141: The Big Book – Does it Need an Update? (Sort Of)


Much has been said about updating the Big Book of AA. Written in 1939, the language of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous can be confusing for people in the modern world. We invite Emily on to talk about her experience of navigating the Big Book. We look at the chapter To Wives, which seems like an incredibly dated and sexist part of the book. Not to mention completely not in touch with any modern science, research or understanding in our world. We also take a peek at the We Agnostics chapter of the book. Ultimately, we give our opinions on whether the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book should be updated, or even changed altogether. Listen in to learn about updating the Big Book. Join the conversation by leaving a message, emailing us at RecoverySortOf@gmail.com,  or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or find us on our website at www.recoverysortof.com.

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Transcript:

recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature

welcome back it’s recovery sort of i am jason a guy who is not stuck in 1934 or whatever and i’m billy i’m a person in long term recovery i’m jenny i’m also a person in long term recovery and today we have emily with us hi emily hi everyone i’m emily i’m also a person in long term recovery thanks so much for having me i’m so excited to be here so we’re gonna we’re gonna talk about a topic that a listener requested from us which was the idea of updating the big book which is the foundational literature for alcoholics anonymous um so you know generally probably on a really professional podcast somebody would suggest hey should we update the language of the big book and then you know the hosts would like thoroughly investigate and read the big book and see the consensus of the aaa fellowship and get their opinion on it and what we did was uh we got people who have read the big book at some point in their life and we never have billy and i have never ever touched a big book no i’ve been to a few aaa meetings but i’ve never owned a really red i read sections of it is it blue is it blue like the basic text it is blue it’s because it wants to be red

that was it that was a dad joke did they say that in aa2 no i’ve never heard that that that’s just a jason joke that’s because n a is in 2022. um so yeah so emily uh before we even get into the outdated completely literature uh of the big book why don’t you tell us a little bit about your story and why you are here to help us absolutely yeah so um my name is emily i’ve been in recovery for about four years um i got sober in atlanta georgia at that time it was for me it was post college binge drinking uh alcohol was my main drug of choice with some other little fun things sprinkled in there let’s just say but mainly alcohol um and it was a lot of binge drinking blacking out on the weekends um just basically royally [ __ ] up my life in every possible way and uh while i didn’t have sort of like a traditional like dui or jails or institutions anything like that i had a whole lot of concerns with people in my life and i ended up getting sober through aaa mostly um in atlanta and met met some really really great people there that i’m still friends with um ended up moving to boston two years later and i’m i’m still involved in several different sort of recovery circles here including aaa and the reason that i’m on this podcast is essentially no other good than i ever asked jason on social media so the moral of that story is if you want to get on a podcast just harass the celebrity of your dreams and no but um in all seriousness thank you for letting me be here um i’ve i’ve been listening to this podcast since um around the pandemic i think kind of got me through the darkest days of uh early 2020 there and um it’s really really cool to actually be here sitting with you guys man see i was all in like total you know jackass snarky mode and then you say something warm and like touches my heart and i’m like oh now i can’t be fun

