Joe & Charlie


The Joe and Charlie Sessions were part of what saved my life. No, I never attended them live, although they did visit Ottawa in the old days.

But on my first day sober, when  I asked how often I should go to AA Meetings, and was asked “How often did I drink?”, I asked if there were any weekend meetings, and was told that indeed there were, and that there was one at 9:00 am every Saturday morning in Westboro, Ottawa, and that I should probably go. Which is a long-winded way of saying that being able to come to this particular meeting, and listen to the tapes, and discuss how I was doing in recovery, and discover the Big Book, probably saved my bacon.

Because I needed some new patterns in my life. Not just new habits. Not just to give up old habits. But new patterns – a new design for living. Hey, anything had to be better to do on a Saturday morning than wake up hungover yet one more time. That wasn’t working too well for me.

I needed renewal. And as I’ve moved through stages in recovery, I’ve learned that it’s important to catch my breath, take a look around, and refresh my thinking, renewing at the same time my dedication to my program, and revising my belief in God as I don’t understand him (to quote my sponsor!).

But it’s time for something new. Something different.  So herewith are my ramblings Beyond the Sunset – a journey through the Big Book, through the 12 and 12, through Joe & Charlie, or whatever suits my fancy. Joe & Charlie’s transcripts and MP3s are over at the Westboro Big Book Site.

I’m grateful to be sober for one more day – that hasn’t changed either…

One of the most important things I’ve learned in sobriety is to “stay in the moment”. The power of NOW allows me to stop living in the past, let go of my resentments for things that happened (some of them a LOOONG time ago!), and move on.

But if I don’t understand where I came from, I will have no clue what’s wrong, and no idea where I’m going. As Winnie (the Churchill, not the Pooh) once said about history: “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”

Much of the Magic of AA comes out in the stories, and understanding where Bill Wilson came from, what he suffered, and what happened to him is an essential part of understanding how the Big Book of AA was written, as Bill was the primary author. Joe hit the proverbial nail on the head when he pointed out that Bill had a certain way of writing: “…he’ll always tell us what the problem is, then he’ll tell us the solution to that problem, and then he’ll give us a practical program of action to implement the solution that he just described.”

Meeting with Ebby Thatcher and the Oxford Group and Dr. Silkworth all helped Bill understand what the problem was – but that alone didn’t stop him from drinking. Dr. Silkworth told Bill: “He said you can’t safely drink because of your body, you can’t stay sober because of your mind, therefore you’ve become absolutely powerless over alcohol.”

Even after hearing these recordings several times, it took a long time for all of this to sink in for me:

  1. the PROBLEM was not alcohol, it was my alcoholism – I had an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind;
  2. the SOLUTION was not just to keep on coming back to meetings, it was to have a spiritual experience (The terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms. – Appendix II).
  3. the PROGRAM OF ACTION was not a menu of things to do, it was the DOING (not just the study of) the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

When Bill finally was able to stay sober, he starting going in to bars and dragging the drunks off to Oxford Group meetings. You can just imagine the scenes he caused. Dr. Silkworth was the one to suggest to him that he was staying sober because he was trying to help others get sober, but so as not to scare off his intended targets, that perhaps he should:

  1. talk to them about the illness of alcoholism,
  2. talk to them about the physical allergy, and the obsession of the mind. (the two-fold illness) Show them through your experience how that worked for you and if they will accept that, then maybe you can
  3. talk to them about spiritual matters.

So basically, Bill started to tell them “his story” – the history of his journey – what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now – his Experience, Strength, and Hope. A few drunks got better. And then a few more. And since then, literally millions of alcoholics have gotten better.

Sometimes it’s a case of telling someone too much too soon. Sometimes it’s a matter of telling someone else what to do. It’s why I don’t preach to others. It’s why I don’t tell them what to do. But I still try to share my Experience, Strength and Hope when I am asked, and that helps me stay sober. And that’s no longer just history, that makes it my story too.



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