I am glad I took the time to post this article by Brother Dick B. this early Sunday morning. Without touching the content, I did a little format editing for better readability with smaller paragraphs. I hope Dick B. does not mind too much.
For several years now, I have worked with CASA ~Christians Against Substance Addiction~ a progressive Christian recovery group at the Salvation Army Homeless Shelter in Sacramento, California~ as a key part of my whole Christian Ministry.
At times it has been a lonely battle with CASA being based at a homeless shelter with ever changing members, including supporting newcomers in recovery battling with A.A. fanatics who are non-believers in the sacred Word of God and have not humbly accepted Our Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour, especially when those blind fanatics have stupidly shut up those who even dare to mention Our Lord at an AA Meeting!
It is a truism that when the student is ready the teacher appears. It was great when I was online and got a response via Email from Dick B. when I posted one of his articles to the CASA 12-Steps Yahoo Group , then, he sent me links to more of his research on Early AA history and it s obvious Christian origins.
1 Corinthians 16:14-16 (King James Version)
14 Let all your things be done with charity.Truly blessed are the saints who are addicted to their ministries and have been cured of alcohol and drug addictions!
15 I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
16 That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.
Blessings to Him , Dick B. and All Believers!
Peter S. Lopez ~aka:Peta
Yahoo Email: email@example.com
Alcoholics and Addicts – Helping Them the Old School Way
With God’s Power: Compassionate, Sustained, Personal Action
By Dick B.
© 2007 by Anonymous. All rights reserved
A Challenge to Take the Best, Give the Best, and See the Best
Recently, I was asked to return to a Men’s Step Group meeting on Oahu and lead its retreat for a group of men who spend two years meeting weekly and learning all they can about the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, real Twelve Step Fellowship history, the Bible, prayer and meditation, and the role of Christians in 12 Step Fellowships today. This I love to do because these men, under the leadership of one of the members of our nationwide history fellowship, are given the tools, the information, the challenges, and the collateral facts about why the early A.A. Christian Fellowship achieved its documented 75% to 93% success rate. This was achieved with seemingly hopeless, “medically incurable” real alcoholics who relied on their Creator and were cured of their dreadful malady. The A.A. pioneers went for the best, gave the best, and saw the best that God offers to those who come to Him through His son. And then abstain and resist temptation; rely on Him for strength, guidance, and deliverance; obey Him by eliminating sinful conduct and replacing it with the love of God and service to God; grow in their relationship with Him, His son, and other believers through prayer, Bible study, seeking His will, reading Christian literature; fellowshipping together and witnessing to others; and devoting substantial time and effort helping others get straightened out. This discussion will address the question of what Christians in A.A. can do today, and how such actions can bring to newcomers, alcoholics, and addicts the same deliverance that was received in early A.A.
You should avoid being entrapped by the novel yet frequent contentions of some in and out of A.A. that a discussion like this seeks to Christianize A.A. Or to return A.A. to Christianity. Or to make A.A. the special encampment and hunting preserve of Christian evangelists. The problem with such arguments is that those who make them leap before they look. They don’t look for or see the fact that early A.A. was a Christian Fellowship. Or that it was then uniquely and astonishingly successful. Or that A.A. changed dramatically when its Big Book was published four years after its founding. Or that people of all and many faiths began entering A.A. almost as soon as it began. Or that there was a calculated effort at or after the publication of the Big Book to secularize and universalize the Society; to construct a religious approach that would allow people to begin with idolatry and come to find the one, true God by following some Oxford Group precept; and to revise Christian and Biblical phrases to palliate the few who objected to and influenced removal of most observable references to the Creator, the Bible, and Jesus Christ.
In other words, there is no logic in assuming that a look at history and early success constitutes a crusade to reverse course and return to long-gone fellowship practices. Such argumentation is suspect from the start. It is fallacious, and it should be rejected as an idea that throws the baby out with the bath water. It seems to have its birth in anger, ignorance, and personal prejudice. Moreover, it tends to make Christians feel ousted, uncomfortable, and out of step where they have every right to hold to their faith, utilize the power of God, and tell others what God has done for them.
The warning here is that this article claims there is a very real place and service for Christians to perform in 12 Step Fellowships today. And the thoughts come largely from successful pioneer sources, principles, and practices. Neither Jesus nor Peter nor Paul received much earthly support; but they had a far greater ministry and purpose for the Creator they loved.
Here are Some Practices that Closely Define the Old-School Akron Program
The suggestions are taken largely by fleshing out the summary of the early program which was given by A.A. trustee-to-be Frank Amos after he had been sent to Akron to examine and report on the program that was founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in the summer of 1935. The program itself was developed and practiced largely by Dr. Bob, his wife Anne, and Henrietta Seiberling over the next two years. Then Bill, Bob, and Anne gathered in late 1937 to measure its numbers and successes. This resulted in their proclamation of thanks to God that He had shown them how the message could be passed along to others.
The Starting Gate
Qualifying the newcomer: From the outset, a real effort was made to find out as much as possible about a newcomer, his beliefs, his family, his drinking, and his willingness to believe in God and do whatever it took to get well. This sometimes involved visits with the family. It sometimes involved swapping stories. It definitely involved getting the newcomer to concede to his innermost self that he had been licked by a life-controlling problem that neither he nor any other human being could overcome.
Hospitalization or medical help: I can attest to the accuracy of the statement that many do not realize that the alcoholic is a very sick person—some, not all. In my case, I suffered detoxification and heavy sweating, three grand mal seizures, lack of bladder control, physical pains, numbness in my legs, memory problems, concentration problems, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, confusion, and uncontrollable shaking that lasted for some five years. Others, of course, have severe mental problems; and still others come in with broken bones, liver problems, throat problems. Many more with seemingly insurmountable legal, criminal, domestic, tax, insurance, court, debt, housing, nutrition, dental, and other disaster-ridden burdens. I too had many of these.
Fortunately, the Akronites were led by a physician—Dr. Bob. Fortunately also, Bill, in New York, had been hospitalized and grounded in some medical aspects from his psychiatrist Dr. William D. Silkworth at Towns Hospital. Today, I know my earliest problems could have been prevented or lessened had someone sent me to a doctor first, instead of trying to suggest amateur remedies like orange juice and honey. Better still, had they sent me to a treatment detox facility such as the one I entered after my initial bout with seizures, ambulances, and the ICU. A.A. pioneers were almost uniformly hospitalized in Akron, first at Akron City Hospital, and later at St. Thomas. There they were given medications; they were visited daily by Dr. Bob—often for hours; they were visited by groups of pioneers who shared experiences and the solution; they were allowed only a Bible in their rooms; and after a five to seven day stay, Dr. Bob visited them, asked them if they believed in God, and then had them surrender on their knees aside their hospital bed. And then they were released.
Focus on pioneer homes: On release from the hospital, the pioneers were given a Bible and urged to begin helping others. Most also received a copy of the Upper Room to assist them in daily prayer. A large number went to what might be called the first half-way houses. In most cases, they lived with Dr. Bob and Anne Smith at the Smith Home on 855 Ardmore in Akron. There they were sheltered, fed, bedded, and “indoctrinated” in a very real sense.
Morning Quiet Time—A Must: Each morning Anne Smith would hold a Quiet Time at the crack of dawn. It was for alcoholics and their families. She would open with prayer, read from the Bible, conduct group prayer, conduct a brief quiet period, and then discuss the Bible, or material from Anne Smith’s Journal, or devotionals like the Upper Room. Anne’s Journal contained recommended reading, discussion of Oxford Group precepts, Bible verses, materials on love, practical suggestions for alcoholics and their families, and Anne’s own recipe’s for health and prosperity.
Individual and group activity: Individual prayer and quiet time and reading were all encouraged. There were almost unceasing get-togethers daily in the Smith home. It is quite clear that several things were being stressed:
(1) Bible study.
(3) Quiet Time.
(4) Adoption of a few Oxford Group ideas such as the Four Absolutes as moral standards and their Five C’s for life-changing.
(5) The Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 were read, studied, and re-read.
(6) Dr. Bob began circulating religious literature to the end that it would be studied and returned—followed by actual questioning about the book by Dr. Bob. These included devotionals and the many books specified in my title, The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth and Dr. Bob and His Library.
(7) Individuals were counseled, cared for, and encouraged by Dr. Bob, by Anne Smith, by Henrietta Seiberling, and Mr. and Mrs. T. Henry Williams.
