Big Book Q&A
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Roman Numerals Section Chapters 1–11 Appendices
Part I: Pioneers of AA
Doctor Bob's Nightmare
- L1: What is the name of the “small New England village” where Dr. Bob was born? – St. Johnsbury, Vermont
- L15-16: “After high school,” Dr. Bob spent “four years in one of the best colleges in the country, where drinking seemed to be a major extra-curricular activity.” What college was this? – Dartmouth University, 1899-1902
- L8: Dr. Bob later took up “the study of medicine, entering one of the largest universities in the country.” – What was its name? – University of Michigan, 1905-1907
- L1-2: He also took up “the business of drinking” and after his sophomore year was forced to transfer to “another of the leading universities of the country,” where despite more drinking sprees he managed to graduate in 1910. What university was this? – Rush Medical University
- L20: Dr. Bob “was able to secure a much coveted internship in a western city.” What city was this? – Akron, Ohio
L1: Continued drinking causing his health to deteriorate, Dr. Bob “incarcerated” himself “ at least a dozen times in one of the local sanitariums.” Where was this?
– Fair Oaks Villa, Cuyahoga Falls
L1: There he felt caught “between Scylla and Charybdis,” tortured by his stomach if he did not drink, and by his nerves if he did. The allusion is to a famous Greek epic. Which one? – Homer’s The Odyssey
The names are of two mythical sea monsters which Odysseus (Ulysses in Roman mythology) was forced to confront as he sailed through what was later believed to be the Strait of Messina. Scylla is believed to represent a rocky shoal on one side and Charybdis a whirlpool on the other. Where is this Strait? – In the central Mediterranean, between Calabria and Sicily.
- This myth is alluded to in connection with taking inventory in Step 4 of the 12&12, p.49: “You need not pass this way” . . . “You dare not look.” What are the two “monsters?” – Pride and Fear
What expression do we use today to convey the idea of having to choose between two evils or equally difficult options? – To be “between a rock and a hard place”
L4-: “After three years of this I wound up in the local hospital.” What hospital was this? – People’s Hospital
L9: ”Finally, my father had to send a doctor from my hometown.” Which was?
– St. Johnsbury, Vermont
L18: “With the passing of the 18th Amendment I felt quite safe.” What was this Amendment? – Prohibition
When did the Amendment go into effect? – January 17, 1920
When was it repealed? – December 5, 1933, by the 21st Amendment
Which group considered a predecessor of AA was finally destroyed by its identification with Prohibition? – The Washingtonian Society
What other controversy had they become involved earlier in their history that ushered in their decline? – Abolition
Their story is mentioned in the Tradition which their negative experience inspired. Which Tradition is this? – Tradition 10 in the 12&12
Cross-reference for Prohibition: “Women Suffer Too,” p. 203, “Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three,” p. 183, and “Our Southern Friend,” p. 212
- “About the time of the beer experiment I was thrown in with a crowd of people who attracted me because of their seeming poise, health, and happiness.” Who were these folks? – The Oxford Group
- L3-5: “About this time a lady called up my wife one Saturday afternoon saying she wanted me to come over that evening to meet a friend of hers who might help me.” Who was this lady? – Henrietta Seiberling
- What’s the name of Dr. Bob’s wife? – Anne
- Who was the friend? – Bill W.
- IL29-30: “I woke up at a friend’s house, in a town near home.” – Who was this friend? – Lilly, Dr. Bob’s receptionist in his medical practice in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three
- Title: “Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three.” – Who was this man? – Bill D.
- Cross-reference: Foreword to Second Edition, p. XVII, LL6-7
- L30: “Then Prohibition came into effect.” – Cross-reference: See “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare,” p.175, L18, “Women Suffer Too,” p.203, and “Our Southern Friend,”
1. L19: On June 26, 1935, I came to in the hospital . . .” What hospital? – Akron City
2. Cross-reference: Foreword to 2nd Edition, PXVII, L6-7; A Vision for You, P156, L18-19,
and P158, L30-33
1. L11: “. . . and my pride prevented me from listening to them . . .” Why was this?
– Offering to help, in the mind of an active alcoholic, can be perceived as being
condescending or talking down to him or her
1. LL4-6: “I have gone to this Higher Power and I have told Him that I am willing to put
His world first, above everything.” What is the principle Bill D. is willing to practice
here? – First Things First, at the overarching spiritual level
2. LL20-22: “They said, ‘Let’s forget about those other things [smoking and gambling],
that is, trying to eliminate them all at once, and concentrate on the drinking.’”
