Big Book Q&A
Personal Stories: Experience, Strength & Hope
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Roman Numerals Chapters 1–11 Personal Stories: 4th Edition Appendices
Part I: From the First Edition of the Big Book
1. L1-2: “. . . I lay on my bed in a famous hospital for alcoholics.” Who is the author
of this story? Hank P.
2. Which hospital was he in? – Town’s Hospital in Central Park West, NYC
3. Hank was the second alcoholic Bill W. helped to get sober in NYC. What is his date of
4. He wrote the only Big Book chapter not written by Bill W. What chapter is this? – To
5. This chapter represents an example of what Hank had been urging Bill to do with
the rest of the Big Book. What was this? – Omit any mention of the word God
6. He wrote another piece for the Big Book which was never published. What was this?
– “The Q&A Chapter”
7. He owned a business whose office became the first AA office. What was its name
and where was it located? – Honor Dealers, in Newark, NJ.
8. Who worked there with Hank? – Bill W.
9. Who was Hank’s secretary and what role did she eventually play in AA? – Ruth Hock,
who became the first AA secretary and typed the Big Book’s manuscript, mostly
from Bill’s dictation
10. What else is Ruth known for? – She discovered the Serenity Prayer in the obituary
page of a newspaper
11. Did Hank remain sober? – No. He relapsed in September 1939, soon after the Big
Book’s publication, and never again regained permanent sobriety
12. This story is written in a particular literary style. What is this called? – Stream of
13. Who are some famous authors who wrote in this style? – James Joyce, Virginia
Wolf, William Faulkner, and Jack Kerouac, alcoholic and drug addict
14. What led Hank to imitate them? He took a creative writing course at NYU
15. L17-18: “What had the little doctor said this morning . . .? Who was this doctor?
– Doctor William Silkworth, the hospital’s director, later known to AA’s as “Dr. Silky”
1. L13-14: “An alcoholic is a person who has an allergy to alcohol? Whose idea is this
and the others that are being questioned? – Dr. Silkworth’s
2. L26-27: “I’ve got one of the stubbornest will powers known in the business.” What
business is he probably referring to? – The car sales business. Hank owned a car
3. What well-known company did he work for before being fired for drinking? – He was
a Sales Manager with Standard Oil of New Jersey
4. Why and when did he lose his job? – For drinking, in 1935
1. “He’s trying . . . idealistic as hell . . . nice fellow . . .” Who is he talking about?
– Bill W.
1. L6-7: “And he said ‘God.’ And I laughed.” – Why did he laugh? Hank was an atheist
2. L22: “. . . lie down in green pastures . . .” – What is the allusion to here?
– Psalm 23
3. L35: “He’d laid down in this same dump . . .” Who was this? – Bill W.
1. L28-29: “. . . just a lot of hooey to keep the masses in subjugation . . .” What is
the philosophical source of this idea? – Marxism
1. LL19-20: “. . . Second, if there was a God, why all this suffering?” This is a question
many struggle with, including believers. How is this problem known in philosophy?
– The problem of evil
Cross-references to 4th Edition: Foreword to 2nd Edition: The Doctor's Opinion,
PXXXI, #1; Chapter 11: A Vision for You, P158-159, #7, P163, #1; Gratitude in
||A Feminine Victory
1. L1: Why “the rather doubtful distinction?” – There was a greater stigma attached
to women alcoholics at the time
2. L2-3: The author of this story refers to herself as “the only lady in our particular
section.” Who was she? – Florence R.
3. Why “the only lady” – There were hardly any women in AA when she wrote her
4. How many women had been around AA at the time? – Four
5. Who were they? – A woman known as “Lil” in Akron, Florence R., Mary
C., and Marty M.
6. Who had the longest time sober? – Florence, who after a few slips managed to put
together a year at the time of writing
7. Marty M. is credited with being the first woman to achieve long-term sobriety in
AA. Why is this? – Florence committed suicide not long after her story was
published, and Mary Campbell had a relapse in 1944, though she stopped
drinking again and remained sober until her death in the 1990’s
8. Florence affected how the Big Book would eventually be named. How? – One of the
most popular names was “One Hundred Men,” and it had to be discarded when she
9. How does the stigma of being a female drunk affect Florence’s telling of her story?
– She stresses her condition being “disgraceful,” and a “humiliation,” feeling
“ashamed” and wanting “to hide.”
10. Cross-reference: “Women Suffer Too,” Marty M.’s story, above, P.200 #1
1. L25: “I was in the alcoholic ward of a public hospital!” – What hospital was this?
– Bellevue Hospital in NYC, not far from the Oxford Group Mission where Ebby T.
and Bill W. got sober
2. L26: “It was there that L_____ came to me.” Who was “L”? – Louise Wilson
3. Who sent her there? – Florence's ex-husband Larry, one of Bill's Wall Street
4. LL30-31: “There her husband told me the secret of his rebirth.” – Who was this?
– Bill W.
5. Why “rebirth”? – Bill saw the spiritual experience that led to his recovery as a
6. Where in the Big Book does is this connection between spiritual experience or
awakening and spiritual rebirth made explicit? – In How It Works, p. 63: “We
were reborn,” mentioned as one of the promises of Step 3
7. Why do some AAs object to this expression? – Because of its religious assoc-
iation with being “born again”
1. LL12-13: “So I forsook Spirit in favor of “spirits.” There’s an allusion here to a
famous expression that is key to the history and the program of AA. What is it?
– “Spiritus contra spiritum”
2. Who is it attributed to? – Dr. Carl Jung
3. Where do we read about it? –In Dr. Jung’s response to Bill’s letter, where Bill tells
the doctor how his advice to Rowland H. to seek spiritual help has inspired the
idea of a movement to help alcoholics
4. Where in the Big Book do we read about Rowland’s experience with Jung? – In the
chapter “There’s a Solution,” pp. 26-27
5. What does the expression mean? – Literally, “Spirit against spirits”
6. What’s the connection to alcoholism? – Explains Jung: “You see, ‘alcohol’ in Latin is
‘spiritus’ and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well
as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra
7. LL33-34: “I got the Bible and “Victorious Living’.” – What is the second reference
to? – A devotional book popular in Akron AA, read by Dr. Bob and his wife Anne.