Surrenders and failures: All were expected to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour; and all were expected, if able, to visit newcomers in the hospital. As with today, there were rim-runners—those who wouldn’t profess belief in God, wouldn’t accept Christ, didn’t think they had a problem, were unwilling to accept the discipline, were just plain crazy, and those who managed to blame others for their problems and leave. Those who stuck were the ones who achieved the remarkable cures and said so.
More homes added: As the need for more homes increased, so did the homes where the newcomers were housed—homes of Wally Gillam and Tom Lucas, for example. One historian who neither accepts nor endorses nor adequately describes the Akron pioneer program nonetheless correctly observed that the Akron fellowship seemed to be one continuous series of meetings. He just didn’t describe what they were. Dr. Bob alluded to them and their content.
The Bible emphasis: First Dr. Bob spoke of the fact that the old timers were convinced that the answer to their problems was in the Good Book. He said that James, the Sermon on the Mount, and First Corinthians were found to be absolutely essential. He added, “We used to have daily meetings at a friend’s house” See the Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical sketches Their last major talks, 1972, 1975, p. 15.
The “Regular” Weekly Meeting
Once each week, alcoholics, their wives, and their families met with several Oxford Group people at the home of T. Henry Williams in Akron. The meeting was unlike a regular Oxford Group meeting. The Creator’s role was prominent. At a prior set-up meeting, the leaders asked God for guidance as to who should lead the regular meeting and what its topic should be. One wife called the regular meeting an “old fashioned prayer meeting.” Dr. Bob’s son characterized it as an old-fashioned “revival meeting.” Even T. Henry, himself an ardent Oxford Group member, called it a “clandestine lodge” of the Oxford Group.
In short, research in recent years, makes it clear that these weekly meetings far more resembled the principles and practices of the United Christian Endeavor Society of Dr. Bob’s youth than they did any typical Oxford Group meeting.
Thus: (1) “Drunkalogs” were not given, whereas “sharing for witness” was a major part of most other Oxford Group meetings. (2) There was no literature but the Bible, Anne Smith’s Journal, and a devotional such as the Upper Room, whereas Oxford Group literature poured out all over the world and particularly from Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary House in New York. (3) Bible study, prayer, and seeking guidance—so common and important in united Christian Edndeavor meetings and far more stressed than in the Oxford Group. For prayer and Bible study were the heart of the early meeting. (4) The focus of the group was helping alcoholics; and that was never an Oxford Group focus. (5) There was no concern for life-changing or world-changing per se though these were the hallmarks of Oxford Group writings, talks, teams, and travels. (6) As was the case with Christian Endeavor meetings, the Akron group [and later the A.A. groups themselves] was self-governing and self-supporting with no principal leader or teacher like Dr. Frank Buchman or Rev. Samuel Shoemaker, as was the case in the Oxford Group. (7) Literature that was passed around included many more than Oxford Group books—for there were well-known books on prayer, healing, love, faith, service, psychology, the Bible, Jesus Christ; and on daily devotions laid out in The Runner’s Bible, the Upper Room, Daily Strength for Daily Needs, My Utmost for His Highest, The Greatest Thing in the World, The Meaning of Prayer, as well as leading books by Christian writers like Harry Emerson Fosdick, Glenn Clark, Emmet Fox, E. Stanley Jones, Oswald Chambers, Norman Vincent Peale, and others.
Surrenders to Jesus Christ
Possibly the best-kept secret during the middle A.A. years was the fact that every single pioneer was required to go upstairs with two or three “elders” like Dr. Bob, T. Henry Williams, and perhaps an Oxford Group member. These men held a prayer session that was called a “real surrender.” It took me many years of research to come up with solid evidence of the conversion ceremony that took place and which also followed the lines of James 5:16. The newcomer would kneel on the floor. The elders would gather round him. He was asked if he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. He was asked if he would live by the cardinal teachings of Jesus Christ. And he and the elders all joined in praying that alcohol be taken out of his life.
I spent a good deal of time with different witnesses and records. And the foregoing surrender facts were unearthed and confirmed by me as follows:
(1) The surrenders are widely mentioned in A.A. literature.
(2) They were specifically mentioned to me by Nell Wing, Bill Wilson’s secretary, who sent me several pages of A.A. literature where they were covered.
(3) I have seen no evidence such surrenders took place in Oxford Group meetings.
(4) They were common-place in the United Christian Endeavor conversion meetings—though not involving the alcohol removal prayer
The following four independent sources (all A.A. original pioneers) verified what happened at the surrenders. And what happened was a conversion—a new birth by surrender to Jesus as Lord: (a) Ed Andy, in a phone conversion to which I was a party, said: “They wouldn’t let you in unless you accepted Jesus.” (b) Clarence Snyder told four of his sponsees that I have talked to, as well as his wife, Grace, exactly what occurred with respect to Jesus in the surrenders. (c) Larry Bauer both phoned me and wrote me to relate that they had taken him upstairs and got him “born again.” (d) J. D. Holmes wrote, in a negative tone, that he had been hounded about accepting Jesus.
Though Bill certainly surrendered, in the conversion sense, his story was somewhat different. It took me years to find the reports of eyewitnesses to Bill’s conversion at the altar at Calvary Rescue Mission before he ever met Dr. Bob. Then I discovered Bill’s own written statements that he had been born again. Also his statement at page 191 of the Big Book that the Lord had cured him of his terrible disease. See Dick B. The Conversion of Bill W.
Finally, I realized that Dr. Bob had covered the point in his last major address in December, 1948, saying: “You recall the story about Bill having had a spiritual experience and having been sold on the idea of attempting to be helpful to other drunks. Time went by, and he had not created a single convert, not one. As we express it, no one had jelled (Co-founders, pp. 9-10).
Identifiable Oxford Group Practices
Oxford Group literature, both by Rev. Sam Shoemaker and others, was available on tables at the early weekly meetings. Some of it was specifically recommended by Anne Smith in her journal, and some of it was specifically read and circulated by Dr. Bob. There was also much mention of the Four Absolutes—honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love—by the Akron pioneers and later by Clarence Snyder as to Cleveland A.A. Anne wrote about them as “moral standards.” Dr. Bob called them “yardsticks.” There is some evidence that the equivalent of 4th and 5th Step inventories and confessions on moral shortcomings were followed. And there is some evidence that restitution was a principle that was adhered to even before Bill wrote the Twelve Steps.
Other Practices That Were Developed
Frank Amos reported that social and religious comradeship were favored but not required. He also said that attendance at a church of one’s choice was favored but not required. It is not clear to me just how much work with newcomers as such was involved by individuals until after they left Akron and spawned the major new A.A. groups in Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Houston. They certainly did visit newcomers in the hospital and meet and converse with them in the homes. Sponsorship as such did not seem to count for much until Clarence founded A.A. in Cleveland and then wrote his pamphlet on sponsorship.
But it was in Cleveland that the four elements of fast-growing A.A. developed—Big Book, Twelve Steps, Bible, and Four Absolutes. And use of these four tools took off like a rocket. That combination produced a documented 93% success rate, a growth from one group to thirty in a year, and a beehive of indoctrinations of newcomers in the principles of the new program.
Clarence Snyder Innovated Important Principles of Co-existence
One still-living former trusted servant and trustee in the A.A. hierarchy has seemed to spend much of his sober life driving a wedge between Clarence Snyder and Alcoholics Anonymous. He has not been alone. Several historians have joined those ranks. Several employees at A.A. headquarters have fostered continuing distaste for Clarence. And while there are many possible explanations for their positions, the fact remains that Bill Wilson himself acknowledged that the greatest growth in A.A. came from the Cleveland crowd. And, in that sense, Clarence proved himself to be a great example of how to combine the old and the new and achieve the best results. Dr. Bob’s daughter told me, when I asked about Clarence, “He was all for Dr. Bob.” And Clarence never stopped talking about what Dr. Bob and his wife had done for him.
Moreover, he openly, frequently, and clearly spoke of the Akron roots, the Bible emphasis, the Oxford Group influence, and the Big Book and Twelve Steps. This can and should be the model for co-existence today.
Why cover up history? Why reject the basic text? Why ignore success? Why drive a wedge between the Akron program and the Big Book program? Why censor all literature but that written by Bill Wilson or the New York hierarchy? Why censure those and exclude listings of those who mention God, Jesus, the Bible, and Christian literature? Why extend recognition to atheists, doctors, gays, women, lesbians, policemen, doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, firemen, dentists, and other special groups but refuse to list or publicize the existence of a group, its meeting schedule, its activities, or anything that is deemed “religious” but not “spiritual?” Why try to exclude afflicted people who were not excluded in early A.A.?