What is the principle behind this suggestion? – First Things First, at the practical level
3. Cross-reference: “The Family Afterward,” p. 135, L6-7, and “He Sold Himself Short,”
To hear Bill D. tell his story, click on Audios & Videos and go to AA Number Three – Bill D. – Canton, Ohio, 1951
Gratitude in Action
1. Blurb: Besides being one of the founders of AA in Canada (Quebec), Dave B. eventually
served AA at the national level. In what capacity did he do this? – He was a class B
(alcoholic) Trustee of AA
2. L22-23: “. . . I got a letter or a note, something from Bobbie or from Bill . . . Who was
Bobbie? – Margaret “Bobbie” B., “AA National Secretary #2,” who replaced Ruth Hock
after she left to get married
3. L23-23: “. . . or one of the other members of the central office in New York . . .”
Where was this office? – At 415 Lexington Avenue, across from Grand Central Station,
the third of the AA headquarters (1944 – 1950) Where was the second AA office
located? – At 30 Vesey Street, by Church Street (1940 – 1944)
4. What was the location of the first office? – At 17 William Street (near Broad) in
Newark, N.J. (1938 – 1940)
5. The Newark headquarters doubled up as the office of an auto dealership. What was
the name of this company? – Honor Dealers
6. The company was owned by New York AA number 2. Who was this, and what is the
name of his story in the 1st Edition of the Big Book? – Hank P., author of “The
Unbeliever” (story #1 in Experience, Strength, & Hope)
7. Who was Hank’s secretary? – Ruth Hock, who then became AA first secretary
8. Ruth Hock is known for discovering (in an obituary) one of AA’s most cherished
prayers. Which prayer is this, and where did it appear? – The Serenity Prayer, in
The New York Herald Tribune
9. Who worked with Hank in this dealership? – Bill W.
10. What is this office most famous for? – This is where Bill wrote most of the Big Book,
and where Ruth Hock typed the original manuscript
Women Suffer Too
- Title: The story “Women Suffer Too” was written by the first female alcoholic to have achieved permanent sobriety in AA. What was her name? – Marty M., of Brooklyn
- A biography of Marty was published in 2005 under the name A Biography of Mrs. Marty Mann: The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous. Marty wasn’t actually the first woman to join AA. What are the names of the women who preceded her? – “The Lady known as ‘Lil’” in Akron, Florence Rankin (author of "A Feminine Victory” in 1st Edition of Big Book), and Mary Campbell
- Cross-reference on Marty: As Bill Sees It, p.302 and Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p.18
- “The times I grew in (the Prohibition era immortalized by Scott Fitzgerald and John Held Jr.) . . . “ Who was Fitzgerald? – An American novelist and short-story writer (1986-1940)
- What is his most famous novel, in which he “immortalized” the Prohibition era (along with the Jazz Age and the Roaring 20’s)? – The Great Gatsby
- What else do we know about him that we can identify with? – He was an alcoholic
- What other well-known novelist and fellow-alcoholic was he close friends with?
– Ernest Hemingway
- Who was John Held Jr.? – Magazine illustrator of the same period who did magazine cover for some of Fitzgerald’s short stories
- Cross-reference for Prohibition: “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare,” p.175, L18, “Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three,” p.183, and “Our Southern Friend,” p.212, and “The Keys to the Kingdom,” LL11-16
- L5-6: “’Blanks’ were more frequent, and I seldom knew how I’d got home.” – What are “blanks”? – Blackouts
- L16-17: “That was the point at which my doctor gave me the book Alcoholics Anonymous to read.” What was the name of this doctor? – Harry Tiebout
Why did he give her the book? – His Freudian therapy had failed to sober her up
Who else later saw this this doctor for therapy? – Bill W.
