Is AA Literature Too Antiquated?

Giant Book

By Dee Young
Originally published on The Fix on November 25, 2015

In 77 years and four editions, the Big Book’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions has remained completely unchanged. But most people seem to believe “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Alcoholics and drug addicts are fearful people. Getting high provided us with courage and confidence but if you take away the booze, pills and powders nothing is left but reality. For those of us who want to live sober but aren’t able to fight temptation by ourselves, AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions provide a clear roadmap for recovery.

“How does AA work?” you ask.

“Just fine, thank you.”

AA is not a religion hence its main tome is not a bible. The two founders, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob, began writing the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) in 1938 with the help of 100 early members. While the stories in the second half of the book have been updated—we’re up to the fourth edition—the pages with detailed descriptions about how the recovery program works have remained static.

“Don’t change anything,” seems a contradictory attitude to what we’re trying to do; we’re trying to not let our fears keep us … well … fearful.

Our society is far removed from what it was 77 years ago so why not update the text? That seems a fair question, right? But many members did not respond to my inquiry favorably. Some replied with a confused head tilt, like a dog, others rolled their eyes or shook their heads. Some seemed irritated and even angry. A dear friend snapped at me, saying, “It has been updated.” When I said that I was referring to the front of the book, the program pages, she said, “Why do you have to write about that?”

The overall message was, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I reviewed the Twelve Traditions to make sure I wasn’t breaking some sacred trust by asking and right in the first tradition it states:

No AA can compel another to do anything; nobody can be punished or expelled. Our Twelve Steps to recovery are suggestions; the Twelve Traditions which guarantee AA’s unity contain not a single “Don’t.” They repeatedly say “We ought…” but never “You must.”

I decided to find a handful of AA members that I could interview on this topic. After hearing “no” repeatedly, I finally landed seven willing to talk. To ensure anonymity, I won’t include any identifying features but I will tell you that the group ranged from ages 25 to 65 and were a diverse cross-section of New Yorkers including Caucasians, Hispanics, African Americans, men, women, gays and heteros.

I asked, “How do you feel about updating the AA literature?”

MEMBER 1

I don’t generally read much AA literature, but I do happen to be going methodically through the Big Book right now with a long-sober friend. I often feel that the book is talking to someone else — middle-class white, straight, Christian men — and that great swaths of humanity are invisible to its author(s). It often sets my teeth on edge with its exhortations to accept a god that sounds like the same one promoted in the New Testament and Christian churches, despite giving lip service to higher powers of our own understanding.

I have recently vowed that I will never again recommend that a newcomer read the Big Book, except maybe for the individual stories in the back. The 10 or so chapters that precede those stories should be read only by people whose minds are sober and clear enough to see the important messages underneath all the assumptions and the preachiness. At that point, it becomes possible to appreciate it as a profoundly moving account of AA’s birth and early growth.

When helping a sponsee with steps, I lean heavily on the 12&12 (“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”) as the basis for discussion. I always point out that, like most AA literature, it was written many decades ago primarily by men with a narrow view of the world, but despite all their assumptions and frequent patronizing, I can identify with many of the experiences and feelings they discuss, and that if I do what they did (with my own variations), I can stay sober as they did.

The existing literature, particularly the Big Book and the 12&12, should be viewed and maintained as historical, fundamental documents but new books should be written with newcomers in mind. Those new books should outline the same, timeless principles of sobriety in a way that addresses humanity in general rather than assuming that readers are middle-class white guys.

MEMBER 2

The program in the 12&12 and Big Book is very dated. Nobody argues with that. I think it should be rewritten but I don’t know how that would ever get done. Look at business meetings; so many cooks in the kitchen arguing.

It seems fear-based to not consider updating it. The language should acknowledge gays, women, transsexuals, and all of the people who aren’t Christian. I like to think that if the text were written now, it would be a lot more inclusive. I also see contradictions, but AA saved me and continues to so I am grateful for that. It feels miraculous. I never thought I could stop and stay stopped.