Let’s take a look at some major ideas promoted by Clarence Snyder—ideas that can offer help and hope for successful co-existence with and among idolatrous factions in A.A. and other 12 Step fellowships today.
The Big Book: Clarence Snyder taught from the Big Book. His Cleveland meetings began only a month or so after the Big Book was published. He readily grasped its ideas and quoted them frequently. He instituted retreats still surviving today where the Big Book is treated for what it is—the basic text of A.A. I’ve personally heard his tapes and seen his video renditions on “How It Works,” after which he asks his listeners, “How does it Work?” Their loud reply is “real good!”
The Twelve Steps: Just as he immediately embraced the Big Book on its publication in the Spring of 1939, so also did Clarence begin taking people through the Twelve Steps—following the instructions of the Big Book. He wrote a pamphlet still in circulation called Going Through the Steps. He wrote a pamphlet called My Higher Power the Light Bulb. There he inserted the words “light bulb” for “God” wherever the word “God” appeared in the Steps and demonstrated the absurdity of turning your will and your life over to the care of a light bulb, admitting to your light bulb the exact nature of your wrongs, and asking your light bulb to remove them, etc. He devised a way to take people through the Steps in no more than two days; and he was so inundated with newcomers, that he began to take them through the Steps in classes—something that is done at his surviving retreats today and is set forth in detail by his three old timer sponsees in the new workbook Our A.A Legacy to the Faith Community: A Twelve-Step Guide for Those Who Want to Believe.
The Four Absolutes: To see what Clarence took from Akron and the Oxford Group’s Four Absolutes, one only needs to listen to one of his taped talks. The survival of the Four Absolutes in Cleveland is manifest if you look at the mast-head of the Cleveland Central Bulletin which highlighted Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness, and Absolute Love. When I came to Hawaii, I learned that one of Clarence’s earliest sponsees was Clancy U. who lived on the Island of Oahu, traveled all over the United States visiting AAs, and died just short of his 50th sobriety birthday. Clancy U. was sponsored by both Dr. Bob and by Clarence. He was legendary for concluding his talks by saying, “Remember those Four Absolutes.”
The Bible: Clarence forthrightly and frequently told the truth about A.A.’s roots. Like Dr. Bob, he said the program came from the Bible. See our A.A. Legacy, pp. 5, 18, 26, 30, 37, 44, 57-65. He pointed to the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 as the basic A.A. sources in the Bible. In the early years, Clarence spoke little of Bible specifics, but often of what he called “rummy stories” in the Bible—about Noah (Genesis 9:18-21); the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). Clarence frequently referred to 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (NAS). This verse was given to him by A.A. old-timer William Van Horn, and Clarence referred to, and quoted it for the rest of his life.
(1) In 1944, Clarence wrote the first pamphlet ever written concerning sponsorship. Its original title was A.A. Sponsorship—Its Obligations and Its Responsibilities. It was printed by the Cleveland Central Committee with a different title. The full content is included in A.A. Legacy, pp. 78-82. It is a classic on how to sponsor; and it should be in wide distribution and use in A.A. and internationally, though I don’t believe it is.
(2) Clarence is credited with the idea of “rotating leadership”—a principle that is followed in most A.A. meetings though virtually ignored in its World Services office and even as to “managers” in other offices.
(3) Clarence adhered to and stressed the importance of hospitalization—just as it had been stressed in Akron.
(4) Promotion was first and foremost in Clarence’s mind, including using his name and address, in newspapers to facilitate entry by those who were seeking help, He frequently ignored the “attraction” precept—saying “Who would be attracted to a drunk?”
A Formula for “Co-Existence” Today
Those who get disgusted with Christian-bashing, idolatry, and intolerance in some A.A. meetings do have a choice. They can get drunk. They can take flight. They can form a new meeting. They can form a new group. They can form a new fellowship. Or they can return to their treatment center, their homeless shelter, their rescue facility, their therapist, their doctor, their clergyman, or their church, religious denomination, or Christ-centered recovery program. They can write books on how A.A. failed them. They can write books unmasking A.A. or calling it a cult or calling it a useful lie. They can return to their former dishonest, criminal, disgusting, destructive behavior. They can criticize A.A., Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob, the steps, the foul language, the meat market mentality, the self-centered talking, or the erroneous theology in A.A. And perhaps such activity is more than justified on occasion.
But will they forget the important things that A.A. presented for their choice. They often came from the pit with inconceivable wreckage, and it left them disgraced, ashamed, and afraid. They often were killing their pain or over-expanding their minds with destructive drinking and drugs. They were unwelcome at home, on the job, in the Armed Forces, on the police force or fire squadron, and even among their fellow professionals and workers. Perhaps even in jail.
For them and for me, A.A. was the last house on the block. Moreover, you could see the word “God” as you looked in the books and on the walls. You found a zeal to impress upon you that drinking and drug abuse were problems that needed to be solved by abstinence. You found enthusiastic greeters—far surpassing those who had served you as ushers, waiters, and receptionists. You found lots of laughter and friendliness. You found those who really wanted to enjoy life without drinking. And you found there was a program of recovery—albeit more and more flawed as you looked at it carefully and observed the results.
There have been judges, doctors, clergy, dentists, policemen, firemen, laborers, farm workers, man and women, criminals, abusers and others who came to A.A. and were not rejected for their past mistakes. I fitted one of those categories. You found friendships easy to make and long-lived. And you found a myriad of ways to avoid loneliness, inactivity, self-pity, shame, friendlessness—all without a drink, a drug, or a trip to the liquor store or a bar.
I’ll close this part by asking you: is there something for a Christian to do in A.A. today? There is an account of the return of Jesus to Nazareth where he had been brought up; and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and “stood up for to read” [as was done when the Word of God was read[. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath annointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book. . . . And he began to say unto them, This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears (Luke 4:18-21).Jesus ministered to sinners galore and healed them. Which reminds me of the sign outside Calvary Rescue Mission where Bill Wilson went to the altar and made his decision for Christ. That sign declared that the Mission was a place where the Carpenter [Jesus] mends broken hearts. And there was a drawing of a rag-tag down-trodden man on the sign. I like to think that the words of Jesus, and the significant picture on the sign at Wilson’s place of conversion, speak volumes about what the Christian can do in A.A. today.
For sure, nobody turned me away. Many had weird ideas about some “god.” But I had a sense that I was there to be helped and that they were there to help. And they made that obvious by their hugs, their warm greetings, and their giving me their names and phone numbers to use for help. And I sure did call them—many many times. That was how it all started for me; and, though it was a long time before I found a Christian who helped me, it was not long before I pulled out my Bible and began asking God to tell me what to do, what to say, how to act, and which person to approach in love and service. A Christian is empowered. He has at his beck and call the guidance of God, provided he seeks it in obedience and fellowship. He can bring that same treasure to a newcomer who wants it.
Some Barriers That Need Watching: Truthfulness About A.A. History
Christians in A.A. today, and, in fact, all AAs and Twelve Step people, need to know where they came from. They need to learn the facts, speak the truth, and accurately share their findings with others. Co-existence does not mean compromising on the truth. And the following facts need to be mastered:
Pioneer A.A.’s Christian Sources and Fellowship: Early Akron A.A. was a Christian Fellowship which derived most of its ideas from the Christian Endeavor practices of Dr. Bob’s youth, coupled with some major ideas from the Salvation Army and Gospel Rescue Missions involving conversion, plus some Oxford Group ideas, principal among which were the Four Absolutes.
Cured: Early Akron AAs, and the first three AAs themselves, all declared that they had been cured by the power of God; and their statements were widely publicized by A.A. itself, by their own declarations, and by newspapers and magazines across the United States.
Believing: Early Akron AAs were required to profess a belief in our Creator, to come to Him through His son Jesus Christ, and to accept the ideas and practices of the Bible, which they called the Good Book.
The James Club Idea: Early Akron AAs laid great stress on the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and First Corinthians Thirteen. Later, their Big Book quoted from James; their Steps incorporated specific ideas from James; and they wanted to call themselves “The James Club.” See Dick B. The James Club and The Original Program’s Absolute Essentials.
