The Big Book was originally published in 1939 by Bill W. (William Griffith Wilson) and Dr. Bob (Robert Holbrook Smith). Together they founded the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) fellowship. The book serves as the basic text of AA. There has been a series of reprints and revisions, as well as translations into dozens of languages. The second edition (1955) consisted of 1,150,000 copies.
The book consists of over 400 pages. Bill's Story and Dr. Bob's Nightmare and the personal experiences of some alcoholics are detailed as well as the series of solutions which evolved to become the twelve step program. How to use the twelve steps is explained using examples and anecdotes. Some chapters target a specific audience. One chapter is devoted to agnostics, while another is named "To Wives" (the first AA members were only men), and still another is for employers. The second part of the book (whose content varies from edition to edition) is a collection of personal stories, in which alcoholics tell their stories of addiction and recovery.
The main goal of the book, according to many reports, is to make it possible for the reader to find a power greater than himself to solve his problem. The writers indicate that an alcoholic "of our type" can under no circumstances become a moderate drinker: only abstinence can lead to recovery. By way of anecdotal evidence, the example is provided of a man who, after 25 years sobriety, began to drink moderately and within two months landed in hospital. The reasoning is: once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.
In the book it is written that it is impossible to quit drinking by oneself. A new attitude or set of values also would not help. Whosoever is an alcoholic must admit that they cannot help themselves alone. Only a "higher power" can help. An example of a man named Fred is given, who had no control over his drinking, but finally leads an "infinitely more satisfying life" than before thanks to the previously unexplained spiritual principles of AA. In the introduction to the Big Book, Dr. Silkworth, a specialist in the treatment of alcoholism, endorses the AA program after treating Bill W, the founder of AA, and other apparently hopeless alcoholics who then regained their health by joining the AA fellowship. "For most cases," Dr Silkworth claimed, "there is no other solution" than a spiritual solution. Today "many doctors and psychiatrists" confirm the effects of AA.
Quote: Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power.
Frequently mentioned sections are:
* the "Twelve Steps" at the beginning of Chapter 5 "How It Works"
* the "Twelve Traditions" in the Appendix
* the "Ninth Step Promises" in Chapter 6 "Into Action" preceding the 10th Step.