MEMBER 3

I have two views on it. I think it should be changed, however, who is going to make the decision of how it’s going to be changed? Who is going to be the one to rewrite it? How many business meetings would it take to get that done?

It might be a good idea to have a statement read after the Preamble at meetings. Something like, “Because you may not be Christian and this text was written a long time ago, you may feel offended by how patriarchal it sounds but remember this reflects society at that time.”

I think the message is correct. It does need to be updated but the founders wrote it, so it would be like trying to change the U.S. Constitution.

MEMBER 4

Funny, I’ve been thinking about that lately because of the news. About women’s equality and civil rights. If nobody ever went against the grain, nothing would have changed. They would have said, “Oh, it’s too much trouble, how are you ever going to change this? Just leave it the way it is.”

I don’t want to point a finger at AA and say, “They’re not doing it right.” It’s still the best way to quit drinking but I do think that alcoholics are very frightened people. Maybe people are too afraid to question AA or be dissatisfied with it, because they’re afraid they’ll get drunk, which is a realistic fear for any alcoholic. There is still no cure and people relapse all the time. It really is a life or death disease.

MEMBER 5

It never bothered me, because I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t care if it’s a “He” or “She” or a Christian or not. I was raised Catholic but I don’t believe in that “He” thing about God. I take what I need and leave the rest. I think that should be said at meetings. When you read this literature that it was written at a certain time and written by Christians but it’s the message that works so just identify with it, and don’t compare yourself to them.

MEMBER 6

I’ve been to meetings where the person reading — usually, it was a woman — changed every “He” to “She” and “Him” to “Her” when the book is talking about God. No one even raised an eyebrow. I’ve talked to a friend from San Francisco who said they actually had a motion to vote on changing some of the language, but it got so bogged down in, “Well, we can’t change this word here or that word there.” It got to the point where it imploded. There are people who take it like it’s a bible but it’s not. Some people are so afraid of changing one little word. It’s pretty easy for me to get past the old language. I find so much of it was revolutionary for its time.

The two founders, conservative Republican white guys, came up with this incredible program that saves lives. Every now and then I get bogged down with the heterosexual references which only refer to being attracted to the opposite sex. But I think if Bill and Bob were writing it now they would’ve used different language. I think their language was limited because they had no idea. I don’t think it ever occurred to them to address somebody gay. It wasn’t part of the lexicon. And there were no feminists yet. I think they assumed it was going to be all men. Like in the chapter to the wives. I think the concept of a female alcoholic never crossed their minds.

I know a guy who said it’s like pulling teeth with his sponsee whenever they’re reading the book together. After every line he says, “Why would they say it like that? That’s racist. That’s homophobic. That’s this.” When I hear people get so bogged down in the language, I think they’re missing all of the principles, and all of the help that is right there.

I sometimes wonder if it’s my own disease of alcoholism that is bogged down with all that stuff. I could say, “I don’t like this. I don’t like that.” But I’d never get sober. On the other hand, I think there would be value in updating it, so I don’t know. I wonder sometimes if the old language keeps anybody out. If they hear it, are they like, “I’m outta here.” Yeah, it’s patriarchal, it’s all of that stuff but I was so ready to hear something, anything, that could stop me from drinking. I was desperate. So, I was like, “Yeah, alright, I don’t like the way some of it sounds, but I don’t care because I don’t have another fucking choice.” And you know what? I’m sober because of that. I just took the “medicine” I needed to stop drinking and I’m glad.

MEMBER 7

I don’t want to say anything that insults AA. It saved me from ruining my life. But I do think it’s fair to say the world is different from 1938. The world is different than it was in the kitchen of Bill and whoever when they sat around and wrote all the steps. Everything about the program is different from the way it was. I would prefer it to get up to this century. I’m not speaking for AA. I have to make that clear. I am just a member of AA and a grateful member because I stopped drinking.

