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About TwelveDrawings

[Content verified as being up-to-date by TwelveDrawings in 2018.] is a "Thank You" to my Higher Power

This website is not really about art. It is about Twelve Step recovery. I am not a professional artist and these drawings are not for sale. They are the result of a spiritual experience that has re-formed me.

NOTE: If you are not familiar with the Twelve Steps of recovery from alcohol, drugs, or behavior-based addictions, this website is not an introduction or explanation. If you want an introduction to Twelve Step recovery, go to the official website of a national group. Some are included in the "Other Helpful Sites" list (lower right).

If you are already in a Twelve Step program, please ignore anything you see here that does not align with the conference-approved literature in your particular program.

Drawing Attention to "Old-School" Twelve Step Words

I was born with the ability to draw. But for twenty years, my pen produced nothing more than a few nonsensical doodles. Then one day, I looked down and saw the "Serenity" drawing emerge from my pen. It was as startling as if the family dog suddenly stood on its hind legs and calmly recited Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.

At that time, I had been in recovery for perhaps a year. I was surprised when more and more drawings sprang forth—it was inexplicable. Where were they coming from and where were they going? Then I remembered that people in Twelve Step meetings commonly offer "personal shares" or short talks. I recognized that my drawings were my own form of personal share. Not special; just different.

"Old School"

My ink drawings are out of step with a world of colorful, high-resolution, PhotoShop images. To be honest, the reason I create old-school pen and ink drawings is because I don't know how to create anything else. The archaic style seems appropriate, since the subject is old-school Twelve Step recovery. Whether you know or care about alcohol or addiction recovery, I hope you will glance through these illustrations. Downloads are free IF they are for your PERSONAL use only. 

About the Artist
This artist remains anonymous. Maybe that sounds intriguing or mysterious, but it shouldn't. In Twelve Step recovery, anonymity is the spiritual basis of all Twelve Step Traditions (see Tradition Twelve). So while my identity is not really a secret, I am remaining anonymous to please the Higher Power that got me sober.
          The particular programs I belong to remain anonymous as well. Each Twelve Step group deals with a distinct "Problem", but their common "Solution" is found in its original form in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Thanks to the "Big Book Comes Alive" recordings by Joe and Charlie, that has become very clear to me. (More about Joe & Charlie here )

There are "Artist's Comments" Below Individual Illustrations
As time permits, I am adding Artist's Comments to each drawing. There is not text with every drawing yet, so you may have to poke around to discover all of them. My comments explain exactly what that image meant to me in my recovery, for whatever that is worth. If you do not wish to read the comments, I suggest you not scroll down and, instead, simply enjoy the drawings alone.

There are seven completed sets of TwelveDrawings, which are:

• Twelve Words from the Serenity Prayer - this title is self-explanatory

• Twelve Steps - one key word from each of the Steps

• Twelve Traditions - one key word from each of the Twelve Traditions

• Twelve Promises - one key word from each of the Promises

• Twelve Metaphors - metaphors (or verbal imagery) used in the Big Book of AA

• Twelve Insanities - words taken from the Big Book description of alcoholic insanity (p. 37)

• Religious or Not? - twelve words taken from the 1934 Webster Dictionary definition of "religion"

Only four of the above sets are included in the website. More may be added in the future. Some of the new drawings can be seen in my Twitter profile.

My ideas arise from prayer and meditation. Sometimes, the emerging illustrations startle me. Certain drawings (like "Courage") make my eyes brim with emotions every time I see them. My hair stands up as if God was pressing nearer to see. For that reason alone, I have continued.

I have deliberately tried to avoid using classic symbols. For example, there are no mythical or Biblical images such as an angel hovering in the air while wielding a fiery sword. I wanted each drawing to contain things I have seen in real life—or reasonably might. That was important to me, because that's how Recovery was for me: drawn from real life. So, instead of mythical figures, there is a fairly ordinary looking squirrel in the Twelve Steps "Ready" drawing. His energetic leap is a visual reminder of a leap of faith I took in Step 6: feeling exhilerated and entirely READY for whatever was coming next. 

I hope you enjoy looking at the drawings. I hope they may make some small contribution to living better Today. I hope you will keep coming back.


NOTE: All of my drawings and written material are protected by ©opyrights and I take those rights seriously. You may download whatever drawings or text you want for personal use. Any other use or reuse will require specific permission, obtained in advance by writing to [email protected] . National Twelve Step Organizations welcome and will be charged nothing for the use of my art when arranged in advance. All Twelve Traditions will be maintained.

Who Are "Joe and Charlie"?

[Content verified as being up-to-date by TwelveDrawings in 2020.]

