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By Diane Cameron, author of Out of the Woods: A Woman’s Guide to Long-term Recovery

When we have been in recovery a long time—(in our “Out of the Woods” years)—we have done a lot of reading.

Most likely we have worn copies of The Big Book, and The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. We probably have also been through, As Bill Sees It and several daily meditation books for people in recovery.

There are the specialty books for women and also for men. The Hazelden catalog and Central Recovery Press are favorite places to shop.

Most of us, after years of recovery, discover another addiction or two, so we probably have some Alanon books on our shelves and maybe literature from OA or ACOA. As we progress in recovery we are looking for root causes, so we look at our family and our childhood for those factors.

And then, in the mainstream press, we find more and more self-help books and memoirs that offer us support and inspiration and compassion.

So much good reading.

But there is another place to turn when we want inspiration and deeper insights into addiction and recovery and -how exactly—this program works. Those are the books that the early AA’s read. Those folks who started our program and who influenced what it looks like today read many books that we don’t talk about anymore. It can be insightful and fun to read what they read.

What we sometimes forget is that the early AA members stayed sober without any AA literature at all. Our fellowship was almost five years old before Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book) went to press. And it took a while for that book to reach most members of our new organization.
So, where did their ideas come from?

Well, because The Oxford Group preceded AA—and was responsible for getting Ebby and Bill and Dr. Bob and early members sober, many of them read The Bible—(Old Testament and New Testament). Hard to imagine talking about that in a meeting today.

But they also read a lot of psychology. Two of the most important early reads for AA members were: The Varieties of Religious Experience by psychologist –and psychology great—William James, and Modern Man in Search of a Soul by psychologist and analyst, Carl Jung. You may recall that Carl Jung figures prominently in the earliest story and in the thinking of our founders.

Two other classics that were considered modern thought in those years were also passed hand to hand in the AA communities were, Man, The Unknown by Alexis Carrel, and The Sermon On the Mount by Emmett Fox. In my home group there is a women’s study group that reads Fox’s Sermon over and over.

If you want to build your AA history reading and get some new inspiration give some of these older works a try. Especially William James and Carl Jung. You’ll find yourself saying, “Hey, that sounds like AA!” Because, in fact, AA sounds a lot like them.

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