Its title may have inspired the title of Florence’s story
8. Cross-references for Jung: Correspondence with Bill: The Language of the Heart,
pp. 276-281. Other: Foreword to Second Edition, The Doctor’s Opinion, P XXIX,
LL7-9; Chapter 2: There Is a Solution, P26, L3; Personal Stories, “Me an
Alcoholic?” P386, LL8-9. Bill-Jung correspondence may also be read at
1. L23: “I was taken back to B’s home.” Who was B? – Bill W.
2. Where was his home? – At 182 Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, NYC
||A Businessman's Recovery
1. L5: “I was a passenger on that boat.” Who is the author of this story? – William R.
of N.J., who first got sober if February of 1937
2. He later recounts that he got on his knees and “made a surrender” in Bill W.’s house. Why did
he do that? – It was one of the membership requirements of the Oxford Group and therefore
of the “Alcoholic Squad," which at the time formed a part of it
3. William was one of the first members of the Alcoholic Foundation when it was
established in 1938, but was replaced almost immediately. Why? – He got
drunk; was replaced by Harry B. of the story “A Different Slant”
1. L6: ”. . . after the Armistice . . .” Armistice Day signals the end of which war?
2. What national holiday celebrates that event, and when? – Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11
3. LL18-19: “. . . having heard terrible stories of Prohibition . . .” Which Amendment
made Prohibition the law of the land? – The 18th
4. How long did Prohibition last? – From January 17, 1920 to December 5, 1933
5. By what Amendment was it repealed? – the 21st Amendment
6. Which group considered a predecessor of AA was finally destroyed by its ident-
ification with Prohibition? – The Washingtonian Society
1. L12: The author thought “a change of scenery” would help him “get off of the
stuff.” What do we call that? – A geographic, of which the author apparently
1. L13: “The first thing Bill told me was his own story.” – Which Bill is this? – Bill W.
||A Different Slant
1. L1: “I have probably one of the shortest stories,” says the author of this story, but
he has probably the longest story in the main text of the Big Book, outside of Bill’s.
It extends to four full pages, from p.39 to p.43. By what name is he known there?
2. What is his real name? – Harry B.
3. What is his profession? – He’s an accountant.
4. What is his “different” slant or angle in this story? – That a person can have every-
thing from a material standpoint, a great personality, strong will power, no worries
or troubles, and still become a hopeless and helpless alcoholic
5. Harry became a trustee of the Alcoholic Foundation when another alcoholic trustee
got drunk. Soon after that he too was replaced. Why? – He also got drunk
6. Apparently Harry had a resentment, for he ended up suing AA. Why? – He had
made a loan to AA to publish the Big Book and he wanted his money back
7. Cross-reference: Chapter 3: More about Alcoholism, P39, LL1-3; Personal Stories,
“A Businessman’s Recovery,” P24, LL1-2
||The Back Slider
1. L1: “When I was graduated from high-school . . .” Who wrote this story?
– Walter B.
2. Where was he from? – Cleveland, Ohio
3. What is this city known for in AA history? – It had the first group which identified
itself by the name “Alcoholics Anonymous”
4. LL25-26: “. . . my urge for moving around.” In the Big Book’s The Doctor’s Opinion,
Dr. Silkworth characterized this urge as typical of the alcoholic. What did he call it?
5. This is related to another problem that he said often plagues the alcoholic. What
is that? – Discontentment
1. LL4-5: “. . . to a growing city in the middle west.” What city was this? – Akron,
2. LL33-34: “Fateful and fatal came the month of October in the year 1929.” What
happened that month? – The stock market crashed, ushering in the Great
3. Where else in the Big Book do we read about this? – In “Bill’s Story”
4. Cross-reference: Chapter 1, “Bill’s Story,” P.4, L1
1. LL21-22: “My wife did the best she could . . .” Her story is also in the first edition
of the Big Book. What is its title? – “An Alcoholic’s Wife”
2. L30: “Both were sorry for me . . .” Judging by the author’s reaction, what did he
think they actually felt for him? – Pity
3. Over time, we have come to make a distinction between pity and compassion in
English. What is this difference? – In pity one feels bad for someone who is
suffering, but does not necessarily share and identify with that suffering; in
compassion one “suffers with,” sharing and identifying with it
1. L18: “They rushed me to the hospital.” Which hospital was this? – St. Thomas
2. He was reportedly the first alcoholic admitted for detoxification at this hospital.
A little nun worked with alcoholics there. Who was she? – Sister Ignatia
3. L31: “This doctor came and sat beside my bed.” Who was this? – Dr. Bob, who
together with Sister Ignatia helped hundreds of alcoholics there
1. LL1-2: “. . . numbered only Doc and two other fellows.” Who were the others?
– Bill D. (AA #3, “The Man in the Bed”) and Ernie G. (AA #4)
2. Ernie’s story follows immediately after this. What is its title? – “The Seven Month
3. LL3-4: “. . . they met once a week in a private house.” Whose house was this?
– Henrietta Seiberling’s, where the Oxford Group met and Bill W. was introduced
to Dr. Bob
4. Cross-reference: Chapter 11, A Vision for You, PP158-159, LL2-6; Alcoholics
Anonymous Comes of Age, pp. 72-73
1. LL14-15: “. . . but I didn’t want help. I was ashamed.” What was he ashamed of?
– Of having relapsed.
