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Writing of the Big Book

History of the Writing of 'Alcoholics Anonymous'

By Mitchell K.

Updated August 02, 2006

This article is written by nationally recognized historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.

The writing of the Big Book took several months to accomplish. Drafts were sent back and forth to and from New York and Akron. After the New York members had reviewed each chapter, Akron members were given a chance to give their input.

Dr. Bob had selected a few members to help in this review process. They sat around his kitchen table and as one of the early members put it, "we red lined and blue lined the whole thing."

Even before the stories were considered, chapter after chapter went through several revisions. The Mid-West group in Akron stressed the spiritual aspects and the New York group wanted to keep it to the physical aspects. Jim B. of New York and later Pennsylvania has been credited with the saying "as we understood Him, after God. There is evidence however, that the phrase, as we understood Him, was being used in some Oxford Group writings.

It is amazing that the Big Book was written after all. Most members had minimal amounts of sobriety, the longest was Bill, with just over 4 years and the average being about 1 to 1-1/2 years. Reasonable newcomers to sobriety wrote the book, a prescription for a miracle, the program of recovery for what was to become Alcoholics Anonymous.

Ideas Were Not New

Most, if not all of the ideas included in the Big Book were not new. Much was "borrowed" from the Bible and from Oxford Group and other spiritual books of that era. The idea to split the book into two sections, one a program section, and another, stories relating personal experiences possibly came from the book, Twice Born Menby Harold Begbie. Begbie's book contained a program section relating to the Salvation Army and a section of personal stories.

Other concepts were directly related to the Gospel of Matthew and the General Letter of James. Bill also used the Varieties Of Religious Experience, by William James, For Sinners Only, by A.J. Russell, I Was A Pagan, by V.C. Kitchen, The Common Sense Of Drinking, by Richard R. Peabody and others.

As example we will quote several sources, which may help the reader to understand some of these concepts and give new light as to the possibility of where their use in the Big Book came from.

"What we want to do is get in touch with Him and turn our lives over to Him. 'Where should we go to do it?' At once the lad replied: 'There is only one place - on our knees.' The lad prayed - one of those powerful, simple prayers which are so quickly heard by Him who made the eye and the ear: Oh Lord, manage me, for I cannot manage myself." (For Sinners Only- 1932).

Willingness

"Peace, direction, power - the fullness of life - await the complete surrender of ourselves to God for His purposes. This is the Great experiment that is waiting to be made - giving God control. How do we begin the experiment?

To put it very simply, God cannot take over my life unless I am WILLING. Willingness is not a matter of feeling. It is not a vague desire that God should change me. It is not an impulsive resolve to obey God in future. It is a very practical thing.

"If a man is bankrupt and consents to his chief creditor reorganizing and running the business, the first thing he must do is to produce the books - all of them. The difficulty with so many debtors is that they conceal some of their debts, or fail to mention some particularly foolish blunder or some doubtful transaction to which fear prompted them... If, then, I want God to take control of my life, the first thing I must do is to produce the books. I must be willing to look with God at everything... It may be useful at this point if I get a pencil and paper, and make some notes." (When Man Listens- Cecil Rose - 1937).

Part Two: Initial Surrender

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