Gender roles are so rigidly defined. It’s literally the man leaves the house to go to work and the woman stays at home and sometimes the wife may handle the finances. My feeling is that AA treats alcoholics who are very anxious and yet, on one hand they’re telling you not to be afraid, and on the other they’re saying you’d better adhere to this God or else you’re going to drink. The fear in AA makes people so rigid against change that it would be impossible to ever get enough people at a business meeting to agree to update the literature. Also, there’s the issue of the cost of the literature. Where’s the money going to come from? So, yeah, it should change but it won’t.

Dee Young is a pseudonym for a writer in New York.


We here at AA Agnostica agree with the first member: “The existing literature, particularly the Big Book and the 12&12, should be viewed and maintained as historical, fundamental documents but new books should be written with newcomers in mind.”

Next Sunday we will be proposing a special project: a new book. It is not a rewrite of the Big Book. But it is nevertheless a book that would fit and belong on literature tables at AA meetings. A book of things that we have learned since the Big Book was published 75 years ago. And a book “written with newcomers in mind”.

Stay tuned.


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Is AA Literature Too Antiquated? — 31 Comments

  1. I could not agree more of these opinions. I was recently in a 12 and 12 study meeting where they talked about mirror alcoholics still with car in the drive the house and the job. I was 14 years of age when introduced to this program and have been sober since the age of 19. My grandmother thought I would never reach the age of 21. Several of my using friends did not reach the age of 21. I believe the big book to be a great template for the program. It’s part of our history. I understand the fear surrounded by changing his template at all. But I also believe it is time in our program to grow with some revisionist thought. Growth or fear it’s a choice. I believe we should never fear looking for a better understanding of the truth. Bill G, born-again cosmic naturalist 37. Clean and sober because of the gift of sobriety shared at the tables of AA.

    • Fear of change from a group of people who nearly died from fear of change? Who woulda thunk that? Rigid belief from people who almost died from rigid belief? Looming disaster feared by people who spent a lifetime with a feeling of looming disaster? Naaaaah not us.

    • Sorry… 10 courts in this country have said that AA is a religion because the bottom line for religions and Alcoholics Anonymous is they both have a GOD YOU PRAY TO FOR RESULTS YOU WANT. This is a secular country… SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE…

      PS… Most JUDGES in Courts cannot force you to go to AA meetings; they have been breaking to law by doing so… The second highest court in this country said you’re sending them to a religious organization which is against the laws. AA has lost every court battle it has fought over this issue.

  2. There IS a revision of the antiquated Big Book. It’s titled the EZ Big Book of Alcoholics, and you can buy the 2015 edition for less than $10 on Amazon. The text is gender-neutral, non-Christian, and reader friendly.

    • There are many helpful texts for non-theist A.A. members, but if we try to use any of them in meetings, the group gets kicked out of Intergroup. The outdated belief that an alcoholic’s choice is between death and “a loving God” could ultimately be responsible for the demise of the fellowship.

  3. Dee: I agree with much of what you wrote and I understand the desire to write or re-write the BB so it becomes less of a faith healing tome and more of a program of recovery.

    But let’s start with accuracy. Your first sentence is a bit confusing. “In 77 years and four editions, the Big Book’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions has remained completely unchanged.” The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions has not been in existence that long. I think you may have meant that the BB has remained completely unchanged in that span of time. That would make more sense although, it is, of course, untrue.

    From the first printing of the first edition to the seventh printing of the first edition, there were 401 changes made to the text – what we now call the first 164 pages. Many of these were for reasons of punctuation and grammar but many were substantive changes made to change the meaning of what was being written. Entire paragraphs were deleted. Words were inserted in various places. Several sentences were changed so that they had the exact opposite meaning from the original. The Twelfth Step was changed – twice. The Doctor’s Opinion was changed. In the third edition, the preface to the first edition was changed.

