Friday, August 10, 2007

Alcoholics Anonymous: Religious Movement


Alcoholics Anonymous: Religious Movement

| Profile | History | Beliefs | Issues and Controversies | Links | Bibliography |

    I. Group Profile

    1. Name: Alcoholics Anonymous
    2. Founders: William Griffith Wilson (Bill W.); Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith (Dr. Bob)
    3. Dates of Life: November 26, 1895 - January 24, 1971; August 8, 1879 - November 16, 1950
    4. Birth Place: East Dorset, Vermont; Johnsbury, Vermont
    5. Year Founded: 1935
    6. Sacred or Revered Texts: In 1939, the fledgling organization published its basic textbook, Alcoholics Anonymous . This volume, known affectionately as The Big Book, continues to be the primary text of the group today.
    7. Cult or Sect: Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.
    8. Size of Group: As of the writing of this page, AA reports 2,000,000 recovered alcoholics worldwide. For updated figures and geographical breakdown see Membership .
    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Issues and Controversies | Links | Bibliography |

    II. History

      William Griffith Wilson, later known simply as "Bill W." to thousands, was born in a small room behind a bar on a chilly Vermont November day in 1895. His parent's marriage was far from happy, and in 1905, Gilman Wilson deserted his family. Over the early years of his life Wilson attained a secondary school education, lived through the tragic death of his first love, survived a brief stint in France during WWI, and married Lois Burnham.

      After the war, Wilson settled down to an uneventful career on Wall Street. After the infamous crash of 1929, he began his own downward spiral. Wilson's drunkenness intensified with the passage of time. Over the course of 1933-1934 he was hospitalized four times in New York's Charles B. Towns Hospital (Kurtz: 14). There Wilson was often treated by Dr. William D. Silkworth, who helped Wilson to understand alcoholism as a disease and not just a malady of the mind, a concept that would later figure heavily into AA doctrine. Throughout this period of five years, Lois continued to support him.

      Around his birthday in 1934, Wilson was visited by his friend and fellow alcoholic Ebby Thatcher. Thatcher told him about the Oxford Group and the principles of the organization. Wilson accompanied Ebby to a meeting of the Oxford Group led by Reverend Sam Shoemaker (Pittman: 155).

      The Oxford Group of the 1920s and 1930s, founded by Dr. Frank N.D. Buchman, was a loosely organized group who recognized no board of officers. The groups operated instead on "God-control" instead of hierarchies of men, and were committed to realizing a world governed by people who were governed by God (Melton: 957).

      Despite participation in the fellowship, on December 11, 1934 Wilson was admitted at 2:30 p.m. to Towns Hospital once again (Pittman: 152). On his second or third evening in the facility, Wilson experienced an intensely spiritual realization of God that he would thereafter call his "Hot Flash" (Pittman: 153). After this realization of a higher power, Wilson was able to fully embrace the Oxford Group's fellowship and attain sobriety.

      After drying out Wilson, supported by Lois ever since 1929, began to seek work in 1935. His job search led him to Akron, Ohio in early May (Kurtz: 26). Sitting alone in the hotel lobby on Mother's Day and panicking at the need to get drunk, Wilson called the local

      Episcopalian minister, asking to be put in touch with any Akron Oxford Group members. Reverend Tunks gave him the number of Henrietta Seiberling, a long-term Oxford member. Wilson called her and learned of her personal project for the past two years: sobering up her best friend's husband, Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith (Kurtz: 27). Bill W. and Dr. Bob met for the first time latter that day at Seiberling's house. The two native Vermonters bonded instantly, swapping stories and experiences.

      Dr. Smith was born in August 1879 to rigidly religious parents. At age nine he found a jug of alcohol under a bush and took his first drink (Kurtz: 30). Smith left home to attend Dartmouth, and was freed from his parent's totalitarian control. He resolved never to attend church and began to drink. After deciding that he wanted be a doctor he transferred to Michigan State's pre-med program. At Ann Arbor his drinking began to interfere with his life, eventually causing him to drop out of school to dry out (Kurtz: 30). He eventually earned his M.D. from Rush Medical College in Chicago, and found himself in a prestigious internship at the City Hospital in Akron. For the first two years in Akron, Dr. Smith was so busy he stayed dry (Kurtz: 30). Eventually he began drinking again and admitted himself into at least a dozen sanitoria. Even the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment was not able to stop Dr. Smith, as he had access to liquor for medical reasons. For seventeen years, he lived a drunken nightmare dragging his wife Anne and two children along in his wake.

      Anne's friend Henrietta suggested she bring Bob to the Oxford Group meetings. Dr. Smith initially agreed, but balked at the group's spiritual nature. He continued to attend meetings, and also continued to drink (Kurtz: 32). Upon meeting Bill W., Dr. Smith understood the Oxford Group's principle of fellowship with sudden clarity through Bill W.'s understanding of him. He then began three intensive weeks with the Oxford Group (Kurtz: 32).

