Confessions of a Big Book Sponsor

I remember asking someone in the fellowship a few years ago, “Are you working your program?” He replied, “Yes I went to a meeting today.” I responded, “No, that’s not what I’m talking about. Are you working with someone?” He said, “Yes, I have a sponsor.” I replied, “No, that’s not what I’m talking about. Are you working with a newcomer?” He said, “I’m just a few months sober. I’m only a newcomer. This is selfish program, I need to work on myself first.” I never saw him again.

Who Am I?

I am a Big Book Sponsor. I practice the 12 Step Program as outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the original recipe for recovery as practiced by the original 100 who recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.

By working the Twelve Step program as described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have had a spiritual awakening. The obsession to drink and use has been removed. My progressive alcoholic/addiction illness has been arrested. My disease has been placed into remission. I have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. As a result, I am able to remain, almost effortlessly, abstinent from alcohol and all mind-altering substances. I have ceased fighting anything or anyone, even alcohol and drugs. My sanity has been returned. I am not fighting temptation, nor am I avoiding people, places and things on a trigger list. I feel as though I had been placed in a position of neutrality safe and protected. I have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for me. I am neither cocky nor am I afraid. This is how I react so long as I keep in fit spiritual condition. Furthermore, by living in the disciplines of Steps 10, 11 and 12 everyday, I have a daily program of action that really works in rough going. I have way of living without alcohol or drugs.

You can recognize me at 12 Step meetings because I am the one who brings my own Big Book. To show other alcoholics/addicts precisely how I recovered is the main purpose of this book. I carry a common solution–a way out on which we can absolutely agree and upon which we can join together as brothers and sisters in harmonious action. My deportment shouts that I am a person with a real answer. I carry no attitude of Holier Than Thou. I do not talk down to the alcoholic/addict from any moral or spiritual hilltop. I ask for no payment. I have no axes to grind nor people to please. You can expect to endure no lectures from me. My only desire is to be helpful. I offer friendship and fellowship.

What I do

You will find me at 12 Step meetings armed with the facts about myself. As an ex-problem drinker/user, you will see me making an approach to the newcomer–looking for someone who needs and wants hear about our common solution–someone with an honest desire to stop drinking or using–someone who wants what I have and is willing to follow the instructions as outlined in the Big Book–someone who wants to be joyous and free of active alcoholism and or addiction.

When I find someone who really wants to stop drinking or using, we go to a coffee shop and, together we read and study the first 164 pages of the Big Book. When we come to a Step instruction, we take the Step together as instructed in the Big Book. I practice co-sponsorship–two addicts, working one-on-one, seeking a Higher Power. Because lack of power is our dilemma, we meet three to four times a week, working quickly, all 12 Steps in 30 days or less. My purpose for sponsorship is to teach others how to teach others how to work the 12 Step program as outlined in the Big Book of A.A. Therefore, once the new person has learned and worked all 12 Steps and is living in the disciplines of Steps 10 and 11 on a daily basis, I help my sponsee find a qualified addict who wants to stop and get them working together on their 12 Step journey. Thus, I conclude my formal sponsorship with my sponsee, knowing that they have a dependence, not on me, but upon their Higher Power. Moreover, I rest easy, knowing that the fellowship has one more teacher amongst its members, freeing me to commence looking for another willing, honest and open-minded addict to instruct and repeat the process.

Working with other alcoholics/addicts

I have carried the message of the Big Book to many alcoholics and addicts and rarely have I seen a person fail who thoroughly follows our path.

Untreated alcoholic/addicts are unlovely people. My struggles with them are strenuous, comic and tragic. Those who could not or would not see our way of life are often consumed by their temptations which leads them to the gates of insanity or death. Helping other addicts is the foundation stone of my recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough for me. I have shared time, energy and money. My business and personal life has been interrupted by the telephone ringing at any time of the day or night. My spouse sometimes feels neglected. I have made innumerable trips to police courts, detox centers, hospitals, jails and asylums. I have counseled frantic spouses and relatives. Occasionally I have to meet such conditions.

I have worked hard with many alcoholics/addicts on the idea that only an addict can help another addict. I have had many failures. I once asked another Big Book Sponsor about their success rates and she replied, “I am 100% successful”. Astounded, I asked how is that possible? She replied, “I’m still sober”. That to me is one of the best kept secrets in our fellowship today. I often hear that this is a “selfish program”, but whenever I put my sobriety first I could never stay sober. When I started showing the newcomer how to stay sober, I have found no trouble staying sober. As Doctor Bob once remarked, “strenuous work one alcoholic with another was vital to permanent recovery”.

Love and tolerance of others is my code

In the 12 Step rooms I have been accused of being a Step Nazi, Big Book Thumper, a Holy Roller, a Zealot, a Big Book Page Pusher and recently I was called a “Steptard”. I have been thrown out of groups and asked not to come back. I have been asked not to bring my Big Book into some A.A. meetings. I have been physically and verbally threatened by members of the fellowship for teaching that our 12 Step Program can be learned in an afternoon. I have been blamed for killing people with the Big Book.