2. What character defect often lies behind shame in such a situation? – Pride
3. Does the author later acknowledge that? – Yes, when he recognizes the need for
humility in seeking God’s help
Cross-reference: “An Alcoholic’s Wife,” p. 128 below
||The Seven Month Slip
1. Who is the author of this story? – Ernie G.
2. L19-20: “During this time I married . . .” – Who did he marry? –Sue Smith, daughter
of Dr. Bob, who disapproved of the marriage
3. What was Ernie’s condition during the wedding? – He was drunk
4. L22: “. . . getting around the law in speakeasies.” – What were speakeasies?
– Illegal drinking establishments during Prohibition, 1920-193
1. L15-16: “Somehow my family heard of two men in town who had found a way to
quit drinking.” Who were these two men? – Bill W. and Dr. Bob
2. How did his family hear about them? – His parents attended the same church as T.
Henry and Clarace Williams, two members of the Oxford Group in whose home
alcoholics were meeting
3. L30-31: “Then one day I had a couple of visitors, one a man from New York and the
other a local attorney.” – Who were these visitors? – Bill W. and Bill D., AA Number
1. L7-8: “. . . I decided to give it a try. And it worked.” Did it really work? For a while:
Ernie became AA number 4
2. L29-30: Then he had his “seven month failure” during which he drank again, after
which he put “more than a year” together. Did it work this time? – Unfortunately,
no. Ernie kept relapsing and died still drinking
||My Wife and I
1. Who is the author of this story? – Tom L.
2. L5-8: “. . . and finally married an able, well-educated woman . . .” – What was her
name? -- Maybelle
3. L20: “. . . a business slump affecting the whole country.” – What “slump” was this?
– The Great Depression of 1929
4. L23” “. . . the potent liquors of prohibition days. . .” – To what is he referring here?
– The Prohibition Era, 1920-1933
1. L11-13: “. . . spacing my drinks . . . taking only a measured shot . . . the folly of
gulping down big drinks.” – What do we call what he was trying to do? – Controlled
2. L24: “. . . soon I was craving the stuff so much that I didn’t wait . . .” – What part
of the disease does this craving exhibit? – The physical part
3. What was the name giving this craving? – An allergy
4. Who gave it this name? Dr. William Silkworth
5. What are the other two parts of the disease, according to AA? – The emotional and
1. L10: “. . . vanished on account of the depression.” – Again, the Great Depression of
2. L15-16: “. . . I didn’t touch a drop for two years.” What does this show? – That if
things get bad enough, some of us can manage to stop on our own. But if we are
alcoholic sooner or later we’ll go back
1. L13-15: “Following a prosperous season . . . I had a drinking spell.” What does this
show according to AA experience? – That if we are alcoholic we drink, in good as
well as in bad times
2. L33: After nine months sober, he “was drinking every day” again. – What do we call
the alcoholic who goes on and off the wagon regularly? – A periodic
1. L6-7, 23-25: “. . . gave place to a man who slammed the door when he came in.
. . . I became increasingly surly . . . morose.” What does this say about the
nature of our disease? – That it is a progressive disease, affecting not only the
way we drink but the way we behave and the kind of people we become
2. L32: “’A fine lot of Job’s comforters,” he says of the friends and associates who
"generally ended up mildly upbraiding” him for his drinking? To what is the
allusion made here? – To the book of Job in the Bible, where three friends try to
comfort him for his suffering, all the while insisting that he’s being punished for
his sins and needs to repent and ask for God’s mercy
1. L4-5: At one time he and his wife had tried going to church, and now “She got our
pastor to talk to me. It was no good.” What does this confirm about AA experience?
– That religion typically is unable to help the alcoholic.
2. What was the first instance of this experience in AA history? – That of Rowland H.
who, despite being a devout church member, couldn’t get sober until he had a
spiritual experience in the Oxford Group
3. L10-12: “I began to regard myself as an injured husband and an unappreciated
father. . .” He seems to be feeling an emotion many of us alcoholics are susceptible
to when dealing with the consequences of our drinking. What emotion is this?
4. L26-27: “Every alcoholic reaches the end of the tether someday day.” Is this true?
– Not necessarily. Some of us drink ourselves to death
5. L29-32: “I told my wife for the first time that I wanted to quit drinking, but I
couldn’t . . . I needed help.” Without knowing, he had started to take the first
step. What was this? – Admitting that he was powerless over alcohol
6. L33-34: “. . . my wife had hear of another doctor who in some mysterious ways
had stopped drinking . . .” Who was this? – Dr. Bob
1. L7-9: “’Does your husband want to stop drinking . . . Has he come to the end of
the road?’” – What was Dr. Bob trying to ascertain here? – That the man had hit
bottom and had a desire to stop. The next paragraph answers these questions
in the affirmative
2. L22-23: “. . . from his speech was obviously an Easterner.” Where was he from?
– Vermont, like Bill W.
3. L31-33: “If you are perfectly sure that . . .” The rest of this sentence spells out
the attitude we need if we are to recover. A lot of people who come to AA don’t
seem to have it. What happens when they don’t? – They don’t stop drinking
4. What do we say about AA that sums up what Dr. Bob is saying here? “AA is for
those who want it, not for those who need it”
5. P55, L3-4: What was the man’s response? – That he “had never wanted anything
as much” in his life as to quit
1. L12-14: “He told me that several former alcoholics were dry as a result of following
certain prescribed course of action and that some of them would be in to see me.”
Instead of “dry,” what was the term most often used to refer to these alcoholics?
2. L19-21: “. . . the human agency employed by an all-wise Father. . .” What’s
another way of saying what the man is saying here? – That God works through
people—hence the principles of “love and service” in Step 12
3. L27-29: “. . . they were living proof that the sincere attempt to follow the cardinal
teachings of Jesus Christ was keeping them sober.” Direct Christian references like
this were gradually edited out of AA material. Where else in the Big Book
(4th Edition) can we find them? – In “Bill’s Story” (p.11), “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare”
(p.172), and “Appendix V, The Religious View on A.A.” (p.572)
1. L3: “. . . to begin the day with morning devotion . . .” This is another religious term
we have dropped from the AA vocabulary. What do we call it now? – Prayer and
2. L14-15: “In our town there are some 70 of us . . .” Which town is this? – Akron
||A Ward of the Probate Court
1. Who is the author of this story, and where is he from? – Bill V. H., from Akron
(or Kent), Ohio
2. L12: “War was declared.” What war was this? – WWI
3. L16: “. . . ‘vin rouge’. . .“ What was this? – Red wine (French)
1. L5: “To forget, I engaged in super-active life . . .” He says he was trying to forget
by getting very busy, but what else was he trying to do? – He was trying to com-
pensate for his loss
2. LL22-24: “To get away from my drinking associates, I managed to be transferred
to another city, but this didn’t help.” What do we call this attempt to deal with our