You will see several references on this site to "Joe & Charlie". Their names are sometimes heard at local Twelve Step meetings. So, who exactly are Joe and Charlie? They were two long-recovered alcoholics who traveled the world for several decades, sharing their insights into the Big Book of AA. Because all Twelve Step programs are derived from the AA Big Book, I suspect their recordings might help anyone in ANY Twelve Step program....not just AA.

The Big Book Study (officially called "The Big Book Comes Alive") recordings are not conference-approved literature. Any sponsee interested in listening to the series should ask their sponsor first. I can recommend the talks with confidence because many long-sober speakers have openly given credit to Joe and Charlie with their own recovery. I have heard people say said they never really "got" how Twelve Step recovery works until they heard the free-wheeling and good-natured recordings of Joe P and Charlie McQ. I know that was true for me. 

To say it more clearly, Joe and Charlie's talks saved my life. When I first got into recovery, I could not really grasp what I was reading and I did not get sober. I was about to give up and go back out there. My kindly mother startled me by mailing me a complete set of the recordings. At first, I scoffed. Then, I listened. Honestly, I doubt I would be alive today if I had not heard that Old-School message carried directly to me by Joe and Charlie's talks.

Joe and Charlie inspired my habit of looking up recovery-related words in the dictionary. Listening to two rough-hewn men casually discussing the Latin roots of the word "resentment" was stunning at first (i.e., I was startled to learn that to "resent" meant to "feel again". I had always inventoried my resentments as if the word meant to simply feel angry. With a new and more historically accurate definition in mind, the resentment inventory became much more powerful for me.) Bringing such mental discipline reading the Big Book had never occurred to me. Joe and Charlie's lifelong search for recovery in the Big Book still inspires me today through their recordings.

This website is dedicated to the tireless work of Joe and Charlie, and the others behind the scenes who helped them carry their Message to thousands like me.

Joe McQ passed away October 25th, 2007. Another gentleman (coincidentally named Joe) continued presenting the Big Book Study with Charlie P until the latter died in April of 21, 2011. All three of these men gave voluntarily of their time for many years, helping others gain a better understanding of the practice and history of Twelve Step recovery.

Listening to Big Book Study recordings cannot change the importance of thoroughly reading the Big Book or your own recovery program's literature. But because the complete series of recordings lasts many hours, I believe only the most devoted sponsor could duplicate all the careful review of the Twelve Step process that is presented in these talks. 

If you go looking for these recordings online or elsewhere, you will probably find numerous versions of them. The exact content of Joe & Charlie's discussions changed surprisingly little over the years—I notice that recordings from the 1980s sound remarkably similar to talks given decades later. I suspect the pair saw many lives being saved by their original talk and made a strenuous effort not to change it for fear of "spoiling" its good results.

•  Here is a link to FREE MP3 downloads up-to-date Joe & Charlie Big Book Studies: 

I personally got sober while listening to one of the earliest recordings which included Joe McQ. However, the core remained very similar throughout the decades of recordings, including the ones made after Joe McQ passed away. I happen to prefer the 1987 talk because it included Joe McQ in his full vibrancy at which charges for some recordings and has no financial or other connection to my website.

[Update as of January 2020: I have found a site that ofers the original Joe McQ and Charlie recording at no charge]

DISCLAIMER: None of the above sites endorse my site, nor can I guarantee their current availability. Naturally, you may do your own search for Joe and Charlie's Big Book Study (officially titled "The Big Book Comes Alive").

May we meet you as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny. God Bless you and keep you until then.


Religious or Not?

[Content verified as being up-to-date by TwelveDrawings in 2018.]

I have begun a new series of TwelveDrawings titled "ReligiousOrNot". Here's why.

The Twelve Steps were published in the year 1939 in a book titled Alcoholics Anonymous (known commonly as the Big Book). Among its 500-plus pages, the word "God" appears nearly 300 times. I myself would assume that any book containing that many references to God must be a very, very religious book. (A nit-picker might easily argue against my assumption. There are many books which examine that word from a purely historical, academic, or cultural perspective without promoting any religious beliefs. And there are many books which might mention that word in passing while attacking any or all institutions of religion.) Still, I believe that the notion that where there is smoke there is fire. Likewise, where a book has the word "God" mentioned in a positive context on so many of its pages, there is bound to be some sort of religious message being delivered.

Or so I once believed.

Now that I have spent more than a decade reading and using the book Alcoholics Anonymous, I no longer believe the word "religious" applies to it. If you agree with me, there are many of us. If you disagree, there are as many (or more) who feel as you do. You may also fall into the sizable "Frankly I don't care either way" category. That's fine. Reasonable people often disagree.

