Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

12 steps: Joe and Charlie’s Big Book Study

Next time you’re raking the leaves or scrubbing the floor, pop this series of MP3s on the CD player or iPod and have a listen…

You can get them on the Silkworth website.

AcceptanceJoe and Charlie are recovered alcoholics who for a long time ran very popular old-school Big Book seminars across the country. The Silkworth series was recorded live in front of an audience in 1998, so it contains a distillation of decades of wisdom and experience—they’d been doing this for a long time. (Apparently Joe passed away in the mid-2000s.)

One of them is from Arkansas and one of them is from Oklahoma, so they have fantastic accents and the Southerner’s gift for gab. … As Charlie says in his introduction, they don’t consider themselves to be gurus, or to speak for that fellowship:

We’re just two old drunks, met together several years ago, found we had a mutual interest in the Big Book. We studied it together for quite some time. Hopefully we’ve learned a few things about it. And those few things we’ve learned about it—we just love to be able to share them with other people.

Charlie is the Alpha-dog, and he talks more than Joe. But when Charlie gives Joe a word in edgewise, Joe usually has something real good to say. Here he is on the sexual inventory:

I look back in my life and when I was about 12 or 13 years old, I got to thinkin about this a lot. I mean A LOT. Almost gave me brain damage from thinkin about it. So I went to my mom and I said, “Mom . . . I been thinkin about this sex thing.” She said, “Oh my God, Benny Joe”—scared her to death. That’s my name—Benny Joe. She said, “Oh my God, Benny Joe, that’s not a good thing to be thinkin about. Fact, it’s a dirty rotten filthy thing to be thinkin about,” she said. “And you oughta save it for the one you love.”

“Think about that,” he says, as people laugh and groan simultaneously.

I can’t remember now who recommended I try out Joe and Charlie’s Big Book Study, but whoever it was, I’m grateful to them. It was very early in recovery, maybe even during my detox. Thank god for the Internet, where I could get the files immediately, for free. I used to play them back to back while I was in post-acute withdrawal, sitting in the hot bath trying not to feel frozen, or dragging my butt around, trying to do my days, just putting one foot in front of the other. They made me laugh and they reminded me that it can be done: We Do Recover.

The whole series is 35 chapters long. Go for it. And take a look at the other offerings on Silkworth while you’re at it.


  1. I have these on my MP3 player and thoroughly enjoy them.

  2. I have them and have listened to them over and over. I believe that Joe died last year. They were quite a pair.

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