alcoholism? – Taking a geographic
3. L31: Those were the bath-tub gin days . . .” What is he referring to here?
1. LL8-9: “In times of great distress such as this, I would pray to God for help?
What do we call this kind of prayer? – A foxhole prayer
2. What saying is derived from this expression? – “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
3. L18: “. . . and came to locked up in a cheap hotel room . . .” What probably
happened to him? – He had a blackout
1. LL31-32: “. . . as a patient of a doctor who had been an alcoholic for many years
and was now a new man.” Who was this doctor? – Dr. Bob
||Riding the Rods
1. L1: “. . . I was ready . . .” Who wrote this story? – Charlie S.
2. LL1-2: “. . . an American Whittington . . .“ Who is the reference to? – Apparently
to W.W. Whittington, who founded a railroad town in the Midwest that bears his
3. L5: “ . . . was a siren call.” What is the reference to here? – To Greek mythology,
where beautiful creatures half bird and half-women lured sailors to their destruction
with their sweet songs
1. L33: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” What ancient document is this first found in?
– In the Bible
2. Where in the Big Book is it quoted? – In “A Vision for You,” p.153
3. This is said to be the second of the two great commandments that sum up the ten.
What is the first? – “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and will all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”
1. L14: “The war was on . . .” Which war? – WWII
2. L24: “. . . being slipped a ‘Mickey Finn’. . .“ What was this? A drink laced with
a drug used to incapacitate and take advantage of someone. Probably named after
a Chicago saloon owner in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
1. LL31-32: “. . . as a patient of a doctor who had been an alcoholic for many years
and was now a new man.” Who was this doctor? – Dr. Bob
2. LL5-6: John Barleycorn . . .” The name personifies alcohol. What is its original
source? – British folklore
3. What British novelist and alcoholic made this the title of his Alcoholic Memoirs
autobiography? – Jack London (1876-1916)
4. Cross-reference: “Our Southern Friend,” Big Book 4th edition, p.209
1. LL19-20: “. . . and later to an industrial city in Ohio.” What city was this? – Akron
1. L2: “Those were still bootleg days.” Meaning what? – Prohibition
2. LL18-19: “Reverend gentlemen, who knew nothing of my problem, pointed me to
the age-old religious formula.” What does he mean? – That they weren’t speaking
from experience and thus couldn’t help him
3. L33: “. . . Pittsburgh . . . the Smoky City.” Why “smoky”? – Highly industrialized,
with lots of smokestacks
4. Cross-reference to Prohibition: “Dr. Bob’s Story,” p.175
1. LL14-15: “. . . I was a sober man, thoroughly dry. I wasn’t just on the wagon. I
was dry! Here the author equates being dry with being sober. How do we use
“dry” today? – To mean not drinking, but otherwise not sober, especially not
emotionally sober, not much different from before
2. L28: “. . . a group of some 30 men in my town . . .” What group was this? – The
Oxford Group meeting in Akron
3. When did the Akron alcoholic contingent break away from the Oxford Group?
– Around November or December of 1939
1. L30-31: “. . . I had a visitor, a doctor who had himself been an alcoholics.” Who
was this? – Dr. Bob
1. P73L, 34 – P74, L1: “He presented no religious nostrums . . .” What is “nostrums”?
– Refers to a remedy or medicine with false or exaggerated claims and no demon-
strable value (“snake oil”)
2. L23: “That was two years ago.” When did he get sober? – May 1937
1. Who is the author of this story? – Bob O.
2. Title: Many if not most of the early AAs were salesmen. What is the title of the
most famous play about salesmen in America? – Death of a Salesman, by
Arthur Miller, 1949|
3. LL1-2: “. . . when the law of the land said I couldn’t . . .” Why? – Because of
4. LL20-21: “In 1921 we had the forerunner of the later depression . . .” Which
depression was this? – The Great Depression of 1929
5. Cross-reference, Depression: Chapter 1, “Bill’s Story,” P.4, L1
1. L13: “. . . a nationally known biscuit company . . .” Which company was this?
– Probably NABISCO (National Biscuit Company), which is still in business
1. LL8-9: “. . . but nothing the said—some were ministers and others church
members—helped me a particle.” This repeats a theme common in the stories of
many alcoholics. What is that theme? – That religion and church were not able to
help the alcoholic to recover
2. LL14-16: “. . . a doctor who had been having marked success with alcoholics.” Who
was this? – Dr. Bob
3. LL31-33: “It is true they did no psalm singing, nor was there any set ritual, but
I just didn’t care for anything religious.” Turned off by a religious approach which
had not helped him, the author here seems to be confusing religion with something
else. What is this? – Spirituality
1. LL13-15: “I told him I had come to the point where I was ready for the remedy
. . .” What does this seem to be a sign of? – That he had surrendered and recog-
nized his powerlessness over alcohol
2. LL26-28: “Every morning I read a part of the Bible and ask God to carry me
through the day safely.” What does this say about his problem with religion?
– That he had gotten past the religious stumbling block to a practical spirituality
1. L3: “All the doctor asked me to do was tell my story.” The author said he found this
necessary to his continued happiness. What is the spiritual principle he was putting
to work? – Service
1. Who is the author of this story? – Unknown
1. LL15-16: “. . . I was ‘Mickey Finned,’ for I woke up about noon the next day in my
hotel without a cent.” What is the meaning of this expression? – To put a sed-
ative in someone’s drink and cause him to pass out in order to robe him
2. What’s the origin of the expression? – Mickey Finn, a Chicago criminal and bar
tender who did exactly that to his patrons
1. LL16-17: “She had heard of the work of an ex-alcoholic doctor . . .” Who was this
person? – Dr. Bob
||Truth Freed Me
1. Who is the author of this story? – Paul S.
2. When did he get sober? July 2, 1936
3. LL9-10: “. . . The Divine Comforter came, “Truth” came to me in a barroom. . .”
What is the reference to here? – The Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, and elsewhere)
