AA speaker Dr. Mike presents a Big Book study podcast and thoughts on recovery

Thoughts on Recovery – No. 1 – The Circle and the Triangle and AA Today

The circle and the triangle symbol was used by AA and introduced by Bill W. in 1955.  The equilateral triangle represents the three-part answer – unity, recovery, and service – to a three-part disease – physical, mental, spiritual.  The circle represents wholeness or oneness.  It is based on an ancient symbol where the body should be triangular and stable.  The mind is circular and open.  The triangle represents the means for generation of good energy and is the most stable physical posture.  The circle symbolizes serenity and perfection and the source of unlimited potential.  Together they represent the perfect union of mind and body.  This symbol has been used since antiquity and was often regarded as a means of warding off evil spirits.

Like a three-legged stool needs each leg to stand firm, it was felt that you need all three sides of the triangle.  Service is one of the sides of the triangle.  It has taken on many different meanings through the years.  There is service to each other in the fellowship which can take many forms.  Some examples are, making coffee and opening the meeting, transporting people to meetings, providing literature, going into institutions, organizing conferences, and regional AA service.  That is all good and necessary, but I do not see a major emphasis today on the most important form of service described in the Big Book.  That service is carrying the message of hope and the solution described in the Big Book to the alcoholic who still suffers.  The Big Book says that our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and others.

Unity is the fellowship.  We are bound by common peril and share our experience, strength, and hope with each other.  Unfortunately, I believe the fellowship has developed a program of its own.  Separate from the program of recovery in the Big Book.  Slogans dominate and may make sense on the surface, but when examined carefully, are not always consistent with the message in the Big Book.  Some examples are:  newcomers are told “90 meetings in 90 days”, “meeting makers make it”, “fake it till you make it”, “think through the drink”, “good orderly direction”, “it is a selfish program”, and “we just don’t drink” to name a few.  Two of my favorites are: “don’t have a relationship in the first year” (what about our relationship with God?) and “don’t work the steps too quickly”.

Recovery is the program of recovery that is described in the AA Big Book.  It is read at every meeting, but often on a card, and oftentimes the new person will not know that it is part of the AA Big Book.  There is only one suggested program of recovery in AA.  The 12 Steps.  You often hear people say they are in the program.  “Program” has become confused with “fellowship”.  The program is something that needs to be done.  It is a program of action and you are either doing it or not.   Fellowship is important, but it is just human power.  Remember, that on page 17, there is a warning that there is a cement that binds us.  The cement is the common solution, the 12 Steps, the program of recovery outlined in the Big Book.

In the beginning, the program in the Big Book and the fellowship program were the same.  The title of the Big Book is Alcoholics Anonymous.  There were three meeting groups at the time of the publication of the Big Book and they called themselves “Alcoholics Anonymous” taken from the title of the Big Book.  All things change over time, and the fellowship program has moved away from the message in 1939.  I love AA, I love the fellowship, and I love the Big Book.  All I am saying is that each of us can make a difference wherever we are to let people know about the program of recovery.  The program of recovery is designed to lead to a relationship with God which gives us access to a power to live usefully whole and remove the obsession of drink.  Share this message whenever you can.  Remember, the spirit of the fellowship is great, but our real goal is to be in the fellowship of the spirit.

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  1. Jeanne S. on November 6, 2018 at 3:09 am

    Dear Dr. Mike,
    Spot-on message, excellent description of the Programme vs. Fellowship. Thank you.

  2. Cheryl Madison on February 26, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    sometimes when i go to meetings i cant believe what i hear and see. I know I cannot stop going to meetings but it is so much chaos and disinformation and no one talks about the hopeless condition. Sad

    • Dr. Mike on February 27, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      Cheryl very well said

    • Shar on November 11, 2019 at 3:39 pm

      I understand what you are saying. We have a life and death disease. I have had to ‘change the meetings” that I go to so as I can “KEEP IT GREEN.” Staying on Topic is so important. When I got sober you had to stay on topic whether it was a step, Big Book,etc. or they wold pass you over and say “get a sponsor, next.” I learned so much that way…….sometimes I think some folks think that this is group therapy…IT IS NOT GROUP THERAPY. We are learning how to live life on lifes terms. God Bless you always.

  3. Grady Golden on March 28, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    I love that post I wish that was required reading before somebody ever spoke at an AA meeting including me and I didn’t take this advice 21 months ago. Oh well I’m not gonna let that disturb me today. To tell you the truth, I was looking for your new post on the circle and triangle and I read this one as a review instead. Thanks for all you do

  4. Andy on June 13, 2020 at 6:33 am

    Totally agree with the post … totally diff message in the fellowship than the bb ….it’s hard to watch at Times …. as long as I’m doing step 12 tradition 5 … then that’s the main thing 🙏🏻

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