Steps by the Big Book Sbbb primer this pamphlet is a companion to the larger Steps by the Big Book (SbBB) workbook


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Steps by the Big Book

This pamphlet is a companion to the larger Steps by the Big Book (SbBB) workbook ( and covers "Session One" to "Session Five" on Step 1. Here are optional suggestions for the organizers to help prepare for and launch a successful group Steps by the Big Book study experience.
In preparation for each SbBB study session, every group member reads from the Big Book at home, following their own daily quiet times. They may do this alone or with a group study "buddy" and/or their sponsor. Also, they read the Steps by the Big Book workbook notes and session questions as they prepare to write for 20 minutes or so daily on their own experience working that particular Step by the Big Book. Then they bring their writings (or notes, or 'chicken scratches') to share and discuss with others at the weekly Steps by the Big Book group study sessions. In a friendly way we work the Step – then we take the Step together.
Included in this SbBB Primer are condensed selections from the Big Book chapters covering Step 1. The chairperson or others may choose to refresh memories by reading bits from these shorter Big Book passages rather than go through the entire chapter during group time.

The material in this Steps by the Big Book PRIMER is arranged in the order of the early sessions, from before “Session One” through “Session Five” and completing Step 1.

  • The initial section on “A: THE TEMPORARY COMMITTEE” contains suggestions for the chairperson and others who are organizing the Steps by the Big Book group study. These cover what may be done before the first group session meets, to help smooth the way for the group experience.

  • The next section on “B: SESSION ONE – HALF” is an optional proposal that the very first time the group gathers be used as a “Meet & Greet” session. Each person can share with the group why they are coming to the study sessions, and everyone can review the possible group norms and format. Later, after three or four regular sessions, the group members may agree on a different structure that better meets their needs.

  • The following section on “C: SESSION ONE” contains selections from the Big Book drawn from the Contents, the Preface, and the Forewords. These generally are printed on the left hand page of this pamphlet, in “Times” font. Portions of these may be read aloud in the group session if that is desired. Then the corresponding queries (questions) from the Steps by the Big Book workbook generally are listed on the right hand side, in “Comic” font. The queries just make questions out of what the Big Book says. They are intended to help each of us dig deeper as we work a particular Step.

  • The section on “D: SESSION TWO” contains selections from The Doctor’s Opinion in the Big Book, again on the left. The group may choose to read some of that out loud in the session. Then the queries from the Steps by the Big Book workbook relating to The Doctor’s Opinion are on the right.

  • E., F., & G. Sections similarly follow as “E: SESSION THREE,” “F: SESSION FOUR” & “G: SESSION FIVE” on Step 1

Best wishes to you all and have fun! Take it easy, but take it!



So you have decided to launch a Steps by the Big Book group study. Good for you! It is a great way to study and practice the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with a committed team of friends who also wish to advance with their sobriety and recovery. It is guaranteed that you will have fun. It is also guaranteed that you will work very hard.

Two slogans worth remembering are “Easy does it, but do it!” and “Our reasonable best is good enough!” Another good one is, “Let’s not take ourselves too d…. seriously!”

One suggestion before you begin a Steps by the Big Book group study is to meet with a few like-minded people. Together you may form the nucleus of the study group at the start, and can help keep things flowing until the whole group comes into its own. It works well to meet with such a Temporary Committee in person or by phone or email more than once so that there are several people on the same wave length about what the group is all about.

The Temporary Committee may agree that people attending the study group will be abstinent, and have a desire to progress in their recovery from alcoholism/addiction. It helps to agree that this will happen by studying and practicing together the 12 Steps as they are outlined in the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous. The Steps by the Big Book groups are not AA meetings because enrollment is limited after the first few sessions.