How did Marty describe to the doctor what happened to her when she had a spiritual experience? – “I surrendered.”
Where did she first hear that term used? – From a hymn sung in church
Why wasn’t the term used in the BB or later in the 12&12? – To avoid negative associations with a practice of the Akron Oxford Group which required newcomers, before they could attend meetings, to get on their knees and “make a surrender” involving praying and sharing. Alkies resented what they considered a forced religious ritual
What national organization did Marty help to found? – The National Council on Alcoholism, which she directed for 24 years
Cross-reference to Harry Tiebout: Appendix II: The Medical View on AA, p.569, fourth paragraph
- L22-23: “I went trembling into a house in Brooklyn filled with strangers.” Whose house was this? – Bill and Lois’ house in Brooklyn Heights
Cross-reference to meeting place: Foreword to Second Edition, p. XVI, L1-3
- L30-31: “. . . for I can say many times daily ‘Thy will be done, not mine’ . . . and mean it.” Saying this phrase helps us to practice two principles. What are these?
– Surrender and acceptance
- What is the source of this phrase? – Luke 22:42
To hear Marty M. tell her story, click on Audios & Videos and go to Marty M. – “Women Suffer Too”
Our Southern Friend
- Title: Who is the author of this story? – Fitz M., who sobered up October 1935 and was AA Number 3 in NYC
- The writing is reminiscent of the interior monologue or stream of consciousness style AA Number 2 in NYC used in his story. Who was this alcoholic and what is the title of his story? – Hank P., “The Unbeliever”
- Where can we read this story? – In the 75th Anniversary Edition of the BB, and in Experience, Strength, & Hope, p. 5
- Cross-reference: “The Doctor’s Opinion,” p.XXXI, “We Agnostics,” p.56, “ and “The Vicious Cycle,” p.219
- L21-22: "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works." What is the source of this quote? Matthew 5:16
- L14-15: “He poured out two drinks. ‘Here’s looking at you,’ said he. I gulped it down and choked.” Where is that line from” – Casablanca, said to Ingrid Bergman by Humphrey Bogart
L28: “And so I met John Barleycorn.” The name personifies alcohol. What is its original source? – British folklore
What British novelist and alcoholic made this the title of his “Alcoholic Memoirs” autobiography? – Jack London (1876-1916)
- L25-26: “The atmosphere of ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ prevails and I absorb it.” What is the source of this expression? – Luke 12:19
- L32-34: “The Armistice is signed on the 11th [of November] and the draft is called off.” Armistice Day signals the end of which war? – WWI
- What national holiday celebrates that event, and when? – Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11
- Cross-reference: “Bill’s Story,” p.8, L14-16
- L6: “I call the bootlegger and fill up my charred keg.” – Why bootlegger? – These are the days of Prohibition
Cross-reference for Prohibition: “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare,” p.175, L18, “Women Suffer Too,” p.203, and “Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three,” p.183
- L6-8: “She begs me to go to a hospital for alcoholics that has been recommended.” What hospital is this? – Towns Hospital on Central Park West, NYC
Cross-reference: “The Doctor’s Opinion,” p.XXV and XXXI, “Bill’s Story,” p.7, “A Vision for You,” p.162, and “Our Southern Friend,” p.213
- L1-2: “One man comes back, closing the door behind him.” Who is this man? – Bill W.
- L5-7: “’Who are you to say there is no God’?” Cross-reference: See “We Agnostics,” p. 56
- L16-17: “I learn that honesty is truth and that truth shall make us free.” What is the source of this phrase? – John 8:32
The Vicious Cycle
- The writer of “The Vicious Cycle” was the first self-proclaimed agnostic to join AA. What was his name? – Jim B.
- P226 L19: He and “Hank” became leaders of the pro-psychology group against the pro-religion group led by an old friend and schoolmate mentioned in the story. Who is this man? – Fitz M.
