Big Book Burn and Return Challenge

This November my friend Jason Bartley posted a video on YouTube challenging people to either return their Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book to the organization or burn their Big Book if they prefer.  Similar to the “ice bucket challenge” which went viral many moons ago, the Big Book Burn and Return Challenge urges anyone (current members, former members, concerned citizens) who finds the book outdated, sexist, full of misinformation, religious abuse, and psychological damaging material to speak out and, hopefully, to change our country’s heavy reliance on 12-Step programs.

Since 1935, AA has had a monopoly on serving the population suffering with drinking problems.  For decades there seemed to be no other way because AA had become the “norm” for treating alcoholism.  Not only did AA become the norm, it did so without ever providing documented proof that AA works; providing no statistics; providing no new updates or information which could make their approach more efficient.  AA has relied on personal testimony alone to affirm that it works “if you work it.”  The only doctor who gave AA the thumbs up in the Big Book was Dr. Silkworth back in the 1930s; the Big Book was first published in 1939 and has not changed since.

Three damning facts you will not find in the AA Big Book are:

The 164 pages of the Big Book outline the “program” of Alcoholics Anonymous in the viewpoint of recovering men.   In overt sexist fashion, women are conditioned by other women in the rooms to read the book while trying to ignore and look past the male-oriented nouns and pronouns.  Women must overlook the historically backwards references about women where they are called nags, killjoys, wet blankets, and definitely should not wear the family trousers.

Some material in the Big Book is so old-fashioned it is beyond being relevant to recovering from addiction to alcohol.   Most of the material should either be removed completely or at least rewritten to reflect its relevance to alcoholism.  Instead, the book’s chapters incite frustration, depression, and controversy.  A chapter to the Agnostics?  A chapter to the wives of alcoholics?  Paragraphs insisting anger will kill you so you must get rid of every angry emotion in order to live?  Let me list a handful of AA’s Big Book’s “advice” along with facts which prove the book to be erroneous.

1.) His wife is one of those persons who really feels there is something rather sinful about these commodities, so she nagged, and her intolerance finally threw him into a fit of anger. (BB The Family Afterward, p. 135.)

THE FACT IS:  Just observing this sentence shows the attitudes of the 1930s towards women and wives.  Blaming the wife’s dislike of his drinking for creating his fit of anger (or rage) illustrates the AA philosophy that the alcoholic’s spouse is part of the problem.  Hence, Al-Anon.  Back then, people who end up in bad marriages did all they could not to get divorced.  Instead, in the 1930s, a husband who didn’t get along with his wife may have begun drinking excessively to put up with being married to the wrong person.  This sexism, however, is glaringly obvious.  Her nagging made him upset.  God forbid a wife have an opinion!  The cycle of spousal abuse shows that the victimized spouse will blame her husband’s drinking on herself.

2.) If we were to live, we had to free of anger. (BB How it Works, p.66.)

THE FACT IS: “People who are targets of anger in these studies will say things like, ‘I really understand the other person much better now–I guess I wasn’t listening before,'” comments (Dr. Howard) Kassinove. “While assertive expression is always preferable to angry expression, anger may serve an important alerting function that leads to deeper understanding of the other person and the problem.”  No one can be free of anger completely, it is unhealthy according to the American Psychological Association.

3.) Rather vain of us, wasn’t it? (BB, We Agnostics, p.49.) [From one of many paragraphs addressing those who do not believe in God: BB We Agnostics, p.49   Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God’s ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end of all. ~BB We Agnostics p.49~]

THE FACT IS: This chapter is telling agnostics and atheists they are egotistical and vain.  Thus, implying that believers are humble and modest.  Although AA claims atheists can work the program this chapter definitely states they must convert to a belief of some kind, with an emphasis on God being the preferable choice.  However, science proves that religious people can be the meanest drunks.  Recently, it was proven that religiously instructed children are mean, too.  Logic dictates then that it is the believer, not the non-believer, who is being vain.

In summation, the Big Book plants the notion that sexism and spousal abuse are appropriate behaviors for both active alcoholics and those in recovery; that you can never be angry or you will die; that religious people are better than others.   I could go on and on but I’m going to keep this blog short today.  If you want to participate in the Big Book Burn and Return Challenge all you need to do is make a short video, share it on social media, and tag 3 of your friends to participate.  Feel free to use the examples I provide above as information for your video.  Leave your video links in the comments below too, would love to see how creative all you can be!

Please use these hashtags so we can find your video!  #BigBookBurnChallenge or #BigBookBurn