For those of us interested in the question of "Religious or Not?", how are we to settle our differences? When lawyers disagree on the meaning of an important word, they agree to turn to a volume called called Black's Law Dictionary. I had never heard of it until a friend and law professor mentioned it. The book is so authoritative that even the Justices of America's Supreme Court turn to for an indisputible definition of any legal term. Want to see it? Here is a link

As it happens, the Big Book's author, Bill Wilson, attended law school. He passed all of his courses but his drinking took a turn for the worse and he never practiced law. Bill likely knew of Black's Law Dictionary but he also knew that only a fraction of his intended readers—the lawyers—would know of it. So, if Bill Wilson's readers wanted to look up the meaning of a word like "religion", he knew they would turn to a commonly available dictionary. Since I wanted to interpret words just as Bill's earliest 1939 readers did, I acquired the most authoritative dictionary for American English in his day: a Webster's New International Dictionary Second Edition, published in 1934. (The Third Edition would not be published until the 1960s).

I opened my enormous old Webster's and looked up the word "religion". There I found a definition that is longer than any other I have ever found since that day. It read as follows:

Religion n. - The service and adoration of God or a god as expressed in forms of worship, in obedience to divine commands, esp. as found in accepted sacred writings or as declared by recognized teachers and in the pursuit of a way of life regarded as incumbent on true believers.

Whew! I labored to read and understand it. Some words came quickly while others came slowly. I knew the job of defining religion would be challenging, but this one must have kept Webster's lexicographers, etymologists, and editors working overtime. This definition seemed to ramble endlessly, which thwarted my ambition to create just one illustration for this very important word. I had been prepared for a tough assignment, but not for this!

Intimidated, I backed down from the original concept. I let several months pass while I ruminated. Finally, I reapproached the definition but this time examinging just one word at a time. My previous illustrations had focussed on the words Bill Wilson used in writing the Big Book. However, Bill Wilson had absolutely nothing do do with writing this Webster's definition. Still, the definition seemed relevant because when anyone used the word "religion" in Bill Wilson's day, this was the most widely accepted meaning and therefore its words deserved consideration. I sifted through the long passage and selected what I thought were the 12 most crucial words. I then looked each one up in the 1934 Webster's:

Service n. - the occupation, condition, or status of a servant, now esp. a domestic servant.

Adoration  n. - act of paying honor to a divine being

God (or a god) n. - the Supreme Being (or a being of more than human attributes)

Express v. - to force out by pressure

Worship n. - courtesy or reverence paid to merit or worth

Command n. - act of directing authoritatively

Writings n. - specif., act, art, or product of forming letters and characters on paper, wood, stone, etc. to record the ideas which characters and words express, or to communicate them by words or sounds.

Teacher n. - one who makes to know how

Pursuit v. - to seek

Way n. - direction of motion, progress, facing, pointing, etc.

Incumbent n. - one who is in present possession of a benefice (note: “benefice” is a temporary land holding) or of any office

True adj. - steady in adhering to friends, promises, allegiances, or the like

Maybe you would have chosen one or two different words. But bear in mind that I am an illustrator and I chose words that would benefit from what the ancients called "illumination" (i.e., visual embellishments or decorations which invite the reader to linger or reflect on particularly meaningful words or text.)

Regardless, I had found the basis for a new set of Twelve Drawings. I gave the new set a working title of "ReligionOrNot". I chose that name to reflect a long-running debate about whether people in Recovery are "religious" or not. Even outside of Recovery, I often hear people describe their own beliefs as "spiritual, but not religious". I also chose this name to acknowledge the biggest question of all......."Does it even matter whether we agree that Recovery is religious or not, as long as it works?"

You can ask that question yourself. Or not. If someone asks me today, I confidently answer "doesn't matter". But my trusty Webster's dictionary has shed much new light on my view of Twelve Step recovery. So I am open to being proven totallly wrong. I have begun the new set of drawings and will continue at my usual glacial pace. (I draw in my spare time and spare time is hard to find.) Please check my Twitter profile at @TwelveDrawings if you wish to see new drawings—like "Command"—as they are completed.

As I finish each "Religious or Not?" drawing, I will post it in my Twitter profile which is @twelvedrawings.

Thank you for reading. And please keep coming back to whatever religion, belief, spiritual experience, and/or program of Recovery nourishes your spirit.



TRIVIA: There are five prior sets of series, including Serenity Prayer, Twelve Steps, Twelve Promises, Twelve Metaphors, and Twelve Insanities. All but the last set are already posted on this website as of this writing. The Insanities will be added when I begin a monthly rotation which showcases just three sets of TwelveDrawings at a time.