- The most contentious character in the group, our agnostic was about to be expelled when he pulled out a copy of the BB and pointed to the text of what would become one of the 12 Traditions. Which tradition was this? – The 3rd Tradition
- Later, when the 12&12 is published and this story is told in that Tradition, he’s identified by another name. What name is this? – Ed
- The Tradition goes on to recount how, having relapsed and nearing another bottom in a cheap hotel room, he happened upon a book. He opened it, read, and never drank again. What book was this? – A Gideon Bible
- Thirty-years later, in 1968, he recounted his story in the Grapevine book Spiritual Awakenings. What is the title of this story? – “Sober for Thirty Years,” p.119
- P223 L33-P224 L1: “Oddly enough, the big shot who fired me . . .” Who was this? – Hank P. (see p. 226 L 19-20). This “big shot” would fire him again a second time, when Jim went off the deep end and relapsed (see p.228, L 27-28)
- L28: “. . . fought shy of including my story in the book.” Jim’s story was included in a later edition. Which? – The 2nd Edition
- L13-14: “. . . by the grace of God as I understand Him . . .” The agnostic responsible for qualifying “God” with the phrase “as we understood Him” in the end apparently came to share an understanding of God found throughout the Big Book. Which understanding is this? – God as a God of grace
To hear Jim B. tell his story, click on Audios & Videos and go to “Jim B. – A.A. Pioneer”
The Man Who Mastered Fear
- Blurb: This man mastered fear and “started A.A. in Detroit.” What is his name?
– Archie T.
- In the first edition of the Big Book this story had a different title. What was it? – “The Fearful One”
- LL9-10: “Fear froze me in my tracks . . .” The incident he recounts seems to be connected with a particular kind of phobia. What is this? – Agoraphobia
- LL12-13: “”Immediately a great feeling of peace descended upon me . . .” What would we say in AA happened to this man? – He had a spiritual experience
- LL17-18: “The scales had dropped from my eyes, and I could see life from its proper perspective.” These words echo the experience of one of our founders. Who was this? – Bill W., in his own story, p.12, LL27-28
- Both men stress a transformational change as a result of their spiritual awakening. What is this? – A change in outlook: they came to see things radically different from before
- LL3-4: “Fear has never again ruled my life . . .” The author attributes this “miracle” to his applying to his “daily life the principles embodied in our Twelve Steps” (p.251, LL26-27). According to him, what specific principle seems to have been instrumental in lifting the fear from him? – Faith in “a Power greater than myself”
He Sold Himself Short
Author: Who is the author of this story? – Earl T., of Akron Ohio, sobered up April 1937
L24-25: “I had seen Howard, an ex-doctor, mooching a dime for a drink.” Who was this man? – Howard S. of Akron, who later got sober and regained his practice
L5: ". . . after a thorough indoctrination . . . was I allowed to attend my first meeting." Which group was this requirement for membership inherited from? – The Oxford Group
1. L4: "The six steps were." Where were these steps borrowed from? – The Oxford
L31: “. . . I must place this program above everything else . . ." What is the spiritual principle involved here? – First Things First
L31: “The doctor, a young man.” The name of this doctor? – Dan Craske, M.D.
Cross-reference: “To Employers,” p.140, L19-20 (to doctor); “The Family Afterward,” p. 135 (to Earl)
The Keys to the Kingdom
- “This worldly lady helped to develop A.A. in Chicago and thus passed her keys to many.” Though not generally recognized as such, this may have been the first woman to achieve long-term sobriety in AA (date of sobriety 09/13/39). What is her name? – Sylvia K.
- LL14-15: “John Held Jr, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Cross-reference: “Women Suffer Too,” p.203, LL13-15
- LL10-11: “The next day I received a visit from Mr. T., a recovered alcoholic.” Who was this man? – Earl T.
- What is the name of his story in the Big Book? – “He Sold Himself Short”
- Sylvia was wealthy, and her personal assistant became the secretary of the first Intergroup office in the country. Where was this? – In Chicago
- Cross-reference: “He Sold Himself Short,” pp. 258-267
- LL5-6: “. . . that was given so freely to me by my ex-alkie friends. . . ” What did the author mean by “ex-alkie?” – That they were no longer drinking. The expression was later dropped, since it was realized that we remain alcoholic even after we stop drinking
- Another term used early on was dropped for the same reason. What was this?
