“Each day, somewhere in the world,” says the Big Book, “recovery begins when one alcoholic talks with another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope” (Foreword to 3rd Edition, p. xxii). This is what Bill W. shared with Dr. Bob in the open and candid soul-baring that gave birth to AA. It’s the seminal and distinctive feature of 12-Step spirituality.
How can we understand this typically AA expression?
Our experience is how we lived as active alcoholics before we came into AA and, having changed, “having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps,” how we are living now. It is our story, whether told in bits and pieces in countless meetings or more fully in a regular qualification, where we disclose “what we were like, what happened, and what we are like now” (ibid., p. 58).
Our strength is the spiritual principles like gratitude, honesty, and humility that we gradually absorb from that experience, assimilate into our deepest self, and integrate into our character and emotional make-up so that they come to define the persons we have become.
Our hope lies in a promise and a vision: that if we are “painstaking” in the practice of these principles and our “relationship with Him is right,” God will do for us "what we could do for ourselves," and that “great events will come to pass” for us “and countless others” as we “give freely” of what we find in our journey of recovery (pp. 83-84).
That, says the Big Book, is “the great fact” for us (p. 25). Our experience, our strength, and our hope are grounded in God and what he can do for us, in us, and through us, as we work a faith that works through the AA program of action and experience a spiritual awakening.
[Posted 02/24/13. Image: Nell Wing, Bill W.’s secretary and first AA archivist; author of Grateful to Have Been There, a memoir of her AA days.]