Conversions: The idea that a genuine conversion could bring about healings of alcoholics came primarily from the books and remarks of Professor William James, Dr. Carl G. Jung, Dr. William D. Silkworth, the Salvation Army, the Gospel Rescue Missions, and Bill Wilson’s own conversion at the altar of Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Rescue Mission, followed by Bill’s calling on the Great Physician at Towns Hospital and having a conversion experience very similar to that of his own grandfather Willie Wilson who was saved and delivered from alcoholism many years earlier. See Dick B. The Conversion of Bill W.
The Big Book Differences: The A.A. Big Book very probably had only one author—Bill Wilson. Its writing was authorized by a close, split vote in Akron. It was then outlined by Bill Wilson and his partner Henry Parkhurst who formed a corporation known as Works Publishing Company, sold stock, issued a prospectus, and had in mind several new and different ideas. Recent research makes a strong case that the earliest drafts originally contained Christian and Biblical materials that were subsequently tossed aside. The outline drafted by Henry Parkhurst called for stories from a wide variety of afflicted people. Parkhurst urged a psychological rather than religious approach.
Instead, Bill Wilson closeted himself with Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., and took as his major theme for the first portion of the book an adaptation of the life-changing ideas of the Oxford Group. There is Shoemaker language throughout the Steps and the text portions.
Bill also drew on some medical ideas from Dr. William D. Silkworth. He adapted the conversion ideas of William James and Carl Jung and gave them an Oxford Group name—spiritual experience. He quoted portions of the Bible. He used the word “God” with Biblical descriptions of Him such as Creator, Maker, Father, Spirit, Father of Light, together with capitalized pronouns referring to Him, over 400 times. He picked up some New Thought ideas such as “Higher Power,” cosmic consciousness, infinite power, fourth dimension, and so on.
For some reason not known to me, he abandoned the “cure” idea of early AAs and adopted the “no cure” teachings of lay therapist Richard Peabody, who died drunk. He adapted some of the Quiet Time ideas he had learned in Akron and in the Oxford Group. And he appeared to adopt a number of the Christian principles found in 1 Corinthians 13.
The Personal Story Differences: The personal stories in the back of the Big Book were a different matter. They were not selected for the sobriety the story-teller had attained. In fact, a number of the writers got drunk. However, they were selected to provide a variety of types. Moreover, the stories that were selected were not confined to the stories of pioneers. This fact has been ignored by several purported historians who reviewed only the personal stories and concluded erroneously that all of the pioneers got drunk. But the personal stories themselves, unlike ultimate basic text of the Big Book, frequently mentioned the Bible, Jesus Christ, and Christian literature. Most were written by or provided assistance for writers from the Akron fellowship—where the success rate had been the greatest.
Dr. Bob gently described Bill’s own early witnessing failures as follows: “You recall the story about Bill having had a spiritual experience and having been sold on the idea of attempting to be helpful to others. Time went by, and he had not created a single convert, not one. As we express it, no one had jelled” (Co-founders, pp. 10-11).
Bill himself later wrote several times that he had been unable to get a single person sober at the beginning. Bill also wrote a well-known letter stating that Dr. Bob had achieved far greater success than the efforts of the folks in the East. And it was the latter situation that caused John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to send his agent Frank Amos to Akron to investigate the actual program being used by this group led by Dr. Bob. The Akron situation Amos investigated, as described and summarized by Amos, prompted both Amos and another Rockefeller colleague to comment that the program was Christian and was much like “first century Christianity.”
The Vice of Concealment, Fear, and Timidity
I have found no evidence in my own successful and continuous close association with A.A. or during my own continuous twenty-one years of sobriety that justifies the conclusion that there has been profit to the fellowship, the meetings, or the newcomers in the continued ignoring, distorting, and concealing of history. Regrettably, such has been a judgment call of people who don’t and can’t speak for our fellowship as to what history shall be discussed and what shall be buried.
The history of early A.A. is a fact; it just seemed to lose its oomph after Dr. Bob and his wife died, after Bill had his long and deep depression period, and after Bill seemed to favor Lois Wilson’s suggestion that what A.A. needed was a universal program because not all drunks were Christian.
I used to doubt the accuracy of Lois’s claim. But that was before I learned about the difference between the Akron program and the Big Book program; before I learned how much Bill had changed the Big Book program from the one he and Bob developed in Akron. Before I learned how all significant references to God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible were removed from the Big Book drafts. Before I learned how strange references to “higher power” were actually inserted. Before I learned how the doctrine of “no cure” was added and how drastically it differed from the statements of the founders and of a host of AAs over a decade. And before I learned how many New Thought and atheist compromises were made a part of the writings.
Concealment: The art of concealment makes and leaves no place for truth. That is the reason for cross-examination, impeachment, and rebuttal in court trials. The aim is to get at the whole truth and to unravel the opinions, hearsay remarks, unreliable stories, irrelevant detours bogus documents, lack of best evidence, and reliance on parole evidence that lead to lies and erroneous findings. If the light doesn’t shine, there is darkness. If the lie is believed, the Devil triumphs. We are not dealing with court trials, and perhaps not even with unknowing evil doers who seem to be working for the wrong team. We are, however, having hidden from us the truth of God’s Word and often respond without remembering or seeking the power of God. You may not prevent or change the concealment. You may not see the departure of those who do the cover-ups. And you can look for a human solution and have no better success than the alcoholic who conceals his problem and declines to turn for Divine Aid, as Bill Wilson called the religious solution. Yet here’s what a Psalm of David offered:
Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from the fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked: from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him and fear not. They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily: they say, Who shall see they search out iniquities: they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. . . . The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him: and all the upright in heart shall glory (Psalm 64:1-6, 10).I firmly believe our Creator will help present the truth of His love, power, and healing abilities if we ask Him. The truth is not necessarily for those who make a free-will choice to disbelieve; but it is mighty important to those who are believers or might become believers if God showed them the way, just as Bill, Bob, and Anne felt He had shown them the way when they did their nose counting in 1937 and saw what He had enabled them to do. Try God! Try God first!
Fear: If fear reigns, it needs to be cast out. As A.A.’s own basic text suggests: Contempt prior to investigation is a guarantee of everlasting ignorance. And as soon as fear replaces fact and concealment replaces light and intimidation suppresses openness, the door is open to faulty control, faulty suppositions, and frequent failure. AAs today do not, for the most part, know their history. Prompted by fear from professional chatter and meeting babble, they swallow false gods, false theories, and false solutions. There is fear of reprimand, fear of error and mistakes., and fear of losing status.
The simple solution for all that is perhaps to remember President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous statement that: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
A.A. literature, hierarchical control, and dogmatic stubbornness have given rise to meetings and practices riddled with fear and where fear is made king:
(1) Fear of the first drink.
(2) Fear of relapse.
(3) Fear of sharing one’s own experience, strength and hope from God, from Jesus Christ, and from the Bible.
(4) Fear of reading any literature or books that are not “Conference Approved.” (5) Fear of holding meetings which discuss history, the Bible, and God in the same breath as the Big Book and Steps.
(6) Fear of mentioning “outside issues.”
(7) Fear that speaking out constitutes forbidden “cross-talk”—a treatment center term.
(8) Fear that A.A. can’t cope with or help anyone but an alcoholic—even though I have really never encountered anyone in A.A. in my 21 years who has only been addicted to alcohol.
(9) Fear that this or that principle or practice might be violative of some misinterpreted A.A. Tradition.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).The Perennial Sickness Fallacy: One need only listen to the “don’t drink and go to meetings” talk that dominates so many discussions in A.A. to ask forthrightly: “I thought the original AAs were cured of alcoholism.” They were. “I thought pioneer AAs were focused on reliance on God.” They were. “I thought the original AAs stressed Bible study and prayer.” They did. “I thought pioneer AAs read all kinds of religious literature.” They did. “I thought Bill’s Twelve Steps came largely from the life-changing program of the Oxford Group.” They did. “I thought Dr. Bob said the basic ideas of the Twelve Steps came from the study of the Bible.” They did. “I thought early A.A. meetings were devoted primarily to prayer, Bible study, discussion of the application of Biblical principles, surrenders to Jesus Christ, and asking for deliverance from alcohol.” They were. “I thought the original A.A. program stressed hospitalization as a must for the newcomers.” It did. “I thought people in the fellowship worked closely and intensely with newcomers.” They did. “I heard that early pioneers who used those Old School approaches were 40 in number (not 100); that they were considered “medically incurable;” that they were cured by the power of God; that they said they were cured by the power of God; and that they had a documented 75% success rate in Akron among those who really tried, and very soon had a 93% success rate in Cleveland where there was even more widespread and intense work with newcomers.” All these reflections were based on the actual facts. Yet they are seldom heard.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
Some of these facts can actually be found, though incompletely presented, in A.A.’s own conference approved literature. Also, my 31 published titles and more than 170 articles document the facts. And more and more, non-A.A. biographies and writings are beginning to fill in the same holes with additional, and even the same, truthful details.
