Andrew: I’m excited to have on the phone with me today David Boland the owner of Rellennium LLC located in Irvine, California. Now Rellennium publishes the Big Book Basic Training video series and David is the author of the Big Book Basic Training Workshop. Thank you so much David for joining us at Serene Scene Magazine today.
David: Thank you, it’s good to be here.
Andrew: I want to start this interview by asking you about your history, and what has happened to you in your life to lead you to this place, where you are today.
David: Okay, I’ll start with my back story. I was raised by a couple alcoholics so you’re going to hear some Al-Anon In my story. My older brother and sister were alcoholics. I became an alcoholic and it was pretty much a typical story. What led me to AA in my late 20s was for the most part, broken relationships and, like the Big Book says, failed attempts to stop drinking led me in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.
So I didn’t come to AA because of criminal activity or things like that. It was mostly failed attempts to stop drinking. So the first time I joined AA was in 1991. I got a sponsor, I was ready, I was willing to do what it took to get sober. I got this sponsor and he was very much into the fellowship, the unity and service. And I think we spent a couple months together, at no point did he sit me down and say okay let’s go through the steps in the Big Book or anything.
We did a lot of socializing and then a lot of arguing. And I didn’t understand what it was all about. So he and I got into some arguments and I ended up drifting away from him and eventually went back out.
So I went out for a couple more years. In 1994, I returned to AA, got a sponsor again, this time actually worked the steps. It was a pretty quick process. I would call it watered down, maybe. I went to a meeting every day for three years. I went to Joe and Charlie in my first year and saw them down in San Diego, that was interesting. My big takeaway was that the program and the steps are in the Big Book. And I felt after seeing them that I was an expert. Yet at the same time, I hadn’t gone through the steps in the book, and honestly didn’t even know they were in there. And I was going to step meetings and Big Book meetings.
And about three years sober, a guy approached me at a meeting. And he was saying things to me like, it sounds like you know a lot about the Big Book. And I said, yeah, yeah, I saw Joe and Charlie. And he said, do you know what altruism is? And I said no. And he had his Big Book in his hand and he said, yeah, right here, there’s the first two letters and the doctor’s opinion. And he started talking about things about the Big Book and I could see immediately that I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to the Big Book, talking to this guy. And he was a cool guy and he said hey, if you’d like you can come over to my house and I’ll sit and I’ll read the book to you and we’ll go through the steps as we go. And he said a lot of very interesting things to me that I had not heard before. He said things like, well, if it says it in black and white, as we read the book, if it says you need to do something, then you’ll do it. If it doesn’t say you need to do something in the book then you don’t need to do it. And I really liked that because he also explained to me that the first 100 people to get sober wrote the book to capture how to work the steps. So he was saying things that I had not heard.
And so I went over to his house. Every time I went over he said put aside three hours. It won’t take three hours, but put aside three hours. I drove three towns away to get to his house. And the first meeting, we went through the doctors opinion and I really liked what I heard.
It was very rich meat and potatoes information coming through when he talked and explained what the book was saying. So after that, I went over to his house. We did Bill’s story, and we went along and worked the steps. And I had three guys at the time I was sponsoring, we were kind of driving each other crazy.
And as he took me through a chapter, I’d take all three of those guys through a chapter. And I took them through the steps as we went. I know two of the three are still sober. And as the years rolled on, I took dozens of guys through this process. And it was sort of a cumbersome process. It would take 20 to 30 hours. You include travel time and start to make appointments with these guys and have them come over. And I loved it but it was a lot of work. And I could see a lot of the guys I worked with, when it came to them working with people, some did and some didn’t. And I could see why the ones who didn’t, didn’t. They weren’t confident in their ability to carry the message. Although they had the template to actually sponsor people, they wouldn’t. And so that’s sort of the backdrop.
Okay, in 2001 I got my bachelor’s in business and management information systems.