It may be helpful for the Temporary Committee to read aloud together the “Introduction” section of the Steps by the Big Book workbook, pages 3 - 8. There are lots of helpful suggestions from others who have gotten similar groups going. Most use those norms and the format to get started with, and later the whole group may agree to change them after the first three or four sessions. {That is affectionately called “The Revolt,” and is a healthy group process that will happen as the study group team pulls together.}

It may help for the Temporary Committee to go over the description of the Steps by the Big Book group study FORMAT written by a group member, which follows. And also look over the enclosed format FLOW-CHART that outlines suggestions for what is “MY Job” and what is “OUR Job” as the group study begins. An optional STEP 1 FLOW CHART is available on page 29. When the time comes, the group may choose to make their own!


Other groups have called their very first gathering of the Steps by the Big Book group study “Session One – Half”, rather than beginning with the true “Session One” right off the bat. This is to meet each other, and review the group norms and format together. Sometimes the “Session One – Half” turns into the actual “Session One” if people are raring to go with the Big Book reading and study questions. Have a great time!

A: TEMPORARY COMMITTEE” page 2 of 3 cont.
How might a Steps by the Big Book session FORMAT go?
A group member responds:
Generally speaking, we are people in recovery who come together to work on the Steps because we want to. We are willing to commit to five months or so of weekly sessions. And most stay when we hear about the details of this particular group approach to working the Steps by the Big Book. The workbook can be a little dry, but it does help to read it out loud like a bedtime story.
We get the importance of closely reading the Big Book outside of the group sessions with a buddy and maybe other group members, and/or a sponsor. We take what that book has to say personally. It becomes our book. We spend time each day in quiet reflection, and write frankly about what the Big Book and the workbook bring up for us. Those who are not writers talk it out with their buddy and/or sponsor.

The weekly group sessions are friendly and we try to begin on time, sitting in a circle.

~Someone familiar with the process may chair the early sessions. Later we can each take turns chairing for three sessions or so in a row, and we might all agree to change the format as needed. We say which Step we are covering and what will happen that particular session. We may open with the Third Step prayer. The silent quiet time is refreshing and helps us to “be there.” We check-in one after the other, keeping it short.

~We often read aloud the Steps by the Big Book workbook notes and session selections for that Step. Either the chairperson or someone they choose starts off by reviewing some favorite selections from the Big Book, reading a sentence or paragraph or a few pages. Then they read part of what they have written in response and speak about their personal work on that Step according to the Big Book.
~Others carry on by reading aloud from their own writing, or say their reflections. The discussions get lively, yet focus on each person’s own working of that Step with the support of all. As the Big Book says, So cooperate; never criticize. To be helpful is our only aim. (89: 3)
~If we haven’t “finished” a particular Step, we may choose to spend another week on it, or we may agree “good enough” and we stand and grasp hands and recite the Step and often say a prayer from the reading. Together we have “taken” that Step.
~Then we look ahead to the next session, and encourage each other to meet with our buddies, to do the Big Book reading and to do the writing. We may close with the Seventh Step prayer, and we might go out for coffee and head on home.

A: TEMPORARY COMMITTEE” page 3 of 3 cont.

Optional example of FORMAT

for a typical Steps by the Big Book group session.

This is for a 1½ hour session once a week. You may adjust the length of the session to 2 or more hours, add breaks, etc. Times are suggestions only and are approximate.

  • 1st Open on time with focus meditation or prayer such as the Third Step prayer and from 1 to 5 minutes or more of centering silence.

  • 2nd Initial 2 min.: Review agenda for this session.

  • 3rd The SESSION – Approximate group study and practice times:

~10 min.: 30 second check-ins around the group.
~15 min.: Review brief selections from the reading.
~15 min.: Session chairperson or designated group member may share their writing and experience with this reading and this Step according to the Big Book.
~40 min. Discussion (40 min. per 1½ hour session. 70 min. per 2 hour session, etc.): Group members may share their writing and talk about questions and worksheets on actually working the Step in question by the Big Book.

  • 4th Final 3 min. Review next session's agenda.

Encourage reading and writing between sessions.

Urge meeting with one’s buddy and/or sponsor.

