This article is written by nationally recognized historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
Why study, or for that matter, even discuss the history of Alcoholics Anonymous? What difference would it make? How could it affect how we live and work our own individual recovery? Who cares?
In a quote attributed to Carl Sandburg, he summed it up when he wrote;
"Whenever a civilization or society declines (or perishes) there is always one condition present - they forgot where they came from."This quote, often used by Frank M., Archivist for AA General Services gives a warning to present and future generations of AA members to "Keep It Green."
The Washingtonians, The Oxford Group and others forgot where they came from. They watered-down and made changes to their respective movements which eventually led to their demise. AA members could take notice and begin to learn their roots. The history of AA can be both educational and fascinating and help in making the recovery process a fruitful one.
Bill W. stated in 1940 that of those entering AA, 50 percent never drank again. 25 percent remained sober throughout their lives after experiencing some early difficulties and the remaining 25 percent could not be accounted for. Bill stated that 75 percent of AA members back then got well -- they recovered.
Group records indicate that in Cleveland, Ohio there was a 93 percent success rate for recovery in the early 1940's. Could these astounding figures be attributed to the fact that only low-bottom alcoholics came into AA? Could they be attributed to the lack of multiple addictions? We think not.
Early records indicate that though a great number of early members were considered as low-bottom, there were many who entered AA before losing everything. Both Dr. Bob and Bill had difficulties with drugs other than alcohol. Bill struggled with these problems until his death in 1971.
Why did they stay sober?
The original members of AA, between 1935 and 1939 went to only one meeting per week, and that meeting wasn't an AA meeting - they were Oxford Group meetings. They got well and they recovered. Why?
There was no 90-in-90 back then. It is not even mentioned in the first 164 pages of the Big Book. There were no conventions, retreats or treatment centers as we know them today. There weren't even the 12 Steps until 1938. Why did they stay sober, on a continuous basis until their deaths?
People in AA state that it takes time to get through the Steps. "A Step a year," some even say. This writer has even heard some in AA say that after two years in the Program, they are still working on Step One, or Two or Three.
For those who are in that position, or listening to those who state that it can take up to 12 months, or longer, to go through the Steps, I urge you to read from the last paragraph on page 290 through the end of the first paragraph on page 293 in the Big Book. After reading these important pages, ask yourself why it was suggested that you take your time, remaining in the problem and not fully celebrating the solution?
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the way of life described within its pages is probably the most sane way of living possible. It promises a changed life, removal of obsesion, removal of fear and being "rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we have not even dreamed."
No daily meetings
Were these people who wrote the book long-term members of AA? Did they have decades of recovery behind them which gave them the wisdom to write such a "prescription for a miracle?"
The longest term of sobriety for those who wrote this book was just over four years. The average was about eighteen months. All were relative newcomers, those who wrote and described what this writer and many others describe as the greatest spiritual movement of the 20th Century.
They didn't have the benefit of daily meetings, many didn't have telephones and there were no 28-day treatment centers. What they did have was a program of recovery and determination to do whatever it took to stop drinking forever.
The study of the history of AA will show you what it was that worked so many wonders which resulted in so many miracles. Learning about where AA came from and what they did will give you an idea of what they had. Remember, "If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any lengths to get it..."
Strengthening the fellowship
It is this writer's hope and prayer that a continuing dialogue and forum be made available to study the history of AA. Hopefully, this continuing open discussion will not only serve to strengthen your personal recovery but also begin the serve to strengthen AA as a whole.
Revolving Door Recovery will eventually lead AA towards the fate of the Washingtonians and the Oxford Group. For the sake of the future generations of alcoholics and those addicted to other drugs, I pray that AA remain strong.
I invite any questions, answers and even debates from those on the Internet. Let us together delve into the history of AA and share our experience, strength and hope with each other so that we can stay sober and help others to recover.
Related CASA Links:
CASA 12-Steps Program Blog
CASA 12-Steps Recovery Group
The Progressive Recovery Blog!