The big thing I learned through that was pretty much you gather information, you store it, and then you present it in meaningful ways. And then in 2012 I got my Masters in Technology Systems. When I was taking graduate level statistics, I ended up watching some video teaching, video learning videos on Khan Academy, if anybody’s familiar with that. Where they have series of videos that the guy starts out by explaining why do we study statistics right on through the mechanics of breaking down Everything about statistics with videos, not just audio or not just reading. And I found myself, I would watch a video, there were five minute videos sequential building on each other.
And then I would watch a video, go eat a sandwich, come back, watch the video again, and each time I watched it I learned more and more. And I found it just an awesome way to learn things that would otherwise be very difficult. Like if you look at a teacher, you go into class in college, you listen to the teacher, if you don’t get it, you’ve got one shot and So this whole idea of recording, I did my masters online and we would record, just about every class I went to we would record it.
And you can go back. But I also found that you would have an hour and a half lecture. And you’d have to go and find where they were talking about. The different topics when you wanted to go in and listen to a 30-second or 1-minute piece. It was hard to go in and, there was no catalog.
In my master’s also I learned to make videos. And at the same time, I’m taking guys through this process, this 12-step process, and it’s a lot of work. And I thought, years and years ago I thought, it’d be nice to have a video that explained all this stuff, and a workbook that went with it.
So I graduated, and At one point I said to my wife, I’d like to make a video, and of the doctor’s opinion, that the first chapter in the Big Book, and then put it in front of some guys to see how they respond. So I made the doctor’s opinion, it’s about a half hour long, and I brought some newcomers over. I had a tablet, you can actually hook it up to the TV, and which is what I have in my kit, so you can watch these videos on the TV. And I’d leave the room, I’d turn on the doctor’s opinion and I’d leave the room. And I’d come back a half hour later, and I’d say, what did you think?
They loved it, and as I got more chapters done, I would bring guys over and have them watch it When I got done with the doctor’s opinion, do you want to watch Bill’s story. Yeah, yeah, they were pulled right into it. I could see that it would definitely work. These guys would absolutely love the videos.
Andrew: So backing up a bit, it seems as if you got sober at age 31. Is that about right? 22 years ago now.
David: 30, yeah.
Andrew: Age 30, okay. And then you went back to school. I guess you returned to Connecticut to go back to school, at age 32?
Andrew: What is it that caused you to decide, you know what, I need to go back to school. I need to learn something here.
David: I was going to meetings and I was sitting and talking to people who were going to college, and I was a blue-collar worker. I had been in manufacturing all my life. Worked on the shop floor as a sheet metal fabricator, and these guys were going to school. I’d sit in Denny’s after meetings, and there would be these people going to school, like how do you do that? And I’d always been interested in what is that? Getting an education, I didn’t know what a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree was. And I got laid off from my job, so things weren’t going well professionally. There was a lot of competition here in Southern California for the lower level jobs and I could see it was only going to get worse with automation. Offshoring in the mid 90s wasn’t a big thing yet, but I had a sense that things weren’t going to go well, so I ended up going back to school. I moved back to Connecticut and just took out loans, did the deal. Went back to school, and study for four years and got my bachelors.
The first time I held the tablet in my hand, for the first time, I was like 18 years sober, and I finished the tablet and I turned it on. The tablet meaning we’ll actually have the video series embedded in the tablet. There’s four gigs of data, and all the videos. And there’s an application that brings up the cataloging menu.
I held it in my hand and I looked at it, and I could see that he used me. God had used me, and all these degrees, it’s interesting you bring that up, that I’m working in manufacturing and I’m getting degrees in business, and computers, and technology. I’m running warehouses and I get a master’s in technology systems. There was a plan, I think. For me, to get all these degrees and learn all this stuff. If that makes sense.
Andrew: You know, obviously the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous has been a huge factor in your life and in your recovery. I’m interested to know from you, what do you think it is about the Big Book and about the fellowship that really connects with you and grounds you and inspires you to carry through with this work that you are doing today.
