5 Must Read Sobriety Books [For The 12-Step Newcomer]

5 Must Read Sobriety Books: Is More Than The Basic Text Necessary?

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Let’s face it, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is the catalyst for newcomer confusion, especially with its archaic language and anecdotes only applicable to folks born in the early twentieth century.

Some of the original members of A.A. even claimed to not have read the book because they, says Clarence Snyder (1st AA in Cleveland), “had no clue what in the hell Bill was talking about.”

Suffice it to say, the call for a blue-collar Big Book was strong. This gave birth to The Little Red Book, Stools And Bottles, and like others –  with a purpose to simplify the text and produce greater comprehension and ideally, greater recovery.

However, for dedicated AA members, something magical remained within the pages of the Big Book, thus there existed a strong resistance to create any change to it. Therefore, the need for study guides was in high demand. There are two primary types available:

  • The comprehensive, word-by-word, study guide. Exhaustive in its scope and ergo, fairly lengthy.
  • An anecdotal encounter and personal understanding of the 12-Steps. This article explores my favorite of this variety.

5 Must Read Sobriety Books (For The 12-Step Newcomer!)

The Steps We Took

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Joe McQ, legendary A.A. from the Joe & Charlie Big Book Studies, delivers a powerful interpretation of the 12 steps using the Big Book, The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and personal experience in The Steps We Took.

The entire book is actually transcribed – it’s just him speaking to two writers in a living room at his residence in Alabama. They took notes as he spoke and thus produced this volume. From step one to step twelve, Joe unleashed the Kraken.

Holding nothing back, this book is a much-needed supplement to the Big Book. It’s basically akin to having a sponsor go through the book with you – sharing experience, strength, and hope along the way.

Carry This Message

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Once more, we return to Joe’s living room. However, this time he teaches the reader how to be a sponsor, or in sum, to do exactly what he is doing, that is to Carry This Message.

He gives basic instructions on what to read in the Big Book and the Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions; also, directions for each particular step and questions to help sift through any internal confusion.

This is an excellent resource for a sponsor or for someone who wants to go through the Big Book all by their lonesome.

There is More to Quitting Drinking Than Quitting Drinking

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If you are at all familiar with page 417 in the Big Book then you are familiar with this author, Dr. Paul O. (see my article on acceptance). In his story, Acceptance Is The Answer (see the famous paragraph on p. 417 here!), a concentrated dynamic, or better yet, a dance, occurs between his wife, Max, and himself. In a word, it’s their story.

Moreover, their story is a strong interrelationship between al-anon and A.A. that seems not only appealing but necessary. It’s as if both are necessary for the completion of each – similar to a marriage between man and woman, or perhaps more fitting, between Paul and Max.

In an attempt to capture this idea let me give you a parallel. Whereas A.A. teaches the alcoholic how to live with himself, Al-anon teaches the alcoholic how to live with others.

To live in contentment (keyword) with others one must have emotional sobriety or emotional independence (see the article on acceptance OR the smart Recovery article emphasizes this as well) – this is the main drive of There Is More To Quitting Drinking Than Quitting Drinking. Paul shares his wisdom pertaining to successful 12-step execution and sustaining that specific way of living through various strategies that give the individual emotional sobriety and the ability to live in a world with other people.

You Can’t Make Me Angry

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This is Dr. Paul’s second book. Whereas the first book dealt with the various elements of the Big Book and all that goes with it, the second deals almost exclusively with al-anon principles and the goal of all 12-step work: emotional sobriety.

In You Can’t Make Me Angry, Dr. Paul O. proposes that anger is a choice. Furthermore, he boldly asserts, that every response that emotion precipitates is a choice.

One quote that summarizes the entire text is from no less than the lips of Eleanor Roosevelt,

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

In theory, this is easy to digest. Intellectually it’s a piece of cake – but in reality, it seems impossible!

Dr. Paul finds this principle so crucial that an entire book is dedicated to strategies and techniques that make it not only extremely possible but second nature!

If you want more than simple physical abstinence, if you desire emotional, mental, and spiritual freedom then this book is an absolute MUST READ.

A New Pair Of Glasses

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“Heaven is just a new pair of glasses, said Father Ed Dowling.

I have a personal mantra that I mumble to myself daily, “People cannot upset you, it’s only your interpretation that upsets you.” Chuck C takes this concept to the next level in his 1975 Pala Mesa Retreat talk.

New Pair of Glasses is a transcription of that talk.

Chuck is able to deliver a cocktail of sarcasm and reverence, timeless truths, and relevant anecdotes.

The aggregate of his message is this: when you change, the world changes – in every conceivable way.

Trying to summarize this book is to only do it a disservice. It’s a quick read, heck you can even go listen to it. Whatever one you choose, just do it. This is second only to the Big Book when it comes to 12-Step Recovery Literature – Chuck C. kept the fellowship alive and substantive at a crucial point in its history.