feel free to bring it jason i can handle it no uh you know emily says harass but but truthfully like um you know there have been a select few people who do listen and who are interested in the topics and who like the discussion and continue this kind of discussion with me you know outside of the the podcast realm just through the social media channels and and i thoroughly enjoy it so i don’t consider it being harassed i i’ve enjoy any feedback input conversation topic it’s always enjoyable so the big book that was written you know i really feel like a [  ] lame ass host not even knowing what year it was written 35 39 39 oh [  ] i said 34 or 39 39 okay 39 that’s like pre black people can use the same water fountains as us like i mean this is like a ridiculously different time in our life i mean yeah most women were stay at home yeah moms and wives they didn’t have career yeah yeah pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen right um i know it’s just crazy to me i am interested you said you you know mostly through aaa what the hell does that mean so i guess aaa was like the go-to for me like when i first got sober it was like i didn’t even really question other options it was just like that’s what you do like if you have an alcohol problem you go to a a there’s a meeting 10 minutes from my house okay great i’m going like that was basically how i got in um and i will say like most of my early recovery and and so recovery today does come from that um but i did explore a little bit i explored like refuge recovery um i explored different podcasts i explored um sober communities on instagram uh so i i had a couple of different recovery circles but and maybe we’ll get into this a little bit more i would say a was sort of the strongest one that i had oh refuge recovery were you one of noah levine’s uh special students oh sorry i wha say it again i i asked if you were one of his special students uh there’s there’s a reason recovery dharma split from refuge recovery that i like to oh okay yeah yeah yeah yeah see i i will say i probably went to like five meetings tops or something like that and i like to flop i delved really into like the history of that or so i don’t know a lot about it but i trust you yeah yeah you know you have to be a recovery nerd to know i don’t even know if i know because i’m a nerd just jenny brought up the topic so i explored it i was like hey this guy likes sex with women that’s cool i do too like that’s awesome i felt like a kindred spirit i felt a little bit like a recovery nerd yeah yeah that would have been a good joke if i had yeah yeah it’s cool um so a good try why did you move from the south to the north i feel like people don’t move all that often maybe that’s just i don’t ever move but like that just seems weird yeah i’m from here my partner and i moved uh back and um i went to grad school here so you know just kind of a lot of people say that though they’re like once i move to the south like i have friends who went to the south for college and they just kind of never came back but um i guess i’m weird and i like the eight months of winter or something so okay so somebody suggested to us this idea of should the big book be updated which i mean i joke about aaa sucking all the time just as a joke because you know whatever helps people i don’t really give a [  ] join a program that’s great i i love the fact that you pointed out that aaa seemed like the default place to go because i feel like that’s the understanding i have and i think that’s where a lot of my it’s not complaints against 12-step it’s complaints against uh the way our recovery community is set up right i feel like a lot of people today trying to follow you know the medical professionals and the science about the life-saving abilities of some other methods of recovery are struggling because they don’t have a home base of recovery people to hang out with and i feel like our 12-step fellowships which have done incredible work for so many people end up being the default and we need some other way to make that work so i i just it was great that you said that um so somebody told us we should talk about the outdated language of the big book which it’s something you hear every so often we did an aaa episode uh and and you know some of the these and thous and and the the ways things are said and the analogies that are used or the the terms of speech and and he was sharing them with us and i was like what in the [  ] are you talking like i don’t even understand that right and so it just really baffles me that they have decided never to update it to what feels like a readable version now in doing some research then very minimal research when i say research for this episode there is not technically racism in the big book but think about this from the place of it’s like if we discovered alien life tomorrow the big book also does not say that you know martians are less than but it’s because they don’t know martians exist and i kind of feel like that’s what was happening with minorities in 1939 it was like they’re not even considered it’s not that it’s not racist it hasn’t really had the option to consider that idea people who were considered were women and that’s a fun topic to talk about with the big book because there’s a whole section about the wives of alcoholics because apparently you know if you have a vagina you can’t be an alcoholic yourself at the time they wrote this yeah yeah yeah that particular topic there i think we could talk for an hour about certainly um i guess is that where you do you want to start with the full live character should we go right into it so for anybody let’s let’s let’s go here for anybody that has never ever read the big book right let me just uh read a little section of it for you so you can get a little exposure to it this happens to be from the two wives section basically because that’s the only portion of this book i’ve ever read just so i can make fun of it uh so this is a section called two wives and it’s speaking to you you vagina having non-alcoholic women who struggle with your alcoholic men the problem with which you struggle usually falls within one of four categories one your husband may be only a heavy drinker his drinking may be constant or it may be heavy only on certain occasions perhaps he spends too much money for liquor it may be slowing him up mentally and physically but he does not see it sometimes he is a source of embarrassment to you and his friends he is positive he can handle his liquor that it does him no harm that drinking is necessary in his business he would probably be insulted if he were called an alcoholic the world is full of people like him some will moderate or stop altogether and some will not of those who keep on a good number will become true alcoholics after a while so okay i’m not going to read a whole lot more because that’s boring as [  ] but anyway the the second type uh your husband is showing lack of control over he’s unable to stay on the water wagon even when he wants to the [  ] water wagon come on guys uh three this husband has gone much further than husband number two though once like number two he became worse oh my god his friends have slipped away four you may have a husband of whom you completely despair he has been placed in one institution after another he is violent or appears definitely insane when drunk like nowhere in here are they like get the [  ] out if he’s violent right like they don’t and and even the fact so for me the mind-blowing fact that we can you know oh we can classify these male alcoholics and these four simple categories and then suggest to you what you should do about it uh and they do after that they tell you let’s go back to husband one oddly enough he’s often difficult to deal with like whatever they give you suggestions you women about how to deal with these specific four types of alcoholics this is all so far from any science or modern understanding of people who struggle with addiction right uh sorry i i okay i’ll let you speak in one second i swear to god it’s just ridiculous to me like you know especially with my understanding that addiction is not just this thing that like comes down from the sky and lightning bolts into certain people in their genetics or whatever like this is caused from life experience and people trying to find a way to cope and feel okay in their body it’s not it’s a reaction to the way you feel just like gambling or shopping or anything else that we do in our life to try to feel okay so to like specify these people and who can’t stay on the water wagon and it’s like what the [  ] are we even talking about in this book i’m done go ahead you thought you wouldn’t have anything to talk about what’s up get on my pedestal what do you got oh somebody anybody well you know what it’s funny so i don’t know no there was a lot i need to shut the [  ] up uh you stunned us in assignment um so this week i re-listen to the big book on audio i haven’t because i haven’t read it well i’ve i haven’t read it cover to cover since the early days and i haven’t been to a meetings for a while the early days yeah and uh realist you know like some things get better over time some things don’t get better over time how surprising that the big book is not like fine wine so i think if i like if i went into recovery now like for something else you know like i don’t know i can’t get sober from alcohol again but if if i walked in are you kidding me you just gotta drink first that’s true um going into aaa with this book i was much more tolerant of like this kind of stuff because i guess i was i think i was sexist when i first came in you know i didn’t even like women when i first came into aaa so i was very tolerant of this kind of stuff but if i walked into aaa now and i got like one glance at this i’d be like i think i’m going to find a better way and that’s probably why you know i have a whole lot of respect for aa because it’s what got me sober like it really did save my life you know rehab and then aa saved my life but i had to like i just couldn’t hang with this literature after like four years and i had to go find another way um and it’s funny because you were talking about how old this book is we’re coming up on like 100 years it’s funny that my second program of choice is uh 2600 years old i went for a really old literature like that’s funny yeah but um i mean i can read the big book now and appreciate it in a like classic literature way like you know like the way i would like oh the great gatsby’s fun you know like you know they say things like when i re-listen to it this week they’re talking about getting tight that means getting drunk why don’t i talk that way anymore but there’s like these like old-timey expressions that they really distract me from the point but i mean i like it in a like a history way and i just i picture guys with like their pants way up here and like we’re gonna go get tight tonight you make me want to relapse just so i can take that slang back out on the on the corner like y’all getting tight today everybody tight i mean i was starting yeah yeah i started to jot down some phrases but there’s so many uh can anybody tell me what a whoopee party is