Alcoholics Anonymous Book Summary - Alcoholics Anonymous Book explained in key points
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Alcoholics Anonymous summary


The Big Book—Concepts and Stories of Recovery From Alcoholism

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19 mins

Brief summary

Alcoholics Anonymous by AAWS is a guide to recovery through the 12 step program. It shares personal stories of addiction and offers hope for those seeking sobriety.

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    Alcoholics Anonymous
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    Bill’s story

    As a new young officer, Bill is assigned to a town in New England where he’s hailed as a hero. It’s here that he discovers alcohol for the first time – ignoring warnings from his family. Soon, he sails for Europe to fight in the First World War. He’s lonely so he turns to alcohol for solace.

    After the war, Bill studies law and becomes an investigator. He’s 22 and optimistic about his future. But he nearly fails his final law exams because he’s too drunk to think and write.

    Bill realizes that law isn’t his true calling and becomes more and more interested in Wall Street and the stock market. He has some initial success but alcohol grows to become an important part of his life resulting in him experiencing morning jitters.

    When the stock market crashes in October 1929 it leads to financial ruin, but Bill doesn’t despair. He finds himself back in a bar and as he drinks, he feels determined to win again.

    Bill and his wife relocate to Montreal. Bill has a rich friend there and soon he’s living his old life again. But the drinking soon catches up with him and his friend “lets him go.” The couple is broke.

    They then move in with Bill’s wife’s parents. Bill gets a job and promptly loses it after drunkenly fighting with a taxi driver. He then goes through five years of unemployment while his wife, working in a department store, comes home each day to find him drunk. Gin and beer become his morning routine, despite continuing to experience morning shakes.

    He manages to have some periods of sobriety, which instills some hope in his wife. But his binges eventually worsen and come to sabotage any hopes at new opportunities. It begins to dawn on Bill that even one drink is one too many. To not fall into any new binges, he realizes he has to give up drinking completely. Despite this realization though, he still continues to have relapses, and keeps telling himself he will do better next time. This cycle continues for two more years.

    His brother-in-law, a physician, arranges for Bill’s admission to a rehabilitation institution. As his mind clears, Bill recognizes the physical and mental toll his illness is having. This self-knowledge, he believes, must be the answer. But it’s not.

    Bill soon returns to hospital where the doctors inform his wife that he may die from heart failure or develop a “wet brain” within a year. Bill realizes that alcohol has become his master. Although his fear keeps him sober, it’s only for a short while.

    One evening, Bill is sitting in his kitchen contemplating whether he has enough gin to last him through the night when he gets a call from an old school friend who’s now sober. Bill invites him over expecting a drinking session. But his friend reveals that he’s found religion and shares some practical steps that have helped him overcome his alcoholism.

    Although Bill had rejected religion, he still believes in a higher power. His friend advises Bill to conceive his “own conception of God.” This revelation prompts Bill to surrender to a power higher than himself and acknowledge his powerlessness over alcohol. He resolves to place himself in God’s care and direction and faces his problems with the help of his friend. 

    Through this exercise, Bill finally achieves sobriety and never drinks again. From this transformative experience, Bill and his wife dedicate themselves to helping others and establish a fellowship of friends, which goes on to lay the groundwork for Alcoholics Anonymous for years to come.

    In January 1971, Bill passed away leaving behind a legacy of recovery and support for those struggling with alcoholism.

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    What is Alcoholics Anonymous about?

    Alcoholics Anonymous (1939) or as it is often known, the Big Book, the Basic Text for Alcoholics Anonymous was first published in 1939 and is now on its fourth edition (2001) and its 31st printing. It’s the basic text for Alcoholics Anonymous and has helped countless alcoholics recover. It details a method to beat alcoholism and provides guidance to alcoholics, their families, and their employers. It also includes personal stories of former alcoholics to inspire those seeking recovery.

    Alcoholics Anonymous Review

    Alcoholics Anonymous (1939) is a seminal book that offers a path to recovery for those struggling with alcohol addiction. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a proven, step-by-step program that has helped millions of people achieve and maintain sobriety.
    • The book shares personal stories of triumph and transformation, offering hope and inspiration to those seeking a way out of addiction.
    • With its emphasis on support, community, and spirituality, the book offers a holistic approach to recovery that addresses not just the physical but also the emotional and spiritual aspects of addiction.

    Who should read Alcoholics Anonymous?

    • Anyone who has problems controlling alcohol in their lives
    • Spouses and families of those who have an alcohol control problem
    • Employers who are concerned about an employee with an alcohol control problem

    About the Author

    AAWS or the Alcoholics Anonymous World Service is an organization that encourages people to come together to achieve sobriety. It’s made up of ordinary people who’ve realized that they can’t control alcohol and must live lives of sobriety to live normal, happy lives. It has no desire to change the world, and isn’t against alcohol per se, but strives to assist those with an alcohol control problem.

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    Alcoholics Anonymous FAQs 

    What is the main message of Alcoholics Anonymous?

    The main message of Alcoholics Anonymous is that recovery from alcoholism is possible through a spiritual program and the support of fellow alcoholics.

    How long does it take to read Alcoholics Anonymous?

    Alcoholics Anonymous can take several hours to read, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just a few minutes.

    Is Alcoholics Anonymous a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a must-read for anyone seeking recovery from alcoholism. It offers hope, guidance, and a proven program of sobriety.

    Who is the author of Alcoholics Anonymous?

    Alcoholics Anonymous does not have a single author. It was written collectively by the members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

    What to read after Alcoholics Anonymous?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Alcoholics Anonymous, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker
    • The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
    • This Naked Mind by Annie Grace
    • The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace
    • How to Eat to Change How You Drink by Brooke Scheller
    • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
    • The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
    • Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop
    • Rewire by Richard O'Connor
    • 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do by Amy Morin