Part II: They Stopped in Time
Physician, Heal Thyself!
- L1: “I am a physician, licensed to practice in a western state.” What is the name of this physician, and what state is he referring to? – Dr. Earle M.; the state of California
- LL7-8: “I never lost any of it. I never was on skid row.” The alcoholic who says he/she is different from other alcoholics because he/she never did x, y, or z is said in the rooms to be suffering from a particular kind of ailment. What is this? – “The never wuz’s”
- LL15: “. . . and I got books by Emmet Fox.” Who was Emmet Fox, and what was his best known book? – An exponent of New Thought, a philosophy which has much in common with what later would be known as the New Age movement; best known for his book The Sermon on the Mount, where the sermon is interpreted from a New Though perspective
- The book was apparently read by other AA’s, including one of our founders. Who was this? – Dr. Bob, as reported in Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers
To hear Dr. Earle M. tell his story, click on Audios & Videos and go to Dr. Earle M. – “Physician Heal Thyself”
My Chance to Live
1. Author: Unknown
- L3: “At this point I surrendered.” The word “surrender” is used only in the story section of the Big Book, not in the first 164 pages and not anywhere in the 12&12. Why is this? – Because of the negative association the term took as a result of the experience of alcoholics in the Oxford Group
- Cross-reference: “Women Suffer Too,” P205 #4 & 6
Me an Alcoholic?
- Author: Unknown
- L16: “I had absolute faith in science, and only in science. ‘Knowledge is power.’” To what philosopher is this quote originally attributed? – Francis Bacon
- LL8-9: “”There’s nothing I can do,” said this man’s psychoanalyst about his alcoholism, “and nothing medicine can do.” This echoes a similar story in the BB (in “There Is a Solution,” pp.26-27) involving another alcoholic and a famous psychiatrist. The name of these two men? – Rowland H. and Dr. Jung
- What quality does the author attribute to his doctor’s “confession?” – The humility to admit that all his knowledge was powerless to help the alcoholic
- Where does the author say he finally found this power? – In his first AA meeting
- L2: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Which psalm in the Bible is this quote from? – Psalm 46:10
A Drunk Like You
1. Author: Unknown
1. L18-19: “The Lost Weekend, Days of Wine and Roses . . .” Who starred in these
movies? – Ray Milland and Jane Wyman in the first and Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick
in the second
Acceptance Was the Answer
- “Acceptance Was the Answer” is the 4th edition title of the best known and most frequently quoted story in the BB. What is the original title of the story in the 3rd edition? – “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict,” p.439
- Who wrote the story, and why was the title changed? – Dr. Paul O. Unintendedly, it had helped to fuel the dual-addiction controversy in AA
- A sought-after speaker, he addressed a 1980 AA Conference at a famous beach resort in Palm Beach, FL. What was the name of this resort? – The Breakers
- L28-31: “. . . there is absolutely nothing in the world more important to me . . . not taking a drink is by far the most important thing I do each day.” What is the principle here? – First Things First
1. L8-20: “And Acceptance is the Answer . . . my attitudes.” This passage is one of
the best known in the Personal Stories section of the BB
2. L21-22: “. . . ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.’”
3. L28-29: “. . . that we are all children of God and we each have a right to be here.”
Which of Shakespeare’s play is this line from? – As You Like It
What famous prose poem are these lines inspired by? – Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann
To hear Dr. Paul O. speak, click on Audios & Videos
and go to Dr. Paul O. “Love and Tolerance.”
Window of Opportunity
- Author: Unknown
- LL19-20: “My college had a long history of drinkers, including Dr. Bob.” Dr. Bob said that in this Ivy League university “drinking seemed to be a major extra-curricular activity.” What university was this? – Dartmouth, in New Hampshire
- Cross-reference: “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare,” p.172, LL15-16
Part III: They Lost Nearly All
- Blurb: “Alcohol clipped this pilot’s wings until sobriety and hard work brought him back to the sky.” What is the name of this pilot? – Lyle P.