      Bill W. and Dr. Bob joined forces to understand alcoholism as a disease. They drew on the principles and practices of the Oxford Group, Dr. Silkworth's influence from New York's Towns Hospital, as well as the work of Jung to begin their own fellowship and write Alcoholics Anonymous . From Jung they adapted the idea of the necessity of conversion to counteract the hopelessness of alcoholism (Kurtz: 34). The conversion of AA lies in the transition from drunkenness to a sobriety as more than a state of not drinking. The conversion must move the alcoholic into a different life that has no need for alcohol. Bill W. and Dr. Bob went to work in The Akron City Hospital and converted another drunk to sobriety. These three men formed the first fellowship based on the principles which would become AA. Bill W. remained in Akron long enough to finish his business and participate in the expanding group. Upon returning to New York, he founded his own group at home. In 1939, four years after the meeting of Bill W. and Dr. Bob, three groups existed in Akron, Cleveland, and New York. Over the course of those four years, the three groups produced 100 sober alcoholics
      1 .

      Although living apart, Dr. Bob and Bill W. remained in close contact and began writing Alcoholics Anonymous, the so-called "Big Book." Bill W. began writing the book, and sent the chapters to Dr. Bob for editing and ideas (Pittman: 180). He also consulted his New York members and sent chapters to the Cleveland organization for contributions. At it's April 1939 publication, the Big Book was 400 pages in length, outlining the
      Twelve Steps of recovery and continuing case histories of recovered members (Pittman: 181). The book and growing groups attracted favorable media attention across the nation, including a particularly influential series of articles by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 1 In 1941, the Saturday Evening Post also ran an excellent article on AA, evoking an enormous positive response. 1 AA grew increasingly rapidly after nationwide press and the extensive distribution of Alcoholics Anonymous by the new Alcoholic Foundation created by Bill W. and Dr. Bob with the financial assistance of the Friends of John D. Rockefeller. 1 Between 1940 and 1950, AA made a hectic transition from isolated local groups to a nationwide organization. Bill W. focused on developing a successful formula for AA structure and functioning that eventually congealed into the Twelve Traditions , a blueprint for non-coercive management for the growing organization (Ellis 73). Meanwhile Dr. Bob concentrated his efforts on the clinical application of AA treatment. Through their combined efforts, Alcoholics Anonymous began to make the attainment of sobriety into a mass-produced system. By 1950, 100,000 recovered alcoholics affiliated with AA could be found worldwide. 1

      In 1950, the movement underwent a transition that resulted in the foundation of the organization we know today. Shortly after speaking emphatically for continued organization to hold the fellowship together and focused at the first AA convention in Cleveland, Dr. Bob died. As a result of his words in 1951, the AA General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous was created with delegates from all states and Canadian provinces.
      1 The remote branches of AA were thus made accountable and networked into the larger organization, thereby assuring for the future AA's function as a massive international yet non-hierarchical organization with a single goal: sobriety. In 1951, another landmark development of the organization occurred, the now global AA Grapevine magazine was put into publication, placing AA literature and thought into a periodical media. Since then, AA has become impressively global. AA's way of life has today transcended most barriers of race, creed and language 1 . A World Service Meeting, started in 1969, has been held biennially since 1972 1.

      The smashing success of Alcoholics Anonymous started a cascade of spin-off groups known collectively as the recovery group movement. On of the first groups sprouting from AA, and an excellent example, is the genesis of Narcotics Anonymous in 1947
      3 . The core of the Narcotics Anonymous recovery program is a series of personal activities known as the Twelve Steps, closely adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous 3 . These steps include admitting there is a problem, seeking help, self-appraisal, confidential Self-disclosure, making amends where harm has been done, and working with other drug addicts who want to recover 3 . Central to the program is an emphasis on what is referred to as a "spiritual awakening," borrowing the Jungian idea of conversion, and its practical value in addiction recovery 3 . Like other spin-off groups, NA also incorporates AA's Twelve Traditions into its concept of governance on the levels of individual group leadership and interaction with a non-hierarchical international organizing body 3 . Another, less successful schism from AA, the group movement Synanon did not copy AA's non-hierarchical structure and opted instead for the charismatic leadership of Charles Dederich (Bufe: 102). In the early seventies Synanon declared itself a church and began a series of practices including mass vasectomies, beatings of would-be runaways, and even the attempted murder of critics (Bufe: 102).

      The adoption of the Twelve Traditions prevents AA or any similar groups from one individual's abuse of power, as happened in Synanon. In addition to groups closely and successfully modeled on AA such as
      Workaholics Anonymous founded in 1983, Gamblers Anonymous started in 1957, and Overeaters Anonymous from 1960, other AA inspired organizations are less recovery oriented and instead capitalize on the fellowship and sharing principles of AA. These groups include Parents Anonymous founded in 1970, Humor Anonymous and even Knappers Anonymous since 1996.