When confronted with such animosity, my program tells me I have to look at my part. Have I been crusading, righteous, or critical? Have I been engaging in frothy debates or windy arguments? Have I been demonstrating an attitude of intolerance? Yes, there have been times when I have been all these things, but I claim spiritual progress not perfection and I am no saint.

I confess that I am a Big Book fundamentalist. I work my Big Book like a recipe for recovery. When I follow the 12 Step instructions as outlined in the book, it awakens my mind and I make conscious contact with my Higher Power. I must remember that when I focus my mind on what is wrong with the fellowship and the meetings today, the more I become restless, irritable and discontented. I must remember that the meetings are filled with many suffering and untreated addicts. Therefore, I practice acceptance and focus on what is good about the meetings and the fellowship. I try to see what I can positively add to the meeting–my only desire is to be helpful. Sometimes I have charged the “meeting makers” of killing people with their, “Don’t drink and go to meetings” mantra. In return, they, the “Meeting Makers Make It” sect, have accused me of killing people with my Big Book thumping attitude. What I have learned is this: it is not the “Meeting Makers” that are killing people nor is it the “Big Book Thumpers”, it’s the 20 to 30 years of abusive drinking and using that kills the alcoholic/addict. I must remember that I have no monopoly on recovery, but I do know that the Big Book solution works.

Why do I continue to work with other alcoholic/addicts?

Having had a spiritual experience, I try to practice the 12 Step principles in all my affairs. First, I take care of family, for sobriety is not enough and I am a long way from making good to my spouse, parents and children whom for years I have so shockingly treated. Second, I take care of my business, for there can be no family if I am not self-supporting. And third, in my spare time, I carry this message to other alcoholic addicts. For me, this approach, in this order, is a balanced program.

Over the years I have witnessed a fellowship grow up about me. I have watched the spirit grow in the eyes of a suffering individual and seen them recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. I have seen them make a 180 degree turn in life, only to help some other suffering addict do the same. This is the experience I would not miss. I know you will not want to miss it either. Frequent contact with newcomers and other Big Book sponsors is a bright spot in my day.

My life has taken on a new meaning and I seem to be of benefit to others. I have found a new freedom and happiness. I know serenity and peace. I continue to lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in the people in my life. My attitude and outlook on life has changed. Fear and economic insecurity is down and I know how to intuitively handle situations which use to baffle me. I realize that my Higher Power does for me what I could not do for myself alone.

A Vision For You

Thus I grow spiritually and so can you with a Big Book in your hand. It contains all you will need to begin working with the addict who still suffers. I know what you are thinking, “I’m a newcomer myself and I do not have enough sobriety time to be of use to anyone. What could I possibly offer another newcomer? Maybe I should wait a year or two.” Rubbish! By working the Big Book solution, you will tap a source of power greater than yourself. To duplicate, with such backing, what I have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience and labour. Remember your reliance is always upon your Higher Power. It will show you how to create the fellowship you crave. Ask in morning mediation what you can do for the addict who still suffers. The answers will come if you work your program. But if you are shaky you had better work with another alcoholic/addict instead. Remember you have recovered and have been given the power to help others. You will soon find out that when all other measures fail, work with another alcoholic/addict will save the day. Give freely of what you have been shown and join us on the Broad Highway of the Fellowship of the Spirit. You will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

Trust God, Clean House, Help Others.

Cameron F.
Toronto, ON

Are you a Big Book Sponsor? Tell us about your experiences.

30 thoughts on “Confessions of a Big Book Sponsor

  1. Beautifully put. THE message that Bill Wilson gives us in the big book Alcoholics Anonymous is that we can recover and stay recovered by helping other alcoholics/addicts to find and pass on the same solution that we were shown.

    I too have a 100% success rate with sponsees. Of all the addicts and alcoholics I have tried to help find God, I haven’t picked up a drink or drug once. It works, it really does.

  2. I get excited every time I take a Newcomer through the Big Book and after 8 years, I still get a kick out of it. The Big Book contains the 12 steps, the Step 3,7 Prayers, the forgiveness prayer, how to pray and meditate in Step 11, an entire chapter on Working with Others, and a template for working out a half decent 4th. It says to do step 5 immediately and page 76 has steps 6, 7, and 8 all on one page, how wonderfully convenient for the teacher!

    There is no 12 step program other than the Big Book and those poor souls who get hurt or threatened by the Big Book need to be taken through the Big Book to take a look at that and get it on paper.

    To all the Big Book sponsors, we know we are doing the right thing, and that’s good enough for me,

    God Bless you and Keep you until then!

