by Roger C.
We are today launching a special project. A book. A special book.
It is a book that would fit perfectly in Alcoholics Anonymous. Anyone in AA could read it and benefit from it. It wouldn’t be a replacement for or a rewrite of the Big Book (BB). It would be a modern day supplement to it: The Practical Book (PB). The subtitle of the book would be: Tools We Find Helpful in Recovery.
The proposed book would be relatively short. It would consist of a number of chapters that would be writings about a variety of tools that help us in our recovery from alcoholism.
Tools that we alcoholics have learned about over the 75 years since the Big Book was published. Tools that we have gleaned from our very own and personal insights in recovery. Tools that we have learned from science and research.
This is a book that cannot be written by one person alone. That typically limits this kind of effort to the experience of a single person. The Practical Book (PB) would be what the Big Book (BB) was also designed to be: the insights of a group of people in recovery.
The tools we have found that help us in recovery. A whole book. Written by people in recovery in AA.
Find this project Interesting? Then please, keep reading…
Tools in Recovery
What got us sober? What keeps us sober?
Answering those questions would be the goal of the PB.
And often, but not always, the answers could be based on ideas initially put forward in the Big Book.
In fact, this whole project began with the BB. Denis, from Vancouver, raised it with me one day, when he wanted to get to the bottom of something Bill Wilson wrote in the BB: “Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” Bill goes on to write that “the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot.”
Is that true? Denis and I had a good discussion about that. And so the question: What role does a re-evaluation of the “self” play in sobriety and recovery? As happens so often in the Big Book, an important issue is raised and then abandoned.
This would be a wonderful chapter in The Practical Book.
And there are many, many more.
For example, many of us believe that what is at the root of our recovery is the principle of “one alcoholic talking to another alcoholic”. It is the fellowship. It is group therapy. It is not drinking and going to meetings. It is listening to others share their experience, strength and hope and being able to relate to that. Another chapter in the PB?
Some time ago (February, 2013), John L shared an important article on AA Agnostica: Physical Recovery. What role does a healthy lifestyle involving exercise and a proper diet play in our recovery? To the best of my knowledge, that crucial topic is not mentioned in the Big Book. Surely an important chapter in The Practical Book.
What about making amends? Of course that hearkens back to 1939 and “How It Works” in the Big Book. And some Steps could be discussed in this manner in various chapters in The Practical Book. Is making amends an important part of recovery for some of us? Is realigning ourselves with people we may have harmed in the past crucial to maintaining our sobriety?
Of course, making amends is Step 8 of the suggested program of AA. And there would be other chapters about the Steps.
For example, Step 12 is about service. What role does service, supporting and helping others, play in our recovery? Some would argue that it has a huge role in our lives in recovery. A chapter in the PB?
What about meditation as a tool (Step 11)?
An essential tool in my own recovery is what I call “acceptance”. Others call it “surrender”. I personally don’t like that word. Surrender is “to” something while acceptance is “of” something. In sobriety I try to accept who I am and my relation to other people and my (modest) place in the universe. As Bill put it: “We have ceased fighting anything or anyone”. What a relief! How that is done and and how it works could be a chapter in The Practical Book.
Finally, on the last page of the BB, Bill Wilson writes: “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.” And thus, in order to declare openness to new ideas in the future, the last chapter of the PB could be called “We Know Only A Little”. It would affirm that subsequent editions of The Practical Book could incorporate changes, new ideas and fresh insights into the essential ingredients of recovery and sobriety for all of us suffering from alcoholism and addiction.
That is a brief and tentative outline of nine potential chapters in The Practical Book. How many chapters would there be in all? Well, how many tools are there in recovery? And would some tools warrant more than one chapter?
Simple and Secular
The book will use secular – that is, non-religious – language. But it would in no way be anti-theist. It would not have content that would repel someone who has faith in God or, indeed, believes that a God or Higher Power played a role in her or his recovery. There are many, many topics – and many useful tools in recovery and sobriety – that can be discussed without mentioning religion or religious beliefs. And of course AA is not allied with any religious organization or institution, so that is the only appropriate course to follow. A discussion of practical topics is open to everybody, be they Jewish, Christian, atheist, pagan, Muslim or whatever. That’s why it’s The Practical Book.
And so literally all in recovery – religious, non-religious, uncertain – are invited to contribute to The Practical Book.
The book also has to be written in simple language, easily understood by everyone. The kind of language used, for example, in Living Sober. Even if it is based on complicated science and research, it must be written in such a way that it would be understood by someone with a Grade 8 education. “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying this; he actually didn’t say it but nevertheless the point is still valid.
Timeline, Committee, Distribution
An editorial committee has been established to oversee this project. It’s called the Practical Committee (PC). That committee consists of the following people: Roger C, Doris A, Chris G and John S.
We would set aside a year to put this book together. But if it took longer, so be it. Here’s the “why and how” of the plan as of today.
We want as much input as possible, from all those who wish to be heard. As chapters are submitted, those that look promising will be posted on AA Agnostica. This will permit us to get feedback and commentary on each tool / chapter. Whatever changes and insights are gained as a result will be incorporated into that chapter.
This work of deciding which chapters will be included and how they might be perfected – in full collaboration with their authors, of course – will be done by the PC.
Finally, if those organizing it were willing, a draft of the book could be given to delegates at the We Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers International AA Convention in Austin, Texas, in November, 2016 and made a part of a panel discussion – or a workshop – at the Convention.
After this final session of feedback on the content of the book, it would be published by AA Agnostica.
Royalties come with publication and sales. A commitment would be made so that after a specific threshold was reached, profits from book distribution would be shared among AA organizations, such as AA World Services and various agnostic and atheist AA service organizations.
But here’s the kicker.
In preparing this book, we would keep in touch with the AA General Service Office Literature Committee. At the very least, we would keep them updated on progress on the Practical Book.
But in the end, our aim would be to give the copyright of the PB to AA World Services in order to have the book published as “Conference-approved” literature. That would certainly not happen in the next year or two, indeed it probably will never happen, but the offer would remain open ad infinitum. It is certainly time for AA to publish something contemporary about what we have learned over the years about the key assets in our recovery and sobriety and, at the very least, our fellowship should officially be invited – and continually challenged – to do just that.
We Are AA
Over the past while, there has been an ongoing discussion of the place of the agnostic and atheist movement in AA.
Are we to remain in AA or will we become a separate movement? Will AA accept us? Will AA change enough to accept us or for us to accept AA? There are doubts about our place within the fellowship. There are different opinions as to how best to move forward.
I believe we agnostics and atheists are a movement within AA.
And we should be open and proud about who we are and what we do.
This special project – The Practical Book – is in fact a way of anchoring and solidifying our presence within the fellowship of AA.
To date we have started our own meetings and written our own books. We had to do that! We had to do it to survive, to move on from one day to the next with at least a certain sense of integrity.
But now we can do something for ALL of AA. We can reach out, we can very much be a part of being there “when anyone anywhere reaches out for help”. We can make a real contribution. To all of AA. And who knows? Maybe that contribution will be acknowledged by everyone within the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Even those who might have been dubious about us in the past.
Can you imagine a newcomer coming into an AA meeting and handing her The Practical Book?
We are AA.
Some Practical Words
There will, of course, be no Practical Book without authors.
We need women and men who are willing and able to share their insights into what has worked for them in recovery. People who have thought it through and perhaps discussed it with others and done some research.
Are you one of those people? If so, please contact us by the end of this year via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special project.
The Practical Book: Tools We Find Helpful in Recovery.
We’re on our way!