Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Misleading Question about Early AAs and the Twelve Steps (when there were none!)

Here’s a question that just came up on Google: how+did+early+aa+pioneers+work+the+steps+quickly
 The question is pointless and misleads the recovery community, the newcomer, historians, and AAs/
 As Dr. Bob explained succinctly in his last major address to AAs–printed in full in Pamphlet P-53, “The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks,” in the early days, THERE WERE NO STEPS, NO TRADITIONS, AND NO BIG BOOKS OR DRUNKALOGS OR MEETINGS AS WE KNOW THEM TODAY. See Dick B. and Ken B., “Stick with the Winners!”: http://mcaf.ee/s50mq; and “Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous” http://mcaf.ee/gj7iw. In the same talk, Dr. Bob explained that the basic ideas of A.A. came from the teachings, study, and efforts that began in 1935; and the Steps were not crystallized or in “terse and tangible” form until Bill began working on them in 1938. The basic ideas came from the Bible, said Dr. Bob. He also said that the oldtimers believed the answers to their problems were in the Bible. And he pointed to the Book of James, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians as “absolutely essential.”
The pertinent sequence of events and facts pertaining to early A.A. and early AAs are these: (1) The first three AAs–Bill W., Dr. Bob, and Bill D.–all got sober before there were any Steps. They simply renounced alchohol forever, gave their lives to God, and vowed to work with others. (2) Before Bill D. got sober in Akron City Hospital, Bill W. had gotten sober in Towns Hospital in 1934 by relying on God. Dr. Bob got sober in June, 1935 (some say June 10). And that date was agreed upon in the Fellowship as the founding date of A.A. No Steps. No Traditions. No Big Books. No war stories. No meetings. (3) They sought out a drunk to help and found him at City Hospital. He had been hospitalized several times in early 1935 and was in terrible shape. Bill and Bob visited him, told him their stories, told him he needed to give his life to God and then go out and help others. Bill D. did exactly that. In the hospital he specifically sought God’s help. He immediately quit drinking. He was cured and said so (Big Book, 4th ed., page 191). When Bill and Bob returned to visit him, he was sober and walked from the hospital a free man. The date was July 4, 1935; and Bill announced that this was the founding date for the first A.A. group, Akron Number One. No steps. No traditions. No Big Books. No war stories. No meetings as we know them today. (4) Over the next two and a half years, the A.A. program was developed. It was investigated by Frank Amos and was found summarized as containing seven points–see DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 131. (5) Also, my research has unearthed some sixteen practices of the Akron AA pioneers that implemented the program Amos described. See Dick B. and Ken B., “Stick with the Winners!” Still no Steps. No Traditions. No Big Books. No horror stories. No meetings like those held after the Spring of 1939. (6) In November of 1937, Bill and Bob reviewed the members and “counted noses.” They found that some 40 men had been identified as sober. 20 had been continuously sober without relapse. Another 10 had relapsed but returned to succeed. (7) Bill claimed that there were some six “word of mouth” ideas being followed. But he stated there was no common agreement as to how they should be followed. And their form varied immensely and was not uniformly accepted. See Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous. (8) Then in a contentious meeting in Akron, Bill sought approval for writing a book and by only two votes, his proposal was accepted. And he set about working on many drafts of the proposed book with the drafts varying widely, the Steps appearing in December 1938 in draft form. (9) But just before the Book went to print, dramatic changes were made in the language of the Steps; and the word God was removed from the language of Steps 2, 3, and 11. And Bill said this was done to appease the atheists and agnostics. (10) So until about April, 1939, there were no Twelve Steps. No Twelve Traditions for a decade thereafter. No Big Book until April of 1939. No common practice of “war stories,” And many differences in the format of meetings held in Akron, Cleveland, and New York.

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