    Many wrote that it would be almost impossible to change the BB. That is not so. When the fourth edition was issued it was sold in a slipcover along with a copy of “Experience, Strength and Hope.” The text on the slipcover included this statement, “Originally published in 1939 when Alcoholics Anonymous had about 100 members, the Big Book has come out in three later editions. But the first 164 pages, which have been the foundation of recovery for so many alcoholics, remain unchanged.” That bit of fiction was challenged by one man who wrote a letter demanding that the truth be told. He steered his motion through the leaders of Arizona Area. They adopted it and took it to the floor of the next General Service Conference in New York. Though AA opposed it, the AA members insisted that the inaccurate statement be removed. They won. We won. The words were changed to be, if not entirely truthful, at any rate no longer a lie. So, we can change the BB through the General Service Conference if we have the will and the determination. At about the same time, a sentence in the Preface to the Fourth Edition was changed because many AA’s opposed it as written.

    At this point I won’t bring up your written opinion that “AA is not a religion …”. I’ll stick to that well-known Christian manifesto, the Big Book.

    But I agree with the commentators who fear that, if we opened the BB up to change, we would get a far more fundamentalist text that might border on evangelicalism. Look at the pathetic and shameful actions of GSO regarding the BB in Germany, and, to a lesser extent, in Mexico. We would not want these folks anywhere near a basic text of AA.

    I look forward to seeing the outline of what you would suggest as the BB for the 21st Century.

    • I don’t think pedantry counts. I do think that since most people in AA believe in God, far more than in the general population, Christianity is really offered as a substitute crutch, the only way not to drink. In the for Agnostics chapter, the only suggestion is that eventually you WILL believe! I don’t want to swap a booze-addled brain for a religion-fuddled one. I think its a big part of why many newcomers dont come back. They cant imagine believing in a higher spiritual power, and are told that without one, theyre doomed.

  4. I am sure that someday someone will write a replacement book based on the known evidence of how to recover that exists today. Many of the methods utilized in the BB are effective, but not for the reason AA thinks. Cleaning of our past and developing good relationships help, but recovery is mainly education about the problems, the solutions, methodology to overcome, and support to achieve results. A change in philosophy is required for many. What that new philosophy must be is not fixed and is not necessarily a belief in a god.

  5. I totally agree with keeping the old books as historical reference and writing completely new material that will show AA coming of age yet again. It’s well past time.

    • Hi John. One of the questions I asked on coming in is, “Besides the Grapevine why has this vibrant society of recovering addicts not produced any more literature?” Our society has been through radical changes in social morés and most of all science and technology. AA has an incredibly rich oral tradition deep in meaning which is lost completely in a religiously dogmatic context. Since when did “sit down, shut up and do what you’re told!” become part of the recovery process? There are people I associate with regularly who deeply believe that unquestioned obedience to their established procedure will lead to limping along the road of happy destiny, ever answering to their sponsors. I have seen people almost come to blows over how many columns should be in a “proper” fourth step… and what must/must not be put in them. IMO this whole back to basics thing is beyond retro and it will undoubtably kill AA. The word is out on the street that AA is a ritual christian cult of helplessness and abuse populated by blind religious fanatics. In some places this is so true.

  6. It doesn’t seem antiquated to me, since I was born the same year as AA, but I know it is. I suggest “Living Sober” to any new sponsees. There is no way one could rewrite the BB, since one cannot really rewrite someone else’s story, but we could certainly make a start on a text book for alcoholics who feel they need one. We might even have it done by the time we are 100. (Though I seriously doubt it).