like do they all sit on whoopee cushions my seven-year-old would love that party if that’s what they do if they all just walk around and sit on whoopee cushions could be it was a different time technologies changed right they didn’t have smartphones they had to make fart noises for entertainment um there is the very last story and i forgot this so you know there’s two wives but the very last story is like called to the lady alcoholic do you remember this emily i do not please share okay so um and i don’t know if i wonder if this came out in like subsequent editions oh i bet you know like maybe in the 70s women were like yo you know and say put to the lady alcoholic but it’s still very women are wives um you know there’s no acknowledgement of like homosexuality it’s like you are here to serve a man and if if you’re not then you’re nothing yeah what about the husband it’s all about nuclear family there’s no like all there’s no single women or anything it’s like if you’re not serving a family forget it you might as well drink yourself to death you know so for context in that this is i believe the fourth edition they’re currently on there has been updates to the stories in the back of the big book it’s not that they haven’t ever changed the book itself but the first 164 pages is what’s supposed to be the classically part of the program whatever the hell uh and that has not changed but yeah who’s going to understand getting titan whoopee parties and you know the [  ] water wagon like is that the only two options for drinks did they not have soda back then what the hell you couldn’t get on the coca-cola wagon like goddamn oh they use expression where’s the pants too that one grades on where’s the pants where’s the pants like i know that’s it like you know like it was it was in the context of like what does that even mean you know like you know to the wives like now you you women are probably used to wearing the pants since your husband’s been drunk but now that he’s sober he’s back in charge holy [  ] are you serious yeah yeah you just made me want to listen to the big book that’s going to be next on my audible list i mean i will say like i have never met a woman in aaa who doesn’t just burst into flames whenever we read this aloud in a meeting i think that it’s like well accepted that the two wives trasher is pretty much just trash so you know um but i i the host of this podcast didn’t do any research but i did a little bit of research in the form of um interviewing my friends and asking what if you could change anything about the big book what would it be well hold on emily before you go putting me down where’s the pants that’s all i’m saying i know nothing about the pants i i don’t like this expression i’m going to ignore it pretend it’s not in the book let’s see uh i bet they probably say chasing skirts somewhere in that book you know when jenny said where’s the pants all i could think of was like your husband just walked in and you’re sleeping with his best friend or something and you both are like oh my god where’s my pants different where’s the responses i ever got were i would change chapter eight to wide so that it’s something like letters loved ones it’s not inclusive um take out the sexist language take out two wives and let’s see what else add a chapter about 13 stepping we can talk about that too but that was also a suggestion but my point basically is like i think everybody is just in agreement that this chapter just sucks his like absolute trash and you could pretty much just rip it out of the book and the book would still read normally um and i agree with you that other part too about like the four categories of drunks or whatever like there’s absolutely nothing scientific about that doesn’t make any sense um i don’t know i don’t know where they drew out these categories but if if you find out let me know so and i did look a little bit at some of the history of the aaa big book i guess it was originally written by bill wilson and dr bob and the original 100 members i guess of roughly of aa that sort of sent some manuscripts back and forth and came up with this version of the book i guess the 140 164 64 pages is that before his mushrooms or not and uh i i mean i can see a little bit of like that there is some historical relevance there like they sort of created this program and came up with this brand new idea of how to deal with at that time alcoholism um and it was a new thing and there’s a lot of history there in a and n a we’ve done the opposite like we’ve changed our basic text a bunch of times we’re on like version six and what’s happened over time is pieces have been taken out so you can go back and read and you know at the time they felt like it was good and inclusive but it changed some of the meaning of some of the things um our fifth tradition for example used to be the only requirement for membership is an honest desire to stop using now that’s just been changed to a desire to stop using so your desire to stop using could be well my wife’s mad at me so i’m gonna maybe stop you know versus an honest desire which has a different you know note to it and you know things like that those subtle changes over time you make one then you make another one then you make another one and all of a sudden you have something different than what you started with that sounded like you were advocating that honest would be better um i’m not going to say better worse it just changes the intention you know which once you start changing the intention of something you know it’s sort of like so i look historically at like the bible like the christian bible like we know that’s been translated into different languages over the thousands of years that it’s been around some of the meanings have been changed some of the word thing you know the language gets changed around and then it takes on a whole new meaning from what it was originally intended for well i guess i guess my beef with that is more like how do you measure or judge an honest desire right so like we we now have a basis for stigmatizing or belittling certain groups of people and saying oh well your desire is not totally honest yeah and i’m not advocating just specifically for that there’s a bunch of other ones too i mean that’s just one yeah yeah i got it well it makes me think of the true alcoholic right like what the [  ] does that even mean like either you feel like you have a problem with alcohol or you don’t like what is a true alcoholic and are we belittling people for not being true alcoholics or are we holding others in higher esteem because they’ve recovered and they were true alcoholics or sure but as we open these programs up to more and more people and try to make them broader and broader to include everyone maybe that has something to do with the failing success rate like maybe that’s why we don’t succeed as well because we’ve now opened it up to people it really wasn’t originally intended to help like i don’t know i mean that’s a lot of mental masturbation to think about but it’s like if we if we change things and make them different from what they were originally intended to and then say well these things don’t work or they’re not as good as they should be so maybe a a really does only help old white dudes with red noses and [  ] yeah it may be i mean maybe their success rate could be 100 they just had the guys from the vfw and the moose lodge like i don’t know i mean you make a point but it’s it’s almost counter to the point we talked about before we started this episode because the next week’s episode uh spoiler alert for everybody is about you know holistic or or bougie rehab environments and you know this idea that like the one thing they do i think get right is that they tailor make their program specifically for each person that comes in like i i think that makes a lot more [  ] sense than just here everybody eats beans and potatoes every day and you’ll all get us the same way but i i almost feel like that’s a lacking of the 12-step world if we yeah but maybe if they were obviously as individualized i mean obviously as selective as they should be they would go away and other things would fill in their place it’s like by trying to keep them around we maybe aren’t you know we aren’t letting them die their own natural death i like that so so one of the things you had just said emily that that struck me is maybe a key point to this is that the big book is so [  ] up that there is a section called two wives that is obviously [  ] ridiculous and insane at this point right and because of that we can’t even move past that to get to the point of like well let’s talk about the actual language and the rest of the book and if that makes sense in 2022 which it also does not but we can’t even get there because this [ __ ] book refuses to get rid of a section that is so ridiculous and like clownish that that’s going to be everybody’s first reaction and where we all want to go yeah that that is the first reaction i think it’s like the two wives section let’s get that out first um but i don’t know i mean i i kind of feel two ways about this because i think that like my very first reaction and i think a lot of people’s first reaction to coming into aaa and starting to read this text is like this is bs why am i even in this program why am i wasting my time reading this book um and does does that kind of does that kind of attitude of we should just throw out the whole thing get in the way of taking the good parts from it so that’s like the first question there um what are the good parts i don’t remember what are the good parts of the big book i think that i mean this this is going to bleed a little bit into your conversation about sort of just the benefits of aaa and doing the steps that you were talking about last week but i mean i think that like for me i’ll just speak from my experience like i’ve i’ve gone through this several different times with several different sponsors and i think that um every time my brain was kind of like a hammer looking for a nail which was the sexist language or outdated language or like whoopee parties or things that didn’t make sense generally um i just i wasn’t getting any of the message any of you know like the what the steps were trying to tell me i was kind of just focusing on that and i was using it as a way to not work on my recovery at all so that was a trap that i fell into when i over criticized this book at the same time i think that we have to criticize it because i think that if you’re not able to laugh at it if you’re not able to point out what’s wrong with it um i don’t know you’re also not really being honest with yourself and so i’ve found a lot more nuance now in what people think about this book especially opinions in aaa versus just like it’s the bible read it like you’ll get sober off this book alone no you won’t i really don’t believe that um but i do call it my bible and i’m not religious at all it feels it feels like i’m like i gotta get my bible out of my book because it’s like my little like way of poking at the fact that it’s culty so yeah is is that language from the two wives section it is it like if you’re looking to get nailed you need to get your hammer sober

