talks about a vast change in feeling and outlook. In the middle of the fourth paragraph he talks about a profound alteration. And back over here on page twenty-five he talked about: which have revolutionized our whole attitude. (p. 25, par. 3) He's used a whole series of words to describe the same thing, a change. Each one of those means a change of some kind. I think this is another thing we need to realize about Bill when he wrote. He absolutely refused to use the same words over and over. He always said that this would show the ignorance of the writer. If you're going to describe the same thing, you must find another ten to describe it.
Here's a perfect example of this. He didn't say change, he didn't use the word change over and over. He kept using different words to describe it. But all of them result in a change in mental attitude, a personality change sufficient to recover. Dr. Silkworth's term was psychic change. (p. xxvii, par. 1-2) The Twelve Steps will bring about a change in our outlook upon life. Before, when we were sober, we were restless, irritable and discontented. (p. xxvi, par. 5) We were filled with shame, fear, guilt, and remora. Those are all terms of the mind.
Now then, after the spiritual experience, we have peace of mind, happiness, and serenity. We're not filled with shame, fear, guilt, and remorse. Our whole attitude has changed. Just coming to A.A. meetings will not bring about the change. The Twelve Steps, the simple kit of spiritual tools, (p. 25, par. 2) will bring this change about in our lives. On page twenty-five in the last paragraph. It says:
(p. 25, par. 4) 'If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could'
JOE: Step One.
CHARLIE: (p. 25) 'and the other, to accept spiritual help.'
JOE: Step Two.
CHARLIE: The prevailing thought in A.A. today is that you better not talk too much about God, or you might run the newcomer off. The Big Book doesn't mind talking about God at all. The Big Book finally gets us down and tell. us that we've only got one of two alternatives: to drink until we die or to accept spiritual help, one of the two. Those turn out to be Step One and Step Two.
An old sponsor helped me out in this area a lot. He said, Charlie, you don't need to worry about running the newcomer off by talking about God. He said, because if you do then whiskey will put him right back in here if he lives long enough. I believe that's absolutely true. I think somewhere we've got to face the fact that human power does not solve the disease of alcoholism; that it comes about through spirituality. We only have but one of two alternatives: to drink until we die, or accept spiritual help, Step One and Step Two. He's going to repeat this over and over and over as we progress through the book. Joe.
JOE: As Charlie said, this is the first time he is actually setting us up for Steps One and Two. He'll do that throughout these earlier chapters. This is the purpose of it -- to give us Step One and Step Two. He's told us the solution. He's going to tell us the same thing over again, really, in the next few pages, to reinforce his point. He's going to use a story about Rowland H. who went to see Dr. Carl Jung. This is where the origin of Step Two came from. He tells us.
This story gives us a lot. It tells us where this thing came from, and where it begins. That's the way you tell a drunk. He just told you what the solution was, a spiritual experience. This story is going to tell you the same thing. It will--he'll reinforce it with another--he's making a different approach to say the same thing. That's the way you talk to a drunk. You tell a drunk what you're going to tell him first.
JOE: Then you tell him what you want to tell him. Then you tell him what you told him, and he gets it.
JOE: He's saying the same thing two or three different ways.
So he tells the story of: (p. 26, par. 2) 'A certain American business man had ability, good sense, and high character.'
This was Rowland Hazzard.
(p. 26, par. 2) 'For years he had floundered from one sanitarium to another.'
Rowland came from a prominent family in Vermont, too.
Then: (p. 26, par. 2) 'He had consulted the best known American psychiatrists. Then he had gone to Europe, placing himself in the care of a celebrated physician
CHARLIE: Sent you to Cincinnati.
JOE: That's right. Then he had gone to Europe.
Okay, Dr. Carl Jung, remember at that time was one of the greatest psychiatrist of his time. He was--this was a brilliant man, one of the beat in the world.
(p. 26, par. 2) ' ... who prescribed for him. Though experience had made him skeptical, he finished his treatment with Step # 1-2 Big Book Page # 26-27 Tape 3B-5 unusual confidence. His physical and mental condition were unusually good. Above all, he believed he had acquired such a profound knowledge of the inner workings of his mind and it's hidden springs that relapse was unthinkable.'