“. . . If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have put upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).The challenge of diversity for the sake of growth: A.A. is not a forum for rock-throwing. A.A. is not a forum for intolerant outbursts. A.A. is not a forum for suppressing religious freedom. A.A. is not a forum for quashing freedom of speech. A.A. is not a forum for quoting some illusory index of forbidden books. A.A. is not a forum for forcing someone’s opinions down someone else’s throat. A.A. is not a forum for airing resentments. A.A. is not a forum for idolizing fear. A.A. is not a forum for promoting idolatry. A.A. is not a forum for excusing relapses. A.A. is not a forum of “us against them.” All these unfortunate detours do exist. But they shouldn’t.
He who loudly asserts that A.A. is not a Christian fellowship today is 100% correct. He who says that A.A. today includes people of all races, colors, creeds, and nationalities is probably close to correct. He who says that A.A. today includes blacks, native Americans, Caucasians, folks from the mid-east, Chinese, Japanese, Hispanics, South Americans, Europeans, Southeast Asians, Australians, and immigrants from many other places is probably close to correct. He who says that today’s A.A. contains atheists, agnostics, humanists, gays, lesbians, Roman Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, irreligious, non-religious, unbelievers, and Hottentots is also close to accuracy.
But one might pause to observe a few additional, likely facts. There are probably more Christians in A.A. today than people of any other faith or religion. There are probably more people in A.A. who believe in God, have heard of the Bible, and have been to a Christian church than people in other categories. Preliminarily, I would again declare emphatically that A.A. is no longer, and is not a Christian Fellowship today. And he who claims that some AA is out of line for speaking of his Christian beliefs, speaking of the early Christian Fellowship, and mentioning the Bible is trying to “return” A.A. to Christianity or “cram” the Bible down people’s throats is spitting in the wind.
Most of the many Christian AAs that I know are scared to death to talk about their faith, scared to mention God or Jesus Christ or the Bible, and tend to believe the canard that to do so might scare a newcomer out of the rooms. The real issue, however, is not what you say, but where you say it, to whom you say it, how you say it, and what purpose you have in saying it at all. I haven’t found many Christian AAs who devote themselves to looking for scraps. Some may. But most are more likely to turn tail and run, rather than stand, resist the adversary, and call on Almighty God for help, guidance, and strength when and if verbally chastised by a loud mouth, angry talker.
Today’s A.A. is diverse. A.A. will remain diverse. And the diversity is not going to lessen. By the same token, America is diverse; Rotary Clubs are diverse; the YMCA is diverse, bird-watchers are diverse; soldiers and sailors are diverse; mushroom hunters are diverse; cowboys are diverse; and Congressmen are diverse. Hopefully, however, they can and often do unite for a purpose. And AAs are avowedly united in their purpose to help the newcomer overcome the ravages of alcoholism.
Diversity need not divide if the common and clearly stated purpose is understood and accepted.
“When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall” (Proverbs 19:16).The curse of secularism and universalism What does a Christian, or a Twelve Step fellowship itself, do with scientists, academics, treatment professionals, clergy, physicians, psychologists, historians, and Twelve Steppers who openly eschew mention of God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ? By every form of self-deception, phony labeling, and outright advocacy, so-called scholars and recovery workers invent deities that aren’t deities at all. As Bill Wilson might say, “There’s a poser.” I can’t answer for anyone but myself as to how you handle the revisionists. But I’m reminded of a state flag that read: “Don’t tread on me.”
Finally within A.A. itself, I emerged from my brain-damaged bewilderment and awakened to the fact that my sponsor and his sponsor were really opposed to Bible study, mention of God, and mention of Jesus Christ in “their” precious fellowship. One of them had never read the Bible and said so. That man blamed “God’s will” for his girl friend’s serious pain problems. Both men spoke almost exclusively of their “higher power.” And as my actions and words became more in line with those of early AAs, both men felt that my bringing people to my Bible fellowship was going to get them and me drunk. With all that baggage accumulating, I knew it was time for a change. I gave them a hug and got a new sponsor and hence a new grand-sponsor.
Earlier, I had simply been grateful for their help, but very gullible as to the supposed validity of their self-centered, dangerous, and hostile ideas. I am no longer. And the more I write about early A.A., the more I hear from all over the world about the hunger for the facts, the willingness to listen and study, and the need to speak freely.
A.A. is a religion, and that rankles those who have accepted the nonsense of outside influences that A.A. is spiritual, but not religious. Too many today want to argue the vague and undefined point that A.A. is not “religious” but is somehow “spiritual.” Many want to perpetuate the misleading contention that A.A. is “spiritual, but not religious”—whatever they think that conundrum means. Furthermore, A.A. is not “secular.” Just look at the court decisions which review the evidence and the records and conclude otherwise. To argue for a secular finding would require the abandonment of the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, the founders’ words and writings, and the history of A.A.
Some in, and some who influence, A.A., seem determined to grow the fellowship into “universality” of viewpoint. But the real question is whether, right now, its doors are open to all, its “love and service” are freely dispensed, and its autonomous and espoused freedom of belief and expression are really made available to all.
Universalism produces for me an offensive smell and taste of destructive compromises that include: Surrender of any remark or idea that might offend anyone except those who decide what is or isn’t offensive. Give the power to decide to someone in a remote office or publication committee, who may not even be an AA or an alcoholic. Ignore the failures clearly evidenced by the current dismal and downward plummeting size, plummeting growth rate, and plummeting success rate. Attempt a firm and balanced stand—“firm” on the “sinking sands” of compromise, rather than upon a rock of truth.
Both Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob declared that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contained the underlying philosophy of A.A. And if it did, that sermon clearly assured that provision would be made for those who first ought the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). The words of Jesus proclaimed there would be little hope for those who did not do the will of Jesus’ Father who was in heaven. Those who did the Father’s will, he taught, were likened to those who built on a rock. Those who didn’t were likened to those who built on sand and saw their foundations moving away (Matthew 7:21-26).
Secularism didn’t get early AAs cured. A couple of them in New York achieved dry drunk status. Thus Hank Parkhurst (Bill’s partner in the Works Publishing Company corporate venture) wanted “God” out of the Big Book. He was rewarded in his efforts with early drunkenness. Hank’s alleged supporter Jim Burwell was denouncing God in meetings and stayed drunk for five years until he saw his fellow AAs praying and then, in a dismal hotel room, reached out for and read a Gideon Bible and never drank again. A New Jersey psychiatrist was said to have made a great contribution to the Big Book. According to A.A.’s Pass It On, Dr. Howard read the Big Book manuscript and then said Bill was “making a damn big mistake. . . You have to change the whole damn thing. . . You have to take out the God—the complete God” (p. 204). And then there was Richard Peabody, author of The Common Sense of Drinking, who was a lay therapist, seemed to be the producer of Bill’s “no cure” insertions, and yet died drunk [A.A. publications don’t say that, but Bill’s own recorded notation on a portion of Peabody’s book that Peabody had proved his contention that there was no cure, by dying drunk]. Peabody had written nothing about reliance on God. Such was the early record of secularism. And it had little to commend it.
“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).Universalism: Nor did universalism have anything to commend it. It certainly didn’t get the early AAs cured. It has spawned hundreds, perhaps thousands, of open-to-anybody treatment programs that are falling like flies in a trap. Its outspoken and perhaps first champion was Lois Wilson—the non-alcoholic wife of co-founder Bill. It was she who wrote in her memoirs that it was “agreed” that A.A. should be a universal program because not all drunks were Christians. She cites no evidence for, or source of, the “agreement” though later history seems to reinforce her contention. But there is no persuasive evidence today that putting the stamp of approval on powers that are rocks and rills will do much for the AA who chooses a higher power that is a rock, rill, or light bulb, rather than our Creator, and nonetheless “comes to believe” he or she is establishing a “power” relationship that is solid, meaningful, or helpful.
“Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them” (Psalm 115: 2-8).What Might Be The Best Help Today?
