the BIG BOOK BUNCH

Principles of Recovery

Version B 7/4/2000

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The BIG BOOK BUNCH

We are the Big Book Bunch group of Alcoholics Anonymous. Our origins are the Students of the Big Book group, which has met in Woodland Hills, California since December of 1985. Our goals are to live the spiritual process through which sobriety is obtained and enhanced, and to publish (at no charge) our experience for other recovering alcoholics. We have absolutely no affiliation with any organization or cause other than our membership as individuals in A.A..

Our written materials are not official AA literature. They usually do, nevertheless, contain information from the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) and other conference approved literature owned and published by Alcoholics Anonymous. All A.A. material used identifies the source from which it is quoted. References in our documents to Big Book content exclude its stories. Included is all material from inside the front cover through page 164, plus Appendices I (Traditions) and II (Spiritual Experience).

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Awakening to Principles. Here in Southern California most A.A. groups read the first 77 lines of Big Book chapter 5, How It Works, at the beginning of their meetings. While reading the 12 steps one encounters...

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. [Big Book, page 60, line 3]
Some of us have asked, "What are these principles?" Anticipating this to be anything but a trivial question, we searched the book for the word principle. It must be important to the program of recovery because it is used 36 times. Appendix II, herewith, displays all 36 references.

Definition of Principle. Thus aroused, we have explored. The next thing we did was to investigate the definition of principle in our dictionary. Definitions herein were extracted from Websters New International Dictionary, Second Edition, published in 1935. It should be a reliable source for word usage as understood over 50 years ago by the authors of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, which was first published in April, 1939.
 

The dictionary on PRINCIPLE

Principle, n [fr ...Latin principium beginning, foundation...] ..

2. A source, or origin; that from which anything proceeds; fundamental substance or energy; primordial; ultimate basis or cause.... 

4. A fundamental truth; a comprehensive law or doctrine from which others are derived, or on which others are founded; a general truth; an elementary proposition or fundamental assumption; a maxim; an axiom; a postulate. 

5. A settled rule of action; a governing law of conduct; an opinion, attitude or belief which exercises a directing influence on the life and behavior; a rule (usually a right rule) of conduct consistently directing one's actions...

One might distill these definitions of principle down to basic rules of action. However, some of our members are opposed to rules, so we adopted the following short definition:
 

a principle is a basic action guideline:

Searching the Big Book on the word "Principle". What are the principles of the A.A. program of recovery? Five of the 36 uses of the word principle are clearly statements of principles: (Numbers 1) through 36) below refer to the order in which the statement appears)

22) The first principle of success is that you should never be angry. [Big Book, page 111, line 1] (Although we alcoholics are not saints, it seem the authors of the Big Book thought that our spouses should be. It is obvious that this principle is avoid anger.)

28) Another principle we observe carefully is that we do not relate intimate experiences of another person unless we are sure he would approve. [Big Book, page 125, line 18] (This principle is that we respect the privacy of others, especially fellow members of AA.)

29) Giving, rather than getting, will become the guiding principle. [Big Book, page 128, line 2] (We practice service of others rather than self-service.)

35) & 36) "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation." —HERBERT SPENCER [Big Book, Appendix II, page 570, lines 16 & 19] (The principle for us is open mindedness.)

These are the five easy ones. Another of our 36 examples contains three principles:
25) Your new courage, good nature and lack of self-consciousness will do wonders for you socially. The same principle applies in dealing with the children. [Big Book, page 115, line 20] (Our relationships with others will be vastly improved when we display courage and good nature, just as when we do not display self-consciousness.)
Five additional examples make direct reference to the steps and traditions of A.A. as being principles:

The STEPS of A.A. are principles (and a listing of these appears soon):

9) 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.. [Big Book, page 60, line 3]

10) No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. [Big Book, page 60, line 8]

11) The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection. [Big Book, page 60, line 9]

The TRADITIONS of A.A. are principles:
1 & 2) As we discovered the principles by which the individual alcoholic could live, so we had to evolve principles by which the A.A. groups and A.A. as a whole could survive and function effectively. [Big Book, page xix, lines 8 & 9]

3) Though none of these principles had the force of rules or laws, they had become so widely accepted by 1950 that they were confirmed by our first International Conference held at Cleveland. [Big Book, page xix, line 27]

Thus far we may have uncovered 31 of A.A.s principles. Four were the easy uses of the word principle in examples 22), 28), 29, and 36). Three more were found in 25), and there are 12 steps and 12 traditions, each being a principle.
 