1. LL3-4: “. . . a local doctor who had been helpful to him.” Who’s the reference to?
– Dr. Bob
2. LL9-10: “. .. he understood the true meaning of the phrase ‘Brotherly Love’ . . .”
What is the original source of this phrase? – The Bible (Romans 12:10)
3. LL23-24: “I was doubtful, fearful, full of self-pity, afraid to humiliate myself.”
He’s conflating humiliation with something else. What is it? – Humility
4. What emotion is typically at work in these types of situations? – Shame
5. What character defect is typically behind this emotion? – Pride
Cross-reference: Story "From Farm to City," p.278
||Smile with Me, at Me
1. Who is the author of this story? – Unknown
2. LL6-7: I thought I was too clever for a $7.00 a week job.” What was likely
character defect behind his “thought”? – Pride
1. L1-2: “. . . then we went into the world war.” Which was is referenced here?
2. LL15-16: “In six months I found I was too good for this job . . .” Likely defect of
character? – Pride
1. L8: “Then came the big crash of 1929 . . .” What’s the reference to? – The stock
market crash that initiated the Great Depression
2. L31-32: “. . . I thought he had the St. Vitus’ dance . . .” What was this disease?
– Sydenham's chorea (SC), a disorder characterized by rapid, uncoordinated
jerking movements primarily affecting the face, hands and feet
1. LL9-10: “. . . put me in a private New York hospital.” – Which hospital was this?
– Charles B. Towns Hospital in Central Park West, NYC
2. LL22-23: “He explained he had been in the same hospital with the same malady
. . .” – Who was this? – Probably Bill W.
3. How do we know? – Because he said he had three years sober. The other
possibilities are Hank P. (AA #2) and Fitz M. (AA #3), both of whom got sober
at Towns in 1935, over a year after Bill (08/34)
1. LL7-12: “For I delight in the law of God . . . Who shall deliver me out of the body
of this death?” Where is this quote from? – Romans
2. What was the message the author got out of this passage? – That he didn’t have
to be ashamed of having relapsed. Paul too had struggled, but he had the
honesty and the courage to openly admit it. Following Paul’s example, he would
go back and start attending meetings again
||A Close Shave
1. Who is the author of this story? – Unknown
2. L1: “The year 1890 witnessed my advent . . .” What is the meaning of advent?
– The arrival
3. What are the religious connotations of the term in this context? – It refers to the
Advent season in the Christian liturgical calendar, which is observed in anticipation
of the birth of Jesus and begins four Sundays before Christmas
1. L11: “. . . to go to a nearby town to have a talk with a doctor.” Who is he referring
to? – Dr. Bob
1. Who is the author of this story, where is he from, and what is his date of sobriety?
– Norman H., Darien, CT, 1938
2. L5: “. . . the kindly doctor . . .” Who was this? – Probably Dr. Silkworth
1. LL20-24: “The next day another man visited me [who] hadn’t had a drink in over
three years!” Who was this? – Probably Fitz M. (“Our Southern Friend”) or Hank P.
2. LL27-29: “. . . invited to a gathering the following Tuesday where I would meet
other alcoholics who had stopped.” Where was this meeting? – In Bill W.’s house
in Brooklyn Heights
1. LL7-8: “Almost imperceptibly my whole attitude toward life underwent a silent
revolution.” What would we say happened to him? – He had a spiritual awakening
2. LL15-17: “The first step I took when I admitted . . . that [I] might be wrong.”
What Step 1 quality was he apparently beginning to acquire? – Humility
3. LL19-20: “. . . I am convinced that to seek is to find, to ask is to be given.”
There’s an allusion to an ancient text here. What is it? – The Bible, Matthew 7:7
||Another Prodigal Story
1. Who is the author of this story? – Ralph F.
2. In chapter 3 of the Big Book, “More About Alcoholism," he’s referred to under a
pseudonym. What pseudonym is this? – Jim
3. Why “Another” in the title? Because, apparently, he considers himself another
4. Where do we find the original story of the prodigal son? – In the Bible’s New
Testament, Luke 15:11-32
1. LL24-25: “A Good Samaritan saw my condition . . .” Here’s another well-known Bible
story. Where is it from? – Luke 10:29-37
2. How is the original story related to this alcoholic’s story? – In the biblical story, a
merchant from Samaria comes to the aid of a man who has been robbed and left
injured by the roadside while two religious men (a priest and a Levite) ignore him
and pass him by. In the alcoholic’s case, he’d been involved in an accident while
drunk and a man comes to his assistance and drives him back home
3. At the time of the original story, a “good” Samaritan would sound like a contradiction
to the religious man Jesus was telling the parable to. Why? – Because Samaritans
were despised by the religious establishment
4. There’s a great irony in this story. What is it? – That it was the “bad” Samaritan
who acted in accordance with the religious law and did the right thing, while the
two religious men, who were supposed to be good (“righteous”), did nothing
5. By what name is Samaria known by most people today? – The West Bank
6. LL32-33: “. . . in a New York hospital.” Which one? – Charles B. Towns Hospital
in Central Park West, NYC
1. L29: “My wife pleaded with the doctor.” Who was this? Probably Dr. William
Silkworth, the hospital’s director, later known to AA’s as “Dr. Silky”
1. LL3-5: “. . . my ex-alcoholic friend insisted that I . . . come over to his home in
‘Jersey.” – Who was this friend? Possibly Hank P. (AA #2 and author of “The
Unbeliever,” the first story in Experience, Strength, & Hope), who was from
2. LL8-9: “. . . the home of an ex-alcoholic in Brooklyn.” Who was this and where was
it? – Bill W., at his apartment at 132 Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights
3. “This prodigal came home.” In what sense does he mean he came “home?” – He
came home to God
4. How is this related to the story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible? – The father to
whom the prodigal son returns is on a literal level of meaning his biological
father, but on a more spiritual level his heavenly Father, God, who forgives him
and welcomes him home
1. Who is the author of this story? – Unknown
2. L6: “And wasn’t this the middle of the depression? What’s the reference to? – The
depression that started with the stock market crash of 1929
3. LL14-16: “I reasoned there was a real excuse for that last bender.” What do we
call what he’s doing here? – Rationalizing
1. LL20-22: “” . . . in the presence of the man whose address was in my pocket.”
Who was this man? – Probably Bill W.