As one scholarly A.A. critic put it: “Would you sign up for a treatment that had a 75% failure rate?” To which I would answer, “I might if I were really desperate and there was no other option.” But I would ask her admirers, “Would you sign up for a treatment that had a 75% success rate among seemingly hopeless, medically incurable, patients who really tried?” And somewhere between the two alternatives, I think, lies an appealing choice for those who want to learn their history and apply it today—and without abandoning the ship. So let’s take a solid and detailed look at what is available today and which, with God’s help, might serve and glorify Him and help the afflicted.
Reflections on Approaching the Newcomer Today
Where might you meet a newcomer? Times they are a changin.’ Granted, there are A.A. offices all over the United States. Some have answering services. Some have volunteers. Some have managers or staff that answer telephones. There appear to be few Twelfth Step referrals which means that most callers will be routed to a meeting instead of being helped by an alcoholic squad, as they often used to be.
So where might you meet a newcomer today?
(1) At a meeting of A.A. or any other Twelve Step Fellowship.
(2) At a meeting of some recovery-related organization like Alcoholics Victorious, Overcomers Outreach, Overcomers, Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics for Christ, Teen Challenge, YWAM, Anonymous fellowships of all sorts, and church or religious recovery meetings.
(3) In a treatment program, whether as a fellow-patient, or at an alumni or after-care or renewal meeting.
(4) In your church or Bible fellowship or religious gathering.
(5) Through a friendship, job, class, school, family relationship, professional organization, labor union, government agency, clergyman, physician, volunteer group, or non-profit agency.
(6) While seated in a waiting room, terminal, transportation facility, or sports event.
(7) At a golf game, skating rink, volley ball court, dance group, theatre, restaurant, store, or warehouse.
(8) While standing in a line at the post office, at Costco, at a movie, at a flea market, at a swap-meet, at a garage sale, or in a hospital, clinic, unemployment office, driver’s license facility.
(9) Jail, prison, detention facility, parole office, probation office, or courtroom. (10) A homeless shelter, transitional housing facility, half-way house, rescue mission, Salvation Army ARC, or rehabilitation center.
In other words, it’s the need that calls for the action, not the place nor the relationship. Most drunks and addicts don’t initially really want to be “found” or “helped.” And that situation is where Alcoholics Anonymous has the distinct edge—the effectiveness of one drunk sharing with another. Drunks and addicts are everywhere. Everyone seems to have a relative or friend or acquaintance that has the problem. And the great question is not whether that person needs help, but rather whether you really want to go to any lengths to provide help to those that need it. Whether you and the prospect want to help and be helped, are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, and will act on professed willingness.
How do you greet the newcomer? Different strokes for different folks. But the starting question is whether you have first asked our Heavenly Father where to go, who to see, and what to say. He knows the heart of any prospect. He knows where you might fit in. He knows where the need lies. And He is capable of providing the guidance. You can also ask Him in which way, area, group, and setting you can love and serve Him best. That said, there are conventional approaches that used to work and should, with God’s help, still work in melting the ice: (1) Look for the shaky, uncomfortable, fidgety, hesitant soul. (2) March up to that person and extend your hand and card, if you have one. (3) Give the newcomer your name and ask for his or hers. (4) Ask that person if he or she is new. (5) Welcome the person to the meeting. (6) Ask where they live. (7) Ask how they happened to come to the particular meeting or place. (8) Ask if they have been to any other meetings and whether they have wheels. (9) Ask if they have any pressing problems – health, court, family, taxes, criminal, insurance, license issues. (10) Ask what they do for a living when working. (11) Ask if they believe they have a serious problem with alcohol or drugs; and, if they say yes, tell them they have come to the right place. There is an old saw: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” The greeting is the starting shot.
Qualifying the newcomer. Most newcomers are guilty, fearful, ashamed, confused, hesitant, and shy. They will appreciate your interest and kindness. Now’s the time for action:
(1) Ask if they’d like a cup of coffee or tea; and then either get them one or take them to the coffee table.
(2) Ask if they’d like to sit with you during the meeting.
(3) Ask if they have a copy of the Big Book and of a meeting schedule.
(4) Ask them if they plan to go to a meeting the next day.
(5) Ask them which one, and/or suggest one.
(6) At the close of the meeting, introduce them to other members who care; ask them if they need a ride home, and get them one.
(7) Ask them if they’d like to talk for a bit and then take them to a corner of the room, to your car, to your home, or to a common after-the-meeting food or coffee place where members congregate.
(8) When you have them alone, ask them to tell you their story and, where appropriate, share yours.
(9) Ask them if they really believe they have a problem with alcohol or drugs and, where appropriate, share your details.
(10) Ask them if they really want to get well permanently and right now and, if appropriate, tell them you’d like to help them.
(11) Ask them if they believe in God and, if appropriate, what their religious background has been.
(12) Ask them if they are willing the pray, study the Bible, and learn about Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father, and what God made possible through the accomplishments of His son Jesus Christ.
(13) If appropriate, tell them what God has done for you.
(14) Ask them if they will go to any lengths—do whatever it takes—to abstain permanently.
(15) Assure them they can get well with God’s help, but point out that it takes a decision, determination, discipline, and hard work.
(16) Tell them a little about (a) early A.A., its program, and its successes. (b) the difference between the fellowship and the program of recovery. (c) the purpose of the Big Book. (d) the necessity for “taking the steps” with someone who is experienced and knows how to lead.
(17) Ask them if they would like to work with you—using the word “sponsor” if you choose.
(18) Assure them that you also would like to work with them and help them get well if they will follow directions. Do not be concerned with responses. If the newcomer is unwilling or reluctant, you have planted a seed that may grow later or elsewhere. At best, you have acquired a newcomer that you can sponsor and help.
Practical directions for your newcomer:
(1) Tell the newcomer that A.A.’s primary purpose is to help others recover.
(2) Tell them it is never too soon to ask God for help, to ask someone else for help, to use the telephone, to go to meetings, to ask questions, to say I’m sorry, to make amends, to help another drunk, and to practice the basic principles of love and service—amplified by the principles of the Bible.
(3) Emphasize their need for total support—staying away from slippery places and slippery people; avoiding drinking and drugging completely; going to a physician or a detox facility for help at any signs of shaking or other forms of withdrawal; reading the Bible; praying; asking God for guidance and deliverance; going to church or Bible fellowship; calling you as sponsor every single day; befriending and calling other fellowship members frequently; hanging out in sober places—whether sober clubs, church, recovery groups, meetings, or the homes of sober friends.
(4) Encourage Bible study, a Bible fellowship or study, and a knowledgeable teacher.
(5) Offer prayer techniques that square with God’s Word.
(6) Suggest particular attention to James, the Sermon and 1 Corinthians 13.
(7) Tell them to ignore those who tell them they shouldn’t read the Bible or religious literature and merely insist that their first focus must be on not drinking and going to meetings. Such selfish and short-sighted advice is, I believe, a perpetual guarantee of failure, relapse, or non-growth.
(8) Start reading the Big Book with them or taking them to a good Big Book seminar.
(9) See that they engage in wholesome recreation, whether sports, games, movies, concerts, amusement activities, reading, singing, playing musical instruments, or chatting with friends and family.
(10) Tell them that A.A. is not a dumping ground—that they are not go to meetings and whine or criticize or develop resentments or waste their time recounting their drinking and drugging episodes and sobriety difficulties.
(11) Tell them to listen for those speakers who talk about God, about establishing a relationship with God, about what God has done for them; about the Big Book and the Steps; about A.A. history; and, yes, about the Bible and Christ in their lives.
(12) Miss no opportunity to encourage participation in sober events like birthday parties, retreats, dances, outings, ball games, watching sports as a group, attending religious functions as a group, going to 12 Step Conferences, seminars, and meetings, and participating in A.A. campouts .
(13) Tell them to “participate” in their own recovery by service at meetings—making coffee, greeting, setting up, closing down, sharing when asked, serving when asked, and announcing when asked.
(14) Take them through the 12 Steps as soon and as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, following Big Book instructions and using a good guide as a workbook. There’s an old saw: “Come with us; go where we go; do what we do; and you’ll get what we’ve got.” A.A. newcomers need direction and leadership from the winners.