  3. Since I found this sharing, I keep reading it for many reasons. To stay focused on what I should do and what I shouldn’t do; to remember there are others out there who followed BB’s path, achieved an spiritual awakening, and are sharing with others, and experiencing different reactions to that. Those are my experiences, nowadays.

    My recent one: a former protegee who I worked with the first 3 chapters asked me for guidance about accepting God’s will. I remembered him I only had my experience and what BB says, and shared. He listened half my story, started processing information, diagnosed me about what I should have done, and told me about the information in otherr fellowship’s books. I surrendered to God every minute since it was a rough time for me to stay, listen, share my experience and BBs content at every question he had. There I found I can’t even share if the other can’t or is not willing to listen with open mind, follow the clear cut instructions, and keeps mixing the rest of literature and sponsors and fellow’s experiences. It was a nurturing experience, showed me how I was in my own path, how powerful and protective God is, and my need of inventory myself (I’m no savior, no truth-bearer), keep following those instructions, and look for a willing one who wants to give it a try.

    Thanks for being there, God bless you.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this and for this site in general. Any resource which reminds us of what the first 100 did to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body is an exciting find for me and countless other real alcoholics around the world. "We recover by the Steps we take, not the meetings we make."

  5. My name is Bruce. For years I have been taking people through the twelve steps and have stayed sober and happy. About 8 months ago I stopped.I was having a big life change and the program of AA became secondary, then non-existant. As a result the inevidble happened. I am now back for 8 days. I have gone to Big Book meetings and step meetings. I will only go to meetings where the solution (The 12 steps, and of course God) is discussed. I will recover again if I DO THE WORK.

  6. By the Grace of God, the Program and the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous I haven’t had to, needed to or wanted to take a drink { or a drug } today and because of that I have a life… It it that simple.. For me Gratitude is a VERB !..Love and may your God go with you Ian S..

  7. Ok to a great extent you are right, and I was encouraged to reach out to new people on a regular basis, and it still works. As Bill relates (Big Book pages 14/15)Working with others is the one thing that works when everything else fails. However, you can not "transmit something you haven’t got….".."see to it that your relationship with him (God)is good…" Therefore an ‘unrecovered’ alcoholic might do well to work steps 1 to 9, and practice 10, 11, and 12 to grow. Step 7 is about being useful, and that means service, loving kindness to everyone, and humility to ask for help.

  8. I sponsor guys with the work in the Big Book. 30 years ago I had pigeons falling from the sky as soon as I started Step 9 in the Big Book..It went like that for years.6-10 Guys sharing the path with me everyday in some form or another some reading some writing, appointments for in depth 5th’s, some were making amends and some were ready to fly or die with new men themselves….I wouldn’t change places with anyone as my experience is my own..

    As years go by and the Government, Medical Fraternities dedicated to science, Big Pharma, treatment centers, manipulate their legal loopholes it is not as simple as a new man showing up at a meeting willing to put the drink down and pursue the psychic change with his trusted Sponsor. Many are fished out of society with bait used to catch the emotionally empty and self destructive, tasty mind soothing bait. Those with societies behavioural issues are treated with the many who believe in harm reduction who mostly agree that a Spiritual program of recovery won’t pay the rent. Nevermind the many who believe the 12 Steps for the hopeless Alcoholic are in the 12 and 12 and easily applied when read thoroughly…Many are filled with facts and figures from the selfishness of Secular belief to prove the existence of a Spiritual realm ridiculous making AA secondary at best..Their primary focus should be on medication, therapy, and methods of empowerment..The AA concept of powerlessness appears weak and defeating..

    Many continue to try but I feel there is no debate. Some are justified to defend AA and themselves, I can’t handle the intensity. I cannot survive as an example of power even if my motives are true..I have only one alternative really to be a power of example to the new man..I am the same person coming as going. I don’t throw myself at people, I stand with the God of my understanding..I practice these principals in all my affairs, 10 11 and 12..I will give you everything I have so theres nothing to steal from me.

    With God first it seems the new man finds emotional security with a man who works the Book, no need to jockey for position with others creating some invisible chain of command, no need to continue to use others to create my self esteem..No matter how disturbing they may appear..Pigeons pick up on that shite..

    So in the sea of Alcoholism I swim freely, I am not afraid of what I can’t see. I believe in myself, I believe in my God, I believe in the message I offer to the man who suffers..The people have changed and the surroundings have evolved but the program is the same as it ever was..I work on myself to keep my own house in order and give what I get without the concern of who takes..


  9. Thankyou for the post. I am not a sponsor I only got sober 4 months ago after an 11 yr struggle in AA. I was all fired up wanted to pass on what happened to me, but I am not allowed to because people get angry when I try to.

    I am not happy or passionate about it anymore because it took me 11yr to get it and now I’m not allowed to pass it on…was told I will kill people.

    Was told I am not honest…told quoting book isn’t what it’s about, even though I can’t ever recall quoting book just saying 2 ladies read from book to me and the answer for me came from talking to them and them reading first 100 odd pages of book and now I don’t want to drink.