Now, he didn't go over there for a twenty-eight day treatment program. Rowland stayed in Dr. Carl Jung's treatment, with Dr. Carl Jung for one year.
(p. 26, par. 2-5; p. 27, par. 1-5) 'Nevertheless, he was drunk in a short time. More baffling still, he could give himself no satisfactory explanation for his fall.
'So he returned to this doctor, whom he admired, and asked him point-blank why he could not recover. He wished above all things to regain self-control. He seemed quite rational and well-balanced with respect to other problems. Yet he had no control whatever over alcohol. Why was this?
'He begged the doctor to tell him the whole truth, and he got it. In the doctor's judgment he was utterly hopeless; he could never regain his position in society and he would have to place himself under lock and key or hire a bodyguard if he expected to live long. That was a great physician's opinion.
'But this man still lives, and is a free man. He does not need a bodyguard nor is he confined. He can go anywhere on this earth where other free men may go (top of p. 27) without disaster, provided he remains willing to maintain a certain simple attitude.
'Some of our alcoholic readers may think they can do without spiritual help. Let us tell you the rest of the conversation our friend had with his doctor.
'The doctor said: "You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you." Our friend felt as though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang.
'He said to the doctor, "Is there no exception?'.
'"Yes," replied the doctor, "there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times.
Remember, Dr. Carl Jung was a psychiatrist which deals with the mind. He had at his disposal all the knowledge at that time of the human mind. He told Rowland, he said, within my realm of understanding, of my knowledge, I can't help you. This man is a very humble man to say, I cannot help you, but there is help. Another area of human life is the spiritual life. Psychiatrists know nothing about this. He deals with the mind. Spiritual-theologians and other people deal in that area. We have specialists on the body, specialists on the mind, and specialists on the spirit.
Dr. Carl Jung was able to admit that within the mind, I don't have the skills to help you, but there is help over in the spiritual realm. In fact he says alcoholics' (recoveries) have been occurring since early time. You know, alcoholics have been getting sober, probably, in spiritual programs in a church or something, every once in a while, since the beginning of time. But Dr. Carl Jung saw this, and he took it from those people and gave it to Rowland. He said, I can't help you.
(p. 27, par. 5) 'Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. In fact, I have been trying to produce some such emotional rearrangement within you. With many individuals the methods which I employed are successful, but I have never been successful with an alcoholic of your description."*'
It seems like, if we read there: rearrangements of ideas, emotions, and attitudes, all these things are changed. Dr. Carl Jung discovered how to produce the psychic change that Dr. Silkworth was looking for back at the Towns Hospital. Dr. (Jung) said the spiritual experience will produce these psychic changes. We can look and see how the miracle of "Alcoholics Anonymous"--I was talking to somebody earlier-- how all this came about. Dr. Silkworth was back in the Towns Hospital (in New York City). The only thing God gave Dr. Silkworth was the knowledge of: what is the problem? That was all that he knew. He knew that the change was a psychic change, but Dr. Silkworth did not know how to produce the psychic change.
Rowland goes to see Dr. Carl Jung (in Switzerland). Dr. Carl Jung gave Rowland the solution, the spiritual experience which will produce the psychic change. Rowland leaves Dr. Carl Jung and he comes back. Remember the Oxford Group was very prominent in that day all over the world. So Rowland came back, I don't know, probably Dr. Carl Jung suggested it, the Oxford Groups movement, maybe. Rowland came back to the Oxford Groups, and by using their recovery program he produced a psychic change, and he recovered. Then he brought this to Ebby, and Ebby brought this to Bill.
All these things were acted together in Bill's mind. See, Dr. Silkworth knew the problem. Dr. Silkworth didn't know the solution. Dr. Carl Jung knew the solution, but he didn't know the problem. The Oxford Groups had the recovery program. They had the planned program of action which became-our ten recovery Steps later on. They had the recovery program, and they didn't know the problem or the solution.
