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February 5, 2014

“Bill’s Story” vs. The Big Book

by Brendan

Yes, a very peculiar title to this post: “Bill’s Story” is an early chapter in what’s known in the A.A. community as The Big Book (actual title Alcoholics Anonymous, published in 1938 — the nickname is because the original edition was apparently a very big book; today’s versions are normal-sized books).

1948 First Edition, $350 on eBay

1948 First Edition, $350 on eBay

A revelation in a meeting a couple of week’s ago, in which we were discussing “Bill’s Story.”  The part I’m referencing took place between November 1934 and early 1935, when the One Day At a Time program didn’t even have a name, let alone any of the massive organization, history, and other accoutrement it now has.  Bill notes that he visited his friend Ebby (though he doesn’t name him), that he discusses with Ebby the awful things he (Bill, that is)  has done in his alcoholic misbehavior.  Then together they make a list of people Bill needs to apologize to.

I noticed, in great surprise, and raised my hand and shared with the group that apparently, in the first few weeks of the nascent program, Bill had practiced Steps 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8.  (1: Admitted he was powerless and his life unmanageable; 2: Believed a Greater Power could restore his sanity; 4: Made a moral inventory; 5: Admitted his wrongs to God and another; 8: Made a list of persons he had harmed.)

Normally, as A.A. is practiced these days where I live (Gainesville, FL) steps are done much more slowly than 5 per week (or per 2 weeks), or 2-3 per day.  Sometimes months and months are involved, or even years.

Interests me that the original version of A.A., as done and presented by its founders, seems to keep practicing the Steps much more simple than practicing them is now done.  Maybe it’s like being a kid and playing pick-up baseball — it’s fun, its instructive, there’s great fellowship.  And THEN, AND THEN, adults and umpires get involved, and all the fun, and arguably much of the usefulness, goes out of it.

One of A.A.’s slogans is “Keep It Simple.”  And we don’t, we don’t.

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