    I feel very sad inside and am not allowed to approach newcomers told am not spiritually or mentally well enough or even well enough to so service.

    AA is not what I once thought it would be if ever I got it.
    Also, its ok to be only dependent on God because for the past 11 years I have been a target for lots of sick predators and abusive people around AA. However every human being needs human company, I will never knock AA real AA or the big book because it works. However, I will drink or use again because though I do all the steps and now live on Steps 10 and 11, I am not allowed to work Step 12 and I don’t feel serene, happy, or joyous, in fact, today I thought about cannibas again and just forgetting AA.

    I am getting to be an old old lady and I have lots other illnesses. If I stay isolated, I will drink again of course. If I use weed, but at least I won’t die lonely. I had loads of friends and never without a partner pre-AA. I may well be selfish but am not allowed to be anything else in AA and I now dispute the selfish stuff being the cause of my addictions. I don’t think I was totally selfish I gave away my inheritance when I was 24 years old…In pre-AA thousands and I had nothing at the time.

    i gave blood i gave to charities i gave time to people i gave of myself often and pre AA i got out of addiction for years when i became a Mormon and was not selfish at that time-i left returned to addicitions -i am an alcholic addict-i fit the bill more than most i met in AA nearly died pre aa and nearly died after aa-i couldnt stop when i wanted to nad had great reason to and i couldnt control and i did tradig things when drunk got hit with a car walking along motor way-i will die in active addiction but i will also die in AA cause of lonilness isolation and not being alloed to pass it on i wish yopu all well i really do am not jealouse of any of you i dont want what you have because it isnt peace love and joy for me tajke care.

  10. Hi Sharron..AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, crazy place yeah?
    I went to a AA meeting last night. More than not I needed the meeting for myself, without being all analytical or looking at myself I just noticed I was agitated at a pigeon who disappeared from the solar system a few days earlier who understood the idea of the 3rd Step and was ready to make the decision, then(poof!)gone, no launch date.. I’d been isolating, working out in the garage on some book cases and rather than ask anyone for help to move them I dropped one and scratched it good..I was really supposed to be getting the front end aligned in my truck but didn’t feel like dealing with people and spending money or whatever, life on life’s terms. It was easier to just hide in the garage..I can do that I thought, I’d been around for long enough to cut a deal, I’d heard about a hundred 5th Steps..I should be able to create my(make the world go away) time or me time…

    So I get ready for the meeting and notice I have aftershave on and some jewelery and my dress watch and even though it’s kind of odd I just keep going..Usually I would just jump in the truck and go without all the hoopla..I decide to make sandwiches as I always do and more strangely put extra ham on them..So I get to the meeting and feel kind of like the square peg, people that I was thinking about seem to walk right by..I was excited to be there and they were in their own world of AA that didn’t include me like I was invisible..Didn’t they know how much effort I put into my AA? My years of service? I deserve better..

    I began to notice the guy who had drank a week before was supposedly doing good this week but I knew different, how could he be happy with one week of sobriety? The chairperson seemed like he was his control freak self sharing his story once again as practically a continuance of last weeks dominance..I noticed a new guy who sat almost next to me and nobody shook his hand or welcomed him and by now I certainly wasn’t going to, I’d had enough of these grand AA powers of example with their selfish behaviour so I got up and left..I did it real slow in protest so everyone could see me leave. I objected to the meeting and everyone’s lack of patience love and tolerance..

    I got out in my truck and sat for a minute, I was lost and alone..AA sucks I thought. It’s not what it used to be, I tried to comfort myself like I always did with self reliance, I’ll try harder with my arrangement of people..They’re screwed up and I’m not.I know what AA is supposed to be and they certainly aren’t it…

    As I searched my people worshiping confusion for some validation or self esteem it was clear I was trying yes, but I was the only one who would think my motives were good, my selfishness would make sure of that..Then the thought came to me like it was hiding in the corner of my mind. My old Big Book Step Sponsor many years ago saying 10 11 and 12, when you are in emotional trouble you’re in Spiritual trouble, it’s all about where you are with 10 11 and 12..My first thought on this was yup, Mr Spiritual speaks, but then I got a moment of clarity..

    I thought for a minute and began to pray (Step11)..God why am I so freakin whacked out? How come I….It hit me, self-pity, I was full of self-pity..I kept praying. I could atleast see that I was full of self(Step10)..I knew enough to keep praying for direction.

    I never did pause earlier in the day when I was agitated(Step 11), I thought I could handle it and kept going(Step 10)..I thought I was doing the right thing but I was not thinking about God only people and how I measured up for my self esteem..If they liked me, I liked me(Step6)..Damn, I with all I knew about sobriety was again an example of self will run riot and didn’t think so, I laughed at myself..