David: I think that being raised by alcoholics we’re very resourceful. I’ve been in Al-Anon 22 years. I find that we’re problem solvers. That when I came into AA, I was very interested the first time and this time. What do I have to do? Tell me what to do and people weren’t telling me. It seemed. And they weren’t. So I remember my first sponsor said to me one time, you sound like you’re looking for a book on life and I said, yeah I kind of am. And to me, the Big Book, when this guy sat down and read it to me and took me through the steps in it, it shows me how to use my mind, how to use my time. How to have a common purpose of what is my function? That I actually have a function, and it’s not just this scattery willy-nilly approach to things, I don’t like that. I like, tell me exactly what to do, and with AA I found that there is such a book, and it tells me exactly what to do.
And as far as the fellowship goes, I remember one time I was sitting in an Al-Anon meeting, and it was in the basement of a church in Manchester, Connecticut. And I looked over, and they were having a food drive. They had all these tables, these fold-out tables with boxes of food and it dawned on me that what this church does is it gives these people this opportunity to serve this community, to be part of the whole and I find that. Right there I got it. It was like my problem with Alcoholism is that I feel I’m separate from the whole, from mankind, from society, from the oneness. I feel I’m separate from, and that’s my dilemma. And AA gives me an opportunity to step back into the oneness, the fold, the society, and then serve it in a way where the power graced direction flows to me and through me to others. It gives me everything I need, certainly from a spiritual standpoint.
Andrew: Spirituality is a huge component of recovery and especially when you’re following the teachings of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. How have you sought out that spiritual enlightenment and what has worked for you?
David: In the morning meditation, when we retire at the night, we constructively review our day. And I wasn’t being constructive, I was beating myself up. I’ve got an ego and it chatters to me all day long. So I’m using, I’m always wrong and I’m always this and I’m always that. I was in an Al-Anon meeting, and a guy came up to me, well actually, I was looking into share in a meeting, and he was talking about love and peace and joy, and all these things and I approached him after the meeting, I didn’t know him well at all. And I said what are you doing? You sound like you’re really doing something interesting. What was coming through was a lot of love and joy and peace, and so he said, he studied a course in miracles. And I was like, what’s that? So he showed it to me.
I read a couple of sentences, and I immediately recognized the voice that was in this book. It’s like a 1,300 page document that was channeled by a woman in New York in the 1970s. And I recognized the voice, the personality that was coming through the book in a book I had read that was written in 1932 by some people in the Oxford group called God Calling and it’s actually the first daily reader, if you trace back to the first daily reader before AA. I mean, I asked the group if they actually had a daily reader called God Calling.
If you read that book, it’s the same personality that came through in the Course of Miracles like 50 years later. Back to God Calling, is it’s a daily reader. These two women would sit down and they’d ask for a group. They’d wake up in the morning and in groups of two, they would sit and meditate with paper and pencil and write down what came to their minds. And this one woman was really doing some heavy channeling and they brought that channeling to AJ Russell who had written what was the Oxford Group Big Book, they had kind of a similar book in the Oxford Group called For Sinners Only. AJ Russell had written that book, so they bought and they channeled to AJ, and he had written this book.
So anyway, this same voice, I could see it 50 years later coming through in this Course of Miracles and I was completely drawn to this book, and so I’ve been studying that for 15 years. And that really expanded my mind and consisted incredibly gentle pendulum swung the other way from constantly judging myself and beating myself up to the whole idea that I’m a child of God and that I’m innocent and I could go on for hours about, you know, about what the Course in Miracles says about being a child of God and innocent and that sort of thing.
So I go to Course in Miracles meetings. Even when I built Big Book Basic Training, I even built a three-hour video series that explains the Course in Miracles. So I actually also offer that on my website for people that are ready for it.