2. LL23-24: “I met men whose stories convinced me . . .” Where did he meet them?
– Probably at Bill and Lois’ apartment at 182 Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights in
NYC, where the first AA meetings were held
||An Alcoholic's Wife
1. Who is the author of this story? – Mary B.
2. Bill W. had asked another woman to write this story, but she declined. Who was this woman?
– Dr. Bob’s wife, Anne
3. LL1-2: “I have the misfortune, or I should say the good fortune, of being an
alcoholic’s wife.” This alcoholic also wrote his story in the first edition of the
Big Book. What is his name and the title of his story? – Walter B.,
4. Why did she correct herself and say the good fortune rather than the misfortune?
– Because, as she puts it, “We have now started to live.” Thanks to AA, she and
her husband found a new way of living
Cross-reference: “The Backslider,” Walter B.’s story, above, p. 38
||An Artist's Concept
1. Who is the author of this story? – Unknown
2. Where is the Herbert Spencer quote from? The Big Book
3. Where do we find it? In Appendix II, Spiritual Experience, p. 567 in the 4th edition
1. L19: “ . . . a person constrained to temperance . . . “ What is the meaning of
“temperance” here? Not drinking
2. What social movement was the term associated with at the time? The Temperance
Movement, which starting in the 19th century in the U.S. campaigned against the
consumption of alcohol and which with the passing of the 18th Amendment led to
Prohibition (1920 – 1933)
3. “Temperance” was originally a term for a virtue, one which under various names
became one of the spiritual principles in the 12 Steps of AA. What are some of
these names? – Moderation, self-control, restraint (“of pen and tongue”)
1. LL13-14: “’Most men,’ wrote Thoreau, ‘lead lives of quiet desperation.’” Who was
(Henry David) Thoreau, and what is his best known work? – An American poet,
essayist, and naturalist (1817-1862), author of Walden
2. Quoting famous people is very rare in AA literature. Why is this? – So as not to
sound pretentious and, in keeping with the AA Preamble, to avoid the appear-
ance of endorsing or opposing any causes or engaging in any possible contro-
versy associated with the person quoted
1. L9: “”These men were but instruments.” What is a more commonly used term for
“instrument” in this sense today? – Channel
2. In what well-known prayer was “instrument” replaced by “channel”? – In the
version of the St. Francis Prayer used in Step 11 of the 12&12
3. L27: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Where is this quote from?
– Proverbs 23:7 in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament
4. The first four words were used for the title of a popular self-help book. What book is
this, and who is its author? – As a Man Thinketh, James Allen
5. What is the current title of the book? – As You Think
1. L10: “. . . if he could become ‘as a little child’ . . .” What’s the source of this
quotation? – Matthew 18:3-4 in the New Testament of the Bible: “Whosoever
therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the
kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3–4).
2. L29: “My conception of God as Universal Mind . . .” How does this relate to the
title of the story? – It is an artist’s concept of the deity
||The Rolling Stone
1. Who is the author of this story? – Unknown
2. LL14-15: “ . . . I was only in his way when he wanted to read his religious books
. . .” How is this a misuse of religion? – The father was using religion to put himself
before his son
1. LL7-9: “I had become a person wrapped up in my own life only and giving no
thought of anyone else.” Who did he seem to be imitating in this? – His father
2. LL13-14: “I knew the old San Francisco of before the earthquake . . . “ What
earthquake is he referring to? – The earthquake of 1906
1. L4: “. . . but I was ever a rolling stone . . .” This self-characterization gives the
story its title. Where is the expression from? – The proverb “a rolling stone
gathers no moss”
2. What is the meaning of this proverb? – As it applies to a person, that such an
individual is always on the move, lacks stability, and is free from responsibilities
3. L11: “The came the war.” Which war? – WWI
4. L31-32: “’Schnapps’ was barred to American Troops but I got mine.” – What is
“Schnapps”? – A strong alcoholic drink made from potatoes, and in Germany any
1. L19: “When I was told of a doctor . . .” Who is this doctor? – Dr. Bob
1. Who wrote this narrative? – Ruth Hock, Bill W.’s secretary, who also typed the Big
2. LL4-5: “. . . her son, an only child, had been drinking uncontrollably for years.”
– Who was this son? – Pat C, of Los Angeles, California
3. LL2-21: “. . . other men had recovered from alcoholism . . .” What does
“recovered” mean here? – That they had stopped drinking
4. LL22-33: “The doctor turned her letter over to Alcoholics Anonymous” Who was
this doctor? – Perhaps Dr. Silkworth, the medical director at Charles B. Towns
Hospital in NYC, where Bill W. and other early alcoholics had been sobered up, and
who wrote The Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book (p. XXV)
1. LL27-28: “. . . we received a long letter from the son himself.” What was unusual
about this letter, and how does it relate to the title of the story? – It recounted
the first experience of an alcoholic getting sober as a result of reading the Big
Book alone, with no personal contact or fellowship with other alcoholics
1. LL31-33: “I saw continually the effects of liquor but did it help me to leave it
alone? No—it did not.” This confirms an important AA understanding about
recovery from alcoholism. What is this? – That knowledge and information is
not sufficient to make the alcoholic stop drinking
1. L12: “Permission granted . . .” An asterisk at the bottom of p. 140 explains that
this story “appeared only in first printing of first edition” of the Big Book. Why