“Emotional Sobriety” Versus Abundant and Everlasting Life
In later years, some A.A. speakers began developing a growth “detour.” When I first heard it, I suppose it offered me a guilt trip. However, it actually confused me because I hadn’t seen it in the Big Book or heard it in meetings. I still don’t claim to understand it. Therefore I don’t want to expound on it and recommend it. There is a good reason: it is simply a senses-knowledge phrase that should be ranked with “higher powers,” “spirituality,” universalism, and revisionism. In other words, why settle for some psychological, second-best proposal when the Good Book and A.A.’s own pioneer experiences established a first rate result based on God’s power and Word.
The Right and Privilege to Be Born Again and Cured
Here’s a group of statements that will really challenge those who are scared to death to look at, or believe A.A.’s own early literature and history. And here they are: I am a cured alcoholic. I am a recovered alcoholic. I am a reformed alcoholic. I am an ex-problem drinker. And those are precisely the words early AAs used. Furthermore, I am not a sinner. I am a saint. That’s what knowledgeable born-again Christians can say. But the real question is whether or not I have been changed and have changed. Changed because of what the sacrifice of Jesus Christ made available (John 3:16).
Unfortunately, A.A.’s Big Book and some recent literature says I can’t be cured. And many an old-timer has been frightened of admitting that Bill’s statement about “no cure” contradicts his own frequent statements, and those of the pioneers. One man recently wrote me and said that the “no cure” statement appeared in the first 164 pages of the Big Book—the basic text of A.A. He said Bill’s statement that the Lord had cured him appeared on page 191 and therefore didn’t have the authority that the first statement carried. The man said he had stopped fighting over such ideas and was content to call himself “recovered.” He added that if that meant he was “cured,” then he was cured. And why not.
The body of the basic text declares that our sanity has returned, that God has restored us to sanity, and that we are neither cocky nor afraid. It says that’s the miracle of our participation in and practice of the Twelve Steps of recovery.
Bill Wilson declared in a taped interview with T. Henry and Clarace Williams in 1954 that, “Only God Almighty could have cured us of this lunacy.” Right on, Bill! At least you were consistent in 1954 with what you wrote in 1939. Yet Bill had also written in 1939 the “ominous warning” that we are never cured and only have a “daily reprieve” conditioned on the maintenance of our spiritual condition—whatever that means.
Later Conference Approved literature insists that statements by our founders that they were cured and statements by others such as trustee Frank Amos were misleading and that A.A. no longer uses the terms “cure,” “reformed,” and “ex-alcoholic” (See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, p. 136. Compare pages 129 [“cured”], 130 [“reformed”], p. 134 [“reformed alcoholics,” “ex-alcoholics”], p. 135 [“cures”]).
I use those terms freely and proudly both in describing our history and in describing my victory. And I believe this attempted revision of fact and history by some un-named, employed staff person at A.A. in the late 1970’s is unpardonable. Please therefore put me on the list of those who are cured, as confirmed by those who were there in 1938, rather than refuted by someone who was paid to write otherwise in a book published in 1980.
This is not to say that my “anecdotal” statements about my cure are irrefutable, but they do coincide totally with A.A. history. Worse, occasionally someone phones or emails me telling me I have an ego problem when I say that I have been cured; that I am arrogant in going against A.A.’s written dogma that there is no cure; and that I am hurting the fellowship when I say the “higher power” and “spirituality” language is doctrinal, and pure nonsense.” Their vociferous and heated condemnations really ignore A.A.’s Tenth Step suggestion that “love and tolerance are our code.”
Oxford Group writers dumped the expression “conversion” and replaced it with “change;” and I have heard or seen many Oxford Group activists say that a person has “changed” through using the Oxford Group life-changing program consisting of the Five C’s, the Four Absolutes, Quiet Time, Restitution, Surrender, believing in God and His plan and the necessity for obeying it. Their stated formula is, “Sin is the problem. Jesus Christ is the cure. And Miracle is the result.” But their miracle has been explained as a spiritual awakening, a spiritual experience, and God-consciousness. In other words, the Oxford Group settled for “change.” And the many of them that I have met, communicated with, and spoken to seemed to me to be leading exemplary lives and be very much interested in their very unlikely offshoot—Alcoholics Anonymous.
In later years, Alcoholics Anonymous writings also dumped “conversion.” They substituted a “spiritual experience.” Then they substituted “spiritual awakening.” And finally, in an explanatory appendix, they settled primarily for a “personality change sufficient to overcome the disease of alcoholism.”
The Bible is filled with talk about the necessity for change. The problem is that it is not talking about a mere spiritual awakening, spiritual experience, religious experience, or personality change. The Biblical change has been called “conversion.” It has been called “born again.” It has been called “saved.” It has been called being “sealed” with the promised Holy Spirit. The “changed” people—born again of God’s spirit—are specifically called saints (Ephesians 1:1), sons of God (1 John 3:2), children of God (1 John 5:2), brothers of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:11), Christians (Acts 11:26). and followers of the Way (Acts 9:2; 24:14). There is, therefore, a whale of a lot of difference between the characterizations in the Bible of those that were reborn and “changed” and those said to be “changed” in the Oxford Group and those in present-day Alcoholics Anonymous. Worse, several recent historical writers have claimed that A.A. is about “not-god-ness,” about “spirituality, but not religion,” about a higher power, and about belief in Something, Somebody, or nothing at all.
A.A. no longer involves conversion or salvation, these specious speculators claim; nothing but some kind of change called “Something changes.” Lacking is the pioneer A.A. assurance of Jesus that he was the Way and the Truth and the Life; that no man comes to the Father but by Him; that he came to bring a more than abundant life; and that those who believed on Him would have everlasting life, receive the power of the Holy Spirit, receive remission of sins past, could be forgiven for present and future sins, was healed, could cast out devil spirits, and would do greater things than he, Jesus, had done. This is the change which occurs when you have Christ in you, the hope of glory, as the Bible puts it.
The “change” of the Oxford Group was based on a theory of “world-changing” through “life changing.” The “change” of present-day A.A. has been defined as merely a “personality change.” The “change” of the Bible and of early A.A. was one of confessing that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9).. And of thereby receiving salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit with all the power, forgiveness of sin, healing, abundant life, and ever-lasting life that go with it.
In a word, a “change” for a believing Christian and for an early A.A. was becoming a new man in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17); knowing he would be changed and receive a new spiritual body on the Lord’s return; and already had everlasting life that overcomes and triumphs over the devil’s power of death. Interestingly, even Bill Wilson accepted these ideas in his youth, in his decision for Christ at the altar of the Rescue Mission, and in his first messages that the Lord had cured him.
Change and Freedom
Jesus and God’s own Word spoke of a completely different kind of change and change process. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). God’s Word said: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Jesus said: “No man can come too me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). He said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. . . . He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him’ (John 3:16, 17, 36). He said: “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. . . . Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:28, 31-32, 36). He said: “The thief (devil) cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He said: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). He said: “Verily verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13). He said: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. . . . I have given them thy word. . . Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:3, 14, 17).
I repeat some of these words: If ye continue in my word, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Then note what Paul wrote: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
Change and Power From On High
Before he was parted from his apostles and those that were with them, and was carried up into heaven, Jesus told them:
“And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).In the first chapter of the Book of Acts of the Apostles, these additional remarks of Jesus are recorded:
“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water: but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. . . . But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:4-5, 8).Having been filled with the Holy Ghost on Pentecost, Peter explained: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear. . . . Then Peter said unto them, Repent [change], and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:33, 38).
Explaining what trust in Christ meant, Paul said:
“That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise. . . . And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power. . . . Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or thin, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 1:12-13, 19; 3:20).In Philippians, Paul added:
“For it is God which worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).In Colossians, Paul explained the mystery which had been hidden from ages and from generations but was then and there made manifest to his saints:
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).And then:
“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).Change and Obedience to God’s Commandments
Believers do not get a free ticket just by their new birth alone. Jesus said: “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Irael; The Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).
1 John explains: “Whoseover believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:1-5). 1 John provided the reward for obedience: “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22).
Change by Putting on the Mind of Christ
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Ephesians 1:3-8).
“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17). “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. . . . For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16).
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof: (Romans 13:14). “That you put off concerning the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lust; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13).
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. . . . Lie not one to another seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: . . Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:1-2, 9-10, 16).