- Author: Who is the author of this story? – Bertha V. of Louisville, Kentucky, who got sober in AA April 1972
Freedom from Bondage
- Blurb: “Young when she joined . . .” Who is the author of this story and how old was she when she joined AA? – Wynn C.; joined in 1947 in California at age 33
- L11: “About this time I met a man . . .” Wynn married five times, her last husband being a member of AA. What was his name? – George C.
- LL29-31: “A.A. has given me serenity of purpose and the opportunity to be of service to God and to the people about me . . .” Though she doesn’t mention it in her story, Wynn was well known for a particular kind of 12-Step work. What was this? – She helped to start (with Jack P.) more than 80 meetings in hospitals, jails, and prisons in Southern California
- LL3-4: “. . . happy are you who know these things and do them.” What is the source of this quote? – John 13:17
- The Book of James, a favorite of Dr. Bob's and the Akron Group of AA, carries a similar message. What is this? – "Be you doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James I:22-25)
- LL23-25: “The only real freedom a human being can ever know is doing what you ought to do because you want to do it.” Who said these words, and what book is he known for? – Chuck C., who wrote A New Pair of Glasses
- Similar words were later echoed by a much beloved pope. Who was this? – Pope John Paul II
A.A. Taught Him to Handle Sobriety
- L1: “When I had been in A.A. only a short while . . .” Who is the author of this story? – Bob P. of Connecticut, who joined AA in 1961 in NYC
- LL32-33: “. . . Dr. Harry Tiebout, the psychiatrist who probably knew more about alcoholism than any other in the world.” Dr. Tiebout was the therapist of a number of AAs, including one of our founders. Who was this? – Bill W.
- Dr. Tiebout was one of the doctors who received a copy of the original manuscript of the BB. A woman under his care finally got sober after the doctor gave her this book to read. Who was this woman? – Marty M.
- Originally trained as a Freudian, Dr. Tiebout became attracted to AA ideas and wrote in particular about a key AA principle to which he was introduced by Marty. Which principle is this? – Surrender
- Though the concept is central to them, the term itself is never used in the first 164 pages of the Big Book or in the 12&12. Why is this? – It was negatively associated with certain overly religious Oxford Group practices
- LL7-8: “. . . I found myself drying out on a drunk farm.” – Which “farm” was this? – High Watch Recovery Center, in Kent, Connecticut, inspired by Bill W. and founded in 1940 as the world’s first 12-Step treatment center.
- A nun at the farm is reported to have introduced Bill W. to a prayer he subsequently used in the 12&12. Which prayer is this, and what is the name of the nun? – The Prayer of St. Francis, and Sister Francis
- Cross-reference: Appendix II: The Medical View on AA, p.569, L1-49, and “Women Suffer Too,” p.205, LL16-17
Personal Stories: Experience, Strength & Hope
Part I (From the First Edition of the Big Book)
- L1-2: “. . . I lay on my bed in a famous hospital for alcoholics.” Who is the author of this story? Hank P.
- Which hospital was he in? – Town’s Hospital in Central Park West, NYC
- This story is written in a particular literary style. What is this called? – Stream of consciousness
- Who are some famous authors who wrote in this style? – James Joyce, Virginia Wolf, William Faulkner, and Jack Kerouac, alcoholic and drug addict
- 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”
- 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
- 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 dealership
- What well-known company did he work for before being fired for drinking? – He was an executive with Standard Oil of New Jersey
1. “He’s trying . . . idealistic as hell . . . nice fellow . . .” Who is he talking about?
– Bill W.
- L6-7: “And he said ‘God.’ And I laughed.” – Why did he laugh? Hank was an atheist
- “. . . lie down in green pastures . . .” – What is the allusion to here? – Psalm 23
- “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. L1920: “. . . 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 Action, P196
A Feminine Victory
- L1: Why “the rather doubtful distinction?” – There was a greater stigma attached to women alcoholics at the time
- L2-3: The author of this story refers to herself as “the only lady in our particular section.” Who was she? – Florence Rankin
- Why “the only lady” – There were hardly any women in AA when she wrote her story
- How many women had been around AA at the time? – Four
- Who were they? – A woman known as “Lil” in Akron, Florence Rankin, Mary Campbell, and Marty Mann
- Who had the longest time sober? – Florence, who after a few slips managed to put together a year at the time of writing
- 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
- 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 showed up
- 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.”