    I sat in the truck and prayed for direction(Step 11)stopping to laugh at the insanity that can come over me in my selfishness trying to be normal..I’m not normal, probably never be normal(Step 1)..Once again proving I don’t even know what normal is?

    I went back in the meeting still in my how do you like me so far costume complete w/ rolex and dress shirt and sat next to the new guy I scoffed at earlier(Step12)..When the meeting was about over and the chair said anyone with a burning desire I raised my hand. I said I was grateful the meeting was there for me tonight and was once again reminded that I’m the problem, the Steps are the solution (Step 7)..I am not the director, I am just another actor in this grand play of life and grateful for the chance to be part of it..(Step 3)

    I was reminded of Step 10, continue to watch, not continue to wait till you get caught..I fell on my face, I’ll try to focus more on the Higher Powers direction and the willingness to continue to grow in understanding and effectiveness(Step 11)..

    As I drove home I thought about the 100 forms of fear, The selfish self centeredness, The victim of the delusion(Step 4)..Yes I was certainly a poster boy for whacked out Alcoholics but look at what I have to show for it.I have a actual program of recovery that has proven to work If I’m willing to continue it for my lifetime(Step 12). What everyone else is doing is good for them, I know my psychic change does not revolve around my relationship with people, it’s my relationship with the Higher Power (Step12)..

    Anyway, Sharron..Don’t give up on yourself..If you want the Book, search out those who are willing to live it..They’re around, pray for direction, eliminate yourself as the middle man (Step2)…

  11. I was wondering why my phone wasn’t ringing? It was easy to convince myself that AA was changing from the tight ship I lived to a watered down soggy therapy session complete with self esteem boosting archive facts like ,what shampoo Bill W used in the early days, English language tutoring, what’s the proper dictionary for Big Book Study? And the big one, does an atheist use a black permanent marker for a highliter?

    Anyway,I’m thinking about selfishness, Step 10 stuff like me with a Big Book in my hand selfishness…I was again alone on my self centered mountaintop. What was the problem here? Sure everyone else is whacked but me too? Still? Damn..Where does it say what to do at 30 years of daily Big Book? Oh, continue for our lifetime…Right. Got it.

    I realize I’m not listening to others as I’m once again seeking security in my Big Book Step cement head..Their all screwed up and I’m ok like a daily check list validating myself in my grand Spiritual realm…I get a thought, a scary thought, a thought that brings feelings of mutiny and or betrayal. I’ll join a Men’s discussion group. Part of me thinks I’m a goner and have finally crossed the line never to return to Big Book greatness but the other side says I’m not listening and the problem is me…I need to take action, me, like now..So I head out to the island of the blind where the one eyed man is king, seeking recovery from being too recovered or something like that…

    My first real venture into the forbidden zone in years, the place where the half eaten brains of untreated Alcoholism flourish in justified resentment (the discussion meeting)…I have a seat in the back and listen to some guy wining on about his day and after five minutes of it I’m spitting green pea soup and leave…After about two months of great intentions and leaving after 5 or 15 minutes I get something..A spark of something like recovery but nothing I feel could sustain me of course…I notice these guys are definitely on a different path than me but man, they are passionate about whatever they are doing…Their AA is the most important thing in their lives..But what the hell are they talking about? Self knowledge can fix it maybe? Are they just a room full of treatment center 12/12 AA hybrids? I notice I’m finally beginning to listen, I don’t understand but I’m listening…

    After another month or so I’m hearing Big Book references, lots of Higher Power talk..One things for sure these guys are into it, whatever it is they are serious about it..I decide it’s time to wander around the firing line and pick up a prospect or two for some Step work..I get together with one and we read up to More about Alcoholism and then no show…I get another who makes a decision and can’t write, then another…I realized that even though these guys want it badly there contaminated with the mass of personal views on addiction, spirituality, religion, Bi-polar, North -polar, Solar-polar, government money,whatever fits..Not to mention the Big Book hammerheads that are on fire for the Steps coming across as coo coo for co co puffs even though their motives are good…What a quagmire here in AA..

    So I found a new place to play…God moved me into the general population and I like it. There’s certainly lots to be done. I look forward to my men’s discussion with the passion of a new man himself searching for those who will make use of what I offer…I love being sober and love AA..AGAIN.

  12. I go back and forth about sticking with "discussion" meetings. I’m realizing that this means I go up and down in my ability to tolerate, to listen, and to care. Must be human, I guess. Selfishness, self-centeredness, the hundred forms of fear–all still there, because I’m still an alcoholic. One thing I strive for is not to go to a meeting for "what I can get out of it." I’m guaranteed not to get anything out of it with that attitude. I go to share my experience, strength and hope with others, to focus on our common solution, to assert that there is a way out. If that means reading from the Big Book or 12/12, so be it. The solution is in there, not in my opinion. I am blessed to have the person who walked me through the steps available to consult on my work with others, not as an emotional or spiritual crutch. She told me on Day 1 she was not going to be my BFF, my counselor, or my advisor on anything outside the 12 steps. Whenever I feel a twinge of envy for those with "buddy sponsors", I talk to another alcoholic who still suffers and that self-pity goes right away. I don’t have to torment myself with the old "Why was I born, what am I here for?" stuff. My primary purpose is there in black and white whenever I choose to look at it. And if anyone out there dislikes me or what I’m doing, I look for arrogance, narrowmindedness or judgmentalism. If I find them, I admit it right away. In any event, I cannot let anyone else’s words or behavior keep me from doing the right thing. I had 49+ years of that as an active alcoholic. I have a new employer now: the God of my understanding. No one else. Period. May God bless you and keep you all!