no it it could fit right in there yeah jason doesn’t know about page 69 in the big book oh it’s about sex okay yeah he doesn’t know about that there’s one thing the big book got right page 69 is about sex and nothing could make more sense to me um i i’m just yeah i’m sorry i can’t get past the two live section even sitting here it’s like kind of on my screen and i’m looking at it and it’s like uh the first principle of success you wives is that you should never be angry even though your husband becomes unbearable and you have to leave him temporarily and you should if you can go without rancor i don’t even know what [  ] ranker is patience and good temper are most necessary our next thought is you should never tell him what he must do about his drinking if he gets the idea that you are a nag or a killjoy holy [  ] you [  ] nags and killjoys i don’t maybe i like this book i don’t know i’m gonna give it to my wife oh my god no it’s uh i mean it’s just so to me it’s so problematic in these ideas and and i don’t think it’s actually even at least in this section again i have not read the entire book so you know a little uh disclaimer there i don’t think the information in this book is good information in this section at least i’m like some of the things it talks about in this two wives and i i don’t remember them specifically when i tried to read through it but they’re like i’m like you’re setting women up to get abused and [  ] you know with some of your advice or suggestions in here i don’t think this is good [  ] for 2022 at all yeah has there been a movement to change this to get it out i actually did look up to i’d look some of that up um and apparently there is a lot of belief in you know it’s it’s very much like there’s people who want to make change to these first 164 pages the problem everybody comes to that is as soon as they agree that yes there probably should be some change to it they all just kind of divulge into like oh my god can you imagine trying to have group conscience and what we’re going to change and what we’re not going to change and how long this [  ] process would be and how nobody would ever agree on what needs to stay and what needs to so they just kind of give up before they start yeah i say if it doesn’t change it’s going to be gone like i i really think the the way the world’s going right now if the big book doesn’t change it’s not going to be around in 50 years except museums you know well and that’s why the internet doesn’t go right i mean that’s what came up for me when billy was talking about the history of it i’m like you know okay i get it as a historical text and i didn’t pick up on it when you said it but you said something similar like i enjoy that era it’s from right and so when billy was sharing that i was like yeah okay well that makes sense and and keep it and you know maybe not in the aaa museum museum museum god i feel like i can’t say the word anyway yeah not there but like maybe you still sell it and you know people can look at it for interest or you know it’s like a a history book right like right now and get the old versions of the n a texts you can buy it and people collect them and trade them right but that doesn’t mean you can’t update it as well for people coming in i mean you know like emily was saying if you’re getting sidetracked and you said this too jenny if you guys get sidetracked in the [  ] language and like like if i leave read this i’m like what the [  ] is ranker like i don’t even i gotta go look that [  ] up like i get it you don’t remember the rancor from return the jedi i do but i don’t think they’re talking about a beast that you ride he was in uh he was in boba fett too way to be a spoiler oh if you have sorry if you haven’t seen boba fett he’s not in there i was kidding um anyway uh yeah but but i mean like i would get so lost i’d be like what in the [  ] is a whoopee party and you know what are they talking about wearing the pants in 2022 and it just wouldn’t make any sense i literally thought you meant where’s the pants like you couldn’t find them by the way sorry it’s [ __ ] early on a sunday morning i should have gotten coffee when i went upstairs this episode has been brought to you in part by voices of hope inc a non-profit recovery organization made up of people in recovery family members and allies together members strive to protect the dignity of those that use drugs and those in recovery by advocating for treatment harm reduction and support resources and mentoring please visit us at www.voicesofhopemaryland.org

