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Jellinek on the Big Book

Since its first edition in 1939, the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous known as the “Big Book” has helped millions of men and women recover from alcoholism. It happened to be published in the exact same year E. M. Jellinek and crew would begin their literature review in earnest.

Jellinek’s first reflections were published in AA Today.

One day that year, I found on my desk a book with a yellow and red dust cover. Its title was ‘Alcoholics Anonymous.’ With a sigh, I picked it up and said to myself: ‘some more crank stuff.’ But I hardly read a few pages when I realized that I had one of the precious gems before me.

Jellinek’s resulting description of the central thesis of the book is that the solution to alcohol addiction “is a deep and effective spiritual experience which revolutionizes [one’s] whole attitude toward life.”

Jellinek and CAS would continue to sing the praises of the pioneering recovery group, as he and CAS founding father Dr. Howard Haggard page of the very first issue of the A.A. Grapevine (then simply called The Grapevine) in 1944. Their article, entitled “Two Yale savants stress alcoholism as true disease,” spoke of the emerging Yale Plan Clinics, which were only two months old at the time. Further supporting the strong ties between the Center’s clinical model and A.A., they write, “It goes without saying that one of our objectives is to further interest and confidence in Alcoholics Anonymous among those who have never heard of it or who are inadequately informed.”

CAAAL punchcard
Original 1939 CAAAL card featuring Jellinek’s abstract of The Big Book

–Abridged from an article published in the November 2015 issue of the CAS Information Services Newsletter