Personal Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book)


This work is featured in the Apr 2018 Substance Dependence Treatment Review


The personal stores in the book Alcoholics Anonymous were always considered important and essential. Telling one's own story was the surest way to gain the confidence of a fellow alcoholic. Telling one's own story is also an aspect that derrived from Buchman, Shoemaker and the Oxford Group which had a deep impact on the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous the group and the book. Early in A.A., telling one's own story was a key to success, as previous moralizing approaches and language were much less effective.

To this end, we see a significant number of personal stories of early A.A. participants, starting with 20 stories distributed with the Draft Manuscript Multilith edition in 1938, and 29 stories (one from the Draft manuscript was removed, and an additional 10 were added) in the 1939 First Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book). In the second edition, the number of personal stories increased to 37, and in the third and fourth editions, to 42. In each new edition, stories were removed and new ones added. Two stories survive from the draft manuscript through to the fourth edition: The Doctor's Nightmare (renamed Dr. Bob's Nightmare), and Our Southern Friend. A single additional personal story survives from the first edition through to the fourth edition: The Fearful One (renamed The Man who Mastered Fear).

All in all, one hundred personal stories have been published in one edition or another (or several editions), though there have been some small or significant changes made to many of the stories.

Draft Manuscript (1938) - Personal Stories

Twenty personal stories are included in this edition.

  1. The Doctor's Nightmare (aka Dr. Bob's Nightmare) (1)
  2. The Unbeliever (7)
  3. The European Drinker (12)
  4. A Feminine Victory (17)
  5. Our Southern Friend (21)
  6. A Business Man's Recovery (29)
  7. A Different Slant (33)
  8. Traveler, Editor, Scholar (34)
  9. The Back-Slider (39)
  10. Home Brewmeister (43)
  11. The Seven Month Slip (47)
  12. My Wife and I (49)
  13. A Ward of the Probate Court (53)
  14. Riding the Rods (56)
  15. Ace Full - Seven - Eleven (62)
  16. The Salesman (66)
  17. Fired Again (69)
  18. The Fearful One (aka The Man Who Mastered Fear) (72)
  19. Truth Freed Me! (74)
  20. Smile with Me, at Me (75)

First Edition (1939) - Personal Stories

One personal story was removed from, and ten added to, the First Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, for a total of twenty-nine stories in this edition.

  1. The Doctor's Nightmare (aka Dr. Bob's Nightmare) (183)
  2. The Unbeliever (194)
  3. The European Drinker (206)
  4. A Feminine Victory (217)
  5. Our Southern Friend (226)
  6. A Business Man's Recovery (242)
  7. A Different Slant (252)
  8. Traveler, Editor, Scholar (254)
  9. The Back-Slider (265)
  10. Home Brewmeister (274)
  11. The Seven Month Slip (282)
  12. My Wife and I (287)
  13. A Ward of the Probate Court (296)
  14. Riding the Rods (303)
  15. The Salesman (317)
  16. Fired Again (325)
  17. The Fearful One (aka The Man Who Mastered Fear) (332)
  18. Truth Freed Me! (336)
  19. Smile with Me, at Me (340)
  20. A Close Shave (348)
  21. Educated Agnostic (351)
  22. Another Prodigal Story (357)
  23. The Car Smasher (aka He Had To Be Shown) (364)
  24. Hindsight (370)
  25. On His Way (375)
  26. An Alcoholic's Wife (378)
  27. An Artist's Concept (380)
  28. The Rolling Stone (386)
  29. Lone Endeavor (391)*

*Removed from the second printing of the First Edition

Second Edition (1955) - Personal Stories

Twenty-three personal stories were removed from, and thirty-one added to, the Second Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, for a total of thirty-seven stories in three sections.

Pioneers of A.A.

  1. Dr. Bob's Nightmare (aka The Doctor's Nightmare) (171)
  2. Alcoholic Anonymous Number Three (182)
  3. The Car Smasher (aka He Had To Be Shown) (193)
  4. He Thought He Could Drink Like A Gentleman (210)
  5. Women Suffer Too (222)
  6. The European Drinker (230)
  7. The Vicious Cycle (238)
  8. The News Hawk (251)
  9. From Farm To City (261)
  10. The Man Who Mastered Fear (aka The Fearful One) (275)
  11. He Sold Himself Short (287)
  12. Home Brewmeister (297)
  13. The Keys Of The Kingdom (307)

They Stopped in Time

  1. Rum, Radio And Rebellion (317)
  2. Fear Of Fear (330)
  3. The Professor And The Paradox (336)
  4. A Flower Of The South (343)
  5. Unto The Second Generation (355)
  6. His Conscience (365)
  7. The Housewife Who Drank at Home (375)
  8. It Might Have Been Worse (382)
  9. Physician, Heal Thyself! (393)
  10. Stars Don't Fall (401)
  11. Me, An Alcoholic? (419)
  12. New Vision For A Sculptor (426)

They Lost Nearly All

  1. Joe's Woes (445)
  2. Our Southern Friend (460)
  3. Jim's Story (471)
  4. Promoted To Chronic (485)
  5. The Prisoner Freed (495)
  6. There's Nothing The Matter With Me! (499)
  7. Desperation Drinking (509)
  8. Annie The Cop Fighter (514)
  9. The Career Officer (523)
  10. The Independent Blonde (532)
  11. He Who Loses His Life (540)
  12. Freedom From Bondage (553)

Third Edition (1976) - Personal Stories

Eight personal stories were removed from, and thirteen added to, the Third Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, for a total of 42 stories in three sections.

