The Little Book
Review by Jean S.
Updated in January 2021 as a result of a Second Edition
This book offers a way forward for the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The goal of The Little Book is to widen the gateway of AA so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of belief or lack of belief.
The book presents the 12 Step program of recovery in a way that reflects and respects the diversity of culture, gender, religion and lack of religion within today’s worldwide recovery community.
The Little Book is divided into three major parts.
Part One consists of 20 alternative versions of the 12 Steps.
Want to know how the man who won the 1972 Humanist of the Year award translate the 12 Steps? You can read B.F. Skinner’s version on page 18. Is there a Buddhist alternative to the 12 Steps? At least two of them, on pages 24 and 25.
Want to know which group wrote “Made a decision to entrust our will and our lives to the care of the collective wisdom and resources of those who have searched before us” in Step Three? Page 15. Want to read single-word versions of the Steps? Page 22.
And on. And on. The most recent version of the Steps in the second edition are The Practical 12 Steps, written by Jeffrey Munn, the author of a book published in 2019, Staying Sober Without God.
And there could be so much more. As the author of The Little Book writes: “There are about as many versions (of the 12 Steps) as there are alcoholics in AA who use the program to get sober and maintain their sobriety.”
In Part Two, four concise interpretations of the original 12 Steps are presented, one Step at a time.
The first interpretation is by the renowned author, Allen Berger. He has written a number of popular books such as 12 Smart Things to Do When the Booze and Drugs Are Gone. His interest and expertise is in emotional and cognitive therapies and his approach science-based.
Perhaps the most moving set of interpretations is by Stephanie Covington. She presents a woman’s perspective on the 12 Steps. It needs to be noted that the original 12 Steps were not written for women or with women’s struggles with alcoholism or addiction in mind. Today we also understand that trauma plays a large role in alcoholism and addiction, something not at all grasped by the early founders of AA. In order to deal with these and others issues, Stephanie wrote A Woman’s Way Through the Twelve Steps, a treasure for women in recovery, from which her interpretations of each of the Steps are culled.
Next comes interpretations by Gabor Maté, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. As a former doctor and the staff physician for the Portland Hotel Society, which provides medical care to addicts in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, Gabor has a unique and contemporary perspective on addiction. It is fascinating to read his book, and his interpretations of the 12 Steps are one of the treasures of The Little Book.
We keep hearing that there is a great deal in common between Buddhism and AA’s suggested program of recovery, but how would a Buddhist interpret the 12 Steps? Read The Little Book and you’ll find out! The author of Mindfulness and the 12 Steps, Thérèse Jacobs-Stewart shares her interpretations as both a Buddhist and a woman in recovery.
These interpretations are all so insightful and refreshing.
And then the reader is given a template to write her or his own alternatives and interpretations of each of the 12 Steps. This is so the opposite of “one size fits all” that it makes the heart throb with relief. We all “work” the 12 Steps in our own unique ways so for many of us in recovery this will be an invaluable tool.
Part Three of the book consists the original 12 Steps published in 1939 as well as an insightful essay, “The Origins of the 12 Steps.”
“It all began in the waning months of 1934,” the essay begins and then goes on to describe the contributions of people like Ebby Thacher, Bill Wilson, Dr. William Silkworth and Jim Burwell to the development of AA’s program of recovery.
The author pays particular attention to Appendix II of the Big Book, which was added in the second printing of the book in 1941. “The purpose of the appendix is to correct the impression in the Big Book that recovery requires a religious conversion,” the author of The Little Book said. “Instead, the purpose of the 12 Steps is framed in psychological terms and its goal restated as the pursuit of “a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism.”
The book was put together and authored by Roger C., the administrator of the AA Agnostica website.
In its inclusivity and unqualified respect for diversity and difference, The Little Book paradoxically represents both a challenge to AA while anchored in the very best of its history and traditions.
Ernest Kurtz, the author of Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous calls the book “a beautiful testimony to AA’s living history.”
And William White, author of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, refers to The Little Book as “a celebration of the varieties of recovery experience.”
Indeed, The Little Book is a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge and wisdom about the 12 Step program of recovery.
You can get a paperback copy of the second edition of The Little Book here at Amazon. It is also available via Amazon in Canada and the United Kingdom and Europe. It is also available as a Kindle. However, only the paperback version contains templates for readers to write their own personal alternatives and interpretations of the Steps.