Joe & Charlie Big Book Study

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We all know that AA started with two drunks trying to get sober, but alongside many others, there are two other A.A. members worth a mention – Joe McQ and Charlie P.

They met in 1973 when Joe introduced Charlie at an Al-Anon convention. Joe had been hoping that Charlie might be the country and wester singer, Charlie Pride. Joe was not to get his wish. They met at a time when the Big Book – Alcoholics Anonymous was waning in popularity within the fellowship. Joe & Charlie quickly discovered a mutual passion and fascination with A.A.’s basic text. What they found most interesting was that the book had been written in a particular sequence to convey certain ideas and processes. 

Neither of them felt confident in the trend of the time of ‘meeting makers make it’ and felt that something more than meetings were need to recover from alcoholism. They considered themselves ‘old school’ and wanted to really understand the programme of A.A. Without any local fellows with the same interest, they ended up travelling over two hundred miles to meet together in each other’s homes to study the book together.

In 1977 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they were asked to give a seminar. When they delivered it, someone had the foresight to record it. These recordings were distributed and began to spark a reinvigorated passion for the basic text and the programme in the fellowship.

Within a few years they were speaking at five or six weekends a year. They went through the Big Book line-by-line explaining what it meant, the origin and the reason for the choice of words. In doing this they made the Big Book more accessible to everyone. Many attendees used the study weekends to do the Twelve Steps over the two days.

Over the coming years their approach to the text increased in popularity and they were invited to speak together at studies in Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands.

They weren’t without their critics, however. Some members termed them ‘self-appointed gurus’ while others accused them of making money from their seminars. In truth, A.A. relies on well informed teachers and they were only ever paid travel expenses, meals and accommodation.

Since their first seminar in 1977, it is estimated that over 200,000 A.A. members have experienced the spiritual benefits of these studies. Many thousands more have benefited since, thanks to the recordings.

Joe McQ. died on October 25, 2007.

Charlie P. passed away on April 21, 2011.