I didn’t connect with the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous until over a year into my sobriety. I didn’t care to read it and I didn’t think it had anything of substance I could relate to. Boy, was I wrong. I can understand why it’s the sacred text of AA groups around the world. It has wisdom that has spanned centuries and saved countless lives. There are stories, steps, theories, and personal advice from a plethora of different people inside the big blue book. Everyone has their favorites, and these are the ones I consider to be mine, in no particular order.
1. “Those events that once made me feel ashamed and disgraced now allow me to share with others how to become a useful member of the human race.” p.492
I always wondered why people would want to hear my stories, and then I read this line. Our personal stories and how we recover can pass on the message that other people who are sick and suffering need to hear.
2. “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.” p.34
This one is a perfect description of when the obsession of the drink enthralls you. Even if we are good people, we still can’t drink “normally,” no matter how hard we try.
3. “Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one.” p.xxvii
Cunning, baffling, powerful. We all believe alcohol is fun to begin with, but it takes hold of us, so much so that we cannot differentiate a true reality from our false reality. We believe our alcoholic life is the only one we want, deserve, or need.
4. “The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker.” p.30
This says it all. I remember when I read this line for the first time. Attempting to control my drinking was what I had been doing unsuccessfully for years. I didn’t realize that other people did that, or that it made me an abnormal drinker.
5. “Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.” p.64
This line always resonates so well with me. Alcohol was but a symptom for me. I can remember always feeling that anything I had in life was never good enough for me. I was always on the search for something – whether it was a party, a friendship, a man etc. Knowing this cause and the conditions surrounding my drinking has been transformational in my recovery.
6. “When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” p.417
This line was also life-changing for me. Acceptance and surrender are popular themes in recovery and now I understand why. If I want peace and serenity, I must accept everything as is, not wish it was different.
7. “I listened to their stories and found so many areas where we overlapped – not all the deeds, but the feelings of remorse and hopelessness. I learned that alcoholism isn’t a sin, it’s a disease.” p.344
I always assumed I would never be able to relate to another alcoholic. I held myself up, like I was better than “them.” But when I finally started listening, I could relate to at least one thing in every story I heard. I also learned that addiction is not a moral failing and that it can affect anyone.
8. “We talked of intolerance, while we were intolerant ourselves. We missed the reality and the beauty of the forest because we were diverted by the ugliness of some of its trees.” p.50
This is my favorite line in the Big Book. I was extremely intolerant when I was drinking, yet I was the first to point out intolerance in others. The second part of this line is also loaded with significance. I think this is a world view a lot of us hold until we are able to see the bigger picture.
9. “Adversity truly introduces us to ourselves.” p.530
There is beauty in the battle of addiction. It’s hard to see until we truly embrace recovery and realize what we’ve been through and how we got where we are. But it’s absolutely true – adversity allows us to learn and grow into who we really are.
10. “When I am willing to do the right thing I am rewarded with an inner peace no amount of liquor could ever provide. When I am unwilling to do the right thing, I become restless, irritable, and discontent. It is always my choice.” p.317
For many of us, alcohol has been our solution for as long as we can remember. In recovery, we realize that it doesn’t provide all the things it promised. The beauty of recovery is that we learn inner peace does not come from external sources, it comes from within. The way we obtain it is through doing the right thing, which is always our choice. How lucky are we that in recovery we have choices?
The wisdom from the Big Book isn’t limited to 10 quotes. Its words and interpretations are left up to the reader to use as they choose. There is comfort in knowing you aren’t alone, that what you’re feeling isn’t unusual, and that there is a solution. The Big Book has given me that comfort and the push to move forward.
-By Kelly Fitzgerald 07/29/16