      Today Alcoholics Anonymous is administered via two operating bodies:
      The first organization, A.A. World Services Inc. centered in the General Service Office in New York City, employs 84 workers to keep in touch with local groups, with AA groups in treatment and correctional facilities, with members and groups overseas, and with the thousands of "outsiders" who turn to AA each year for information on the recovery program. AA Conference-approved literature is prepared, published, and distributed through this office 2
      The second group, The A.A. Grapevine, Inc. , publishes the AA Grapevine, the Fellowship's monthly international journal that has a circulation of about 125,000 in the U.S., Canada, and other countries. The Grapevine also produces a selection of specialty items, principally cassette tapes and anthologies of magazine articles 2 . The two operating corporations are responsible to a board of trustees (General Service Board of AA created in 1951), of whom 7 are nonalcoholic friends of the Fellowship, and 14 are AA members 2 .
    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Issues and Controversies | Links | Bibliography |

    III. Beliefs and Practices

      The famous Twelve Steps are the core of the AA experience. The twelve steps are drawn directly from the Oxford Group that Bill W. and Dr. Bob participated in before branching out to create AA (Bufe: 62). In the Oxford Group these steps were used as a cure for sin; Bill W. and Dr. Bob later adapted them to serve as a cure for alcoholism (Bufe: 62). The power of the AA Twelve Steps has snowballed since their codification in the early forties. Today the past success of the Twelve Steps serves as a powerful motivational factor for an individual starting on the road to sobriety (Bufe: 64). Knowledge of massive success in the past helps the individual believe that he can accomplish a life-transforming move to sobriety as well. The reputation of organization gives hope for the new member setting out on his own road. This highly successful organization in its simplest form operates when a recovered alcoholic passes along the story of his or her own problem drinking, describes the sobriety he or she has found in AA, and invites a newcomer to join the informal Fellowship 4 .

      In accordance with the Stark and Bainbridge definition of Client Cult, no effort is made to weld the membership into a social movement
      6 . In fact the Anonymity aspect of the program prevents AA from ever becoming more organized into a cult movement lifestyle. Many members of AA continue to practice religion in an organized church while interacting with AA for the specific compensator of sobriety. AA's membership participation in a church or organized religion, and also the specific compensator of leaving drinking behind, are also both aspects of the organization that fit Stark and Bainbridge's definition of Client Cult 6 . Instead of building and expanding power, the heart of AA is contained in the application of the Twelve Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society 4 :
      1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.
      2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
      3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
      4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
      5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
      6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
      7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
      8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
      9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
      10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
      11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
      12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs 4 .
      Half of the Twelve Steps explicitly mention "God," "A power greater than ourselves," or "Him," giving the organization a distinctly religious overtone (Bufe: 63). The Twelve Traditions also have a decidedly religious tone, referring to "a loving God," "He," and "Himself." 4 The references to God, the concept of the individual powerless against alcohol in the first step, the confession seen in the fifth step, and the idea of "Continuance" in the tenth and twelfth steps come directly from the Oxford Group, which was an evangelical Christian movement (Bufe: 62).

      The Oxford Group, a "First Century Fellowship," attempted to duplicate the fellowship of the Apostles
      10 . AA finds its direct roots in evangelical Christianity, and is clearly a religious organization (Bufe: 82).

      In spite of AA's straightforwardly religious origins, beliefs, and practices, it presents itself as a non-religious organization and not "allied with any religious organization."
      5 AA further says that in its belief structure

      The majority of A.A. members believe that we have found the solution to our drinking problem not through individual willpower, but through a power greater than ourselves. However, everyone defines this power as he or she wishes. Many people call it God, others think it is the A.A. group, still others don't believe in it at all. There is room in A.A. for people of all shades of belief and nonbelief.

      AA does not require or force any aspect of the Twelve steps on any of the membership to allow each individual to create his own AA experience. Newcomers are not asked to accept or follow these Twelve Steps in their entirety if they feel unwilling or unable to do so
      4 . They will usually be asked to keep an open mind, to attend meetings at which recovered alcoholics describe their personal experiences in achieving sobriety, and to read A.A. literature describing and interpreting the AA program 4 . Senior AA members will also point out all available medical testimony indicating that alcoholism is a progressive illness, that it cannot be cured in the ordinary sense of the term, but that it can be arrested through total abstinence from alcohol in any form 4 .
      AA offers explanations on both religious and scientific fronts, resulting from the natures and conversions of the founders Bill W. and Dr. Bob. Bill W. attained sobriety mainly through a religious experience while a scientific explanation of alcoholism as a disease proved more effective for Dr. Bob.

      Thus AA as a global organization provides a number of belief structures and interpretations that the membership can use to their best advantage, but on the local level, AA can take on a more homogeneous approach.
      Part of the strength of AA is the importance of the autonomy of the individual groups laid out in step four of the Twelve Traditions . The autonomy of various groups often results in highly Christian AA groups in some areas and more agnostic groups in other areas, depending on the backgrounds of each group's membership. The official beliefs of AA as expressed in AA literature and on the official Alcoholics Anonymous web site are non-religious in nature and open to free interpretation of the terms "God" and "Higher power" et cetera, while AA in practice can become highly religious in nature.
    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Issues and Controversies | Links | Bibliography |

    IV. Issues and Controversies

    Alternative and Anti-AA Movements

      For 40 years since its inception in 1935, AA and the Twelve Steps were the only national self-help organization for alcoholics. The religious aspect of the program was a matter of concern for some agnostic, atheist, and religious minority alcoholics who needed help but didn`t want to betray their spiritual beliefs. In 1975 sociologist Jean Kirkpatrick, after trying AA twice and feeling it was too male-dominated, founded Women For Sobriety , a program designed to address the self-esteem issues in female alcoholics. Kirkpatrick solidified her program into the Thirteen Statements of Acceptance , aimed at creating positive self-esteem rather than re-building it. There is not a trace of religiosity in the statements, proving WFS the first significant dissatisfaction and subsequent departure from AA (Bufe: 124). In 1988, WFS expanded to help men in a separate program, Men For Sobriety.

