Short story No. 1 from a member of AA

I ONCE heard a man share that he could recite from memory the first part of chapter five in the Big Book, ending in the three pertinent ideas (BB p.60), because he had heard it read so many times at AA meetings. In fact, he added, “I used to say it to myself while sitting at a bar with a large whisky in my hand.”.

Knowing what the book said did not keep him sober.


The book’s front cover says, “This (book) is … the basic text for Alcoholics Anonymous.”.


A text is words, simply black marks on a white page. It gives information but for the words to come alive I must act on them; sobriety is not an academic exercise – I couldn’t read myself into recovery.

The second paragraph of chapter five starts, “Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.” (BB p.58).

The first part of the book explains the Programme of recovery, but the remaining two thirds comprise members’ stories, and new stories are added in each new edition to reflect changes over time in our membership and the wider society. Our stories show how we put the Twelve Steps into action, each in our own way.

AA co-founder Bill W. wrote, “The story section of the Big Book is far more important than most of us think. It is our principal means of identifying with the reader outside AA: it is the written equivalent of hearing speakers at an AA meeting; it is our show window of results’. (1953 letter quoted on the inside front cover of the Big Book).


At one of my first AA meetings a woman said, “The person I was will drink again.”. It made immediate sense. I’d tried everything I knew to stay sober, but nothing worked – because as a binge drinker all I did was to stop drinking, and then start again. I finally realised that unless I changed my life, I would still be the same person, the person who drank. “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”, as we say.

To begin with the changes were tentative, I was feeling my way. For example, I asked my sponsor about amends, “Should I make my wife a cup of tea?”. He said, “Well, it would be a good start.”.

But how sad that after 20 plus years of marriage making my wife a cup of tea seemed so revolutionary! Soon after I got sober, I told my wife, “I know I have to change so from now on each Saturday morning I will clean the bathroom.”


After about three weeks she said gently, “I know you’re trying to help but please don’t.”  It seems I was leaving smears on the bath and sink etc and putting things back in the wrong place!

I came home from an AA meeting one evening in high spirits to find the dinner dishes in the sink waiting to be washed while my wife and daughter were in the living room laughing at a television programme.


I was about to storm in and demand to know why they hadn’t done the washing up but checked myself and remembered all the times I’d come home late or not at all, to find dinners thrown in the bin with my family worried sick about what had happened to me.

So that night I quietly did the washing up.

At another early meeting, a gruff old Cockney growled down the table at no-one in particular, “Tell yer wife yer love ‘er.”.

I thought, “What on earth has that got to with alcoholism?”.

As I drove home, I felt increasingly irritated by his what I thought pointless and un-called for advice. It eventually dawned on me that the reason I was so agitated was because I couldn’t do it!


So, I began telling my wife each day that I loved her. And the strange thing was that as I began to dismantle the protective wall of false security I’d built up over the years and allowed myself to be vulnerable, I began to change myself.

In time the changes became more ambitious, e.g. when I faced my dread of Step Four and made a searching and fearless inventory and then shared it with my sponsor, and later, when I made a list of all those I’d harmed and made amends as far as I could.

Further changes meant that as an agnostic I experimented with prayer, even though I do not know if anyone is listening; to me prayer and meditation are useful spiritual tools. And I began practising the things I had learned in AA in all my affairs.

I found that these changes over the past 35 years in recovery have been incremental and cumulative.


At times I’ve been unaware of the changes taking place but looking back I can see that I have indeed made spiritual progress; I am a different person from the one who tried to commit suicide at the end of my drinking.

And all because I take the words off the page and put them into my life each day…………………... ANONYMOUS