  • 5th Close on time with meditation or prayer such as the Seventh Step prayer

[End of “A: Temporary Committee”]

B. “SESSION ONE – HALF” page 1 of 4
Steps by the Big Book MEET & GREET

{Here is a script that you do NOT have to follow.}

Good for you all, and welcome to everybody for attending “Session One – Half” of the Steps by the Big Book study sessions.

[The Temporary Committee may introduce themselves, and explain that they may chair the first few Steps by the Big Book sessions until things get going, and then others may chair, or as everyone sees fit.]

We come together as alcoholics and addicts in recovery to help ourselves, and one another, to have greater peace of mind in recovery. Our method in this course will be to study and practice the 12 Steps as they are presented in the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous. This worked for the first 100 women and men in AA. It has worked for millions of others in recovery. It can work for us – if we work it!
Maybe you have found that it is hard to get through the Steps on you own. Many of us have found it so. That is why these Steps by the Big Book workbooks and group sessions were put together. Other alcoholics in recovery decided to do it together. So can we.

Together we can do it!

“Session One – Half” is an optional chance to meet and greet one another, and to look over how the Steps by the Big Book course may be set up. Basically everyone will get an idea of “What is MY job?” and “What is OUR job?”

In this “Session One – Half”, each of you may get a sense of whether or not you can commit to truly being a team member, and if at all possible to attend every session. You do not have to decide at this time. You may decide after the second or third session.


So why are we all here? This is a good time to go around the circle for three or four minutes each and say our names and our addiction and why we are here.

What is your experience with working the Steps?

What do you hope to get out of these Steps by the Big Book sessions?

What are you willing to do?

What questions do you have? (We may not have all the answers now.)

B: SESSION ONE – HALF” page 2 of 4 cont.


[This is from the Introduction to the Steps by the Big Book workbook, pp. 3 - 8.]

YOUR GROUP Please be aware that everything in the Steps by the Big Book workbook comes from the experience, strength, and hope of the folks who gathered the suggestions together. Every process and suggestion in the workbook is optional.
-Your group can be of any size or composition. An even number of participants, perhaps from 2 to 16, allows members of the group to work in pairs as “buddies.”

  • -A group may be simply one sponsor and one sponsee.

  • -Agree on a purpose, plan and session format of the Steps by the Big Book group, and that in general the group will stick to the schedule.

  • -Agree that each member attends every session if possible, commits to read the text and respond to the session questions, and in fact DOES each Step as it is encountered. (Fifth Steps are not shared at the sessions.)

  • -Agree that each member of the group contacts one or more members (buddies) and/or a sponsor regularly between sessions.

  • -Agree that group members can expect to spend at least as much time on reading, writing and contact with buddies between sessions as in group time.

  • -Agree on a date by which participants may leave or new members may join the group after it begins.

  • -Agree that group members will not drink or use during the course.

GROUP NORMS While there are no rules in AA, there are written Traditions and unwritten norms (i.e. identifying oneself as an alcoholic in meetings). In order to ensure that your group runs smoothly, we suggest considering the following questions:

B: SESSION ONE – HALF” page 3 of 4 cont.


  • -Will start and end times for the sessions be honored?

  • -Will one group member chair the entire process, or will group members take turns chairing the sessions?

  • -Will absolute confidentiality and anonymity about the group be practiced?

  • -Will readings be read at the sessions, or should the readings be completed in advance?

  • -Is each group member expected to speak and share personal writings at group sessions? (It is suggested that members do their Fifth Step outside of the sessions with a sponsor or buddy.)

  • -Will group members consider not speaking a second time until all have had a chance to share first?

  • -Will someone serve as a friendly timekeeper?


Our group experience has shown that it is useful for group participants to work closely with one or more members of the group (“buddies”) in a manner that compliments working with a sponsor. The support and stimulus of working the Steps with a buddy, a sponsor, or both, leads to personal growth and change. We read the Big Book chapters or selections together. Together, we work on our reflections and writings about the focus questions and inventories. Together we get and give support for this process of working the Steps, and for sharing our discoveries, doubts and experiences in the group.