      Another large national secular alternative to AA, Save Our Selves (also known as Secular Organizations for Sobriety), arose in 1985. Founded by Jim Christopher, SOS has no structured recovery program of steps or acceptances and is non- religious in nature. Both organizations meet in homes and non-religious places whenever possible, and have grown into national organizations through books, pamphlets, positive press, and web-sites. WFS, MFS, and SOS are all alternatives to AA, and are made up of non-religious refugees from AA (Bufe: 126).

      Until Jack Trimpey founded
      Rational Recovery Center in 1986, organizations existed as alternatives to AA and, its religious nature, but not in war against it. Trimpey, a licensed clinical social worker and recovered alcoholic, began Rational Recovery, which remained very small until it's affiliation with the American Humanist Association in 1989 (Bufe: 126). AHA helped Trimpey publish his book Rational Recovery from Alcoholism: The Small Book and publish his newsletter The Journal of Rational Recovery (Bufe: 126). RR strives to enable alcoholics to remain sober independently of any organization, and has launched the cancellation of the recovery group movement . RR insists on professional involvement in an alcoholic's recovery, and unleashes an assault on AA and other groups that perpetuate membership and thus dependency. Trimpey fuels the anti-AA movement by publishing such articles as Alcoholics Anonymous: The Embodiment of the Beast . Alcoholics Anonymous: The Embodiment of the Beast includes a discussion of the unreliable nature of AA's "Higher power" as well as Trimpey's thoughts on Bill W. and Dr. Bob's relationship to alcohol and each other, suggesting that AA transfers dependence from alcohol to the group and allows the individual to give up responsibility for his disease 7 .

      Trimpey suggests instead his program of AVRT, best described by Trimpey himself instructing the reader to:

      Observe your thoughts and feelings, positive and negative, about drinking or using. Thoughts and feelings which support continued use are called the Addictive Voice (AV); those which support abstinence are you. When you recognize and understand your AV, it becomes not-you, but 'it', an easily-defeated enemy that has been causing you to drink. All it wants is pleasure. 'I want a drink,' becomes, 'It wants a drink.' Think to yourself, 'I will never drink again,' and listen for its reaction. Your negative thoughts and feelings are your AV talking back to you. Now, think, 'I will drink/use whenever I please.' Your pleasant feelings are also the AV, which is in control. Recovery is not a process; it is an event. The magic word is 'Never,' as in, 'I will never drink/use again.' Recognition defeats short-term desire, and abstinence soon becomes effortless. Complete separation of 'you' from 'it' leads to complete recovery and hope for a better life. The only time you can drink is now, and the only time you can quit for good is right now. 'I will never drink/use again,' becomes, 'I never drink now.' It's not hard; anyone can do it.
      8 .

      AVRT stands for Addictive Voice Recognition Technique. Trimpey's copywritten program is at the core of RR and the cancellation of the rational recovery movement. RR's most successful members leave the group quickly, no longer dependent on alcohol or the program
      8 . RR has itself spawned another organization. SMART Recovery was founded in 1994 as a non-profit splinter from Jack Trimpey's for-profit Rational Recovery. SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training, and the program inherited RR's principles of the individual healing himself and relinquishing dependence even on the recovery organization 9 . Trimpey mainly focuses on providing alternatives to the Recovery Group Movement that he hopes will replace the need for 12 step groups such as AA.

      At least one other group wages war on AA in a completely different vein. The founder of the
      AA Deprogramming site, who himself remains anonymous, takes a more brutal attack on AA using words such as "brainwashing" to describe AA's program and challenges the reader to "reclaim your brain" 18 . Unlike Trimpey who seeks to provide a different plan for recovery, this unnamed individual has gathered a series of articles attacking AA on the grounds that AA is "your new abusive family" and "the escape plan" without promoting an alternative program 18 .

      Legal Controversies

      The religious nature of AA has sparked controversy beyond the caustic prose of Jack Trimpey. AA's long history of cooperation with law enforcement officials and servicing the court is coming into conflict with the First Amendment 's Establishment Clause (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 10 . AA members work with officials to bring AA's message into jails and prisons in order to reach those who are suffering. Offenders who have been found guilty of driving under the influence, and those who accept some form of negotiated plea, are nearly always subject to formally defined programs of rehabilitation 10 .
      When deemed appropriate, AA is frequently one of the utilized programs.
      For example, in New Jersey Superior Court Judge James N. Citta ordered Harlan E. Keown on December 20, 1998, to attend weekly AA meetings for the duration of his probation springing from charges of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm, and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose 12 . More domestic crimes also result in AA mandated meetings, as seen in Riverside California Superior Court when Judge Sharon Waters ordered Tracy Watson on December 1, 1998, to include AA meetings as part of her probation package necessitated from child endangerment chares 13 . Violation of mandated AA meetings is usually severe, as exemplified in early January 1999 at 48th District Court in Detroit. Judge Kimberly Small sentenced Richard Gnida to 90 days in jail after violating the stipulation of his probation to attend AA 11 .
      In recent years, offenders have increasingly protested mandatory attendance at AA meetings on the basis that the references to God and a "Higher Power" offend their religious beliefs and violate their First Amendment rights 10 . While attending an AA meeting the offender would not be required to participate in any ritual or prayer, but would invariably be exposed to prayers and religious forms of expression from other members 10 .