- Cross-reference: “Women Suffer Too,” Marty M.’s story, above, P.200 #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
- L26: “It was there that L_____ came to me.” Who was “L”? – Louise Wilson
- LL30-31: “There her husband told me the secret of his rebirth.” – Who was this? – Bill W.
- Why “rebirth”? – Bill saw the spiritual experience that led to his recovery as a spiritual rebirth.
- 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.
- Why do some AAs object to this expression? – Because of its religious association with being “born again”
- 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”
- Who is it attributed to? – Dr. Carl Jung
- 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
- Where in the Big Book do we read about Rowland’s experience with Jung? – In the chapter “There’s a Solution,” pp. 26-27
- What does the expression mean? – Literally, “Spirit against spirits”
- 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 spiritum.”
- 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
- 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 Silkworth.net
- L23: “I was taken back to B’s home.” Who was B? – Bill W.
- Where was his home? – At 182 Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, NYC
A Businessman’s Recovery
- L5: “I was a passenger on that boat.” Who is the author of this story? – William Ruddell of N.J., who first got sober if February of 1937
- He 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 Brick of the story “A Different Slant”
- L6: ”. . . after the Armistice . . .” Armistice Day signals the end of which war? – WWI
- What national holiday celebrates that event, and when? – Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11
- LL18-19: “. . . having heard terrible stories of Prohibition . . .” Which Amendment made Prohibition the law of the land? – The 18th
- How long did Prohibition last? – From January 17, 1920 to December 5, 1933
- By what Amendment was it repealed? – the 21st Amendment
- Which group considered a predecessor of AA was finally destroyed by its identification with Prohibition? – The Washingtonian Society
- 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 took many
- L13: “The first thing Bill told me was his own story.” – Which Bill is this? – Bill W.
A Different Slant
- 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? – Fred
- What is his real name? – Harry Brick
- What is his profession? – He’s an accountant.
- What is his “different” slant or angle in this story? – That a person can have everything from a material standpoint, a great personality, strong will power, no worries or troubles, and still become a hopeless and helpless alcoholic
- 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
- 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
- Cross-reference: Chapter 3: More about Alcoholism, P39, LL1-3; Personal Stories, “A Businessman’s Recovery,” P24, LL1-2
The Back Slider
- L1: “When I was graduated from high-school . . .” Who wrote this story? – Walter Bray
- Where was he from? – Cleveland, Ohio
- What is this city known for in AA history? – It had the first group which identified itself by the name “Alcoholics Anonymous”
- 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?
- This is related to another problem that he said often plagues the alcoholic. What is that? – Discontentment
- LL4-5: “. . . to a growing city in the middle west.” What city was this? – Akron, Ohio
- 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 Depression
- Where else in the Big Book do we read about this? – In “Bill’s Story”
- Cross-reference: Chapter 1, “Bill’s Story,” P.4, L1
- 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”
- L30: “Both were sorry for me . . .” Judging by the author’s reaction, what did he think they actually felt for him? – Pity
- 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
- L18: “They rushed me to the hospital.” Which hospital was this? – St. Thomas Hospital
- He was reportedly the first alcoholic admitted for detoxification at this hospital. A little nun worked with alcoholics there. Who was she? – Sister Ignatia
- L31: “This doctor came and sat beside my bed.” Who was this? – Dr. Bob, who together with Sister Ignatia helped hundreds of alcoholics there
- 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)
- Ernie’s story follows immediately after this. What is its title? – “The Seven Month Slip”
- 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
- Cross-reference: Chapter 11, A Vision for You, PP158-159, LL2-6; Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, pp. 72-73
- LL14-15: “. . . but I didn’t want help. I was ashamed.” What was he ashamed of? – Of having relapsed.
- What character defect often lies behind shame in such a situation? – Pride
- Does the author later acknowledge that? – Yes, when he recognizes the need for humility in seeking God’s help
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
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