  13. I happened upon your post. I’ve been sober in AA for 34 years. I am a recovered alcoholic and a recovering Big Book Thumper. You state the typical "Thumper" untruth right in the beginning of your story – "I practice the 12 Step Program as outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the original recipe for recovery as practiced by the original 100 who recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body". The irony of AA is that the original 100 or so, including Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob, never used the 12 steps of AA to get sober. Many relied on giving themselves to God and working with other alcoholics. Most used the 6 steps of the Oxford Group to get sober. Want proof? Just read the 30 personal stories in the back of the first edition of the Big Book. Not one person ever mentions the 12 steps of AA as their pathway to recovery. Not one person!!! The 12 steps weren’t written yet. The only reason the 12 steps work is because the 6 steps of the Oxford Group are intermingled throughout them. The mere confession of sins to another human being was the original inventory step of the Oxford Group. Not the complicated thing like it is set up in the Big Book. Bill Wilson pulled a lot of shit out of his ass to get a "big" book like he wanted. But, anyway you guys have a brainwashed cult that are blinded to all of this. My personal observation after 34 years is that the Big Book Step study zealots and thumpers, with all your rigidity and OCD type inflexibility, have a much higher relapse rate than those of us who are a little more relaxed and opened-minded.

    Yours truly, Bill R.

  14. To Bill R. or Ron D. or whatever your name really is…your comments are arrogant and perplexing. Did you even read the article? As far as relapse rates go…thumpers, meeting makers, and even those who claim they are "a little more relaxed and opened-minded" are not immune to the possibility of relapse unless they stay spiritually fit. The Big Book was endorsed by the original pioneers of the A.A. program and your sanctimonious history lessons are nothing more than "half-measures" that avail nothing worthwhile to the suffering alcoholic/addict.

  15. Interesting discourse. The big book, steps, etc., make a lot more sense if you know the origins. AA started as a uniquely American society based on Christian and biblical concepts and principles. Like other Christian societies, AA allows different flavors of the same meal. The big book thumper is more fundamentalist, meeting makers more aligned with a blend of Christian and humanistic approaches, and some variants of the Society are so tolerant of atheistic thought to be actually anti-AA.

  16. Hi Bill R., I am a bill too. I am dismayed to read your comments and can’t help but wonder how many alcoholics/addicts you have killed with your "words of wisdom". Just as a point of reference, I too am considered an old timer, (over 20 years), and am not the least bit impressed with my time either. This program has never been about quantity, it is about quality of life. If you want a barometer of my sobriety, ask my wife and kids, don’t ask my dry date.

    As for the first 100, Bill Wilson did the steps in three days in the Towns Hospital. The result of doing the steps was a spiritual experience and he never had a drink again. Read chapter 1 in the Big Book for amplification. Also, the forward to the first edition says "to tell other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book". Chapter 5 says "these are the steps we took which are suggested…". Not sure how you conclude they never did the steps. I have been working the program outlined in the book for over 20 years and I insist anyone I sponsor get a sense of urgency about doing their steps as outlined in the book and help them do them. Not all have remained clean/sober after that but I did.

    We people who have been around for a while have, in my opinion, an obligation to the newcomer to tell him what he/she needs to know in a way they clearly understand. After that it is up to them. I carry AA’s message and try to avoid sharing my wisdom of the years. Perhaps you might consider doing the same?

    God Bless You Bill,

    — Bill

  17. Sponsorship from the Big Book. I’ve been called all of the same things as the writer of this article, though I’ve never been kicked out of a meeting or group. If I were, my next stop would be the local detox, or hospital, or church. It has come to mind for me that we give real credence to the third tradition…AND WE SHOULD. But, we give almost no credence to the fifth tradition, we carry what ever message we want and do not help people determine if they are alcoholic, and the AA message does not get carried. The huge number of problem drinkers who have found a sufficient solution to their drinking by attending meetings, who honestly believe themselves to be alcoholic, tells the new guy their experience strength and hope…as we ask them to do…and the messages of don’t drink, go to 90 in 90, play the tape through..etc permeate our fellowship. Our groups stopped carrying the message to the alcoholic who suffers. Our groups now carry the message to anyone who suffers. The third tradition has over ruled the fifth tradition rather than being tied together.