      State mandated attendance of AA meetings, therefore, calls into question the relationship between the government and AA as a possible violation of the Establishment Clause in the form of an improper government endorsement of religion. A ruling in the summer of 1997 in the New York Court of Appeals held that in the case of Griffin v. Coughlin mandated AA meetings as part of prison treatment are a violation of the Establishment Clause of The First Amendment
      10 . Petitioner David Griffin, an inmate at Shawangunk Correctional Facility in New York and an atheist, was approved for participation in the Family Reunion Program allowing for extended visitation 10 . As a caveat of the program the inmate must participate in the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment (ASAT) program, patterned after AA's Twelve Steps 10 . Griffin complained of the religious nature of the program, taking his case to the Supreme Court of New York and asking that he be excused from participating in ASAT as part of the Family Reunion Program 10 . On appeal the New York Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division and ruled that the Twelve Steps of AA amount to a religious exercise "as a matter of law" and that "adherence to the AA fellowship entails engagement in religious activity and religious proselytization" 14 . These findings were based on the court's interpretation of Alcoholics Anonymous , Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions , and other AA literature 10 .

      As a result of the ruling, correctional facilities nationwide have begun to see the need for alternative forms of substance abuse therapy. One of the groups utilized is
      Save Our Selves , a secular approach to addiction therapy 15 .
      In a case currently before a federal court in Chicago two commercial airline pilots are suing their employer for being forced to participate in a program for alcohol abuse based on the AA Twelve Step Program 17 . They contend that the airline's policy discriminates against them on the basis of religion as one pilot is an atheist and the other a secular humanist. The pilots are suing on the grounds that AA's Twelve Steps refer to a monotheistic god and thus their forced participation is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , which states that employers and unions
      must not discriminate against employees because of their religious beliefs. Second, they must reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs, unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship for the employer or the union. 16
      AA's religious nature has spawned alternative secular addiction-recovery groups, as well as groups seeking to destroy the recovery group movement as a whole. The prominent use of "God," "Him," and "Higher Power" in AA's literature has led to conflicts in the courts over court or employer mandated participation in AA or groups patterned after AA. The New York Federal Appeals Court recently ruled that participation in AA forced by the government violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. A Chicago court is currently deciding if membership required by an employer violates Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The legal controversy over AA and AA patterned programs has provided a more favorable economy for alternative groups such as Save Our Selves, Rational Recovery, and SMART Recovery.

      It is too early to foresee the legal outcome of the controversies regarding the separation of church and state, and related cases claiming discrimination of the grounds of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but most certainly the legal wheels are turning. The issue is of such enormous importance that it seems likely that the matter will be before the highest court in the land.
    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Issues and Controversies | Links | Bibliography |

    V. Links to Alcoholics Anonymous Web Sites

      Alcoholics Anonymous Web Site
      This is the official website of AA, available in English, French and Spanish. It focuses primarily on the organizational structure, AA concepts such as the 12 steps and 12 traditions, information on conventions, intergroups, answering services for the central offices, and information for professionals implementing AA.
      Online AA Recovery Resources
      A comprehensive collection of links to AA literature, history, and even photos. This site includes an AA history flow chart, a transcript of Dr. Bob's last speech, and information on conventions all over the world. Many of the resources of this site also include materials available in a variety of languages.
      LD "P" Alcoholics Anonymous History and Recovery Pages
      An excellent site with a wealth of information on AA history, including its Oxford Group roots. Its links to other AA/recovery sites are extensive. This site was developed and is maintained by by LDP, a member of AA and a self-professed "AA History NUT."

      Alcoholics Anonymous History: Dick B.'s Web Site
      This site explores the Biblical Christian roots of AA. It is Dick B.'s belief that the dilution of these influences has been detrimental to the effectiveness of AA in alcoholism recovery. His goal is to reconnect today's AA to the Biblical influences of its early days. Dick B., is a retired attorney, researcher, author, and a "student of the Bible."
      AA History and Trivia
      This page is a motley collection of resources. More standard contents include history, information on meetings, grapevine, slogans, and links. The page also offers links, but the page also offers more unusual features such as a sobriety calculator, AA concordance, and live bar camera.
      AA International List of Meetings
      An unofficial comprehensive list of information on over 30 international AA organizations. This page is organized into a series of hypertext links to a page dedicated to information on contacting the AA headquarters in each country. The list also includes links to US AA groups listed by state.
      Big Book Search
      This site is a Big Book Search engine. You may search the whole page or by chapters in the first or second editions. This site also includes links, in particular links to recovery Web Rings.
      Big Book On-Line
      The Big Book is divided into hypertext linked chapters. This site creates a few hypertext links to various places including the Promises and the Seventh Step Prayer.
      Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous
      This page offers a wide variety of services ranging from links, to listings of conventions and other activities, to e-mail and real time online meetings, to background info on AA and OIAA.
      AA meetings for the WWW
      A great site to jump into on-line meetings. This site also contains interesting archives of past meetings, a "coffee pot" of jokes and questions, AA FAQs, and links to other AA sites.
      Dr. Bob's Home and National Museum
      This site has it all, from the biographical data, to FAQs, to a tour of Dr. Bob's house, and of course the gift shop.

