A little ditty on the “Big Book”, Alcoholics Anonymous (To Wives).
This chapter was written when there were only men in the AA program. But the wives were just as involved in these early meetings as the men were. The wives of alcoholics would often need to deal with the most difficult situations. Of course the growth of female membership in AA has been tremendous over the years. And in the 1950’s, al anon was founded by the wives of those earlier members.
Is this only written to the wives of alcoholics? What is the message of this chapter?
Yes this chapter was specifically written with suggestions for the wife of a practicing alcoholic. This makes sense as there were no women in AA for the first few years. The chapter has many specific suggestions for the wife to approach or deal with her drunken husband. The book also suggests ways for her to deal with situations should he get and remain sober .
The message of this chapter, addressed to wives of alcoholics, is to do their best to understand that he is a sick man. Love and kindness may go a long way. At the same time the chapter suggests that the wife should not do anything special to protect the alcoholic or to hide liquor from him. Either he is willing and ready to recover or he is not.
I have a husband that drinks too much. Our house is a battle ground and I keep hiding his bottles and he just gets more. It is endless. What help is there for me in this?
The Chapter to Wives acknowledges that the wife of an alcoholic is in a tremendously stressful, seemingly impossible situation. But the book offers specific suggestions and even some hope as well for someone such as yourself. The book says you should never try to protect him. He needs to do this for himself and hiding booze is, one; it never works and two; it keeps the wife sick too. There is a program, al anon, for those that have ties to the alcoholic by blood or by love. This chapter was the basis for the al anon program at the start.
What value is there for the alcoholic to read this chapter, if it is written to wives?
Interestingly, in this chapter, the authors break down the stages of alcoholism into four categories. They label them as husband 1 through husband 4. This actually shows the stages of alcoholism from beginning to end. In fact, husband #4 was the condition that most alcoholics were in when they came upon AA in the early days. Now alcoholics do not have to get to the point where their entire life and health is in ruin. There is much help available now. All you need is the willingness and honesty to make a start.
Did the wives of the original members write this chapter?
Oddly enough, it was Bill W. the founding member who wrote out the chapter “To Wives”. Of course there was plenty of input as the mimeographed version was sent out to AA members,their wives, ministers, and friends in the medical community. But Bill was the original author of this chapter and every other chapter in the original text.
When Bill was asked if he was the author, he said he was more like the umpire. When he finished a chapter he would send it out to the few AA groups at that time and also received feedback from trusted doctors and ministers.