  7. I’ve always had these problems with the Big Book (a little childish it appears to me to call it that). Although I’m not an agnostic or atheist I do have reservations about organized religion, as I gather Bill W. had, at least in his later years, according to the late Ernie Kurtz, who wrote that Bill W. feared that AA had fallen too much into an organized Christian religion mode.
    Could we ever persuade the AA Central Office to do a serious update of the Big Book? I remain very skeptical about the prospects. If past history is any indication then this seems very unlikely. As to a “new book” which might be available at AA meetings, its availability would depend on the group conscience of any given meeting. I have been told that a majority of AA meetings prefer to have only officially sponsored AA materials available. Nevertheless, I’d be glad to help in any way I can. I rarely read the Big Book and yet like the stories in the back of the book. I attend AA meetings sporadically and have been sober for 27 years. If some want to call that a “dry drunk” I’m happy with that since I feel absolutely no craving to drink. If I had one drink I would not relapse. I would, rather, probably drop dead on the spot what with all the blood pressure pills I take after three heart and two prostate operations. You have to live a little while to relapse and I think that one drink would finish me off.

    • ‘Central office’, i.e. GSO, the General Service Office, does not make policy. As I said in my posting below that is a matter for Conference, but realistically it’s not going to happen any time yet. GSO will tell you how to have a recommendation considered by Conference, personally I’d rather watch paint dry. And as Paul C. notes plenty of other resentful AA’s would pile in with THEIR version of the Book if atheists tried to rewrite it. We were all newcomers once, but we didn’t succumb to fundamentalist false consciousness. Evolution gave us brains to use – let’s use them. Thomas Aquinas said, ‘Beware the person of one book.’ But he was religious so I don’t suppose that counts.

  8. Jumbo shrimp, military intelligence, resident alien. I thought I’d heard the best of oxymorons but now I’ve got a new one and it’s a dandy: realistic fear.
    Thanks for that.
    No need to update the editions. Think for yourself and your own understanding.
    “The wording of course is optional.”
    “Ask yourself what it means to you.”
    “when you are ready, say something LIKE this.”
    All big book suggestions telling us NOT to be dogmatic!

  9. I of course agree that the big book is badly outmoded, and in an ideal world should be redone.

    I’m afraid however, that with the strength of the Back to Basics people and others like that, we would be badly outnumbered, and a new big book or 12 & 12 would be wildly fundamentalist Christian. I know a lot of them and they too want to revise the AA literature — mostly in all the wrong directions.

  10. I wrote an article for the Grapevine headed ‘In the spirit – not the letter – of Alcoholics Anonymous’ (January 2007, now in the Grapevine digital archive) in which I said fundamentalist members who worship the Big Book are idolators and that the book itself does not claim to be infallible (‘We realise we know but little … we merely have an approach that works for us’ ‘ours is not the last word’ etc). They expected that ‘more would be revealed’ in years to come, so there’s no reason for us more enlightened folk to be as dogmatic about the book as the zealots who believe it is the revealed word of God. I ended my Grapevine piece, ‘The Big Book is not sacred scripture; we have no authorities in AA who can impose their understanding on the rest of us. It is dangerous to make a fetish of the written word.’
    Two further thoughts. If the Big Book is so toxic, how come we survived without contamination – and the other two million members in 160+ countries? Also, there is a procedure to have the Book rewritten – take it through Conference. And the best of luck with that! It would, take a three quarters vote by every group in the world to have the Steps and Traditions changed, but there are plenty of samizdat versions – including some written by agnostics and atheists.

    • There IS an updated version of the “Big Book.” First published in 2010 as a paperback, the “EZ Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous” was released as an e-book shortly afterward. Within 3 years, the e-book sold over 15,000 copies worldwide without ANY marketing.

      “The EZ Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous” was written by a long-time AA member who has been a professional writer all her life. She remains anonymous in the AA tradition. The book is a paragraph-by-paragraph “translation” of the original 1930s version written by AA founders. The writing is gender-neutral, reader friendly, and faithful to the original in every paragraph—except for stylistic editorial changes. The text welcomes readers of all lifestyles, spiritual faiths or no faith at all.

      The paperback can be purchased for less than $10 on Amazon. The publisher, BeaconStreetUSA, has made the book available at slightly above cost to put it in within reach of low-income readers.

      Questions? Write to Barbara@BeaconStreetUSA.com.