      Anti-AA and Alternative to AA Websites

      Rational Recovery Center
      This page advertises Jack Trimpey's program of Rational Recovery while it attacks AA on the grounds that AA membership is replacing a dependence with a dependence. Trimpey's program is for profit and his page an impressive conglomeration of anti-AA information.
      AA Deprogramming
      This site seems to be compiled by a single nameless author who had a bad AA experience. The site is mainly a collection of articles aggressively addressing various concerns with the nature of AA and the program's impact on it's participants.
      SMART Recovery
      This is a non-profit splinter off Trimpey's for-profit Rational Recovery endorsing many of the same principles as RR. Without attacking AA by name this group provides a secular paradigm for recovery.
      Save Our Selves
      Once known as the Secular Organization For Sobriety, this group explores non-religious paths to sobriety. This program is currently becoming a popular alternative to AA in the justice system.
      Women For Sobriety
      This organization specializes in the specific needs of female alcoholics with thirteen secular steps to acceptance. Information on the sister group "Men for Sobriety" is also found on this page as MFS does not as yet have its own page and is run from the same headquarters.
    | Profile | History | Beliefs | Issues and Controversies | Links | Bibliography |

    VI. Bibliography


      B, Dick. 1998.
      The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous . Paradise Research Publicatins.
      Bufe, Charles. 1991.
      Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? San Francisco: See Sharp Press.
      Kurtz, Ernest. 1979.
      Not-God: A History Of Alcoholics Anonymous. Center City, Minn: Hazelden Educational Services.
      Melton, Gordon. 1996.
      Encyclopedia of American Religions. 5th edition, New York: Gale.
      Morreim, Dennis. 1990.
      The Road to Recovery: Bridges Between the Bible and the Twelve Steps . Minneapolis: Augsburg.
      Pittman, Bill. 1988.
      AA, the Way It Began. Seattle, WA: Glen Abbey Books.
      Thomsen, Robert. 1975.
      Bill W. New York: Harper&Row.


      Conlon, Leon S. 1997.
      "Griffin v. Coughlin: Mandated AA Meetings and the Establishment Clause." Journal of Church and State. 39 n3 p427-454.
      Court Report. 1998.
      Ashbury Park Press. December 20, 1998. sec: AA p2.
      Kataoka, Mike. 1998.
      "Ex-Deputy Gets Probation for Child Endangerment." The Press-Enterprise (Riverside CA). December 1, sec: local pB01.
      Nichols, Darren A. 1999.
      "Wings Driver Jailed For 90 Days: Gnida Violated Probation Given for 1997 accident." The Detroit News. January 6, sec: Metro, pD1.
      Skoning, Gerald D. 1999.
      "10 Wackiest Employment Cases of '98." The National Law Journal. March 15, p A23.
      Stark, Rodney and Bainbridge, William Sims. 1979.
      "Of Churches, Sects, and Cults: Preliminary Concepts for a Theory of Religious Movements." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion , 8 (2):117-133.

      Extended Bibliography

      Dick B's Historical Collections is probably the most entensive bibliographic recourseof print materials available on the internet. Available as a PDF file.
| Profile | History | Beliefs | Issues and Controversies | Links | Bibliography |


The Twelve Traditions
  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on AA unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority, a loving God as He may express himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
    Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  4. Each group has but one primary purpose, to carry out its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  5. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest any problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  6. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  7. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  8. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  9. AA has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  10. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  11. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
    (Bufe, 74-81)

| Profile | History | Beliefs | Issues and Controversies | Links | Bibliography |


1 Alcoholics Anonymous Historical Data http://www.alcoholics-
2 Alcoholics Anonymous Structure of General Services http://www.alcoholics-
3 Narcotics Anonymous
4 AA Twelve Steps http://www.alcoholics-
5 Alcoholics Anonymous: A Newcomer Asks http://www.alcoholics-
6 Stark and Bainbridge. Of Churches, Sects, and Cults: Preliminary Concepts for a Theory of Religious Movements
7 Trimpey, Jack Alcoholics Anonymous: The Embodiment of The Beast as cited at very/Embodiment.Beast.html
8 Internet Crash Course on AVRT html
9 SMART Recovery FAQ
10 Conlon, Leon. Griffin v. Coughlin: Mandated AA Meetings and the Establishment Clause
11 Nichols, Darren. Wings Driver Jailed for 90 Days: Gnida Violated Probation for 1997 accident
12 Court Report
13 Kataoka, Mike. Ex-Deputy gets Probation for Child Endangerment
14 Griffin v. Coughlin, 88 N.Y. 2d 674 at 683
15 Supreme Court Ruling Makes Room for SOS in Prisons http://www.secularhumanism .org/library/shb/sos_13_2.html
16 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
17 Skoning, Gerald. 10 Wackiest Employment Cases of '98
18 AA Deprogramming
| Profile | History | Beliefs | Issues and Controversies | Links | Bibliography |