    My biggest concern is that a real alcoholic walking into AA from anywhere, from the hospital, from detox, from a court, from the street or from home….that the real alcoholic hears a message that has a minimum of a 50-75% base for recovery from alcoholism. We can and do recover. The paltry 7% recovery rate in the fellowship of AA is astonishing, and until we, as a fellowship get honest with ourselves this will not change. So my part in this is to wake up, ask God to direct my thinking, ask for intuition and inspiration, remind myself I am no longer running the show and keep showing up in this life that God has seen fit to give me. I am truly armed with facts about myself and the book of Alcoholics Anonymous has truly taught me what alcoholism is, how to determine if we are alcoholic, and we have been given a practical program to practice as a manner of living.

  18. This is the most powerful message that I got from Cameron F’s article concerning the different “sects” of AA: “it is not the “Meeting Makers” that are killing people nor is it the “Big Book thumpers”, it’s the 20 to 30 years of abusive drinking and using that kills the alcoholic/addict”. What I see after reading several posts on this website, is a debate. Today, at 87 days sober, I found myself trying to figure out who’s approach was “right” or “most effective” towards the newcomer as a solution to the drinking problem? Is it the “Meeting Makers Make It” approach, is it the “Big Book Thumper” approach, or is it the “Little More Relaxed and Opened-Minded” approach? I have come to the conclusion that I do not know the answer to this question and, perhaps, none of us do. After reading all these posts what I can really feel is, a whole bunch of alcoholics/addicts that genuinely want to help other addicts not only to keep themselves sober, but also because it is coming out of the goodness in their hearts. Who really wants to see another addict sufferer travel into the gates of death and/or torture because of this disease? (even though it happens) To Bill R., what was the point of pointing out how Cameron F. stated “the typical “Thumper” untruth” at the beginning of his story? To the other Bill, who opposes Bill R.’s views, what was the point of proving how he was wrong? I know a guy in “recovery” or who is “recovered” (which ever term you like) who got sober using all three approaches! I know another guy who is happy, joyous, and free using only the “Big Book Thumper” approach. There will also be different perceptions as to how one should feel or live when becoming sober and a particular solution has worked; I have seen “Big Book Thumpers” who believe that one should not feel powerless over people, places, and things as a recovered alcoholic/addict. Then, there are others who feel after years in sobriety, that certain places such as family gatherings with a lot of drinking involved, still make them feel uncomfortable and rather leave. There are still others who after years in recovery, still get a temptation to drink every once in a blue, but don’t drink because of a defense against the first drink that they have at their disposal. I believe that different alcoholics/addicts can benefit from a specific approach of an AA “sect” and others can benefit from a combination of different approaches from AA sects. I once read in AA literature that “our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics”. I believe that as long as this bottom line is met, it should not really matter which approach a newcomer takes. Maybe one day, some one will develop a 20 step program of recovery with a solution to the drinking problem and it’s destructive nature. If this program helps people get sober and become happy, joyous, and free, then, let them take this approach or solution! Of course, this is my opinion. What I have written is not a fact or the truth of anyone else. It is my truth for today. Therefore, I am sure that there will be others who will disagree with me. There are people who disagree with concepts in the Big Book itself. However, the point is that we are humans, each with his or her own unique way of thinking and we will have our differences, even in a fellowship. If a Higher Power does exist, I believe It, Him, or Her will be happy about the idea that we are trying to help one another.

  19. Thank you for your post.

    In the end, I am a message carrier. No more, no less.

    I have had to learn and re learn two facts in my 28 years of recovered living. One, A Loving God is in charge of AA, not Clark. Two, the vast majority of AA members do not want to recover and are not going to. With this in mind, I can carry the AA message of recovery via the big book and let the One in charge decide who recovers and who does not.