      • Barbara, it takes a lot more than just being gender neutral. While I can see how that can be important, the real issue is that the whole big book is illogical and manipulative. Leave it as it is, that way it is all the more obvious how unusable it is, and lets all make new ones, whoever wants to do it. If it is good, it will spread.

  11. Sadly, AA really has devolved into a religion with the Big Book as its Holy Scripture, and the Twelve Steps have become its Twelve Commandments. Living languages evolve over the course of time, and many young newcomers today already find it difficult to read the Big Book simply because of its outdated language. If somehow AA should manage to survive that long, two hundred years from now the first 164 pages of the Big Book in its present form will be about as readable as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Middle English is today. Yet even then the best the General Service Council will be able to agree on is to publish an edition of the Big Book that has the original text on one page and the closest possible translation of it into 23rd century English on the opposite page.

  12. Thanks again for a great essay. My first thought when I first opened a Big Book seriously looking for guidance was, “What is this old school nonsense?” Particularly the so incredibly 1930’s “The Doctor’s Opinion” and childish “We Agnostics” followed by the completely fake “To Wives”. This has spawned generations of alkies carrying on about “an allergy of the body…” to the muffled laughter of anybody who knows what an allergy is. These same people refer the inquirer to the least and no longer used definition of a harmful reaction to a substance. I am not allergic to anti-freeze but if I drink it, as I have been tempted when there was no booze, I will likely die soon. That is only one glaring example.

    I believe the Big Book should be retained and studied by any who would for its value as a historical document. A newer, more modern primer cleansed of non-scientific bullshit and christian bigotry with an injection of bleeding edge technology and reference to outdated theories would be a wonderful thing. This would be doubly true if it could be regularly and frequently amended like the humungous tech manuals many of us are familiar with. (Which by the way make the “164 pages” look like a teeny tiny post-it note with “don’t drink-don’t be a dick” scrawled on it.)

    The bulk of the principles presented by the Big Book will never age but we are in a new era of communication and scientific advance where dependence on a single holy scripture is as obsolete as ritual cannibalism and human sacrifice (insert half-arsed apology to Christians.)

  13. The “it ain’t broke” folks, I believe, start with a flawed premise. The evidence suggests that it is indeed broken.

    Try to imagine a CEO going before his corporation’s board of directors. “Twenty-five years ago, when I took over, sales were strong. Today, we’re selling ALMOST as many widgets as in 1991!”

    Of course, the North American population is WAY up, so our market share is WAY down – about 30%. We haven’t run out of drunks. The target market is growing.

    And, according to the same fundamentalists who claim it “ain’t broke,” our numbers are inflated by all the druggies, atheists, and other “half measure” artists whose ongoing contented sobriety offers proof that they aren’t REAL alcoholics.

    Rewriting the existing text is a completely impractical matter, but “ain’t broke” is a claim that is lame.

    Fortunately, the quantity of auxiliary literature continues to rise. I even know a guy who wrote an AA history book, from the perspective of a secularist! BOOM!!

  14. I recall reading somewhere that, much to my surprise, there already exists a procedure to update the big book and other literature in AA, but it’s about as likely as overturning the Proposition 13 basis for property tax here in California – never going to happen.

    So, I’m in agreement with those who favor putting the BB aside as an interesting historical document, and either writing a new book, or, more likely, choosing an existing text as a contemporary standard. Fortunately, there are many such to choose from. I read about one such book recently, perhaps right here on this site, The Alcoholics Anonymous Universal Edition by Archer Vox. It’s my understanding that the only reason this book can legally exist is because AA let the copyright lapse on a former edition. “God” works in mysterious ways, it seems…

    • Mr. Voxx’s (two “x’s”) secular translation of key chapters of the big book was astutely reviewed on AAbeyondbelief.com, quite recently.

