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BIG BOOK SEQUEL Chapter 7

In our first Chapter, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” we looked backwards to an AA that never existed. In this, our last Chapter, “Finishing What Bill Wilson Started,” we look forward to an AA that has yet to become. We began Chapter 1 on an individual journey; we end Chapter 7 on a global adventure. These two Chapters bookend an entire universe that can be endlessly discovered upon each reading. Throughout, we have recycled ideas and phrases for consideration under new conditions: we are “Finishing What Bill Wilson Started” precisely because “We Can’t Go Home Again.”

The title begs the questions “What did Bill Wilson start? and “How will we finish it?” Bill started a community based on a vision, but a visionary community rarely outlasts the vision of its founders. Gone from AA is the curiosity, the relentless drive to continuously bring something new into the world. Perhaps it only existed in Wilson. 80 years out, AA is experiencing the same crisis of culture that hits most spiritual communities after the founders are dead and a few generations have come and gone: a loss of identity, a loss of the Self-Knowledge that that reminds them who they are, and what their purpose is in the world. It is a time capitalized on by rabid fundamentalists who believe the answer to this loss of identity is a return to the good ole days, a back to basics.

But there are no good ole days to return to, no basics to go back to, and no agreement about what AA is and should be. We will Finish what Bill Wilson started by re-igniting the divine fire to understand what works and does not work, to continue to ask questions that remind us that the pioneering days of AA are right now.

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Chapter 11
A VISION FOR YOU

11.1 For most normal folks, drinking means conviviality, companionship, and colorful imagination. It means release from care, boredom, and worry. It is joyous intimacy with friends, and a feeling that life is good. But not so with us in those last days of heavy drinking. The old pleasures were gone. They were but memories. Never could we recapture the great moments of the past. There was an insistent yearning to enjoy as we once did and a heartbreaking obsession that some new miracle of control would enable us to do it. There was always one more attempt – and one more failure.

11.2 The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew from society, from life itself. As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker. Some of us sought out sordid places, hoping to find understanding companionship and approval. Momentarily we did – then would come oblivion and the awful awakening to face the hideous Four Horsemen – Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. Unhappy drinkers who see this page will understand!

11.3 Now and then a serious drinker, being dry at the moment says, “I don’t miss it at all. Feel better. Work better. Having a better time.” As ex-alcoholics,

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“I just know that you are expected, at some point, to do more than carry the message of A.A. to other alcoholics. In A.A. we aim not only for sobriety — we try again to become citizens of the world that we rejected, and of the world that once rejected us. This is the ultimate demonstration toward which Twelfth Step work is the first but not the final step.” Bill Wilson, 1959

Chapter 7
FINISHING WHAT BILL W. STARTED

7.1 For many New Founders, sobriety in AA once meant an oasis of comfort within the Fellowship and a blueprint for living in the Twelve Steps. It meant a safe harbor from the world fueled by serenity, sugar and caffeine. As the months and years rolled on, however, the Program lost its power and the Fellowship lost its sense of community. Fond memories faded. No matter how we tried, we could not recapture the great AA moments of the past. You just can’t go home again.

7.2 We trudged on even when increasingly difficult to remain enthusiastic. We kept telling ourselves that this was going to be the meeting to rekindle that spark, this was the sponsee that was going to enter the great stream of sobriety, this was going to be the time…We saw the bitter irony that in our last days drinking we similarly kept going back to alcohol expecting different results. Had we really changed at all?

7.3 As we began to lose interest in the AA we already knew, we began paying more attention to the AA that was hiding in plain sight. We noticed that just over half of meeting attendees never said a word—and most just offered fawning pleasantries to the group without ever explaining how AA helped them stay sober. What did this silent majority actually think, feel? Was their

© 2017 Michael V. Cossette

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we smile at such a sally. We know our friend is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits. He fools himself. Inwardly he would give anything to take half a dozen drinks and get away with them. He will presently try the old game again, for he isn’t happy about his sobriety. He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.

11.4 We have shown you how we got out from under. You say: “Yes, I’m willing. But am I to be consigned to a life where I shall be stupid, boring and glum, like some righteous people I see? I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?”

11.5 Yes, there is a substitute, and it is vastly more than that. It is a Fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom, and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find The Fellowship, and so will you.

“How is that to come about?” you say. “Where am I to find these people?”

11.6 You are going to meet these new friends in your own community. Near you alcoholics are dying helplessly like people in a sinking ship. If you live in a large place, there are hundreds. These are to be your companions. High and low, rich and poor, these are future Fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Among them you will make lifelong friends. You will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster together and

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silence just the common fear of public speaking? Or something more sinister at work?