JOE: The miracle of it was that all these things--Bill said, I was an instrument. Bill didn't create any of these. None of these concepts originated in Bill Wilson. Bill said he-Bill's mind was a vessel that gathered these three things. The problem from Dr. Silkworth, the solution from Dr. Carl Jung, and the recovery planned program of action from the Oxford Groups and mated them together in his mind to produce the Twelve Steps of recovery in the program of "Alcoholics Anonymous." This is the miracle of "Alcoholics Anonymous," that these things came from all over the world into one man's mind to be put into this book.
CHARLIE: Surly there was a power greater than ourselves that had something to do with how this information was finally gathered and put into Bill's mind itself. On page twenty-eight, bottom of the page.
JOE: Remember at the bottom of the page we see an asterisk on page twenty-seven. At the bottom of the page it says, 'For amplification--see Appendix II.' -- again it's asking you to be sure you read that.
CHARLIE: On page twenty-eight, bottom of the page it says: (p. 28, par. 5: p. 29, par. 1-2) 'In the following chapter, there appears an explanation of alcoholism, as we understand it, then a chapter addressed to the agnostic. Many who once were in this class are now among our members. Surprisingly (top of p. 29) enough, we find such convictions no great obstacle to a spiritual experience.
'Further on, clear-cut direction. are given showing how we recovered.'
Again we see words which do not deal with generalities. We've looked at "specific." We've looked at "precise," and now we look at a reference to "clear-cut directions." Bill, remember, was an alcoholic just like we are. I'm almost sure at the end of this chapter, Bill probably sat back and thought about what he had written up to this point. He thought about The Doctor's Opinion. He thought about his own story. Through those two he could say to himself, in Chapter Two I've shown them what the problem really is. Then he could say to himself , I've shown them the solution to the problem, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and the vital spiritual experience. But then he could also say to himself that they're not going to like this thing any more than I do, that they're not going to like the idea of the vital spiritual experience, that many of them are going to have an aversion to it just exactly like I did. So then he says to himself, well, maybe I better explain to them a little bit more about what the problem really is. And when he made that statement:
(p. 28, par. 5) 'In the following chapter, there appears an explanation of alcoholism, a. we understand it...'
He's referring to Chapter Three, More About Alcoholism. In Chapter Three he's going to talk about, again, just exactly why we're going to have to have this vital spiritual experience. Because in Chapter Three, he's going to talk about the insanity of alcoholism. He's going to show us why, if we don't have the vital spiritual experience, our mind will always go back to the desire to drink.
Now, many people in A.A. say, well, I don't have any trouble with insanity, because I remember all the crazy, stupid things I did when I was drinking. Really, all those things we did when we were drunk, really doesn't have anything to do with insanity, or sanity either one. Those things we do while drinking are caused by a sedative drug called alcohol. The sedative drug enters the brain, and it lowers the inhibitions. If your brain has been filled with a sedative drug that lowers the inhibitions, you better look out. You're going to do some pretty crazy, stupid things. But that's primarily caused by the drug alcohol.
Sanity and insanity are defined as the ability to see the truth. It's defined as wholeness of mind. The whole mind can always see the truth about a subject. A mind that is not whole, from time to time, cannot see the truth about the subject. And there's different degrees of insanity.
It's kind of like if we should take...a whole pie and put it out here on the plate in front of us. As long as that pie is there, all of it, it is whole in its entirety. But if we take a piece away from it, then it's only ninety percent there. If we take another piece away from it, then it's only eighty percent there. We take another piece away from it, then it's only seventy percent there. So there's different degrees of wholeness of the pie. Now, insanity doesn't mean that you're all gone. It simply means you're not quite all there.
CHARLIE: A pie that is thirty percent gone is most certainly not all gone. It's just not all there.
Insanity means the same thing in the human mind. Most people are insane about something. Most people cannot see the truth about something in their lives. If we could see the truth about everything, then we would be absolutely, completely whole human beings. But most people have certain areas of their life that they can't see the truth.
