The 20 Most Misunderstood, Misinterpreted, Mistakes: Of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

The 20 Most Misunderstood, Misinterpreted, Mistakes: Of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

by Danny Falcone


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After traveling the world doing workshops on the steps and Big Book studies for over twenty years, Danny has realized how many people have no real understanding of the program of recovery. The national recovery rate of 15 percent success is a far cry from the statistics of 75 percent presented in the Big Book. This book outlines the most common mistakes and misunderstandings that happen daily with the recovering population. If you want a new understanding of the 12-Step Program, this book is a must-read.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504982412
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 02/27/2016
Pages: 142
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.33(d)

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The 20 Most Misunderstood, Misinterpreted, Mistakes

Of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

By Danny Falcone


Copyright © 2016 Danny Falcone
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5049-8241-2



When someone comes to the rooms what is it that they are looking for? We would presume they want sobriety, most anyway. They say things like "I liked what you shared" or "I want what you have". My typical reply to that one is "How do you know what I have? I may have a rash."

The conversation that ensues may often times sound like this;

Newcomer: "You know what I mean. I want this"

Me: "Want what?"

Newcomer: "You know, I want it".

Me: "It, what is it?"

Newcomer: "Sobriety. I want sobriety".

Me: "Oh, and what is sobriety to you?"

At this point the befuddled look comes over them as they search the data in their brain to explain "SOBRIETY".

Newcomer: "Well I'm not really sure?"

Me: "Then how can you be so positive that you want what you are not even sure what it is that you want?"

My point being that each person should be able to define what it is they are searching for. I ask them to define sobriety and share with them what my definition of that is. They are welcome to use mine or whatever they come up with is fine. My definition is; Sobriety is an alcohol and drug free state of being characterized by freedom and happiness. Years ago old Tom B. taught me that and it was huge.

I now have a goal to work towards. At this point it would be helpful to note that people like us usually mix up two words; Action and Activity. To me action is a continuous purposeful movement always towards a goal, activity is not! Activity is the hamster on the wheel going nowhere fast swearing he's going somewhere.

Knowing this and having a goal (my definition of sobriety) at any given point I can stop what I am doing or thinking and ask myself is this a continuous purposeful movement towards my goal. If I answer that it is not then once again I am engaged in frantic activity. Going nowhere fast yet thinking I'm really doing something! So the first mistake is looking for sobriety yet having not a clue what that means.

Most people think that sobriety is just not drinking and drugging. Not drinking is the lowest form of sobriety. It's just the tip of the iceberg. If that was what this is all about there wouldn't be very many sober people.

Sobriety is about completely changing your life and practicing spiritual principles on a regular basis. It's about getting out of fantasy land and joining the real world. Becoming a member of society. Being a good citizen and a real member of your community.

The thing that stinks most about recovery is that the twelve steps are firmly planted in reality and we are not! By nature many of us are dreamers and fantasizer's. We build castles in the sky but recovery has its feet firmly planted in reality. We have the tendencies to preconceive things. Then when reality differs from our preconception it is easier for us to ignore reality then to change our preconception.

In AA meetings we talk about recovery but in the real world we practice it. We practice doing the right thing, being reliable, kind and caring to others. Truth is sobriety is living a grateful life. Humility and responsibility are our goals. Love and tolerance is our code. Sobriety is not just something we do it's something we live.

Some people are sober for years but they share about still fighting the drink. Is that sobriety attractive? Ten years sober and they pray each morning not to take a drink.

Page 17 in the Big Book 1st paragraph; "They have solved the drink problem."

If we have solved the drink problem why do I need to pray to stay away from a drink? That's like praying for a new car, getting a new car then in the morning pray for a new car again.

When you understand what sobriety is all about you won't waste time asking God for what he's already given to you.



There is much talk about "The Program". What most people are really talking about when using this term is the recovery part of our triangle as shown below. Most people think recovery and the program are one in the same, however, that is only partially correct. There are three parts to the program and recovery is just a third of it, yet we're not teaching others the whole program. In fact most people are unaware of the thirty six (36) legacies left to us.

They certainly know of the 12 Steps (the recovery part) and most people have heard of the 12 Traditions (the unity part) but few are aware of the 12 Concepts (the service part).

Unfortunately, most only have a slim understanding of The Traditions and that is after being around for a while. The great majority never look at The Concepts or even know they exist.

If we take a closer look we find that;
The Recovery part is the Steps
The Unity part is the Traditions
The Service part is the Concepts

The Recovery part is the Steps & Self
The Unity part is the Traditions & God
The Service part is the Concepts & Others
The Recovery part is the Steps & Self & to Learn
The Unity part is the Traditions & God & to Love
The Service part is the Concepts & Others & to Serve

The "Program" is about Steps, Traditions and Concepts. It is about God, Self & Others. It's about "to Learn, to Love and to Serve". This is a well-balanced program and is what our Founders left us to enjoy a good spiritual way of living. The second mistake is not understanding the 36 Legacies left to us.