was it dropped from the second printing? – Because the man had gotten drunk
2. Did he eventually sober up again? – Yes, a 1944 letter from the founder of AA’s first
L.A. meeting states that Pat had been attending meeting and had been sober
about a year
3. Where else can we now find this story, besides in Experience, Strength & Hope?
– In the 75th Anniversary reprinting of the first edition of the Big Book,
Part II: From the Second Edition of the Big Book
||The Professor and the Paradox
1. Who is the author of this story? – John P.
2. As a professor of English in college, the author might have taught the literary term
which describes the use of the same letter or sound in adjacent words, as in the
title of his story. What is that term? – Alliteration
3. LL12-14: “. . . I have always been shy, sensitive, fearful, envious, and
resentful, which in turn leads one to be arrogantly independent, a defiant
personality.” Why, in psychological terms, do such defective traits of character and
emotion generate the further defects of arrogance and defiance? – The latter
defects compensate for the former
4. LL14-16: “. . . I got a Ph.D . . . . because I wanted either to outdo or defy
everybody else.” What, in spiritual terms, is the defect driving such desire to outdo
and defy? – Pride
1. LL22-23: “. . . there isn’t anybody who’s drunk any more Sal Hepatica than I have.”
What is he referring to? – A mineral salt laxative
2. LL 24-25: “. . . melancholy drunks. . .” What is a more common term for
melancholy? – Depression
3. The term appears twice in one of the Steps in the 12&12. Which Step is this?
– Step 4 (pp. 45 & 46)
1. LL4-5: “. . . for by this time one drink would set up in me that irresistible urge to
take another and another. . .” Who first described this syndrome for AA, what did he
call it, and what did it mean in terms of the progression of our disease? – Dr. William
Silkworth; a physical allergy; that we had crossed an invisible line and become, not
just hard or problem drinkers, but alcoholics—powerless to resist the urge to drink
2. LL10-12: “I tried to change . . . the amount of my drinking . . . my place of
living . . .” What do we call these two tactics we used to try to deal with our
alcoholism? – Controlled drinking and taking a geographic
3. LL15-16: “I tried to change everything and everybody, except myself—the only
thing I could change.” What is one of the tools we employ to reverse our tendency
to try to change everything except ourselves? – The Serenity Prayer
4. LL33-34: “I would feel much better doing it that way, I insisted? Why? – Probably
because to go to AA would be to humble himself and admit his need for help, and
his pride would not allow him to do that
1. LL26-28: “I called at the home of the man who started the A.A. group in my town,
and I went humbly with him to an A.A. meeting the following night.” What town was
that? – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
1. LL7-9: “Whatever it was, I have been in A.A. and I have been dry ever since.”
When was that? – February 1949
2. LL19-21: “Or talking about whiskey and old drinking days (one would normally think)
is sure to raise a thirst, but it doesn’t work that way either, does it? Why not?
– Because the obsession has been removed
3. L30: “We Surrender To Win.” What is the basic idea of surrender? – That we stop
fighting “anybody or anything” (Big Book 103): alcohol, people, places, things, God
4. What needs to happen for us to do that? – We need to hit bottom and accept
5. How do we win out of such defeat? – We’re granted the power to stop drinking and
to build a new life
6. Q&A Cross-reference, Surrender: “Women Suffer Too,” P205 #4 & #6
7. Other Cross-reference, Surrender: Big Book, Harry Tiebout: Appendix II: The
Medical View on AA, p.569, fourth paragraph
1. L5: “We Give Away To Keep.” What two key spiritual principles underlie this
paradox? – Service (a discipline), and gratitude (a virtue)
2. How do these principles work? – Both work against our disease of selfishness and
self-centeredness: one by focusing us on giving without expecting anything in
return (i.e. freely, not selfishly), the other by focusing us on how much we have
been given ourselves so that we don’t crave for more (and can thus gratefully share
what we have with others)
3. L14: “We Suffer To Get Well.” How does alcoholism inevitably lead to a lot of
suffering, for us and for others? – We cause a lot of harm, and harm entails pain
4. Why is suffering a necessary prelude to getting well? – Because it takes us to our
bottom, humbles us and shows us our powerlessness, and awakens us to the truth
about ourselves and the lives we’ve led, setting the stage for recovery
5. What prevents this process from playing itself out? – Denial
6. L26: “We Die to Live.” The author refers to the concept of being “born again.”
Where does this concept appear in the Big Book? – In Step 3: “We were reborn”
7. What is the process being described there? – A spiritual awakening
8. What is that that we die to as a result of this awakening? – We die to self, healing
from our spiritual disease of selfishness and self-centeredness
9. What are we born to? – We are born to a new way of life which revolves around
the practice of spiritual principles
Cross-reference: John P. - "The Professor and the Paradox," in "Audios & Videos," on
1. Who is the author of this story, and where is he from? – Joe M., from the Bronx, NY.
He first got sober 04/39, relapsed 11/39, and regained sobriety 02/40
2. LL4-5: “. . . Towns, that swanky place on Central Park West." What is the refer-
ence to, and who was the first AA to get sober there? – Charles B. Towns Hospital,
3. Who were the second and the third NY AAs to get sober there? – Hank P. (09/35,
“The Unbeliever”) and Fitz M. (10/35, “Our Southern Friend”)
4. Who was the director of this hospital? – Dr. William Silkworth
5. What was his AA nickname? – Silky
6. What was his contribution to the understanding of alcoholism? – That it was a
disease, what he called a physical “allergy”
7. What is his contribution to the Big Book? – He wrote “The Doctor’s Opinion”
1. LL5-6: “I was supposed to go to Sing Sing . . .” Where is this prison? – In Ossining,
2. LL10-11: “I was sentenced to the State Hospital again instead of Sing Sing.” What
is the name and location of this hospital? – Rockland State Hospital, NY
3. LL16-17: “. . . I was called into the doctor’s office, the chief doctor of the State
Hospital.” What was this doctor? – Dr. Russell E. Blaisdell
4. LL17-18: “One of the founders of AA was there.” Who was this? – Bill W.
5. How did Bill happen to be in the area? – He and Lois were staying with friends in
nearby Monsey, NY, after having lost their apartment in Brooklyn
6. LL18-19: “. . . trying to get A.A. into the hospital.” They did start a meeting the
next year, in 1939. What was unique about this meeting? – It was the first AA
meeting in a psychiatric hospital.
7. LL20-22: “The medical profession has nothing for you. The clergy has nothing for
you. There’s nobody in God’s world can help you.” This doctor’s words echo the
words of another doctor spoken to another hopeless alcoholic who would become
the sponsor of Bill W.’s sponsor. Who was this other doctor, and who was the man?