To me, 12-step recovery is like grade school. The Course of Miracles is like getting a PhD in spirituality. So it is not for everybody, but I made that video series and it helps me a lot, watching those video. I was watching this morning, I mean they really help. What does it mean to be a child of God? I mean there’s a book written, it’s 13,000 pages that flushes it out. What does that mean? And who am I? And what am I? What does it mean to be a spiritual being?
Andrew: Now you decided at some point to devote your life to an idea, the Big Book Basic Training video series. When did that occur and why did that occur?
David: I watched Brandon’s family go to AA, go to 12 step recovery and I watched them go in and not be able to understand what’s going on. Getting to the meat of what exactly to do, going through those steps in the Big Book, it’s very evasive, it’s very ambiguous. I’m not sure what words to use to describe how I watched so many people come in and leave because they can’t grasp what it’s all about and I watched many of them suffer and die. We see the actors, the musicians and so when I was studying to get my Masters and I learned how to make the videos and you know, used video learning, I said, why don’t I create these products, you know, create some products, some tools, why don’t I create some tools, That will streamline this process.
And it was through a lot of suffering and watching people suffer, and knowing that the tools could be made, that eventually, it just came together. And so, being a business major, you pilot, I put together the doctor’s opinion and showed it to people and their response and the more videos I got done, the more I showed to people, the more confirmation I got that I was on the right track.
Andrew: It seems that this was really a calling for you. You describe your life story in such a manner that it seems like all of the pieces fell into place. I mean, this is what you were meant to do.
David: Yes. For years I didn’t know what I was doing and it’s nice to have a purpose and a function. I say nice… it’s everything! And I was given a purpose and a function when I was taken through the steps in the Big Book. I then had the template, I could duplicate and transmit a very solid message and I want that for other people. I’m watching these people come into AA, Al-Anon and NA and OA and GA and there’s no need for them to not have something that will make it very easy for them: organized, convenient, there’s no reason for that not to exist, so I built it.
Andrew: I’ve seen many of the videos that you’ve produced, and the quality is terrific. It seems to me like these videos are an extension of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I don’t see a whole lot of artistic license in it. You’re basically explaining what the Big Book says. And congratulations on that work, you’ve done a terrific job in producing these.
David: Thank you, I’m glad you like it.
Andrew: How do you find that people react to these videos when they are watching them and maybe they haven’t had a whole lot of exposure to the Big Book or maybe they’ve had exposure to the Big Book but in a way that really maybe wasn’t the intent of the Big Book, if you know what I mean.
David: Well, there’s a whole spectrum here. On one side of the spectrum you’ve got people that have not been introduced to AA or Twelve Step Recovery or NA or Alanon, or anything. And they’re very open, they sit and they get drawn right into it. I find that people that have been around AA a long time, that either they loved Big Book basic training, or they hate it because it’s not what they did.
Some of them don’t understand the technology, and all it is is a simple video series with a workbook. Many don’t understand the material in the Big Book, but think they do. It’s like they don’t know what they don’t know, and that was what I alluded to, a little bit.
When I met this guy, my fifth sponsor, that he immediately showed me I didn’t know that I didn’t know. And he immediately helped me know. I didn’t know what I was talking about. And so some people become offended, like, how dare you suggest that I don’t know the Big Book and the product isn’t about them. It’s about the newcomers that are coming in and how do we make it so that, the earlier in sobriety or recovery they come in, the more open their mind is. That we actually have something we can put in front of them that is very user friendly and they can just kind of like, drink it in, and really digest.
All these concepts, principles, they have the instructions. So, one thing I have to say about it is, when I put it in front of people, I can see most of them, it takes a minute, days for them to really grasp, what is this thing? I can’t believe that you made this thing.