I think it's important to understand how this mistake takes place so often. Our program tells us you cannot pass on something you haven't got. If you are sponsoring someone then it is your fault that you are not passing this on. You cannot expect a newcomer to know about things you don't know about. Too many of us come in, get sober and are fine with that. We are warned that if we rest on our laurels we're headed for trouble but that's exactly what we do. How many people with long term sobriety actually work all 12 steps on a regular basis?



The rest of this book will focus on the Recovery part of the program as we go through each of the Steps. The next point is knowing that the recovery portion is broken into three parts: What is the Problem, What is the Solution and What is the Program of Action.

On his third and last stay at Towns Hospital Bill W. (AA's cofounder) was giving a very important bit of information from Dr. Silkworth (Director of the Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcohol Addictions in the 1930's). Dr. Silkworth explained to Bill that not only do alcoholics suffer from a problem of mental control they also suffer from a physical allergy to alcohol. When Bill left the hospital he understood what the problem was.

Yet just that understanding alone was not sufficient to keep Bill sober. Shortly thereafter Bill received an old childhood friend who unknown to both at the moment brought the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Ebby T. had escaped being institutionalized for his alcoholism because three members of the Oxford Group (a Christian organization at that time) showed up in court and saved him. The Oxford Group had a six step program one of which was to pass the message on trying to help other alcoholics. The Oxford Group knew the answer was to surrender one's life to God. Thus the Solution – God (or whatever your Higher Power is called). They also had a six step program hence a Program of Action.

Ebby being sober some months had now come to pass this message on to his old friend Bill. When Ebby shared this, Bill became the first person on earth armed with all three things necessary to recover. He knew what the problem was, what the solution was and what the program of action was.

When Bill had six months sober he took a business trip to Akron Ohio. The deal fell through and Bill found himself in the lobby of his hotel feeling somewhat desperate. The laughter and music coming from the bar beckoned him. He hadn't had a drink all these months but he was wanting one at that moment. Having the business deal gone bust, he didn't even have enough money to pay for his room. Standing in the lobby ready to walk in to the bar he had a thought. It was a simple thought and who could have ever guessed that little thought would lead to the greatest revolutionary movement in history. The thought was maybe if he could find another alcoholic and talk with him maybe he would be able to avoid a drink himself.

His quest to find an alcoholic came to pass with the introduction of Dr. Bob. Ironically Dr. Bob was also a member of the Oxford Group. Bob knew the solution and he knew the program of action but just like with Bill that in itself could not keep him sober. He was missing one piece of the puzzle – he did not know what the problem was though he was about to find out. Dr. Bob became the second man on earth armed with all three things necessary to recover.

Soon thereafter came AA number three Bill D. and the three men set out carrying their message to others. They would visit a drunk at home or in the hospital right after a spree. In no time they had enough people staying sober that they knew they had to carry this message to the masses, so they decided to write a book.

It was also agreed upon that the book would reflect the program they had established. So the Big Book is likewise broken into three parts; The Problem, The Solution and The Program of Action. Mistake number three is to not understand the three parts of recovery and the Big Book ...

Page 19 the 3rd paragraph; "We have concluded to publish an anonymous volume setting forth the problem as we see it." The Problem.

Page 42 the 2nd paragraph; "Then they outlined the spiritual answer (The Solution) and program of action which a hundred of them had followed successfully."



On the cover of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it states that this is our basic text. So the Big Book is a text book rather than a novel. So many people are handed a Big Book by a sponsor and told to read it. Might as well be reading a book on Greek Philosophy!

You read a novel, but you study a text book. Study means refer one sentence to another, look up words you don't know the meaning of, you discuss what you have studied, you write about it, you refer other AA text to the Big Book. You tear apart and digest the words to understand the message that is trying to be conveyed. Every text book has a message it is trying to pass on.

The Big Book is not written about you the reader it is written about the experience the first hundred members had. Your job or journey is relating their experience and message to your own. The closer you can follow what they did the more you can expect similar results. Too many newcomers are trying to figure out what the writers are trying to tell them and what is written about me the reader. The message is not about what they wrote about you the reader the message is about what they wrote about themselves. What they did and didn't do. What worked and didn't work for them. What they thought right and wrong. The results of their experience good and bad. It's all about them not you.

The beauty of it is that I can look at their journey, their thinking and their mistakes, apply that to my life, my own experiences that are similar to theirs and have a true spiritual awakening as a result. You can easily find yourself in their experiences.