We find that most alcoholics in most of their life and most of their dealings can see the truth about most subjects. Most of us can work. Most of us can make a living. Most of us can do the things necessary to do. But when it comes to alcohol, we seem to be strangely insane. (p. 38, par. 3)
We cannot always see the truth about alcohol, and we believe a lie about alcohol. Therefore, when it comes to alcohol itself, we are insane. It doesn't mean we're crazy. If you're crazy, you're all gone. You're locked up in a nut house to protect you and society. But if you're insane it just simply means that you can't see the truth about certain matters. The only insanity we're going to deal with in this next chapter is that dealing with alcoholism itself, with alcohol itself. It's not going to deal with anything else. Now, later on I found out that I wasn't too swift in a hell of a lot of other areas, too.
CHARLIE: But in the beginning all I'm concerned with is my ability to see the truth about alcohol. If I can see the truth, I can make sane decisions. If I make sane decisions, I can take sane actions, and everything's okay. But if I can't see the truth, then I make insane decisions I take insane actions, which result in pain and suffering and humiliation for me. This whole next chapter will be designed to show us the insanity of alcoholism, which we must be restored from.
See, we've already looked at Step One. We've already looked at Step Two. But now then we're going to reinforce Step Two, to show us why we absolutely have to have the vital spiritual experience in order to restore US to sanity so that we can see the truth about alcohol. Joe?
JOE: Let's have lunch. We start on Chapter Three right after lunch, one o'clock.
(LUNCH BREAK) [back]
JOE: As we were closing, looking at another illustration in your package. These illustrations are just to bring out the pictures painted in the Big Book. It talks about the solution. This contains the two elements of the solution. Over on the left hand side we'll notice the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous illustrated by the circles. In which the old member who has recovered from alcoholism can support the new member. It is through the old member, the new member looking at the old member, he gets hope. He can share experience strength and hope with the new member, and support the new member. While the new member is in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, and while he's being supported by other people he can come to believe.
By looking at them, and if he's willing, he can go over and investigate and pick up a simple kit of spiritual tools. (p. 25, par. 2) These are the recovery Steps. While he's in the fellowship, if he applies these Steps to his life, as a result of these Steps, he has a spiritual experience which revolutionizes his whole attitude toward life, toward his fellows, and toward God's universe. (p. 25, par. 3) Then he has a personality change sufficient to recover from his alcoholism. (p. 569, par. 1)
We can see the two things in the solution is: the fellowship, which supports, and the spiritual experience, which changes as a result of the Steps. Now once the new member has taken these Steps, and he has recovered and has a personality change sufficient to recover, then he can come from that side back over to this side. Once he has recovered, then he becomes...an old member. He can support the next new member. So we can see it's just a circle that takes place, of the old supporting the new. Once the new becomes the old, then he can support the next new member. This is the solution to alcoholism.
This brings us to Chapter Three, More About Alcoholism. As we said, this particular chapter will be devoted to teach us, to give us a little more insight about: the real problem is in the mind before we take the first drink. As Charlie brought out so plainly, the insanity of alcoholism is not what we do after we drink. The insanity of alcoholism is the state of the mind before we drink. This chapter will deal specifically with what is going on with the alcoholic's mind that leads to the first drink.
(p. 30, par. 1-2) 'Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.
'We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.'
Here we're going to again see Bill's use of words, of using many different words to describe the same thing.
CHARLIE: On these first two paragraphs on page thirty, we see that Bill has used three words; all of them meaning basically the same thing. He simply would not repeat himself over and over.
(Charlie has microphone trouble)
JOE: Can't hear you.
CHARLIE: Where's my man? Now, can you hear me? NOW we got power. Lack of power that's our dilemma.
CHARLIE: I think we've got it now. Doug, can you hear us? Coming a little louder? NOW F can you hear? This is BO important we sure don't want anybody to miss this. Can you hear back there now? Getting a little feedback? Okay, here we go.