7.4 So, we asked them. In the the parking lot after a meeting we gave them a safe place to tell us what was their honest experience of AA. For every hour we spent in a meeting we often spent four hours, or more, de-briefing the silent majority—meetings-after-the-morning-meeting often required us to send out for lunch. We discovered that many did not believe that “God-Him-Power” had anything to do with how they stay sober on a daily basis. We discovered that most went to meetings not because they were particularly enthusiastic about AA, but because they didn’t believe that they had alternatives. We discovered a wide chasm between what passes as AA in meetings, and how AA plays out in the real lives of its members. What you hear said at meetings rarely reflects what most people at that meeting really feel.

7.5 So, we asked the silent majority, “Why don’t you chime in when you don’t hear your experience, strength, and hope represented at a meeting?” The answer was invariably the same: “We see what happens to people (like you) who challenge the status quo.” At first, we empathized. We understood how brutal the group push-back can be. But eventually our compassion turned critical, and we began to challenge the seat-warmers: decide what type of AA member you want to to be, and what kind of AA you want to be part of. Did you recover from a “seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” just to sit on the sidelines?

© 2017 Michael V. Cossette

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you will commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey. Then you will know what it means to give of yourself, that others may survive and rediscover life. You will learn the full meaning of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

11.7 It may seem incredible that these men are to become happy, respected, and useful once more. How can they rise out of such misery, bad repute and hopelessness? The practical answer is that since these things have happened among us, they can happen again. Should you wish them above all else, and should you be willing to make use of our experience, we are sure they will come. The age of miracles is still with us. Our own recovery proves that!

11.8 Our hope is that when this chip of a book is launched on the world tide of alcoholism, defeated drinkers will seize upon it, following its directions. Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and march on. They will approach still other sick ones and so the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up in each city and hamlet, havens for those who must find a way out.

11.9 In the chapter “Working With Others” you gathered an idea of how to approach and aid others to health. Suppose now that through you several families have adopted your way of life. You will want to know more of how to proceed from that point. Perhaps the best way of treating you to a glimpse of your future will be to describe the growth of the Fellowship among us. Here is a brief account:
11.10 Nearly four years ago, one of our number made a journey to a certain western city. From the business standpoint, his trip came off badly. Had he been

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successful in his enterprise, he would have been set on his feet financially, which, at the time, seemed vitally important. But his venture wound up in a law suit and bogged down completely. The proceeding was shot through with much hard feeling and controversy

11.11 Bitterly discouraged, he found himself in a strange place, discredited and almost broke. Still physically weak, and sober but a few months, he saw that his predicament was dangerous. He wanted so much to talk with someone, but whom?

11.12 One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby wondering how his bill was to be paid. At one end of the room stood a glass covered directory of local churches. Down the lobby a door opened into an attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd inside. In there he would find companionship and release. Unless he took some drinks, he might not have the courage to scrape an acquaintance, and would have a lonely week-end.

11.13 Of course, he couldn’t drink, but why not sit hopefully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him? Then after all, had he not been sober six months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks – no more! Fear gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was the old, insidious insanity – that first drink. With a shiver, he turned away and walked down the lobby to the church directory. Music and gay chatter still floated to him from the bar.

11.14 But what about his responsibilities – his family and the men who would die because they would not know how to get well, ah – yes, those other alcoholics? There must be many such in this town. He would phone a clergyman. His sanity returned, and he thanked

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God. Selecting a church at random from the directory, he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver.

11.15 Little could he foresee what that simple decision was to mean. How could anyone guess that life and happiness for many was to depend on whether one depressed man entered a phone booth or a bar? His call to the clergyman led him presently to a certain resident of the town, who, though formerly able and respected, was then nearing the nadir of alcoholic despair. It was the usual situation: home in jeopardy, wife ill, children distracted, bills in arrears, and reputation damaged. He had a desperate desire to stop, but saw no way out; for he had earnestly tried many avenues of escape. Painfully aware of being somehow abnormal, the man did not fully realize what it means to be alcoholic.

11.16 When our friend told his experience, the man agreed that no amount of will power he might muster could stop his drinking for long. A spiritual experience, he conceded, was absolutely necessary, but the price seemed high upon the basis suggested. He told how he lived in constant worry about creditors and others who might find out about his alcoholism. He had, of course, the familiar alcoholic obsession that few knew of his drinking. Why, he argued, should he lose the remainder of his business, so bringing still more suffering to his family, by foolishly admitting his plight to his creditors and those from whom he made his livelihood? He would do anything, he said, but that.

11.17 Being intrigued, however, he invited our friend to his home. Some time later, and just as he thought he was getting control of his liquor situation, he went on a roaring bender. For him, this was the spree that ended all sprees. He saw that he would have to face

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