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Use of Trouble Personal and As A Movement
Bill W., General Service Conference, 1958
sure what Jack (Dr. John Norris, preceding speaker) had
to say has deeply moved us all. What he had to tell us was
not only wise, it was loving, in the deepest sense of that
word. So I would first like to say: "God bless Jack
and all like him who have done so much to make A.A. what
it is today."
for your expressions of confidence in me, I treasure them
greatly because I know you have not made them to applaud
me, to confirm my infallibility that I have but rather to
recognize that I am like you, that I, too, am fallible.
You havent made these expressions for the reasons
they are so often made. I deem it you have made them because
you love me and because you love each other.
of our great industrial companies in this country has its
sloganyouve heard it often "Progress is
our greatest product."
think that this particular conference of ours- this last
one-bespeaks more promise and more progress for A.A. than
any that have gone on before. It holds promise and has been
filled with progress because it has had trouble. And it
has converted that trouble into an asset, into some growth,
and into a great promise. And I would like to dwell, in
our last moments here, on this matter of trouble.
was born out of trouble, one of the most serious kinds of
trouble that can befall an individual, the trouble attendant
upon this dark and fatal malady of alcoholism. It was true
of Ebby, and Dr. Bob and me and it has since been true of
every single one of us, that you approach in A.A. in trouble,
in impossible trouble, in hopeless. And that is why we came.
this trouble of yours has been destructive trouble and such
an impossible trouble that it has taken a virtual miracle
of the grace of God to raise each of us out of our bondage.
Then as Harry Tiebout has so well put it, the miracle stage
is over and then comes this question of facing life, of
living and growing and working together, of carrying this
message to the world, of becoming citizens of the world,
worthy of the name. That, then, is the problem. And here
great abundant grace is still with us if we will take hope,
but no more do we find this outright grant of the miracle
our troubles begin. And now we have a different kind of
trouble. We can still make a destructive trouble out of
this if we wish. We can relapse to our former state. But,
happily, most of us dont do this. This trouble is
now converted into an educational process. It is something
for growth and progress becomes our most important product
- and trouble is the touchstone, the stimulus to the perfection
of that progress.
me illustrate: When I first told this story in Atlanta,
one drunk came to me, crying, "My God," he said,
"Im completely disillusioned." And he went
out and he got drunk, because he was disillusioned. Well,
temporarily he had turned from the educational value of
trouble and reality to unreality. (I understand he came
around in a day or two.) This was the story I told. It was
the inside story of the production of the A.A. book. I have
touched upon it very lightly in "A.A. Comes of Age"
because it would have taken too many pages to explain just
how grievous the troubles of the production of this book
the production of that book I saw human nature at its most
sublime and I also saw it at its worst and most sordid.
And I partook pretty much sometimes of the sordid end of
the deal. I was raised down in Wall Street. I began to think
in terms of how hungry I was. Here was the means not only
of getting over being hungry, here was the means of becoming
famous, here was the means of power - all of these thoughts
would rise in me every once in a while.
in a while I would make a move in that direction. It would
be quickly sensed by other people who had the same defects
and who spotted me like that! And they settled down on me.
And the group conscience began to talk. I think God performed
several miracles on me to give me the intelligence to see
that they were right.
had quarrels about money. We had quarrels about prestige.
We had the bitterest quarrels over the most magnificent
passages in that book. And out of that conflict, out of
that trouble, came an education. And out of the trouble
that went before the book had come an education, an application
of divine principles that makes the book what it is.
we hadnt had any trouble, we couldnt have got
any book. So it takes the absolute and the relative, the
divine and even the sordid to make this very important product:
progress. When the A.A? Tradition came along, and it came
along very slowly, this time after a misplaced, great fear,
threats of dissolution which beset groups and individuals
throughout this fellowship, and for ten long years nobody
could say whether the forces of destruction would prevail
or whether the educational value of trouble would bring
the right ideas.
you look at me as the power driver I once was and still
largely am, you will see that every single one of these
Traditions was a contradiction to my natural inclinations.
The hope (?) greater than me, the group conscience wiser
could not say who the membership would be. I couldnt
run this thing from New York. It would be autonomous. And
so on down through the list of Traditions, all of them negations
of that which I naturally wanted for me. So that was the
point at which Alcoholics Anonymous began to educate me.
Everybody had learned the hard way. There was immense travail,
immense trouble. But this was the kind of trouble which
caused growth. This didnt turn out to be destructive
trouble. This was constructive.
therefore the art of growth has a good deal to do with making
constructive use of trouble. Again, we came to the same
situation as we developed the Board of Trustees, as the
Headquarters took shape - painfully, every step of the way
these same old drives, prestige, money, ambition, an insane
desire for approval. At their worst they set brother against
brother. This conflict engendered by the struggle to produce
this Conference cost me the permanent enmity of one of best
friends. A situation not yet repaired. Another caught in
the vise was killed, literally, put in an impossible position.
non-alcoholic friends paid a big price. We all paid a big
price in suffering and tragedy. And all through we could
see this one phenomenon: People at their best transcending
their best on the one side, and people at their very worst
on the other.
these two mighty forces A.A. under the guidance of God marched
down the middle.
it was filling the group conscience and its wisdom, even
in spite of the travail that came under the A.A. Traditions,
that very largely came up with what weve got here.
Because what weve got here had to be set within the
framework of those Traditions.
when I learned you had a red-hot Delegates meeting,
hotter than anything yet seen in this Conference, I said:
"Hurray, we re going to learn something. This
think all of us revere the concepts of democracy, and parliaments
and the Republic. We see these associations of men and women
trying to cooperate, trying to self-govern themselves. We
in the western world believe that in these institutions
lies the spiritual substance necessary for the ultimate
happiness and unity of the world. We believe deeply in parliaments.
believe deeply in the Republic. We believe deeply in the
spirit of democracy.
we believe in the same things for A.A. Now I submit if this
Conference was ruffled, if individuals were deeply disturbedone
guy told me, he said his ulcers got going again -
I say, "This is fine." Because what parliament,
what Republic, what democracy has not been disturbed? Friction
of opposing viewpoints is the very modus operandi on which
they proceed. What should we be afraid of here?
the great hope of democracies, republics and parliaments
is that the people who lie back in their constituencies
will be sufficiently well motivated, will be sufficiently
well-informed, will be sufficiently spiritual to make these
institutions work. If they dont work, if the people
back there dont have these qualities, then we have
to resort to the childish device of dictatorship.
if this is done where first of all we must survive and personal
survival is constantly a personal problem to A.A.
in this society where we must get a degree of spirituality
just to stay alive, in this society whose preservation is
all-precious, the chance for democracy under Gods
guidance, the chance for a republic, the chance for a parliament
of service - why!, the chances are so much better of our
today than any other institution I can think of that its
what, then, are we afraid? As I said, we revere these institutions.
And every day we read the paper, from Washington, from London,
and we find that very harsh things are said in these parliaments
and that there are often great bitterness and strife and
we still revere them because underneath we have the underlying
I say, "How many times in such a parliament do they
at the end of a session fall into such deep, mantoman
agreement? Do they feel themselves under such grace as we
are so fortunate to have? At the conclusion of a bitter
contest, how many senators, how many representatives, how
many MPs stand before the assembly as Icky has?
in hell are we afraid of?