Principles of the 12 Steps:

STEP: (The steps are printed on pages 59 & 60 of the Big Book.)

1. Surrender. (Capitulation to hopelessness.) 

2. Hope. (Step 2 is the mirror image or opposite of step 1. In step 1 we admit that alcohol is our higher power, and that our lives are unmanageable. In step 2, we find a different Higher Power who we hope will bring about a return to sanity in management of our lives.) 

3. Commitment. (The key word in step 3 is decision.) 

4. Honesty. (An inventory of self.) 

5. Truth. (Candid confession to God and another human being.) 

6. Willingness. (Choosing to abandon defects of character.) 

7. Humility. (Standing naked before God, with nothing to hide, and asking that our flaws—in His eyes—be removed.) 

8. Reflection. (Who have we harmed? Are we ready to amend?) 

9. Amendment. (Making direct amends/restitution/correction, etc..) 

10. Vigilance. (Exercising self-discovery, honesty, abandonment, humility, reflection and amendment on a momentary, daily, and periodic basis.) 

11. Attunement. (Becoming as one with our Father.) 

12. Service. (Awakening into sober usefulness.) 

You may have good reason to believe the above distillation could be improved upon. Do it! The purpose of this activity is to sharpen up our thinking about the nature of A.A. recovery. Honest inquiry and loving debate are essential to deep learning.

Principles of the TRADITIONS; perhaps you should take a shot at these if you wish. Let us know what you come up with.

And Down to Business. Now for the fun. We have uncovered 36 instances of the word principle in the Big Book. From these we have discovered 31 principles of A.A. recovery. You may have noticed that in eight instances we are talking specifically about "spiritual principles".

But, the "principles" addressed thus far are but a few of the principles that should guide our lives. For example:

Patience, tolerance, understanding and love are the watchwords. [Big Book, page 118 line 13]

These are the four additional principles we once affectionately called PLUT (Patience, Love, Understanding, and Tolerance). However, as a consequence of alcoholic zeal, the four have grown to fifteen. Their acronym is easy to remember and pronounce . It is GSSSHHHPLUCKTTM! Please refer to our topic titled Virtue.

You are going to have an exciting time identifying A.A.'s principles. It is suggested that you and some friends start with the first printed page in the Big Book, and that you each read a paragraph while the others ask themselves if the paragraph contains any basic action guidelines for recovery from alcoholism. If so, write them down. You may wish to use the following candidates (Appendix I) to get started:

 

Appendix I
CANDIDATE A.A. PRINCIPLES 
[BASIC ACTION GUIDELINES]
Abandonment
Abstinence
Acceptance
Activity
Altruism
Amendment
Anonymity
Clean Thinking
Compassion
Confession
Consideration *
Constructiveness
Courage
Discovery
Energy
Faith
Forgiveness
Generosity *
Good nature
Health
Helpfulness *
High-Mindedness
Honesty *
Hope
Humility *
Integrity
Justice
Kindness *
Love *
Meditatation
Moderation
Modesty *
Open-mindedness
Optimism
Patience *
Prayer
Perseverance
Positive-Thinking
Promptness
Recovery
Reflection
Responsibility
Restitution
Self-control
Self-discovery
Self-forgetfulness
Self-Sacrifice *
Self -valuation
Selflessness
Sensibility *
Service
Simplicity
Sobriety *
Spirituality
Straightforwardness
Surrender
Tactfulness *
Tolerance *
Trust
Truthfulness
Understanding *
Unity
Willingness
* Indicates that the virtue is a member of the GSSSHHHPLUCKTTM
 
Appendix II
USE OF THE WORD PRINCIPLE IN THE BIG BOOK
Here are the 36 instances of "principle" in the Big Book.