Typically we read the session material on our own and write our responses. Many recommend beginning with a time of quiet relaxation and focusing before studying the readings and doing the writings. Some work together with their buddy or sponsor.

B: SESSION ONE – HALF” page 4 of 4 cont.


This is a team effort. We meet in the weekly Step by the Big Book sessions as a committed group of equals once or twice a week, or as the group sees fit. We open with a time of quiet relaxation, followed by a very brief check-in as to how each member is doing with studying and working the Steps. We read selections from the Big Book on a particular Step, and then for 10 to 15 minutes one group member speaks of her or his personal experience doing this Step by the Big Book process. Every member then shares their writings or reflections on that session’s Step work. Discussion is encouraged, as long as we speak out of our own experience. Some groups choose to expand or contract the session material, or take a short break after working Step 4. We may close with reciting the Step and a meditation or prayer.



There is a Steps by the Big Book sessions FORMAT FLOW-CHART to hand out or post that gives a picture of what “My Job” is and what “Our Job” is for our team study effort.

[Share the format flow-chart.]

It may help to read through the flow-chart together. What questions do people have?

Of course, the group conscience may agree to change the format after the first three or four sessions, and that is fine.


Before you head home, see if anyone has issues that need to be expressed. It may not be possible to answer them at this time.

Urge people to read the Big Book Preface and Forewords for the actual Session One which will meet next time. Say the date and time and ask people to please do the reading and be on time. Some may be ready to share phone numbers, email addresses, etc. There is no hurry. Enjoy the course!
[End of “B: Session One-Half”]


Big Book & Steps by the Big Book
BIG BOOK READING: suggested condensed selections for SbBB study sessions are in “Times” font, and generally on the LEFT hand side of the page (they may run over to the next page). [Optional clarifying comments are in brackets]
STEPS BY THE BIG BOOK: Workbook selections are in “Comic” font and generally on the RIGHT hand side of the page.
CONTENTS page v (fourth edition) [selections]

Preface page xi

Forewords to 1st (p. xiii) and 2nd (p. xv) editions of the Big Book
[BIG BOOK READING SELECTIONS] “Contents of the Fourth Edition

[chapter BB page, 4th edition]

Preface xi

Forewords to the 1st xiii, 2nd xv, 3rd xxii and 4th Editions xxiii

[THE PROBLEM (Powerless) Step 1; also elements of Chapters 2 & 3]
The Doctor's Opinion xxv

1 Bill's Story 1

[THE SOLUTION (Power) Step 2]
2 There is a Solution 17

3 More About Alcoholism 30

4 We Agnostics 44
[THE PROGRAM OF ACTION (How to find Power) Steps 3 - 12]
5 How It Works 58

6 Into Action 72

7 Working with Others 89
Appendix II Spiritual Experience 567
[End of selected BB “Contents” page]


Steps by the Big Book page 1 of 2
SESSION 1 Preface and Forewords Review the format together. Does the way the Steps by the Big Book sets this out make any sense to you? What questions do you have?
A wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built. (47: 2)

I ON YOUR OWN: STUDY – What did the Big Book authors say?

• READ Read the Table of Contents, Preface, and the Forewords to the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Editions of the Big Book. Many will read the Foreword to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (12&12) as well.

• WRITE Consider the focus questions relating to the readings, and write reflective answers to them, as you see fit. Say out loud and cross off the bulleted comments to help you take them in. Include your own questions and observations, and explore your doubts as well as your certainties in detail and in depth.
• TALK Talk with your sponsor and/or buddy about the process you are about to undertake.
II WITH THE GROUP: PRACTICE – What does the Big Book say to me

about my practice of the 12 Steps?

• We discuss the purpose, plan and session format of this Steps by the Big Book group course. Consider that each member is expected to not only talk about but to DO each of the Steps and, if possible, to attend every session with the team.

• This is a commitment, a team effort. Together we can do it!