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um hey so i’ll pull us out of this two wives conversation emily said she’s not religious at all so what do you think about the um design for living here it’s super christian based but what do you think emily yeah again they don’t even talk about other types of god it’s like you can have your own god as long as you’re a christian as long as he looks like jesus

let me say that there is a line in we agnostic that i think is like the biggest example of like why aaa is a cult so and i when i say it’s a cult like i say that kind of like lovingly too because like i still sort of believe in it but um but uh this is what i think so it’s the piece about electricity so um

so it’s comparing um our faith in like electricity and like technology and things like that to believing in a higher power so it says um nevertheless the 20th century readily accepts theories of all times provided they are grounded in fact we have numerous theories for example about electricity everybody believes them without a murmur of a doubt why this ready substance um and then let’s see okay so when when however the perfectly logical assumption is suggested that underneath the material world and life as we see it there is an all-powerful guiding creative intelligence right there a perverse streak comes to the surface so i have always hated this part because you are comparing something that actually does have an explanation although i probably can’t tell you what it is scientific reasoning yeah before you’re finished because i remember i think at one point it’s like electricity nobody knows how it works yes yes so like you compare that on this page to believing in a higher power like that logic just doesn’t light up and that was like the first time i read this i was probably like two or three weeks over honestly and was like all right this is just a bunch of bs because no that is not a good comparison at all so yeah the higher power question i think is tough um i’ve i’ve the book leaves it vague but has like a very christian i guess flavor to it if you want to call it that it’s kind of been like soaked in a little bit actually um so i i don’t know for me like i’ve always sort of said because you know when you do the steps you sort of you have to come up with some kind of higher power something that works for you so like i have always said nature um you know like being by the ocean being being in the woods things like that and just kind of feeling grounded and connected more than i don’t know religious i guess but i’ve had to twist it too because for me like i imagine if you have like a very clear conception of god or higher power this part is relatively easy to you but for me i had to twist things around in my mind a little bit i’ve heard that the uh the distinction a lot of times between the the a a versus n a whereas n a seems to be more open to the idea of not having this this jesus god mostly um and i say that i’m sure it varies from area to area and region to region and i get that right but generally what i’ve heard is a.a is much more christian specific and you’re much more likely to hear that in a meeting they say the lord’s prayer yeah yeah so i mean that’s a that’s a dead giveaway right we’re not about religion but if you don’t want to go to hell um pray with us but yeah so even though na has this like much more accepting attitude in word toward this idea i honestly don’t think in like the feel of n a it really feels that much different it’s still this kind of idea of like if it ain’t jesus something’s wrong with it um and it’s it is kind of baffling for me because we you know say all the time that you don’t have to believe in in a god or a specific god to make it work and yet i mean even i’m looking at this two agnostic section or whatever the hell we agnostic section of the big book and actually we were fooling ourselves for deep down and every man woman and child is the fundamental idea of god and i’m like and it’s it’s like you know for faith in a power greater than ourselves and miraculous demonstrations of that power in human lives are facts as old as man himself and i’m like what it basically says you’re wrong yeah okay you agnostic you’re wrong right yeah in the whole agnostic section it like it says like it’s addressing it to you but it almost gives like step-by-step instruction on how to entice the agnostic to christianity it’s like yes let’s manipulate the non-believers into believing in christian god and that will save you twist

it says right in this book you will read the experience of a man who thought he was an atheist like it’s basically telling you that’s not the way to come to recovery is to be an atheist it’s not going to work for you and uh i don’t know i think in 2022 we have a very different understanding of god in our society slowly slowly there’s still a lot of you know christian stuff that penetrates our morals and values on a daily basis but it’s more open yeah and not just that i mean we’re have more access to worldly things now so we experience all kinds of different religions and philosophies than they probably had access to in 1939 right so you know the ideas and concepts that we have around even different organized religions is completely different i mean they could update this book and say no one knows how the internet works information just gets passed through the airwaves