Pioneers of A.A.

  1. Dr. Bob's Nightmare (aka The Doctor's Nightmare) (171)
  2. Alcoholic Anonymous Number Three (182)
  3. The Car Smasher (aka He Had To Be Shown) (193)
  4. He Thought He Could Drink Like A Gentleman (210)
  5. Women Suffer Too (222)
  6. The European Drinker (230)
  7. The Vicious Cycle (238)
  8. The News Hawk (251)
  9. From Farm To City (261)
  10. The Man Who Mastered Fear (aka The Fearful One) (275)
  11. He Sold Himself Short (287)
  12. Home Brewmeister (297)
  13. The Keys Of The Kingdom (304)

They Stopped in Time

  1. Too Young? (317)
  2. Fear Of Fear (321)
  3. Those Golden Years (327)
  4. The Housewife Who Drank at Home (335)
  5. Lifesaving Words (342)
  6. Physician, Heal Thyself! (345)
  7. A Teen-Ager's Decision (353)
  8. Rum, Radio and Rebellion (356)
  9. Any Day Was Washday (369)
  10. It Might Have Been Worse (373)
  11. A Flower of the South (384)
  12. Calculating the Costs (396)
  13. Stars Don't Fall (400)
  14. Growing Up All Over Again (418)
  15. Unto the Second Generation (422)
  16. Me, An Alcoholic? (432)
  17. Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict (439)

They Lost Nearly All

  1. A Five-Time Loser Wins (457)
  2. Promoted to Chronic (464)
  3. Join the Tribe! (474)
  4. Belle of the Bar (478)
  5. Jim's Story (483)
  6. Our Southern Friend (497)
  7. The Prisoner Freed (508)
  8. The Career Officer (517)
  9. Another Chance (526)
  10. He Who Loses His Life (531)
  11. Freedom From Bondage (544)
  12. A.A. Taught Him to Handle Sobriety (554)

Fourth Edition (2001) - Personal Stories

Twenty-four personal stories were removed from and twenty-four added to the Fourth Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, for a total of 42 stories in three sections.

Pioneers of A.A.

  1. Dr. Bob's Nightmare (aka The Doctor's Nightmare) (171)
  2. Alcoholic Anonymous Number Three (182)
  3. Gratitude in Action (193)
  4. Women Suffer Too (200)
  5. Our Southern Friend (208)
  6. The Vicious Cycle (219)
  7. Jim's Story (232)
  8. The Man Who Mastered Fear (aka The Fearful One) (246)
  9. He Sold Himself Short (258)
  10. The Keys to the Kingdom (268)

They Stopped in Time

  1. The Missing Link (281)
  2. Fear of Fear (289)
  3. The Housewife Who Drank at Home (295)
  4. Physician, Heal Thyself! (301)
  5. My Chance to Live (309)
  6. Student of Life (319)
  7. Crossing the River of Denial (328)
  8. Because I'm an Alcoholic (338)
  9. It Might Have Been Worse (348)
  10. Tightrope (359)
  11. Flooded with Feeling (369)
  12. Winner Takes All (375)
  13. Me an Alcoholic? (382)
  14. the Perpetual Quest (388)
  15. A Drunk, Like You (398)
  16. Acceptance Was the Answer (407)
  17. Window of Opportunity (421)

They Lost Nearly All

  1. My Bottle, My Resentments, and Me (437)
  2. He Lived Only to Drink (446)
  3. Safe Haven (452)
  4. Listening to the Wind (458)
  5. Twice Gifted (470)
  6. Building a New Life (476)
  7. On the Move (486)
  8. A Vision of Recovery (494)
  9. Gutter Bravado (501)
  10. Empty on the Inside (512)
  11. Grounded (522)
  12. Another Chance (531)
  13. A Late Start (535)
  14. Freedom From Bondage (544)
  15. A.A. Taught Him to Handle Sobriety (553)

Complete List of all Personal Stories

There is a total of 98 Personal Stories over all five editions. Four stories have been renamed, and a fifth had a comma removed from it. Those are:

Alphabetical List of All Personal Stories


This work is featured in the Apr 2018 Substance Dependence Treatment Review