Are “mind altering substances” mentioned in the Big Book?
Where, if at all, in the Big Book is the phrase "mind/mood altering substances" and/or refraining from them?
Our FAQ tries to deal only in facts and while it may be an unpopular thing to mention, the only factual answer we can give is that The Big Book does not call for refraining from drugs apart from alcohol. We are speaking specifically of the "main text" in chapters 1-11. The book discusses refraining from alcohol and simply does not discuss refraining from other drugs - and we do recognize how unlikely that may seem to the modern reader.
Many people assume that the often heard phrase of avoiding "any mood altering substance" must come from somewhere in the Big Book but the phrase actually comes from the Basic Text of NA. In their primary text NA chose to "broadened [AA's] perspective."
? ? ? ? ?From the introduction to the NA Basic Text:
The Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous, as adapted from A.A., are the basis of our recovery program. We have only broadened their perspective. We follow the same path with a single exception; our identification as addicts is all-inclusive in respect to any mood-changing, mind-altering substance. "Alcoholism" for us; our problem is not a specific substance, it is a disease called "addiction". We believe that as a fellowship, we have been guided by a Greater Consciousness, and are grateful for the Direction that has enabled us to build upon an already-proven program of recovery.
The fellowship of Cocaine Anonymous (CA) extended the phrasing of the 1st Step for their own use and included the term "mind-altering substances." In CA the 1st Step is:
"We admitted we were powerless over cocaine and all other mind-altering substances ? that our lives had become unmanageable."
Men like Bill W. used LSD and didn't consider sobriety lost because sobriety was reckoned as the abstinence from alcohol alone. It used to be what other drugs an AA member took was between them and God alone and groups did not endeavor to decide if the person was still "sober."
To keep this in context though it must be remembered that early AAs were not that focused on periods of continued sobriety. Their focus was on developing a spiritual awakening as this was the foundation for sobriety without having to fight craving or anything else. One's spiritual condition was far more important than the time since the last drink because a joyous and free life was the goal rather than "clean time."
None of this is meant to suggest that taking mind altering substances is good for a person's sobriety. The collective experience of the fellowship since the 1930s makes it obvious and plain that most of us find it difficult or impossible to practice The Steps while doing drugs.
Here is what we can find in the main text pertaining to drugs apart from alcohol:
6-7 A doctor came with a heavy sedative.
7:0:1 Next day found me drinking both gin and sedative.
7:1:2 Under the so-called belladonna treatment my brain cleared.
22:0:2 As matters grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to work.
22:0:4 Perhaps he goes to a doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with which to taper off.
97:1:11 Sometimes you will have to call a doctor and administer sedatives under his direction.
135:2:1 Here is a case in point: One of our friends is a heavy smoker and coffee drinker.
135:3:3 Though he is now a most effective member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he still smokes and drinks coffee, but neither his wife nor anyone else stands in judgment.
142:1:5 You ask, because many alcoholics, being warped and drugged, do not want to quit.
161-162 In one of these there is a well-known hospital for the treatment of alcoholic and drug addiction.