yeah i mean i don’t know i it definitely has like a white colonizer vibe a little bit um and that was something that bothered me a lot at the beginning too i will say like this one first of all i think there’s regional differences when i was in the bible belt felt this a lot more than i do living in boston but um i will say that this chapter is one where the the preachy cultinus seems more to be in the text than in the attitudes of um members of aaa i’ve i’ve had sponsors over the years that are like okay like you can make your higher power arch like whatever you can make it the sky like i really don’t care it doesn’t have to be this and i’ve met a lot of other um agnostics and you know atheists but agnostics and aaa let’s say that so yeah you can make your higher power a light bulb or electricity because we don’t know just the doorknob that opens up the treatment center whatever yeah there’s a group around here there’s an atheist aa group and i i never went so i you know people are taking matters into their own hands hmm or they’re just angry and bitter and had a coffee pot but you know what like then maybe that works for them too like if you form like your own little thing over here it’s functioning for you just as well as aaa is so who cares i’m still waiting to hear these good quotes from the aaa literature like the useful pieces i i don’t know i just i i feel like this is more so in the little bit of exposure of reading a few of these pieces and from talking to people you know louis when he was on oh and i do want to mention since you you brought it up we did an episode a long [  ] time ago about whether 12 steps were a cult uh and and yeah i i do kind of think they’re occult there’s no room for questioning them or second guessing them and it’s like believe what we say because we believe what we say regardless of what you think or evidence to the contrary yeah yeah ignore all scientific evidence this is just what we do um but i i get the idea that this is written more as a narrative story which i find kind of fascinating because i feel like the the n a main piece of literature which they call the basic text i guess because the big book was already taken is more like a study guide kind of thing it’s more like a if you were to read a self-help book or something like that it’s sort of laid out in like these are things that can work to help you and these are practices you might want to try whereas i feel like the big book is more like hey here’s a story about how i did this and it might work for you as well and that’s weird to me yeah there’s a lot of like uh bill w saying how awesome he is i had like because there’s bob and i got lost for a minute but um but yeah it is kind of a lot of him like this is how awesome i am he must have had this really great ego and it’s funny i’ve thought about like the big book is kind of like refuge recovery and it’s a more personalized tale and it has the stories in the back and then recovery dharma is more like a study guide no stories in the back emily what do you think about the stories in the back useful not useful to be honest um i haven’t i i read some at the beginning i haven’t read a whole lot lately because i feel a lot more benefit like listening to somebody’s personal story in a meeting or something like that but um sure yeah i think if like somebody’s opening this book for the first time maybe i would say read the stories in the back first before you get into like all the crazy lingo yeah that’s a good way to approach it yeah that’s how i felt about the stories in the back of the basic text because even though it’s more of a study guide it does have stories in the back and when i first came into recovery i remember like sitting on the toilet with nothing to do we didn’t have phones back then um and so i was just like flipping through and i read a couple stories and i was like oh i can relate to these it’s so nice um but yeah i never read it but you don’t need to read it yeah i’ve never read them all and i definitely at some point thought this is dumb i can go to a meeting and hear somebody say this like i don’t need to read yeah it’s so frozen in time like that those stories need to be more fluid i guess that’s maybe where the grapevine comes in like you can have more modern tales i definitely think when i read and they’ve been updated since then i don’t know which ones they kept and got rid of but in the n a basic text when i read those stories they were like well before my time they were like biker people who were doing uh talking about doing quaaludes and what’s what’s the uh the embalming fluid [  ] oh i never messed with that formaldehyde yeah but what’s it god damn i feel like such a terrible drug addict right now i can’t even think of the [ __ ] names of drugs the greens greeners or whatever the green stuff yeah uh and i was like i can’t relate to any of that and then somebody else was writing about like the only n a meeting in the world because they were the person who was going to the first enemy i’m like i yeah i couldn’t relate to the the stuff but just the feeling was was okay i wonder if we updated the big book like we the four of us would we change it from uh just alcoholics to include drug addicts or should if the big book is updated you know miraculously should it include addicts that’s a really good question it made me think of when emily was saying uh that she had you know a few little other things on the side along with her alcoholism yeah you know i was like huh i wonder if she’s allowed to share about that well it amazes me i mean we did our episode with lewis about that specifically and i’ve talked to some other people since that come out of a treatment center have problems with addiction and go to aaa and i can’t that baffles me i don’t understand that at all but i i mean i get it buddy we’re on the same page on that one like why would you go to a program that just talks about one drug when you know you have a problem with other ones but you know people seem to like it and it works you literally shot heroin and talking to lewis like there seemed to be a little bit of conflict within the fellowship itself about that like whether it should or shouldn’t be doing that i think that’s super interesting i’ve i’ve definitely met a lot of people over the years whose primary drug of choice was not alcohol and yet they’re in a a and they’re like i just like it so much better i like the people here better i don’t know what to say and so like when they share it’s not like it’s not like you’re not allowed to talk about other drugs but like you just want to keep everything kind of vague like my other drug of choice actually when people are sharing stories like they will say like uh i do struggle with things besides alcohol but like this is an a.a meeting so i’m just gonna say like my drug of choice or my substance of choice and i don’t really have an opinion on that i think you should be able to say whatever you want and if somebody gets triggered by that that they can take that up with their sponsor but like i think you should be able to say whatever you know so you gotta talk the way the cult makes you well i mean and for me it’ll and this is just as a drug addict thinking this way like it had more to do with i can say that i’m sober and not drink alcohol but i can go smoke weed or do something else and i’m still sober you know i’m still having picked up alcohol but people definitely don’t eat every day like that’s different you know yeah how many people have you met in your travels that only drank alcohol and never ever ever took a pill or anything else my current sponsor is she’s been sober for 30 something years yeah she’s nice

she got super really young and she um she was she’s like i was just never interested in anything else i was like did you smoke cigarettes and she was like no like literally nothing else ever i feel like that accounts for like one percent of the aaa population i i met this woman it was so fascinating um at a meeting and she had never had a problem with any other substances she never did anything but drank wine and then at like age 65 she just like went like really overboard with wine and just started like drinking every day for like two weeks or something like that and then she joined a.a and was like i am an alcoholic like this is where i meet i i i’m supposed to be and i’m it was so interesting to me because she’s never had a problem ever before um i i would see that as like maybe that was like a little two-week flip but she loved aaa so much that she just kept coming back kept coming back so you do find people like that but they’re few and far between she was lonely i’ve met some people i’ve met some people and i’m like you did i don’t think you ever did drugs you just don’t have friends you’re not a true alcoholic there’s no cult to get involved with yeah seriously

well i mean 12 steps is good for like any mental health thing so oh for sure you know if you can bend your mind enough to like you know deal with the language and stuff you can you can apply the lessons to your own mental health issues even if it’s not addiction when i was trying to find if there was racist language in the big book i came across racists anonymous i thought that was fascinating i didn’t know that that’s a real thing that was apparently a real thing maybe maybe they meet on the same corner as the the kkk meetings they’re like across the street like i mean it’s already in the in their basements you know and like you know hiding out like they’re gonna hide out in a church basement or different places i don’t know i’m just trying to picture the kind of people that would be there so when when we when we give the idea that like some people who were just heroin ivy heroin users go to aaa and like it better which is i get i get it billy i’m like what the [ __ ] you guys do with the people just confused yes and there is there’s memes about this right i love them uh where you know the a a person looks one way and a person looks a different way and i get it i do kind of believe and i’m sure again this changes from area to area but i do believe there’s kind of a distinction right you know we we over here in our n a world have like the previous hookers and prostitutes and people who tattoos crazy hair whatever right and and aaa’s more of the clean cut professional

you guys just didn’t make any money you were just drunk talking about your speakeasies

