For nearly 70 years the original manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) by co-founder Bill Wilson has been hidden away. However, next week the original manuscript is set to become public for the first time, complete with edits by Wilson-picked commentators. Since AA was originally founded in 1939, there has been much debate over whether or not AA is a religious-based group. The release of the original manuscript will release some interesting edits that were done to make the big book less religious. For example, the group decided to use “higher power” and “God of your understanding” rather than “God” and/or “Jesus Christ.” Another interesting edit was a change in Step 7 involving the removal of a phrase that evoked church worship: “Humbly, on our knees, asked him to remove our shortcomings – holding nothing back,” became “. . . humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.”
Since the Big Book’s initial publication, the AA book has been adopted by millions of individuals and organizations world wide to help treat a wide range of addictions. Many historians and AA critics believe that if the big book had never been edited, however, the AA book may not have been as profound and widespread as it is today. “If it had been a Christian-based book — a religious book — it wouldn’t have succeeded as it has,” says Nick Motu, senior vice president of Hazeldon Publishing, the world’s largest purveyor of materials related to addiction. The original manuscript was put up for auction in 2004 when it was sold for $1.56 million. The auction received much criticism from scholars and historians who said it was a major document that should be revealed to the public. Finally, six years later, the original manuscript is now made available to the public along with all of the edits. In the heart of 2010 we find ourselves able to read through the original AA manuscript alongside all of the edits that have been made to it since its original publication. What a miraculous gift!
While the big book does an extremely good job of describing addiction and alcoholism, there is still much debate about how the role of spirituality and religion should be handled in addiction treatment. In addition to AA meetings, current treatment methods include psychotherapy, group therapy, and even changes in nutrition. However people choose to view the big book of AA should be left to individual volition. Each person can determine how he or she incorporates the big book into his or her journey throughout the path of recovery. No doubt the big AA book, in all its forms and volumes, will remain a staple in addiction treatment.