A good way to study the book is read two paragraphs at a time. Stop and think about what you just read. If you have any questions or comments write them down on that page in the margins so you can talk about them with your sponsor. After that reread the two paragraphs to make sure you haven't missed anything. Then go on to the next two paragraphs.

Mistake number four is reading rather than studying the literature. You will surely miss the messages when you read as opposed to studying. As you continue to grow spiritually the book takes on new meaning each time you study it. Things you have read dozens of times before have new meaning as you grow. Sometimes it seems they have rewritten a paragraph since the last time you studied it. That is the power of spiritual literature. Don't short change yourself by quickly reading through the book. Take your time and ask yourself what that paragraph you just read really means. Get with someone you know is into the Big Book and ask them what a certain sentence means.

Finally if your sponsor or anyone else tells you to do something that doesn't seem right ask them to show you where it says that in the book. If they cannot show you it's in the book you may not be getting the right advice. If you have a sponsor that doesn't understand the Big Book and is not practicing what is says then it is safe to say they aren't passing on the real message.

If you are in recovery then you should study the Big Book or else you are short changing yourself once again. It's like going to a buffet that has steak, lobster and all the good stuff and there you are with a bowl of peanuts and some crackers.

You have been pecking crumbs with the buzzards far too long. It's time to soar with the eagles. That's the difference between sobriety out of the Big Book and sobriety from someone else's head.

Let's look at some statistics in the book. The foreword to the second edition which came out in 1955, next to last page says; "Of alcoholics who came to AA and really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that way; 25% sobered up after some relapses, and among the remainder, those who stayed on with AA showed improvement."

According to that 1955 statistics of AA 75% of the people got sober and stayed sober. 50% at once and 25% after some relapses. At the time of this writing in 2016 the national recovery rate is around 15%. So what has happened that we went from 75% to 15%?

Interestingly the AMA (American Medical Association) declared alcoholism a disease in 1956. When the AMA declares something a disease then hospitals have to treat it. The hospitals started opening up wards to treat alcoholism. The only problem with that is they were clueless on how to do so. Then treatment facilities started opening and kind good intentioned people started going to school to learn about alcoholics. The only problem with that is they were almost as clueless as the hospitals.

If you go to a treatment facility nowadays they hand you a paper for each of the steps and tell you to complete this step and so on and so forth. Little by little over the years we have gotten so far away from the directions in the Big Book that we look up and see a 15% recovery rate.

Yes, you can argue that alcohol is more acceptable, drugs are more plentiful, and a million other excuses but that's focusing on the problem rather than the solution. The question here is why someone that seeks recovery, tries to change their life, why are these people not recovering at the same success rate as in 1955.

The answer to that is obvious. In 1955 we only had the directions of the Big Book and that success rate was 75%. Today there are thousands of wonderful ideas on how to get sober and the success rate is 15%.

The book has many promises, I prefer to call them "results". Some of these results are absolute. There are many of them actually, too many to list here but I would like to quote two: On the first page of Foreword To The First Edition in the 1st paragraph it states "For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary."

Than from page 55 the 4th paragraph; "If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on the Broad Highway. With this attitude you cannot fail." Wow! What a promise. You cannot fail.

If you take the directions out of the book and ONLY out of the book you can expect to recover where and how most others will not.



Now comes one of the most controversial topics of this book. To me it's not such a big deal but at this point of reading there will be those that will not read on. They will be offended by or too closed minded to continue (Good time to whip out that set aside prayer).

I'm speaking of the wide spread belief of the three fold disease; mental, physical & spiritual. This is one of the greatest misunderstandings of our program that there is. Again, to me it's not as much a tragic as it is a technical thing. I want to say that I know many people that I love and respect that believe this. Yet none the less technically it is incorrect.

Usually when someone tells me it's a threefold disease rather than argue I say "That's an interesting concept can you show me where it says that in the Book." I understand that's what they've been taught and that is what they believe but when they have to actually show me where it is written they cannot.

At this junction I'd like to state that I agree one hundred percent that we are spiritually sick (The Big Book does say that), but so is just about every human being on the planet. Being spiritually sick is not the definition of an alcoholic at least not AA's definition. Being

spiritually sick does not make you an alcoholic. The spiritual sickness is the self will run riot, the lack of God in our life. There is a difference between being spiritually sick and having a spiritual disease. A huge difference!!!

When you ask someone to show you where it says that in our book they ALWAYS go to page 64. Before we discuss that page I find it interesting that there are eighty three pages before page 64 and many times they mention mind and body or mental and physical over and over again but never once do they mention a spiritual disease.


Excerpted from The 20 Most Misunderstood, Misinterpreted, Mistakes by Danny Falcone. Copyright © 2016 Danny Falcone. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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