– Dr. Carl Jung and Rowan H.
1. LL9-13: “This fella says, “As long as you are an alcoholic, you’ll never be able to
take another drink as long as you live! . . . And don’t forget—not even a
glass of beer!” What was this man doing that led Joe to call the meeting a “bunch
of Bible-backed bums” and go out and get drunk to defy him? – He was preaching
2. What AA spiritual principle was he disregarding? – The principle of attraction rather
1. LL7-8: “. . . but it was that glass of beer that started the merry-go-round
going.” What AA saying refers to this phenomenon? – It’s the first drink that gets
2. L20: “They had opened an A.A. clubhouse on 24th Street . . .” Where was this?
– In the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, NYC
3. Who stayed there for a while after they became homeless? – Bill and Lois
1. LL13-14: “I’m losing this battle dad, but don’t let this throw you.” On his
deathbed, this boy was carrying the AA message to his father. What is this
message? – That we don’t have to drink—no matter what
1. L9-11: “. . . if I didn’t have A.A. on my right and A.A. on my left I wouldn’t be
alive today. I’d be in the same grave with that kid.” What truth about the AA way
of life can we derive from these words? – That we’ll never be alone again
Cross-Reference: “Joe’s Woes and the First AA Group at a Hospital,” on this site at
||The European Drinker
1. Who is this story about? – Joe D.
2. Did Joe actually write it? – No. As with many of the early stories from Akron, Joe recounted his
to another alcoholic who did the actual writing
3. Who was this ghostwriter? – Jim S., an Akron skid row bum and former writer whom Dr. Bob
got sober and recruited to write the stories of Akron alkies who were reluctant to write their
4. Why were they reluctant? – Many didn’t agree with the idea of AA publishing a book; others
didn’t feel they had the necessary skills
Cross-reference: “The News Hawk,” ES&H, p.268
||The News Hawk
1. What is the name of the alcoholic who wrote this story? – Jim S.
2. The story appeared in the first edition of the Big Book under a different title. What was this?
– “Traveler, Editor, Scholar.”
3. Why this title? – Jim was at one time all of these things
4. Who helped Jim get sober? Dr. Bob
5. Under Dr. Bob’s auspices, Jim played a very special role among Akron alcoholics. What was it?
– He was a ghostwriter for a majority of the original stories of the Akron alcoholics
6. How many stories were there? – Fourteen in total
7. Who had originally compiled the list of those who should write the stories for the projected
book? – Hank P.
8. Lois Wilson later paid Jim a very gracious compliment for his work. What was this? – She said
that thanks to his efforts the Akron stories were better written than those from NY
9. Which Akron alcoholics are AA historian fairly certain actually wrote their own stories? – Dr. Bob
(“The Doctor’s Nightmare,” 4th Edition, p.171), William V.H. (“A Ward of the Probate Court,”
p.57 above), Paul S. (“Truth Freed Me,” p.90 above), and Ernie G. (“The Seventh Month Slip,”
||From Farm to City
1. Who is the author of this story? – Ethel Macy
2. When did she get sober, and where? May 1941, in Akron, Ohio
3. Ethel is among the first women to get sober in AA. Who are the others? – “The Lady known as
‘Lil’” in Akron, Florence R. (author of "A Feminine Victory” in 1st Edition of Big Book), Mary C.,
and Marty M.
1. LL29-31: “Where you go, I’ll go, and what you drink, I’ll drink.” – These words are reminiscent
of the words of one biblical woman to another. Who are they? – Ruth’s words to Naomi
1. LL9-10: “. . . I became more defiant towards everything and everybody.” What does the 12&12
say about defiance? – That it is an “outstanding characteristic” of alcoholics (pp.5 and 31)
1. LL6-7: “This is based, really, on the Sermon on the Mount.” What is significant about this
biblical sermon? – It was the most basic text used in Akron AA before the Big Book was
2. L24: Paul S. had just called me.” – Who is this Paul? – He’s the author of the story “Truth
1. L18: “So we came to King School.” What do we know about this meeting? The first AA group
took its name from this school: “The King School Group.” Alcoholics had moved to the school
after meeting for a short while at Dr. Bob’s house. Prior to that, they had met as part of the
Oxford Group at the home of Henry and Clarace Williams
1. L14: “I felt that I had made a complete surrender.” – Where did the idea of making a surrender
come from? – The Oxford Group.
2. Surrender would eventually be seen as synonymous with the admission of powerlessness and
become one of the key spiritual principles in the 12 Steps. However, the word is not found
anywhere in the first 164 of the Big Book or in the 12&12. Why is this? – Because the practice
had been abused in the OG and become associated with religious coercion.
|| Stars Don't Fall
1. What is this author’s name? – Countess Felicia Gizycka
2. When and where did she get sober? – In 1944 in NYC
1. LL29-30: “So I married a nice, well-meaning young newspaperman.” Who was this? – Drew
1. L20: “I think I had the physical allergy right away.” – Who first diagnosed alcoholism as being in
part the result of a physical allergy? – Dr. William D. Silkworth
2. What did he write for the Big Book? – The Doctor’s Opinion, p.xxv
1. LL30-31: “I thought I was the captain of my soul.” There’s an allusion to famous poem here
(mentioned in PTP123 and PTP4). Which poem is this, and who is the writer? Invictus, by
1. LL22-23: “This new analyst was a woman doctor, one of the best in the country.” Who was this?
Dr. Ruth Fox
2. What is her significance in Felicia’s story? – She introduced her to AA
1. L27: “Do you think you are one of us?” – We have a spiritual principle which encapsulates the
approach represented by this question. What is this? – “attraction rather than promotion”
2. This principle is found in one of our traditions but extends beyond it. What is this tradition?
– Tradition 11
1. LL1-2: “Then he called Marty and made an appointment for me.” – Who was this Marty?
– Marty M., author of “Women Suffer Too” in the Big Book
2. LL5-6: “A friend of Marty’s, another A.A., let me in.” Who was this? – Priscilla Peck
3. What as this woman known for? She was an art director at Vogue Magazine
4. What project did these three women eventually collaborated in? –They started AA’s magazine,