Accepting I Am An Alcoholic With The Help of Joe and Charlie

Accepting I am an Alcoholic

Gotta say, even writing I am an alcoholic in the title feels shameful. That I am flawed.

Not in a poor me way, I don’t think.

Perhaps, I feel this way as a result of how alcoholism is viewed in society, media and the like.

As well, I know I feel this way because alcoholism runs in my family with tragic results.

That said, in my 25 years of going in and out of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) rooms, this time round was my first introduction to the Joe and Charlie tapes.

When I first heard I could listen to a Joe and Charlie tape about the Big Book on YouTube, I assumed without asking questions to clarify that Joe and Charlie were probably young and put a trendy spin on AA, on this popular platform of social media.

In my mind, I was wary to listen to what I assumed were trendy younger members speak on AA’s Big Book and maybe make it into something AA is not.

Eventually, after hearing so much about Joe and Charlie around the rooms of AA, curiosity got the best of me and I went home and looked for them on YouTube.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Joe and Charlie are two true old timers who share their interpretation of AA’s Big Book in a way that is, in my humble experience, the true nature of AA itself and how it was/is intended to be.

So much so, even the very little I have listened to so far in the introduction of Joe and Charlie’s Big Book interpretation makes swallowing the hard truth that I am an alcoholic much easier to do.

Joe McQ. and Charlie P.

Joe and Charlie… who are they?

They are AA members who met in 1973, and together for three decades studied the AA Big Book. Eventually, Joe and Charlie became famous AA speakers who, together, presented their wonderful interpretation of the Big Book to the AA fellowship.

Someone started taping their interpretations of the Big Book, and in 1974 their message in these tapes caught on and started spreading throughout the fellowship. The tapes have been and still are listened to by AA members on their journey of staying sober.

Here is a wonderful write up on Joe and Charlie from

The Big Book Comes Alive

This series of talks came about from a friendship that started in Alcoholics Anonymous over 30 years ago. When AA members talk about the program, they will often speak the names Bill and Bob. However, there are two other names that are often spoken about, with nearly equal reverence. These names are Joe McQuany, and Charlie Parmley, a team of two men known as “Joe and Charlie”, who met in 1973, and spent the next three decades spreading their interpretation of the Big Book.

These two men are credited with making the Big Book of AA more accessible to many who otherwise found the language archaic, or just downright confusing.

In 1978, Joe McQuany launched the Kelly Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to recovery from alcoholism and addiction. In 2011, Larry Gaines, the CEO of the Kelly Foundation said “People often say that it took Bill and Bob to write the Big Book, but it took Joe and Charlie to explain it”.

According to Larry Gaines, the unlikely partnership of Joe and Charlie was the result of Joe’s unstable beginnings in Alcoholics Anonymous. Joe had been studying the Big Book since 1962, but since he was an African-American man living in Little Rock, Arkansas during that time, he was only allowed to stand in the back of meetings, and leave as soon as they were over. He wasn’t allowed to participate in the fellowship, so he got into the book. After a few years, someone told him about another man who was equally enthusiastic about the Big Book; Charlie. The two men began to study the book together, and over time, other members of AA began to get wind of what they were doing. Someone started taping them, and by 1974, the tapes started to spread throughout the fellowship.

Gaines believes that the clarity of Joe and Charlie’s message is what has helped the “Big Book Comes Alive” recordings so popular. Gaines said “When Joe and Charlie began teaching the book, it started getting people back into the heart of AA. The were able to so beautifully teach people the difference between the program and the fellowship.”

According to Billy DeLuca, Joe’s former secretary and CFO for Serenity Park, a rehab center in Little Rock founded by Joe – “The true legacy of Joe and Charlie’s conversations was the actual understanding of the steps. For them, it was about putting aside personalities, and bringing the principles of AA to the forefront.

They broke the 12 steps down in a way that people could understand, thus helping them practice those principles in all of their affairs. They viewed the Big Book as a treatment model.”

It doesn’t hurt that Joe and Charlie are incredibly amusing, cracking jokes about all sorts of different topics. Another AA member was quoted as saying “They have this folksy charm that helps the medicine go down, which has always been what I love about Alcoholics Anonymous. We can talk about these serious matters, and still laugh at ourselves.”

Although Joe and Charlie are no longer with us, their talks continue to inform and inspire AA members, and will do so well into the future. We are eternally grateful for what these men have done for us personally, and for what they’ve done for the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The AA Big Book is a Text Book

Joe and Charlie call the Big Book a text book.

It is a book where 100 alcoholics write their experience of recovery to help teach another alcoholic how to stay sober and recover from alcoholism.

When I first entered AA back in 1997, many members referred to the Big Book as the “bible” of AA.

I did not like this religious association because my upbringing of religion meant a punitive God who punished when you don’t follow His rules.

Hard To Argue With 100 People

Joe and Charlie make a great point that if you disagree with AA’s Big Book way of recovery, you are disagreeing with 100 alcoholic’s experience of how to do so.

It would be easy to disagree if one or two alcoholics wrote the Big Book.

But 100 alcoholics wrote the Big Book.

There is a lot of wisdom in it that is hard to dispute.

Joe and Charlie Big Book Study Groups

I’ve recently joined a Joe and Charlie Big Book study group.

It is a woman’s group.

This Joe and Charlie Big Book woman’s study group is at the very beginning of listening to the Joe and Charlie tapes. Already, I am eager to hear more of the tapes and start the work sheets that coincide with them.

As well, I like this woman’s group as a way to source out a new sponsor.

The sponsor I had is dealing with a lot personally and made the decision to not be my sponsor. I understand this and see it as a wise decision for her self-care and sobriety.

Thank You Joe and Charlie

Thank you for describing AA’s Big Book as a text book.

Thank you, as said above in‘s quote about Joe and Charlie, for describing AA’s Big Book as a treatment model.

From what I have listened to so far, thank you Joe and Charlie for your intellectual down-to-earth interpretation and spiritual description of the Big Book.

I’m truly grateful.

My name is Stephanie and I am an alcoholic, now feels a bit easier to swallow.

S, 💛

My Struggles With Alcohol Can be Read in These Blogs:

4 Comments Add yours

  1. mama says:

    Just finished listening to Joe & Charlie “How It Works” up to step #3. Last thing they said was …all action is born in thought”…They are so interesting and funny.The Last words I heard were…them laughing and say …I never saw a tree hit a car…Stephanie thanks for all you said in this blog. As your mother I am so very proud of the woman you are and look forward to hearing more from Joe & Charlie so I can follow and understand your journey as best I can.💛🌼💛

    1. Awwwwww… thanks mama, love you and am proud of you, too!! 💛💛💛💛

Leave a Reply