1 & 2) As we discovered the principles by which the individual alcoholic could live, so we had to evolve principles by which the A.A. groups and A.A. as a whole could survive and function effectively. [Big Book, page xix, lines 8 & 9]

3) Though none of these principles had the force of rules or laws, they had become so widely accepted by 1950 that they were confirmed by our first International Conference held at Cleveland. [Big Book, page xix, line 27]

4) The basic principles of the A.A. program, it appears, hold good for individuals with many different life-styles, just as the program has brought recovery to those of many different nationalities. [Big Book, page xxii, line 13]

5) My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. [Big Book, page 14, line 29]

6) We feel elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs. [Big Book, page 19, line 7]

7) "Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems. [Big Book, page 42, line 32]

8) That was great news to us, for we had assumed we could not make use of spiritual principles unless we accepted many things on faith which seemed difficult to believe. [Big Book, page 47, line 23]

9) 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.. [Big Book, page 60, line 3]

10) No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. [Big Book, page 60, line 8]

11) The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection. [Big Book, page 60, line 9]

12) We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. [Big Book, page 64, line 30]

13) Although these reparations take innumerable forms, there are some general principles which we find guiding. [Big Book, page 79, line 6]

14) Unless one's family expresses a desire to live upon spiritual principles we think we ought not to urge them. [Big Book, page 83, line 13]

15) If not members of religious bodies, we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing. [Big Book, page 87, line 26]

16) The main thing is that he be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that he live by spiritual principles. [Big Book, page 93, line 10]

17) When dealing with such a person, you had better use everyday language to describe spiritual principles. [Big Book, page 93, line 12]

18) We are dealing only with general principles common to most denominations. [Big Book, page 93, line 12]

19) Should they accept and practice spiritual principles, there is a much better chance that the head of the family will recover. [Big Book, page 97, line 29]

20 & 21) When your prospect has made such reparation as he can to his family, and has thoroughly explained to them the new principles by which he is living, he should proceed to put those principles into action at home.[Big Book, page 98, lines 26 & 28]

22) The first principle of success is that you should never be angry. [Big Book, page 111, line 1]

23) If you act upon these principles, your husband may stop or moderate. [Big Book, page 112, line 20]

24) The same principles which apply to husband number one should be practiced. [Big Book, page 112, line 22

25) Your new courage, good nature and lack of self-consciousness will do wonders for you socially. The same principle applies in dealing with the children. [Big Book, page 115, line 20]

26) Now we try to put spiritual principles to work in every department of our lives.. [Big Book, page 116, line 30]

27) Though it is entirely separate from Alcoholics Anonymous, it uses the general principles of the A.A. program as a guide for husbands, wives, relatives, friends, and others close to alcoholics. [Big Book, page 121, footnote line 3]

28) Another principle we observe carefully is that we do not relate intimate experiences of another person unless we are sure he would approve. [Big Book, page 125, line 18]

29) Giving, rather than getting, will become the guiding principle. [Big Book, page 128, line 2]

30) Whether the family has spiritual convictions or not, they may do well to examine the principles by which the alcoholic member is trying to live. [Big Book, page 130, line 21]

31) They can hardly fail to approve these simple principles, though the head of the house still fails somewhat in practicing them. [Big Book, page 130, line 23]

32) Without much ado, he accepted the principles and procedure that had helped us. [Big Book, page 139, line 5]

33) The use of spiritual principles in such cases was not so well understood as it is now. [Big Book, page 156, line 33]

34) Twelve—Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities." [Big Book, Appendix I, page 564, line 32]

35) & 36) "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance— that principle is contempt prior to investigation." —HERBERT SPENCER [Big Book, Appendix II, page 570, lines 16 & 19]

 

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