yeah but but i i i gotta say and this is maybe my [  ] um i kind of feel this is [  ] up but i’m like yeah people who are more comfortable in a a don’t like minorities i’m like oh that’s why you end up in aaa because you like white people that’s what the [  ] you’re there for i feel like it’s code word and i’m not saying i’m not saying people who drank and went to aaa like that’s where you would obviously go if you drank you would go to alcoholics anonymous but if you’re a heroin addict going to a a and saying you like it better i’m like oh you’re a [  ] racist wow i know i know you were scared to say that but i am gonna back you up a little bit so well because when i the part of the reason why i left regular attendance of aaa was because when the trump era came in all the old white dudes started getting empowered and there was more sexist language in the meetings uh more bigoted language and like one guy even followed me out to my car and told me why i should vote for trump and i was like oh and they start they drop you know how i’m sensitive about the r word they they were and they know my daughter is disabled and they made like jokes about you know and i so i started making my way out of there and uh so when you talk about racists having a safe haven in aaa that was the flavor i was getting in my meetings and once i was like sober and uh taking better care of myself and you know i guess just started following i was less people pleasey i was like you know what i don’t have to hang out with you guys anymore and that’s why i left regular attention screw you guys but it has to do with the people like so yeah that’s definitely this era yeah in this area yeah i mean i’m sure aaa around the planet isn’t just like this section where i was yeah i don’t know when i picture aaa i definitely have this vision and i didn’t pick this vision up in cecil county this was my vision from baltimore city of like old white dudes with 30 years clean with a bunch of [  ] opinions and you know not an open mind whatsoever like that’s exactly what i picture of who’s running running quotes uh a a from the top down at the meeting level is these people are like the the senior mentors of aaa and i’m but i would think if you went to uh i don’t know a university town and went to an aaa meeting with a bunch of old white dude academics that were more liberal-minded you would it would still be a bunch of old white dudes they would just have different opinions [  ] it sounds like a road trip billy i want to test that theory out well newark is only i don’t know i’m gonna go to an aaa meeting in newark i don’t i was gonna say i don’t think i go to any meetings with old white dudes i have in the past like i used to love clubhouses clubhouses were like my jam at the beginning but now it’s just like young people in women’s meetings so yes like that side of it exists but there’s also so much outside of that image too but i get what you’re saying so going back to this question about should if they were to update the big book should it include language about other endeavors in substance use would they have to change the name i feel like it would be [  ] stupid to be alcoholics anonymous and then talk about all substances in your literature i that’s just me because i’m very black and white and i’m probably that old white dude well sometimes acronyms have been like updated like all right so the associated of [  ] citizens they changed it to the ark they didn’t you know because of the updated language so maybe it could just be a a you know and like we like the ymca doesn’t go by young men’s christian academy yeah my wife yeah so they just call it ymca now or the why they updated it to like reflect the monster that’s true my wife makes a joke all the time like they would have called n a addicts anonymous but the letters are already taken so you can just call it addicts anonymous there you go yeah yeah there’s something really interesting about like like alcoholic is not a medical term it’s not a term in the dsm it’s alcohol use disorder but like by i think like there’s a lot of people in aaa that like love using this term alcoholic because it’s like there’s this like badge of honor kind of like i’m an alcoholic i i get to say that i am so i think people really like that term i think like people would miss it be more inclusive like 100 addicts and alcoholics anonymous aaa aaa sure well and it’s almost like the the differences of the fellowship like when you say you’re an addict in narcotics anonymous like that has a certain connotation or a certain you know image behind it right whereas if you say you’re an alcoholic that seems to be a step above you know like that’s a step up the tears that’s right not not not crying tears the other you know classes whatever subdivisions um so there is actually and i found this while i was uh doing my minimal research there is somebody from aaa who wrote like a modern language version of this i don’t know what year it was so it might not be that modern anymore right uh but apparently they updated some of the lingo and everything and it’s like the easy to read big book or something and i thought that was interesting one that it exists as a thing but two that somebody from aaa decided they were going to make money off of this which was fascinating to me that they didn’t get sued or wow yeah you would think they would they’re still trying to go after coffee right

if they’re having meetings with it like i wonder if there’s like places around the country having meetings with that book i don’t know so i ran into an uh argument online about whether you actually only are allowed to use uh conference approved literature in our meetings or not like whether that’s actually a rule or not and that was kind of an interesting read that i probably could have spent better time researching this but i ended up reading that for an hour instead because i was just interested by it so if they were to update obviously okay the agnostic section doesn’t seem to really fit what we’re trying to say as the message of 12-step uh the two-wives section obviously has to go of the other sections do they try to do like a modern english translation like they’ve done with the bible where they have like contemporary english version or something or do they literally just look at the information and then reframe the whole thing as more of a study guide i hope the word yeet is in the new addition

when you come to the end of your use of alcohol please eat your alcohol out into the street they should write it like dr seuss i eat my alcohol into the street

anyway yeah i don’t know i guess i’m not i’m not sure what i think about this because i feel like i don’t know so many times in the past i’ve found sort of like other books other podcasts or other other literature that i’m like this makes so much more sense than the big book and i guess like i just keep coming back to like why so why why are we holding on so tightly to it um nostalgia