Update from TwelveDrawings for 2018

[Content verified as being up-to-date by TwelveDrawings in 2018.]

HEY ARTIST, ARE YOU STILL ALIVE? — As of December 30, 2017, I am very alive and gratefully still sober. I am late middle-aged and not likely to die of old age soon. For now, I am physically healthy and relatively sane. I post regularly on Twitter, so if you see @TwelveDrawings is active, that means I am still breathing.

ARE YOU STILL SOBER? — As 2018 approaches, I am sober Today. I started my drawings in about 2007 and put up this site in 2011. By the grace of God, I have been sober all of that time. For me, a million sober yesterdays would not prove I could "coast" in my sobriety work Today. 

HOW DID YOU DO IT? — I didn't. My Higher Power did. At my very first meeting, they closed with the words, "It works if you work it but you've got to work it ever day." That is the most concrete and practical suggestion I know of, other than the Steps themselves.

ARE YOU STILL MAKING NEW DRAWINGS? — No. After completing six sets of "TwelveDrawings" (a total of 72 illustrations), I felt I was finished; I stopped drawing as abruptly as I started. Four of those sets of drawings are currently posted on this site. I would have gladly put up the other two sets, but I can't remember how that is done. (Lame, I know.) You can get a peek at some of those later drawings in my Twitter photos @TwelveDrawings.

WHY DOES THIS SITE NEVER CHANGE? — Unfortunately, I have not updated it much and it is very flawed from a technology perspective. Sometimes, when you open a page, there is a huge pink area filled with red letters, characters, and numbers. I don't know how to fix that glitch, but if click "refresh" in your browser once or twice, it will fix itself.

Progress, not perfection.





Who Says There are Twelve Metaphors?

No one thinks of there being "Twelve Metaphors" in the Big Book of AA besides me

This is your fair warning. If you ever mention the "Twelve Metaphors" to anyone in a Twelve Step meeting, they will not know what you are talking about. The idea that there are twelve metaphors is based on my own observations. Please do NOT regard this idea as an official or traditional interpretation of the Big Book of AA. It is not. Period.

The Big Book is littered with descriptions of people and situations. While many of those mentioned in the text are known to be based on people who Bill Wilson personally knew, others appear to have been invented simply to make a point. A good example is the quirky Jay-walker who dashed around in busy street traffic (BB p.37). Another is a man sinking hopelessly into quicksand (BB p.8). Another is an actor who insists on directing the play he is starring in (BB p. 60). I doubt that these descriptions are based on real events in Bill's life. I suspect he created them to help make a point. These vivid scenarios served that purpose, teaching me important lessons about recovery. I asked an English major what to call fictional ideas that illustrate an important truth. She thought for a moment, then said that the proper word was "metaphor".

Once I started looking, I found numerous metaphors in the Big Book. Some were familiar facts or phrases that I had heard elsewhere, like "In the prize ring, this would be called leading with the chin." (BB p.77). He writes that a certain alcoholic "is like a boy whistling in the dark to keep up his spirits." Bill wrote about Christopher Columbus proving that the world is round (BB p.51).

However, I chose to focus on those unique scenarios that Bill probably invented for his own use. For example, Bill described a drowning man grasping for a slender reed (BB p.28). I doubt he ever experienced that. He talked about the plight of men who have lost their legs (BB p.30). Bill still had both of his legs. He spoke in detail about people who survived the sinking of an ocean liner. I doubt that Bill or anyone he knew had ever been rescued after a shipwreck—though the sinking of the Titanic was well known (BB p.17). Bill made use of metaphors that everyday people could relate to during the  late 1930s. Happily for us, most remain remarkably understandable today*.

I do not claim that Bill W. deliberately included Twelve Metaphors—that is not supported by any facts. But I once heard a long-recovered person say "I have to re-read the Big Book often to discover those new parts that seem to appear in it overnight." Bill's use of various metaphors have often helped me expand my understanding of his Message as I go back over the literature. I try to bring those insights to life through my illustrations. Renewing and deepending my connection to the Big Book remains a vital part of my own daily recovery.


* "The nip of the wringer" (BB p.43) is Bill's way of describing a near miss with trouble. An example would be getting stopped by the police for DUI, but before reaching your car window, the policeman gets called away to stop a bank robbery. You deserved the punishment that was coming, but somehow you were spared. "Nip of the wringer" was probably a very common figure of speech in the 1930s. The wringer being mentioned was a hazardous mechanical roller on clothes washing machines at that time. However, such wringers are  outdated today. In the Artist's Comments for my "The Wringer" drawing, I explain why I included it among the Twelve Metaphors.

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