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Are You a Friend of Bills? AA Lingo You Should Know

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When you’re new to AA, there’s a lot learn and remember. You’ve got your meeting list, the 12 steps, the traditions, and the serenity prayer. As if that weren’t enough, when you show up to a meeting or grab a cup of coffee afterwards, it can seem like everyone is speaking a different language than you are.

That’s because AA has a lingo all of its own. Here are the basics to get you started and keep you in the know when it comes to what people in AA are saying.

Are You a Friend of Bill’s?

If someone sees you wandering around the church peeking into doors, she may ask you if you’re a friend of Bill’s. But she’s not asking about the guy you carpool with, she’s talking about Bill W., the founder of AA. By asking you if you’re a friend of Bill’s, she’s inquiring if you’re looking for the AA meeting, but without outing you as an alcoholic or addict.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Getting sober is a big deal and in AA and other 12 step groups, the yearly milestones are cause for celebration. So when you’re sitting in a meeting and someone announces that it’s his tenth birthday and it’s obviously not, he’s talking about it being the tenth anniversary of when he got sober.

If you don’t hear about birthdays in the rooms, you may be on the Eastern side of the country, where it’s often referred to as anniversaries. As a side note, belly button birthdays mean biological birthday.

Old Timer

When you talk to other AA members, you’ll often hear the term old timer, and you’ll probably be surprised to see it associated with men and women in their thirties and forties, as well as those in their seventies and eighties. That’s because being an old timer has nothing to do with age, but with how long the person’s been sober.

The Big Book

The book with the guiding principles of AA and all 12 step groups, the Big Book is the affectionate nickname for Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. It was published by Bill W. and Sam Shoemaker in 1939 and although the title is long, that’s not how it got its term of endearment. The book was originally printed on thick paper, which made it a big book, literally.

Dry Drunk

In AA and other 12 step programing, being in recovery is about more than being sober. It’s about making changes to the patterns and behaviors that led you down the path to addiction or alcoholism. It’s about becoming a better person and giving back to the community.

So if you’ve just stopped drinking and that’s it, you’re in a dry drunk. You’re still engaging in the same patterns and behaviors you were when you were drinking, you’re just doing them sober.

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