In this first paragraph Bill used the word obsession when he said the great obsession of every alcoholic--of every abnormal drinker-this obsession is the idea that someday he will control and enjoy his drinking. We talked about the word obsession already. Being an idea that is so strong, that it overcomes all ideas to the contrary. It makes you believe something that isn't true, makes you believe a lie. The obsession of every alcoholic is that someday, somehow he's going to control and enjoy his drinking. He's going to be able to drink like other people. We've already seen how that's something that's untrue. But we really believe while we're drinking that we're going to be able to do that. So we can see, the obsession means to believe a lie.
Then he said the persistence of this illusion is astonishing. He used another word which basically means the same thing, the word illusion. We all know what an illusionist is. An illusionist is a magician. A magician is as good that he can stand in front of you, and with slight of hand and a few props, they can make you believe something that's not true. They can make you believe a lie. So the word illusion and the word obsession basically mean the same thing. In the next paragraph, we see him using the term delusion.
(p. 30, par. 2) 'The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.'
And the word delusion means identically the same thing. It means to believe something that isn't true. You delude yourself into believing something which is incorrect. Remember, insanity is defined...as a mind that's not whole, for insanity. If your mind is sane, if you have sanity, then you have a whole mind. It means that you can see the truth, or not see the truth, based on which one you are. And all three of these terms are used to describe insanity, the believing of a lie. We're going to see him use them interchangeably throughout the book. It doesn't make any difference whether he calls it an obsession, and illusion, or a delusion, they're all three going to mean the same thing.
He's going to start showing us some examples of these delusions, these obsessions, or these illusions, whatever you want to call them.
On page thirty-one, he starts out by saying: (p. 31, par. 2-3) 'Despite all we can say, many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self-deception and experimentation p they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right-about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hate are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!
'Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drink-, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and...'
Treatment centers. (Charlie's term for the book's word, sanitariums.)
CHARLIE (p. 31, par. 3) '...accepting voluntary commitment to asylums--we could increase the list ad infinitum.'
I think somewhere during my lifetime I've tried every one of those. Trying to prove that I could drink like other people. Having this great obsession that someday, somehow I'm going to find a way to drink like other people and not get drunk.
The book says: (p. 31, par. 4 p. 32, par. 1-2) 'We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it (top of p. 32) more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition.
'Though there is no way of proving it, we believe that early in our drinking careers most of us could have stopped drinking. But the difficulty is that few alcoholics have enough desire to stop while there is yet time. We have heard of a few instances where people, who showed definite signs of alcoholism, were able to stop for a long period because of an overpowering desire to do so. Here is one.'
The first example that we're going to see is a fellow who fell victim to a belief, and he believed a lie. The man of thirty. Joe?
JOE: This whole chapter is going to be a series of little essays, which is actually going to pinpoint the state of the mind of the individual before the first drink. It's going to bring out--these stories will point to the insanity preceding the first drink. It's trying to show us a little more about the specifics of this (which) is the point at which we're going to have (to have) the help.
(p. 32, par. 3) 'A man of thirty was doing a great deal of spree drinking. He was very nervous in the morning after these bouts and quieted himself with more liquor. He was ambitious to succeed in business, but saw that he would get nowhere if he Step # 1 Big Book Page # 32-34 Tape 3B-12 drank at all. Once he started, he had no control whatever.'
We can see he was alcoholic.
(p. 32, par. 3; p. 33, par. 1) 'He made up his mind that until he had been successful in business and had retired, he would not touch another drop. An exceptional man, he remained bone dry for twenty-five years and retired at the age of fifty-five, after a successful and happy business career. Then he fell victim to a belief which practically every alcoholic ha---that his long period of sobriety and self-discipline had qualified him to drink as other men. Out came his carpet slippers and a bottle. In two months he was in a hospital, puzzled and humiliated. He tried to regulate his drinking for a while, making several tripe to the hospital meantime. Then, gathering all his forces, he attempted to stop altogether and found he could not. Every means of solving his problem which (top of p. 33) money could buy was at his disposal. Every attempt failed. Though a robust man at retirement, he went to pieces quickly and was dead within four years.'
