Alcoholics Anonymous Origins and Early History
The Dim View; Myths the Darkness Spawned; the Gaps; and the Facts Research Unearthed
Part One by Dick B.
Copyright 2011 Anonymous. All rights reserve
The Strange, Dimly Lit, Unexplained Ideas I Heard From the “Wisdom of the Rooms
The observations here represent no attempt to square them with some theology or religious conclusion. They represent my own experience, maintaining sobriety, and attending meetings.
When my mind began to clear with ongoing sobriety, I kept asking myself these questions:
1) Where did this “higher power” come from, and how did it get such a grip on recovery.
2) Where did frequent references to Creator, Maker, Father, Heavenly Father fit in.
3) How could one fabricate his or her personal conception of “a” god.
4) How could one pray to an higher power that was a door knob, a light bulb, or the group.
5) What was a “spiritual experience” and why could it be changed to an even less understood “spiritual awakening.”
6) What place did the many biblical expressions and practices have in the development of Alcoholics Anonymous.
7) Considering that A.A. seemed to about some “god” as “we understood Him,” how could one square some member’s self-made religion and understanding with the Bible’s many descriptions of God, Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
8) How could one conclude that alcoholism was incurable when the early AAs and the latest
Big Book edition said that Bill W., Dr. Bob, and Bill D. all said they had been cured.
9) Why were people quashed, intimidated, and criticized for talking about God and the Bible on the grounds that this violated some unspecified “Tradition” or arbitrary rule.
10) Were the suppressors acting on some authority, some unknown rule, or some written declaration by Bill or Bob or the Big Book or the “Traditions” that made them right.
Later--as I was in direct touch with the founders’ families, friends, and writings, how clear to me it was that I was unearthing the real history and roots of A.A. At the same time, they more and more endorsed my writings. They told me additional facts. They gave me additional leads. They showed, and often gave me or allowed me to copy volumes and volumes of books, papers, and documents. They spoke freely on points that directly contradicted so many of the things I had been hearing.
And was all this a reason for anyone’s leaving Alcoholics Anonymous, for joining some religious alternative, and for looking deeply for the flaws, shortcomings, former and continuing mistakes the pioneers had embraced? Some might say, “Yes.” Not I.
The Dim, Dark Hole I Encountered as a Sick, Troubled, Unreasoning Newcomer
I realized that much of the negativity I was hearing was coming from the mouths of those in the rooms who were making no attempt to support their views and statements. They just stood fast on their dicta, mouthed them on a “take it or leave it” basis, and filled the rooms with darkness. Their intentions did not need to be an issue. The suppression and evil behavior did. It could kill.
Nonetheless, I clung desperately to the life raft. I believed and believe I had overcome alcoholism and sleeping pill addiction by doing everything I could from the very first--right in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. I quit. I stayed quit. And I have been continuously a former alcoholic and addict. And more and more I was turning to God and the Bible for the help, Despite the vociferous and continuing criticisms from my sponsor and his sponsor, I was relying on the love, power, forgiveness, guidance, and healing I so desperately needed. And I still do.
I needed rescue not just because of excessive drinking and excessive abuse of sedatives. I needed it because of the self-manufactured web of problems I was facing. These included problems of guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, confusion, bewilderment, brain damage, nerve damage, loneliness, despair, and domestic, legal, tax, criminal, reputation, livelihood, and abandonment by former long-time friends, fraternity brothers, legal associates, clergy, and clients. They could have seemed endless and beyond victory. But, with God’s help, I began seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
As so many probably do, I was fighting for survival in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was urged to participate, to serve, to learn the Big Book, to take the Twelve Steps, and to help others. I sure did just that. In fact, the Steps seemed to offer a path that would lead to rescue from the Four Horsemen, of whom Bill Wilson wrote, and also from the problems that were giving rise to them. Those A.A. life-changing ideas included abstinence from alcohol; looking to God for help; cleaning up the wreckage that resentment, self-seeking, dishonesty, and fear had generated. And then getting on with the forward-looking growth the last three Steps seemed to offer. Particularly I savored and relished the satisfaction that seeking, helping, guiding, and befriending newcomers definitely made available. I still find that same challenge, result, and reward.
Amidst it all, I became more and more aware of a growing darkness in the rooms, the talk, the behavior, and the very limited understanding of the very people who had been such so compassionate, helpful, and friendly. Contrasted with this was my growing understanding and belief that Alcoholics Anonymous had emerged from Christian roots.
Its founders and pioneers had relied on God. The early ones insisted on belief in God, coming to Him through Jesus Christ, praying, studying the Bible, observing Quiet Times and devotions, daily religious comradeship and fellowship, and helping others. These facts became more and more evident with every excursion into archives, literature, interviews, “shrines,” documents.
At the same time, I could see the heavy hand of the same Adversary who had tempted Eve, who had promulgated idolatry, who had wrought such harm, who had rejected God, who had tempted Jesus, and who showed every promise of being around and fulfilling the assurance in John 10:10. That was Jesus’ statement that “the thief cometh but to stead, and to kill, and to destroy.” And the Bible’s assurance that this enemy would be around until the return of God’s Son. And even thereafter until given his just reward and certain end. I found the early AAs believed that too.
Then I learned how much the early AAs had turned to God for help, how thoroughly they had endeavored to obey and serve Him, and how successful they had been in carrying out God’s great commission to go and tell.
I also saw and still see that only light could dispel darkness. As it shone more brightly—the more quickly vanished the darkness of defeat, the darkness of godlessness, the darkness of fear and hopelessness, and the darkness of temptation, illness, and death.
God was and is that light. In Him there is no darkness. To come to Him, one must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6). And this same illumination was carried to early AAs who really wanted to rely on God and to do His bidding.
The Next Part to Follow—Defining the Errors, Myths, and Darkness
The gap in A.A. history was overwhelming. It left a huge hole. One Roman Catholic priest and scholar, who held a Ph.D., called the hole a lacuna. There was no assurance and is no assurance that filling the dark hole with researched facts would suffice. But, the inflow of myth and speculation, the outflow of relapsers and those fleeing A.A., as well as those seeking other resources—many of which seemed to offer no long-term deliverance—was worth dispelling. I do not necessarily hold with the idea that “you have to give it away to keep it” is a truism. I do believe that the hunger of many Christians for truth can be satisfied. I do believe that the proliferation of groundless flows of myth can be staunched. And I do believe that many who are now crying out for “old school A.A.” and its successes can, with more full and accurate knowledge, be rewarded with well-researched facts about that very fellowship.
Therefore, to guide others to the task of finding the errors that need correcting, the next part will define those elements. Most important, I do believe that many more suffering newcomers will thereby be relieved of their alcoholism and addiction through trusting God, just as their founders did. And those founders were relieved, and the promise that God could and would if He were sought was fulfilled.