  15. I’m all for that. And it will be exciting to see what it comes down to. I mean, what is it that makes AA work, because it’s not just that it doesn’t just include gays, women or communists, or that the god is a christian god instead of some other kind:
    A higher power is NOT needed at all, though it may feel like it is to people who are used to having an imaginary friend in the sky.
    So what else is not needed? Or what is? If alcoholism is not a moral failure, how come we need to take a moral inventory?
    Maybe all it is is one alcoholic talking to another – can we really write a whole book about nothing more than that? Well, there probably is more anyway, but I’m just saying we need to rethink the whole program. And maybe that is what they did with the books they wrote for lifering and smart recovery, and it has already been done? No there is still more – it is that aspect which we are more and more reluctant to calling spiritual, which includes a deeper caring for the next alcoholic than you probably find in those other programs, and what else. It is a big project.
    Meanwhile, here is another project I’m working on, and I’m just mentioning it because it has helped me look at the BB in a new light, and how much really needs to be rooted out: BB fallacies. Here is a great wikipedia site about logical fallacies, it is so cool reading through because you can sit and nod your head all the way through “Yup, that one is in there!, Yup, that one too”, and eventually I realized that the BB is almost nothing but manipulations and logical fallacies, and wondered what kind of society could even absorb something like that. Well, of course it’s the society where most people live their lives based on the bible. Anyway check this out: List of fallacies. It is fascinating.

  16. Thanks for this!! I see a lot of newcomers who do not revere the BB as we might. It is – simply put – way outdated! Especially for women.

    Times have changed so much. Now we have rehabs – and a lot of the BB is way behind the times. On how to deal with newcomers – it is way off… “be sure to take his matches so he does not burn your house down.” LOL… when we read this sentence recently at my home group – I suggested that it needs updating – and I was attacked by the “fundamentalists” who claimed to “use this info all the time.” I was incredulous…

    So lets update the BB!!

  17. I appreciate and agree with the comments: with much love, respect, and gratitude for AA, which helped us get and stay sober, I think the big book is from another time/social milieu. When I first read it (almost 25 years ago), my reaction was, “This is so archaic!” Fortunately, I had fallen in love with the people and meetings, so was willing to hear the principles behind the text. Nevertheless, I crossed out some terms in my copy of the book (god and various male pronouns), and replaced them with those I could accept.

    The idea of a new (not just revised) book sounds great! Surely there are many of us open to the idea, but in my area of the US, very few. “Bible Belt” folks here are very Protestant and hold antiquated views (in my opinion), of the Bible that extend to the big book; many still will only accept the King James Bible as legitimate!

    Even so, I think this is an exciting time to be alive, sober, and looking forward to our future in recovery. If there is anything I can do to help with this project, please let me know. Hopefully we can be a means for others to get and stay sober, and enjoy a life of freedom and love.

  18. Dee!

    You’ve managed to interview only people who agree with that the big book should be revised? Is there no one you found who proposes reasons against doing so that even worthy of consideration? I remember several years ago reading about a movement that was afoot somewhere to revise Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” to eliminate the uncomfortably racist language. I’m sure the people involved meant well but the problem is that “Huckleberry Finn” without the racist content wouldn’t be Mark Twain’s book anymore.

    The big book doesn’t need to be rewritten. It’s part of our history. Of course, surgery without adequate anesthesia is also part of our history. We’ve devised more human medical approaches. We’ve also devised humanist approaches to recovery from alcoholism, as you know, that are now beginning to emerge visibly within AA. We have accompanying literature (identified on this website in large part) that we can share with newcomers. The problem you address here has actually already be solved. Our task is to share that solution with other interested members of AA and to be vocal within AA about the availability of alternate, non-religious pathways to recovery.

    Initiatives to revise the Big Book have so far never gained traction in AA much like the equal rights ammendment has never gained traction and for the same reason: not enough people are in favor of the idea. As much as I dislike the Big Book and the 12X12 too, I am one of the ones not in favor of rewriting them.

  19. Couldn’t agree more. A new book is needed, and not just a “revision” of the Big Book which most members would anyway find unacceptable. I’m an old journalist and copywriter, would be happy to help.