Created by Sara Hull
For Soc 257: New Religious Movements
Spring Term, 1999
Last modified: 07/17/01

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:57 PM

    Drink–Drunk–Disaster–Destruction; or Divine Aid

    Four “D’s” Showing the Way Down and a Fifth “D” Showing a Way Out
    A Recovery Month Message

    Dick B.

    There are many pathways to recovery. This pamphlet presents the “old-school,” early A.A. path to recovery and cure God’s way--a proven, long-standing answer to the modern experience of relapse after relapse after relapse.

    A Simple Resource Guide

    For physicians and psychologists, churches and clergy, hospitals and detox facilities, counselors and therapists, treatment programs and rehabs, law enforcement agencies and correctional officers, half-way houses and therapeutic communities, non-profit and government agencies, alcoholics, addicts, their families, and those with life-controlling problems beyond medical cure.

    Freedom Ranch Maui, Incorporated
    A 501 (c) (3) Tax Exempt Hawaii Non-profit Charitable and Educational Organization
    PO Box 837
    Kihei, HI 96753-0837

    The Real Alcohol-Addiction Problem, Early A.A.’s Approach, Result, and Solution

    The Problem: The plight of early A.A. pioneers is instructive: (1) All were problem drinkers—“real alcoholics,” as they were called. (2) All were drunkards—excessive, uncontrolled drinkers. (3) All suffered most of the consequences of alcoholism—jail, hospitalization, accidents, domestic problems, debt, disgrace, and ill-health; in other words, disaster. (4) All typically repeated and repeated and repeated the process to the point of self-destruction. Yet dishonesty, denial, and self-characterized insanity accompanied the very behavior that was destroying them.

    The Early A.A. Approach: Alcoholics Anonymous was founded June 10, 1935 in Akron, Ohio. Its two founders (Bill W. and Dr. Bob) immediately began helping other seemingly-hopeless, medically-incurable, “real” alcoholics. But only those who were willing to seek God’s help in a disciplined, directed, spiritual program of recovery. The Akron approach took its basic ideas from the Bible. The Book of James was favored. The Sermon on the Mount contained their underlying philosophy. And 1 Corinthians 13 specified the ingredients of love and service which were the essence of their spiritual program.

    The Miraculous Result: Within two years, 40 men attained a documented, 75% success rate in Akron. In two more years, Cleveland pioneers began their ascent from one group to 30 in a year. These pioneers attained a documented, 93% success rate.

    Cures: To hundreds of news outlets across the United States, with but few exceptions, the recovered early AAs declared they had been cured of alcoholism by the power of God. Medicine and religion were astonished at the remarkable, miraculous cures produced through God’s power, and said so in the press, in endorsements, and in reviews.

    The Akron Solution and Its Five Primary Elements: The pioneer program—developed in the summer of 1935, and carefully investigated by John D. Rockefeller’s representative about two years later—consisted of five simple elements which enabled the necessary relationship with God and cure: (1) Permanent abstinence. (2) Reliance on the Creator and coming to Him through Jesus Christ. (3) Obedience to God, eliminating sinful conduct, and walking in love. (4) Growth in fellowship with God, and his Son through Bible study, prayer, seeking God’s guidance, and studying devotionals and other religious literature. (5) Teaming together as witnesses to help other alcoholics get straightened out.

    Recommended Additional Practices: To the five primary disciplines, other practices were added: (1) Hospitalizing newcomers for several days. (2) Housing most of them in the homes of A.A. pioneers and their wives on their release from medical care. (3) Meeting together daily for quiet times with Bible study, prayer, seeking guidance, and discussion. (4) Reading Christian literature distributed by Dr. Bob and his wife Anne. (5) Attending a “regular” meeting once a week. (6) Engaging in social and religious comradeship with each other. (7) Weekly attendance at a church of choice.

    Victory through Divine Aid: The seemingly unstoppable, repeated cycle of pre-A.A. madness – drink, drunk, disaster, and self-destruction – came to a halt in 1935 when the fifth “D” – Divine Aid – was sought, believing that God does what He promises to do. Heal! His “Divine Aid” produced multiple cures once early AAs devoting themselves to helping others seek and obtain our Creator’s deliverance. They widely proclaimed, in their later basic text, and elsewhere, that God had done for them what they could not do for themselves. Again, they abstained resisted temptation. They relied on the Creator for help, strength, and guidance. They disciplined themselves to changing disgraceful behavior into godly behavior. They recognized the importance of fellowship with God and each other. This meant understanding God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible. And the Christian Fellowship of pioneers grew in their understanding and fellowship through prayer, God’s guidance, Christian literature, and daily devotions. They diligently worked at helping others. Their simple, five-point program worked then, and can now.
    The Situation Today

