was no levity either. We all had our sense of humor, but
for us recovery was a life-and-death matter. We were all
businessmen, but we had reached our bottom and wanted
to restore ourselves to our previous place in business
the first five years we met in someone's home every night.
It was serious business, and we hung on to each other
for dear life. We could not afford any failures and so
we grew very slowly at first. But we proved that an alcoholic
on this program can help another alcoholic as no one else
AA meetings are very different now, but in the beginning
it was absolutely necessary for us to be strict and serious.
That is the way Dr. Bob was, gruff and tough. He always
put the program on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Dr. Bob
and his wife Annie were both wonderful people. (Annie
died in 1949. Bob died in 1950 of cancer. He knew
for years that he had it.) He was a great student of the
Bible, which he read every night till the wee hours. In
that first group, Dr. Bob selected the readings and made
all the appointments and all the major decisions. (I was
the first secretary of the group and the following year
became chairman.) Everyone had to make a complete surrender
to join in the first place, and so we had no reservations;
we worked the whole program, 100 percent.
emphasis was laid on the daily plan of checking ourselves
on the Four Absolutes: absolute honest, absolute purity,
absolute unselfishness, and absolute love. The Twelve
Steps came from the Absolutes. (The Four Absolutes are
very popular to this day in Akron AA. They are mentioned
more often than the steps.)
did not tell our drinking histories at the meetings back
then. We did not need to. A man's sponsor and Dr. Bob
knew the details. Frankly, we did not think it was anybody
else's business. We were anonymous and so was our life.
Besides, we already knew how to drink. What we wanted
to learn was how to get sober and stay sober.
Wilson was in favor of having at least fifty percent of
an AA member's talk at a meeting consist of "qualifying"
or telling the story of how he became an alcoholic. Bill
himself had a warm, friendly disposition, and this idea
of his did attract people and enable the movement to grow
to a size where it had helped thousands of people all
over the world. For that we must be grateful.
when the "qualifying" business first began, it took some
getting used to on our part. I remember one time when
we were meeting at King School; some people came in from
Cleveland, and most of the qualifying they did was really
very bad. They clapped and made a lot of noise. To us
it seemed strange and offensive. Gradually we opened up
under Bill's persuasive influence. But we still did not
care for it when people would get carried away by their
own voice and make their stories too sensational and repulsive.
Alcoholics Anonymous, the AA Big Book, was printed,
we had no money to get the books out of the warehouse
in New York. Jack Alexander's article in the Saturday
Evening Post (March 1941) got the Big Book into circulation
in a hurry, and that was when the term Alcoholics Anonymous
became the accepted name for the movement. Up till then
we had simply been called "a Christian fellowship."