Change Accompanied with Prosperity, Health, Forgiveness, and Victory
Anne Smith was enthusiastic about the words in 3 John 2, and she quoted them in her journal:
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2). AAs were particularly fond of the Book of James which told them: “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:14-16).The Book of Acts is filled with examples of how the born again followers of Jesus were able to heal, raise from the dead and cast out devil spirits, just as Jesus had promised that they could do. 1 John assured the continuing availability of Jesus Christ: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. . . . My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 1:9; 2:1). “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:16). “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Change When You Ask, Listen, Search, Study, Learn, Believe, and Bless:
The Good Book has some simple suggestions that can be applied by any AA, Christian or other person and in any fellowship, religious or otherwise. James 1 suggests that if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men liberally. Without that resource, any Christian helper is just relying on the fallible opinions and practices of men. Romans suggests that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, but points out that nothing will be heard if the Word is not preached. When an issue comes up, follow the practices of those whom Acts describes as listeners in Berea who received the Word with all readiness of mind, then searched the Scriptures whether those things were so; therefore many believed. Timothy was enjoined by Paul to study to show himself approved of God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Those who don’t learn and believe are missing the point. Jesus said to his questioners that they did err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. Hebrews urges that in order to please God, one must believe that he is and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. And those who operate with those principles under their belt and do their best to help others will surely bless those who want to listen, follow directions, and be healed.
Is There Anything Else?
Changed Behavior and Action
Whether one is a member of the Lions Club, the Boy Scouts, the Presbyterian Church, the Democratic Party, the CYO, the Army, the Navy, or the Marines, there is lots of room for asking how that person comports himself regardless of his membership or affiliation. What does he say? How does he say it? What is he thinking? What is his underlying mental objective? What does he do? How much is he walking the talk? I mention these organizations generally because all have worthy statements of purpose, and all are expected to produce something that glorifies that purpose.
With our Heavenly Father, it is a similar challenge—but it has to do with what He says, not what man claims He says. His Word states that He wants all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. This does not merely mean selling light bulbs for the blind, or helping an old lady across the street, or singing the doxology, or showing up for a vote, or capably pointing a plane, a tank, a ship, or a rifle at some enemy. It means conducting yourself in such a way that the real purpose is effectively served. And with our Heavenly Father, it is similar. But the purpose is doing His Will in fellowship with Him.
The Good Fruit from the Good Tree Analogy
There is strong evidence that our Creator had a hand in the origins, practices, and development of Alcoholics Anonymous. There is strong evidence that early AAs sought to study His Word, do His will, and love and serve those people who wanted to come to Him through His son and really needed and sought His help. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught: “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17).
For sure, most of us came into A.A. loaded with corruption—physical, mental, moral, emotional, and clearly evident. But both Dr. Bob and Bill W. proclaimed that the Sermon on the Mount contained the underlying philosophy of A.A. It seemed to be their objective to plant a good tree with the expectation of its bearing good fruit. If and when the tree is corrupt, the fruit will be corrupt.
Good Trees and Good Fruit Defined by the Good Book
It is not far-fetched to look at the Bible, the prayers, the literature, the Quiet Times, and the work with others that transpired in early A.A. and conclude that the Fellowship was seeking to produce a lot more than a dry drunk. Now what might that be? Well, for one thing, Dr. Bob said the pioneers were all broke. Even so, he and Anne shared to the uttermost their home, their meager food servings, their shelter, and their love. Why? I believe they clearly planted a good tree based on the basic ideas of the Good Book. Dr. Bob’s son wrote in the Foreword to my title The Good Book and The Big Book that “God’s Big Book was the frame of reference in our home.” That tells me they were working with a tree that was good, and that good fruit was an object. The Bible study, prayers, guidance, reading, work with others, church, and religious comradeship were not simply an effort to force abstinence on unwilling sick people. These ideas came straight from what they called the “Good Book.” And the Good Book promised all the things here discussed and a good deal more. It promised health. It promised forgiveness. It promised prosperity. It promised an abundant life. It promised power from on high. It told of the price that was paid for enablement. And it offered everlasting life to those who believed.
Now that’s good fruit. It’s a commodity whose worth far exceeds a dry drunk produced by abstinence and meeting attendance. The Good Book ideas also dealt effectively with the Adversary’s temptations, threats, and power—actions that were aimed at death, idolatry, rejection of the Word, fear, shame, disease, sin, guilt, anger, dishonesty, and a host of very explicit transgressions. The Good Book offered rules of the road that would necessitate obedience, love, service, and the glorification of Yahweh the Creator and Jesus Christ His son. It offered the whole armour of God that would enable victory over the wiles of the Devil. It mapped out the means for becoming a child of the living Creator—a beloved child whose needs were met, love was empowered, fear could be cast out, and mind and body could be made sound and whole—in fact already had been by the accomplishments of Christ (1 Peter 2:24).
Still More Change
Is that all there is?
I don’t think so. While it may not be the province of the Christian in A.A. to proclaim all the promises, defenses, and rules for victory, it is important to point to the fact that God’s will is specifically directed—and in A.A.’s Big Book itself—at obedience, love, kindness, patience, truth, honesty, loveliness, peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance, joy, tenderheartedness, forgiveness, service, fruitful labor, purity, unselfishness, and a host of other principles laid out in the three main early A.A. books deemed essential for victory—James, the Sermon, and 1 Corinthians. If so, you can and should say so. That’s fact, and that’s A.A. history.
Looking at the Total Field of Challenge
Let’s close with the many things that burden newcomers coming into the rooms of recovery. Burdens due, in large part, to the fact that their excesses have totally corrupted their lives: Lack of personal hygiene and bodily health. Lack of education and loss of employment. Miserable job performance. Overwhelming debt. Business and financial loss. Tax errors, omissions, and outright fraud. Divorce. Child custody and support issues. Accidents, injuries, and deaths. Injuries. Physical sickness and debilitation. Criminal actions and records. Family and friends lost, harmed, or snubbed. Sexual misconduct and misdeeds. Court dates ignored or missed. Warrants outstanding. Drivers licenses, vehicle registrations, tickets, and insurance ignored or violated. Teeth in disrepair and without dental hygiene. Mental illness and depression. Prescription drug dependencies. Delayed withdrawal resulting in forgetfulness, confusion, idle chatter, shaking, and pain. A host of other damaged items like the liver, the throat, and the nose.
The burdens are not solved by social workers, government agencies, churches, counselors, treatment programs, lawyers, doctors, dentists, therapists, clergy, scientists, pills, clinics, classes, grants, or research. They are almost unbelievably overwhelming. Or at least they seem so at the human level and to human reasoning.
But with God, nothing is impossible. However, despair lurks, frightens, and impedes. And the quickest and most readily available solution is to cut and run, ignore the problems, watch them pile up, and drink or die. That is where the Christian in A.A. can offer God’s Big Book to those who want to learn and believe it. The Christian need not undertake the role of pastor, teacher, apostle, prophet, or evangelist—although he may well have these capabilities. But he can bring the light of truth to the darkness of fear and despair; the availability of deliverance to the bondage of evil; the faith in God and of Jesus Christ to those who have no hope or faith or promise of a way out.
It is not enough to herd people into meetings, hurry them through the 12 Steps, tell them they are recovered but not cured, and turn them loose. Nor is it enough to expect them to sit in meetings and expound their self-centered pain for an eternity. Nor is it enough to call their other problems “outside issues” and ignore them. And simply let the mentally ill stay depressed, the irresponsible ignore their accountability and duties, allow foul language and idolatry and ignorance to rule meeting talk, focus on self instead of rehabilitation of the whole person, ignore God and His Word, believe the current theory that actions change thinking rather than the fact that right thinking guided by God can change actions and life. That right thinking is aided and abetted by good education, wholesome jobs, wholesome recreation, wholesome family life, good health, mental soundness, physical fitness, good nutrition, appropriate rest and sleep, good relationships, and a program for real spiritual deliverance and growth in fellowship with the Creator.
It won’t and seldom does happen in treatment—not even in long term rehabilitation programs. Fellowship with God, with His son Jesus Christ, and with other believers goes a long way toward mending the fences and heading into the abundant life that glorifies and serves our Creator. But it requires leadership, dedication, a program, and hands-on experience and effort. I’ve personally seen most of the problems and have even experienced many myself. I have watched the fellowship stand idly by in apathetic self concern. I’ve also watched God act effectively in the lives of those who sought and obeyed Him. And I submit that this platter is enough to feed hungry helpers for as long as they wish. Moreover, it probably assures that they will be blessed to the uttermost by their own altruistic concerns and efforts. That’s what a Christian can do in A.A. today and never even utter a controversial peep in an idolatrous meeting.
Dick B., PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837; firstname.lastname@example.org ; http://www.dickb.com/index.shtml
# posted by A.A. History : 6:06 PM