  20. Thank you for what you have written. I am becoming a Big Book thumper because I have been lied to so many times. The “musts” that are no where to be found in the literature are bewildering at times. One of my favorites is “you MUST have your sponsor proof read your fourth step”, some don’t like it when at a step study meeting we go over the fourth step in the 12 and 12 and I go through it point by point on how this contradicts the literature-this is adding words that are not written on the page-reading the white and not the black. True, the literature gives me the OPTION of doing that, but it says NOTHING of “must” having anyone proof read it to “make sure you can follow directions” as going over a fourth step with another human being of MY CHOOSING, is called-gee, what could it be….I don’t know…step 5 maybe? If I already have done that with another AA member, why would I need to do step 5 as I already did step 5? That is redundant and makes no sense. Can’t work the steps without a sponsor after being taken through the book (even though this blatantly can get into co-dependent territory). I have seen it time and time again in AA meetings. So this “old timer” who seems sicker than me wants me to not get rid of my fear as I REFUSE to take the risk of me “doing it wrong”, so I don’t outgrow my fear of ALWAYS remaining a failure at life (which is why I drank alcoholically, I failed which made me spiritually sick due to my fear), so in sobriety I’m supposed to NEVER trust my own judgement even though on Pg. 86 of the Big Book near the bottom of the page it says CLEARLY-“On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all GOD GAVE US BRAINS TO USE. Our though-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.” So if I DO get to a point by step work of being able to trust my own judgment, not that we don’t get a second opinion or when continuing to inventory our lives in step 10, we do get a second opinion from spiritual advisers, where this idea of “you’ll always NEED an AA sponsor for the rest of your life as you can’t make decisions on your own as you’ll always be sick and crazy” comes from…treatment centers? I don’t know. Last I checked the book said something about being restored to sanity? Might have misread that, not sure. I also believe that if I keep playing God I am virtually guaranteed to remain sick and crazy-may work through the steps and STILL relapse. If I keep holding onto my fear, refusing to take intelligent risks (within the confines of the principles of the steps and traditions of course), refusing to take responsibility, I WON’T recover. End of story. Bottom line. Period. Who am I making my Higher Power, God, or an AA sponsor? If people ask me who my sponsor is, at this point I say unflinchingly that I don’t have one. I don’t apologize for it. If someone gets all upset over it I simply would tell them that if they don’t like my answer, why did they ask me the question? Take one inventory and call your clergyman in the morning-which is my advice.

  21. Way to go!!! And, we have a lot of fun going everywhere with our BB. Was Dr. Bob a good sponsor? I would say so! He sponsored 5,000 people in his 15 years of sober life. That’s MORE THAN ONE DIFFERENT PERSON A DAY!!!!

  22. Wow I love the way you put that across and thank you. I too work with others and it is a wonderful experience.

  23. here, here,Cameron…you are spot on. I have been in the rooms of 12-step programmes (just discussion meetings really :( )
    for 30 years now….not an alcoholic but a compulsive eater….so-called abstinent for 20 of those…but couldnt understand why i was doing everything that i was told to do but feeling more and more emotionally sick….wouldve suicided except im a parent…couldnt do that..already felt guilty enough
    Was blessed enough…yes…truly blessed enough, to finally find that rare jewel..that needle in a haystack…found someone …an alcoholic no doubt…Cliff Bishop in PPGAA, Dallas Texas (Im in Australia?) who told me what my problem was…crazy as a cut snake bc spiritual malady not being addressed….and put me in touch with ppgoa joni berman who finally…FINALLY…after all these years showed me what the real solution was….living the Big Book like the First 100….4-5 days later and Im out there ..recovered…..on all the eating disorder loops trying to find someone to help….any still-suffering compulsive eater who has truly had enough and wants something better….and here i WILL put my email address in an attempt to reach you if you want help with your eating….anyone anywhere…doesnt matter what youve done or havent done, im happy to help you with your eating. God bless you Cameron and all of us who want better….may we pause to pray for those who don’t even realise there IS something better

    Warm Regards
    ‘We Recover by the Steps we Take, not the Meetings we Make!’

    • I was called a “steptard” by a cult-watch group out of the U.S. called “Stinkin-Thinkin”. Steptard, I guess, is a pejorative variation on the word “retard”… both signify a dummy person. I thought it was pretty original and often use it when speaking from the podium about all the different names I’ve been called over the years. CF

  24. I am a big book teacher/sponsor. The first thing I do when we sit down is pray and I say you are going to go through these steps as written by the authors not me. So my opinion stays out of it. I tell my ladies that they will become teacher/sponsor and God will direct them. We meditate and have a listen for God’s guidance then we begin. I have seen women 20 years on the wagon with no steps change before my eyes. They are so eager to carry this message, that i tear up when i hear them. Keep up the God work.

  25. If the newcomer was aware of how some BB zealots actually run their life away from AA they would be shocked. While, AA can be a great place to get sober the amount of hypocrisy especially from those with time is often too prevalent. One needs to be careful around those who claim to have all the answers. You’ll find people on all sorts of weird trips in AA and not everyone has your best interest in mind.

  26. Actually, I just read a person who used quote and quote from the big book. Slogans and one liners aren’t experience, strength, and hope. God forbid you stray from your big book study. It’s all so phony sounding. I get nothing from meetings where members emphasize that they’re recovered, as if they’re inviting an argument so they can then tell everyone how many times recovered appears in the book. Remember, the book was written a long time ago, and they only had about five years. The experience part is lost when you constantly quote the book. I’d rather hear how someone got through some tough times using the steps. That doesn’t happen when you spend two minutes on the word recovered.

    • It’s unfortunate that you missed the humility that was being expressed in the article. You’re antipathy towards those who identified as recovered tells me you’re probably more of a “dry” drunk than anything else. I know lots of people who identify as “recovered” and, yes they do quote from the Big Book from time to time, but their deportment usually shouts at me and others that they have found and demonstrate in all areas of their lives the joy of living in the “solution.”

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