That looking at the tall catalogs I find that I have a knack for organizing, and long-term projects, big scope, big picture projects like this, this was a huge production and they just, my god. I was at the convention a couple weeks ago and people were like, more than half of them were like, my god, I can’t believe that you actually went and built this thing. And I’m like yeah, and I can see it coming through the way you’re talking about it. It’s like yeah, something drove me. To step back and just write the scripts, and it was so much work. So I put in front of people, some absolutely just love it and have to have it, and it clicks for them, and they get the value immediately.
And then others maybe never will. Unless they see it used around them, if they see the results, people using it and seeing how easy it is, and how enthusiastic they are about it. Then eventually, maybe they’ll come around.
Andrew: One of the things I found to be really convenient in the video series is the cataloging that you’re referring to. And some people that are listening or reading this article may not understand what that’s all about. So can you explain how you’ve used technology to build this catalog into the video series?
David: Well, one of the things that’s very elusive in the Big Book is delineating between where one step ends in the Big Book and the next step starts. So when you look at Big Book Basic Training, when you pull up the app, there’s a video drop down menu. Simply numbered 1 through 12, so you have your 12 steps. So the first four chapters of the Big Book are the first step. So if you click on step one, up comes those four chapters.
You click on the chapter, like the doctor’s opinion, and there’s 13, it drops down to 13. You can go in, you can start reading the first letter. You can go in, you can start reading the second letter. You can click on who wrote the AA Big Book. You can click on why is it important to know who wrote the AA Big Book.
So there’s over 150 of these different Pieces that you can go in and see topics, which topic. Most importantly, when you go to the fourth step, you click on step four, up comes the three inventories, the resentment inventory, the fear inventory, and the sex inventory. You can click on the resent inventory and it explains in the Big Book by column as you do one column at a time, as the person fills out each column at a time. And it’s so convenient because they can go back, well, I left off at the second column last week. I’m going to start the third column this week. Then they can go right back to that third column, and watch that video. And the third column, as you may know, is the most complicated material in the AA Big Book. That’s where it gets into the pride, and pocketbook, and the seven characteristics of self, and it’s like a 13-minute video that expounds on each of those. So you can go in and really and, like me, with the graduate level statistics, they can go in, and they can watch these Watch that video over and over.
And then, as you know, they’ll write out their third column. By the time they’re done, they’ll have mastered that material. And that’s the goal. And then if they go to a meeting, or they’re working with somebody, they can totally explain it effectively. Because they’ve learned it and mastered it.
Another interesting thing that people can do is like, if they’re going to the Big Book study meeting tonight and this week it’s the chapter more on alcoholism we’re going to read and talk about, they can watch the video. It’s a half hour video, before the meeting, and go in and really get right into what that chapter says. Not sit in a meeting where a bunch of people are sitting around guessing what that chapter is saying. And what it means to their life. That chapter explains the obsession, and that’s what they, I believe, should be talking about for the newcomers. So anyways, it can be used.
There’s so many applications and ways to chunk out and focus on different topics, and the cataloging tool is such a convenient, useful, valuable tool to help people master this material.
Andrew: How do people find this information? Where do they go?
Andrew: Now I want to ask you a final question here, because there’s a lot of folks out there that still haven’t found recovery and we’ve been speaking a great deal about how Big Book Basic Training will really assist people when they are trying to explore the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and understand it and live by its guiding principles. But for those that haven’t been exposed to the Big Book, what advice do you have for them?
David: Get access to the video series. Go to BigBookBasicTraining.com. Then start from step one, the doctor’s opinion, and watch the videos in order. And when you’re done, as you go, you can work the steps, you can get the workbook and go through the steps as you go. Find somebody, preferably a sponsor in your respective 12-step program that you can read your fist up to, and then when you’re done, use it to sponsor people. Use it to help other people. And that will be your function and purpose. And your mind will expand beyond anything you could ever imagine.
Andrew: David Boland, owner at Rellennium LLC and publisher of the Big Book Basic Training video series. I want to thank you for joining us here at Serene Scene Magazine today and sharing your life story as well as your passion with all of us. Thank you so much.
David: Thank you Andrew