yeah i was thinking a little bit like you guys were talking last time about the importance of having structure and so maybe there’s something there and like i don’t know your guest was talking a little bit about like how it’s it’s easier when you have like a guide for living it’s not like this is the only the only the only way the one way but i wonder if that’s why it stayed just because it’s like really familiar and comforting to people i don’t know i don’t have like a whole bullet point list of reasons of like this is why it’s an amazing book and this is why it should stay but i feel like there’s something there because people are clinging on to it so much you know well there is something to be said for i mean just the difficulty of changing it and this is again all nerd n a history stuff but like there’s a bunch of controversy in our fellowship over changes that have been made to the basic text over time and whether they’re actually fellowship written because they weren’t sent out to the groups in enough time for the groups to review them so they were written by professionals and so there are certain meetings that don’t use certain literature or they use old versions of the basic text and want to branch off and i mean it just seems a little crazy to me but all those things exist because we’ve undertaken this process of rewriting our literature over time and someone in a giant worldwide fellowship is not [  ] happy and throws a fit about it so there is something to be said for the difficulty of trying to rewrite a piece of literature that exists and try to get the input of millions of people but we can do hard things billy you know i agree billy actually suggested for this episode that it would make sense to have someone who thought we should definitely update the big book and then someone who was a staunch supporter of not changing it which sounded like a great idea but i didn’t really want to talk to that person page match that would be a good conversation though i would that would be very interesting you should do that it would but i feel like it was always going to be lopsided because it would def i mean i definitely think it should be updated i’ll be a witness to that absolutely i think a good seated debate with jason that sounds great i just i don’t know like i’m looking at reasons why people would be against it and trying to fathom that in my head i mean i get reason number one people struggle with change that is obviously a thing that gets talked about in n a probably a a all the time like we hate change we don’t like it and that’s everybody that’s not just people in our fellowships um and i find this kind of to be a problem all the time in our own fellowship right for sure we like we don’t want to change we don’t want to grow just the way we’ve been doing it right we do it this way because it works this way well maybe it works better another [  ] way guy come on relax um but i i would say too like the only thing i can come to it’s just this idea of like it’s worked it’s worked since the beginning and saying broke don’t fix it like there’s no need to nostalgia holding on to it for like i don’t think anybody would literally come on here and argue that they think it would not be more helpful to have some other version of this written right and honestly the more we talk about it i don’t think that is an updated version of this big book i think that’s a whole new [  ] book because i don’t think updating this is really going to be that helpful i think the reason you don’t have bullet points about all the good parts of it is because they don’t [  ] exist i mean there might be some good ideas in there but not enough that where it’s like oh we should translate this into modern language or we should you know try to capture like no let’s just take the good ideas of 12-step fellowshipping and write a new goddamn book because this is i’m going to listen to the book some bullet points for you have some good points you should do that i’d actually never read it maybe there’s none maybe i’ll have two russell brand did a 12-step book i can’t remember which one it was it was a revolution you can’t oh but he nobody had like he had like a good modern take on the 12 steps and i thought it was really good i know you guys are both rolling your eyes i think he’s great i do kind of like him but like i listened to his book one of his books for free on youtube when somebody posted it and then they took it down because he wants to make money off of all his stuff yeah and that kind of bothers me oh uh yeah the money thing gets me too with people right oh you’re a helpful recovering guy you want to help us oh for 19.99 gotcha and it’s not that you hey go make all the money you want but you should have it for free too for the people that don’t want to pay but whatever

i’m just noticing that there is a little quote written on our wall that says be the hammer not the nail which is hilarious clearly i could see that when i was speaking about that example right right no jenny when you said it was funny that uh you didn’t want to listen to an 83 year old piece of literature but a 2600 year old piece of literature made more sense like that actually makes sense to me like if you think about it nobody wants to listen to old people like if some 83 year old [  ] came in here and told us how we had to do this podcast or if we should update the big book or not we’d be like get the [  ] out of here old dude we don’t care what you think but if a 2600 year old [ __ ] walked in here we’d all be listening and be like wow that’d be wild right is that the reason why i don’t know

you’re like dude if you’re 2600 you got some information like you know something the buddha was really progressive for his time like he wanted women in his sangha or he invite you know not wanted we’ll say he welcomed i mean wanted women in his song

but he welcomed song which was not heard of in that time so i mean

there you go he was progressive first time he was the first liberal um so yeah what do we ultimately think right not that we couldn’t uh have more fun conversation for hours but we do have to wrap up time wise what did we think i mean i personally came into this knowing yes i think this [  ] should be updated i’m not even in a goddamn program and i feel bad for people who have to read this like this just sounds like torture to me like i i struggle with old-timey language at times and especially i believe the way it’s been told to me there’s parts of this that actually get confusing just because of the language and not like whoopee parties like the if it says the or that or it says things you know kind of like yoda-ish in a backwards way especially if you’re newly sober it’s really right my brain’s already [  ] up like so i already knew that i was on board with like yeah [  ] update it i think now i’ve learned that i don’t want to update the actual book i think they should just write a new one because it would make more sense but where’s their bell stand what do you all think i think change or die i think i think it’s going to be gone if it doesn’t change it’s going to be gone yeah i mean i just don’t like your program was was for my whatever when i first got cleaned that it was dated and the literature was terrible anyway like because in treatment we got exposed to both versions you know a-a-n-n-a and i was just like that’s for old white people and this is for me and i ended up in n a so emily if if i just read this book without ever getting a sponsor without ever meeting anybody else in recovery i would probably throw it out the window honestly um but but i think that i don’t know i i still like i still go back to my question of like why do we keep it in meetings and is there some benefit there so i’m gonna do some more thinking about this maybe i’ll write into the podcast but i obviously i think we can rip out too wives yeah yeah i’m down with that and and who knows maybe you come across some really interesting information where we want to like rehash this topic at some point i’m always up for that if there’s new stuff to debate about um how old are you emily i’m 29. okay so listen recovery world a 29 year old thinks that if they stumbled across this literature without any other guidance or fellowshipping or or helpful people around to help them understand how the program worked that it would be [  ] [  ] [  ] useless right and i would disagree about that as much you know complaining or beefing as i do and here with my own fellowship i do think if you just read the basic text and didn’t have anybody around to explain it to you or talk to you about it i think it’s a useful book i think it’s a lot of good [  ] in it so i i would question that about my fellowship right if i’m a guy in a a maybe i don’t need to hold on to like this is just the [  ] way we do it and it’s right because it’s an aaa and i’m an aaa and maybe question that like how [  ] useful is this book for people walking in the door is this really helping the newcomer anymore or is this something that stands in the way of them really grasping what this program is about maybe that’s the question to ask yourself when you’re thinking about whether it needs to be updated emily thank you so much for taking time to come on with us today and the time you took to do some more research about the book to pull out some of this crazy [  ] they say it’s been great having you thank you all so much for having me it’s been awesome thank you fun talk thanks emily bye everybody bye guys did you like this episode share it with people you think might get something out of it check out the rest of our episodes at recoveryswordup.com also while you’re there you can find ways to link up with us on facebook twitter instagram reddit youtube anything we’re always looking for new ideas got an idea you want us to look into reach out to us