    Statistical studies, albeit flawed and lacking in number, establish that today’s recovery approaches and programs—which are very different from the early A.A. programs in Akron and Cleveland—are producing disappointing results. Most modern efforts to deal with alcohol and drugs have abandoned the “God part” and turned to pharmaceuticals, therapy, counseling, brain analysis, treatment programs, rehab centers, nutrition, behavioral and genetic research, czars, and to the host of “Anonymous,” “12-Step,” “self-help,” and “mutual therapy” groups. Yet scientists, academics, and some professionals produce countless demonstrations that such programs, standing alone, have accomplished little either in preventing or treating or overcoming addictions and the horrendous relapse factors.

    In the halcyon “recovery” age (1960’s to late 1980), insurance companies, employee assistance programs, treatment centers, government agencies, and 12 Step societies proliferated in the battle to overcome alcoholism and addiction. Their efforts often produced expensive, extended, and even compulsory treatment modes. Their techniques were often abetted by the courts, probation officers, and correctional people. And by treatment programs themselves. The “recovery” rage grew increasingly large. But then failures and recidivism became rampant. Statistics on the impact of alcoholism on 75 million American families, on the prevalence of drug-related crimes and disabilities, and the observable relapses and recidivism told no success story. Treatment centers closed. Recovery stores and literature began vanishing. A.A. itself reached its one million U.S. member mark and then stopped growing.

    “Recovery” surveys soon recorded relapse after relapse after relapse. Several skilled observers claimed it was axiomatic that 75% failed. Many studies showed an even higher failure rate—to the point where perhaps as few as 1% “in recovery” were maintaining permanent sobriety, and probably no more than 7% could be counted as “recovered.” The word “cured” disappeared from A.A.’s literature, from treatment literature, and from recovery jargon. Worse, the word “God” was substantially replaced with “higher power.” The words “spiritual awakening” and “awareness” replaced the word “cure.” The word “relapse” soon became an accepted, excused, and commonplace consequence of alcoholism and addiction. And the surge away from God—that has become so apparent in the United States—has become the norm in many, many 12 Step meetings. So much so, that Christian and Church alternatives have attracted more and more alcoholics and addicts while A.A.’s own growth remained static and recovery rates dropped.

    The Problem

    “Recovery movements” and “modern ‘recovery’ efforts” are failing. The word “recovery” has, despite overwhelming evidence of a lack in “recoveries,” acquired an accepted universalized and secularized complexion. But where is the Creator? Because of constitutional limitations, religious disagreements, money concerns, growth expectations, illusory discrimination claims, and just plain fear have ruled when the word “God” or cannot be used. Our Creator’s vital role in early A.A. successes, stories, practices, and results has fallen between the cracks. Short-term band-aids have replaced God's healings and miracles.

    A Solution

    History offers part of a solution. It establishes that early A.A. pioneers believed that, with God, nothing is impossible. They substituted curable for incurable. Religion contributed to their victories. Choice is also part of the solution. Short of the ball and chain, few would claim the can stop a willful alcoholic or addict from pursuing the 4 D’s—drink, drunk, disaster, destruction. A solution must offer a choice. And alcoholics and addicts have the very same choice today that A.A.’s own basic text suggests: God either is, or He isn’t. Choosing God is still a reliable option. Among many paths to recovery, we believe God’s way deserves to be known, respected, considered, and told—not relegated to an historical scrap heap

    References and Bibliographical Materials

    The 31 published titles and more than 170 articles by Dick B., accompanying bibliographies, and following websites provide ample, specific citations supporting the foregoing facts. See;;;; and

    This Pamphlet

    This material was prepared for use during the September 2007 National Recovery Month. It brings to the fore some 18 years of research, travel, interviews, book and manuscript acquisitions, library and archive visits, and thousands of hours of work with newcomer alcoholics and addicts, historians, scholars, archivists, writers, curators, and recovered AAs and others who have overcome life-controlling problems the early A.A. Christian Fellowship way.

    About the Author

    Dick B. is a writer, historian, publisher, retired attorney, and Bible student. He is an active, recovered member of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and has maintained continuous sobriety since entering the A.A. rooms in April, 1986. As an A.A. sponsor, he has helped more than 100 men in their recovery from alcoholism and addiction. He is the author of 31 published titles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Step Movement. As a scholar, he is a member of the Organization of American Historians, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, the Research Society on Alcoholism, the Association for Medical and Educational Research on Substance Abuse, the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, the International Substance Abuse and Alcoholism Coalition, and Phi Beta Kappa. He was Case Editor of the Stanford Law Review and received A.B. and J.D. degrees from Stanford University. He has spoken at innumerable meetings, seminars, panels, conferences, and interviews on radio and television. Currently, he serves as Executive Director of Freedom Ranch Maui, Incorporated, a tax exempt 501 (c) (3) Hawaii non-profit charitable and educational organization located on the Island of Maui in the State of Hawaii.

    Freedom Ranch Maui, Incorporated
    Kihei, Maui, Hawaii


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