• We discuss how the Big Book readings influence our own recovery process.
Points of Focus and Reflection

You may or may not choose to read parts of the Big Book selection on the opposite page.

1.) Contents -A repeating mighty purpose and rhythm (10: 3) of the Steps and of the Big Book can be seen even on the Contents page (Consider page v).
• ‘The Problem’ is set out in Doctor’s Opinion and Chapter 1. [See 17: 1; 19: 3]
• ‘The Solution’ is introduced in Chapters 2, 3 and 4. [See also 17: 3; 25: 1]
• ‘The Program of Action’ is described in Chapters 5, 6 and 7. [See also 9:6; 42: 2]

C: SESSION ONE” BIG BOOK p. xiii & xv cont.


Page xiii “Foreword to the First Edition (1939)

“We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary. We think this account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all. (xiii: 1) It is important that we remain anonymous.... (xiii: 2)

Page xv “Foreword to the Second Edition (1955)

“…Alcoholics Anonymous has mushroomed…Many of our friends encourage us by saying that this is but a beginning, only the augury [a sign of things to come] of a much larger future ahead. (xv: 2)

“ … The spark that was to flare into the first A.A. group was struck at Akron, Ohio in June 1935, during a talk between a New York stockbroker [Bill W] and an Akron physician [Dr Bob]. Six months earlier, the broker had been relieved of his drink obsession by a sudden spiritual (xv: 3) experience, following a meeting with an alcoholic friend [Ebby T, eventually Bill’s sponsor] who had been in contact with the Oxford Groups of that day. He had also been greatly helped by the late Dr. William D. Silkworth [wrote The Doctor’s Opinion], a New York specialist in alcoholism who is now accounted no less than a medical saint by A.A. members, and whose story of the early days of our Society appears in the next pages. From this doctor, the broker had learned the grave nature of alcoholism [disease- mind: mental obsession, and body: physical compulsion]. Though he could not accept all the tenets of the Oxford Groups, he was convinced of the need for moral inventory, confession of personality defects, restitution to those harmed, helpfulness to others, and the necessity of belief in and dependence upon God [the earliest Steps; see BB p. 263: 0,1] . (xvi: 0)

“Prior to his journey to Akron, the broker had worked hard with many alcoholics on the theory that only an alcoholic could help an alcoholic, but he had succeeded only in keeping sober himself. The broker had gone to Akron on a business venture which had collapsed, leaving him greatly in fear that he might start drinking again. He suddenly realized that in order to save himself he must carry his message to another alcoholic. That alcoholic turned out to be the Akron physician. (xvi: 1)

“This physician had repeatedly tried spiritual means to resolve his alcoholic dilemma but had failed. But when the broker gave him Dr. Silkworth’s description of alcoholism and


Foreword to the Second Edition (1955) p. xv cont.

its hopelessness, the physician began to pursue the spiritual remedy for his malady with a willingness he had never before been able to muster. He sobered, never to drink again up to the moment of his death in 1950. This seemed to prove that one alcoholic could affect another as no nonalcoholic (xvi: 2) could. It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent recovery. (xvii: 0)

“Hence the two men set to work almost frantically upon alcoholics arriving in the ward of the Akron City Hospital. Their very first case, a desperate one, recovered immediately and became A.A. number three. He never had another drink. … There were many failures, but there was an occasional heartening success. When the broker returned to New York in the fall of 1935, the first A.A. group had actually been formed, though no one realized it at the time. (xvii: 1) It was now time, the struggling group thought, to place their message and unique experience before the world [wrote Big Book]. (xvii: 3) As we discovered the principles by which the individual alcoholic could live [Steps & Big Book] , so we had to evolve principles by which the AA groups and AA as a whole could survive and function [Traditions & 12&12]. (xix: 1)

“Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself, we surely have no monopoly. Yet it is our great hope that all those who have as yet found no answer may begin to find one in the pages of this book [Big Book] and will presently join us on the highroad to a new freedom.” (xxi: 0)

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