When you see that this man fell victim, he believed a lie. He believed that he could drink. This is the state of the mind preceding the first drink. This is the insanity of alcoholism. The insanity is to believe a lie. I always--we always say, if you believe a lie, the truth will set you free. The truth is you can't drink. But we believe that we can drink.
It's totally impossible for us to drink on the truth. For me to drink on the truth I would have to do something like this. I would have to go down to the liquor store or the nearest bar, walk in there and say, mister, I drank some of this almost twenty-five years ago and it damn near killed me. I ended up in the nut house. I lost my wife, and lost my job. How much would you charge me for another bottle of it.
CHARLIE: That's the truth. The only way I could go in there is to believe a lie. This time it's not going to hurt me. I would have to believe the lie.
So this man believed a lie. He fell victim to that belief. Even though we can see the progression in him. Even though he could stop at one time, this time when he tried to stop he couldn't. Because we can see the progression of his illness at this time, and it killed him.
Over on page thirty-four. Second paragraph. (p. 34, par. 3: p. 3S, par. 1-2) 'For those who are unable to drink moderately the question is how to stop altogether. We are assuming, of course, that the reader desires to stop. Whether such a person can quit upon a nonspiritual basis depends upon the extent to which he has already lost the power to choose whether he will drink or not. Many of us felt that we had plenty of character. There was a tremendous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible. This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it--this utter inability to leave it alone, no matter how great the necessity or the wish.
'How then shall we help our readers determine, to their own satisfaction, whether they are one of us? The experiment of quitting for a period of time will be helpful, but we think we can render an even greater service to alcoholic sufferers and perhaps to the medical (top of p. 35) fraternity. So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.
'What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who repeats time after time the desperate experiment of the first drink? Friends who have reasoned with him after a spree which has brought him to the point of divorce or bankruptcy are mystified when he walks directly into a saloon. Why does he? Of what is he thinking?'
You know, I read this. When I read this statement, that the mental state that precedes a relapse into drinking, obviously this is the crux of the problem, I began to look back in my life again. I suddenly realized that always just before I took a drink of booze, I was stone cold sober. Any time I ever took the first drink, just before I took it, I was stone cold sober. So I can't blame alcohol for me taking the first drink because there's no alcohol in my brain at that time. There must be something wrong in my head which causes me to take that first drink.
So they're going to describe to me some of the mental states that precede the taking of that first drink so that I can determine for myself whether I'm alcoholic or not. It's already told me one way to determine whether I am or not. It's to go over across the street have a few drinks and see whether I am or not. Also there example will show them- what's wrong in my mind just prior to taking that first drink.
The first example is a friend we'll call Jim. Joe for Jim. Jim seems to be Joe's main man for some reason. Joe usually gets screwed up with Jim so we'll see what he can do with him today. Joe?
JOE: He starts me off in trouble with Jim. This guy--I love this guy. I can identify with him.
(p. 35, par. 3) 'This man has a charming wife and family. He inherited a lucrative automobile agency. He had a commendable World War record. He is a good salesman. Everybody likes him.' Typical alcoholic.
(p. 35, par. 3) 'He is an intelligent man, normal so far as we can see, except for a nervous disposition. He did no drinking until he was thirty-five. In a few years he became so violent when intoxicated that he had to be committed. On leaving the...'
Treatment center. (Joe's word for asylum)
(p. 35, par. 3) '...he came into contact with us.'
You know, back in those days they called them asylums. Now they call them treatment centers. They're the same thing. They changed the name of them, but: same old thing.
(p. 35, par. 4) 'We told him what we knew of alcoholism...'
I--John and I talk about that, but I work in one of those things--that's what this thing is all about.
Says: (p. 35, par. 4) 'We told him what we knew of alcoholism...' And that's Step One. They told him what the problem was. (p. 35, par. 4) '...and the answer we had found. ' They must have told him that the answer is a Power greater than ourselves. So they most have told him Step Two. (p. 35, par. 4) 'He made a beginning.'
(End of Side B or Tape 3) (c) 1987, 1988 Joe McQ. and Carlie P. All Rights Reserved
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