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Only - One Man's Reactions to Alcoholics Anonymous"
Richmond W. - author of Twenty-four Hours a Day
Drunks Only was originally published in 1945.
W., author of Twenty-Four Hours a Day; published
For Drunks Only: One Man's Reaction to Alcoholics Anonymous
in September 1945. More than forty years later, students
of A.A. history and A.A. members will find this pamphlet
a welcome addition to their reading list. For Drunks
Only is Walker's personal story of following the guidelines
in Chapter Five of Alcoholics Anonymous: "what
we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like
now." He also adds insight on how A.A. works for those
who are willing to accept the A.A. spiritual program of
recovery from alcoholism.
the early 1940s, Alcoholics Anonymous headquarters published
only its Big Book* and a few pamphlets. Meanwhile, many
groups began publishing additional material for A.A. members.
Richmond W. was a few years sober in A.A. and a member of
the South Shore A.A. group in Quincy, Massachusetts when
they published 2,000 copies of For Drunks Only in
1945. At that time, A.A. membership was around 13,000 and
900 A.A. groups were established.
1945, Richmond W. sent a copy of his pamphlet to his friend
and A.A. cofounder, Bill W. The book was inscribed,
"For Bill W. with gratitude from Rich W." In 1946,
Richmond W. offered Bill W. For Drunks Only; to consider
for publication by A.A. But, A.A. declined to publish For
Drunks Only; as it would also decline to publish Twenty
Four Hours a Day when he made a similar offer in 1954.
In March 1946, 6,000 more copies of For Drunks Only
were printed by the Quincy Group and sold for 25 cents each
to A.A. members.
1945, A.A. world headquarters was in its adolescence with
A.A. membership rapidly increasing. Problems of finance,
anonymity, and the question of leadership when its cofounders
were gone were the concerns of the day. The A.A. Grapevine
began printing The Twelve Traditions in the summer of 1946
as a set of principles and guidelines for A.A. unity. So,
in 1945 A.A. members had just the Big Book, a few pamphlets,
and the newly begun A.A. Grapevine as literature
to help them with their journey in sobriety. For Drunks
Only and Twenty-Four Hours a Day stand apart
from other literature for A.A. members by their use of Oxford
Group literature and principles.
Oxford Group, through its teachings and meetings, tried
to help individuals become physically, mentally, and spiritually
whole. Its disciples taught the necessity of absolute surrender
to God as the directing force in their entire lives. (In
Not-God, Ernest Kurtz describes the Oxford Group
as a nondenominational, theologically conservative, evangelically
styled attempt to recapture the impetus and spirit of what
its members understood to be primitive Christianity.) When
Bill W. achieved sobriety in 1934, it was the Oxford Group
and their meetings that helped him. In Alcoholics Anonymous
Comes of Age Bill W. wrote, "Early A.A. got its
ideas of self-examination, acknowledgment of character defects,
restitution of harm done, and working with others straight
from the Oxford Group."
W., like many other A.A. members during the 1940s, relied
heavily on writings associated with the Oxford Group, although
the Oxford Group was not exclusively for alcoholics trying
to remain sober. The Oxford Group author which influenced
Richmond W. the most was A. J. Russell. Russell had attended
an Oxford Group meeting with the intention of doing a newspaper
story on the Oxford Group. In Russell's words, as
an observer, I became a convert
characteristic of most group or social movements is that
one book becomes identified as the "Bible" of
that organization. Just as Alcoholics Anonymous has
this status in A.A., For Sinners Only by Russell
was the "Bible" of the Oxford Group. Russell was
also the editor of God Calling, which Richmond W.
used as a guideline in writing Twenty-Four Hours a Day.
Russell, who was a newspaper editor in London, describes
his journey from "Prodigal Son" to the Oxford
Group in For Sinners Only. This book became a best
seller in the 1930s in the United States and England and
was translated into many foreign languages. In 1939, the
Big Book was published giving the first lOO A.A. members
their Own book and their own organization removed from the
Sinners Only chronicles Russell's interpretation of
the group, with various sections of the book citing important
ideas such as: the common fear of people to "let go"
and trust themselves to God, the importance of surrendering
to the will of God, and the way one's powerlessness to overcome
sin leads that person to seek help from the Powerful One.
Russell was able to make spiritual progress through insights
which came during "Quiet Times" or morning meditations
of listening to God. The Oxford Group believed in the importance
of "Quiet Times" for daily guidance.
chapter of For Sinners Only was devoted to Calvary
Episcopal Church in New York City and its rector, The Reverend
Samuel M. Shoemaker. Calvary Episcopal Church served as
the U.S. headquarters of the Oxford Group during the 1930s.
Shoemaker had been an Oxford Group convert since 1918.
November 1934, Calvary witnessed the arrival of Bill W.
Through the assistance of Shoemaker and Dr. William Duncan
Silkworth at Towns Hospital, Bill W. remained sober and
a member of the Oxford Group. Dr. Bob S., A.A's other cofounder,
also relied on the literature and meetings of the Oxford
Group in Akron, Ohio.
influence of Oxford Group teachings and literature is evident
in For Drunks Only. Richmond W. uses the Oxford Group
term "soul-sickness" to describe his alcoholic
condition when he attended his first A.A. meeting. As in
Oxford Group meetings, early A.A. members were instructed
to get up at meetings and bear personal witness to past
mistakes. Richmond W. wrote that the Big Book told him to
do seven things: 'Admit I'm an alcoholic, realize I must
spend the rest of my life without alcohol, be absolutely
honest with myself and others, turn to a Higher Power for
help, live one day at a time, come to A.A. meetings regularly,
and work with other alcoholics:' A major criteria for working
the Oxford Group program were the Four Absolutes: Honesty,
Purity, Unselfishness, and Love. Bill W., however,
was careful not to put absolute requirements into the A.A.
program; he believed individuals seeking sobriety would
have problems with this concept. Richmond W. also refers
to the Sanskrit proverb in For Drunks Only which
he used in the foreword of Twenty-Four Hours a Day.
Chapter Four of For Drunks Only; "The Spiritual
Basis of A.A.:' Richmond W. tells the reader that A.A. members
have a motto: But for the grace of God This
motto is important for sobriety and to conquer the "soul-sickness"
caused by alcoholism. Early A.A. members were often asked
when joining A.A. to get down on their knees when they accepted
God in their lives. (This practice is one of many that have
been eliminated over the years in A.A. Other early rigid
practices have also been softened as A.A. goes through its
evolutionary stages.) Richmond W. also uses parables such
as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan from the New
Testament in his pamphlet. The Twenty-Four Hour Programme
(Richmond W. shows the influence of British Oxford Group
writers with his use of the British spelling of program)
is simplified in thl old saying, Yesterday is gone,
forget it; tomorrow never comes, dont worry; today
is here, get busy
W. continually refers to witnessing which is one
of the most frequently used Oxford Group sayings. He then
tells us that this term is the same as sharing which
is the term used by A.A. members. Richmond W.'s concept
of A.A. involves a program of "submission, release,
and action" and one of "faith, hope, and charity."
Richmond W. comes closer than most others who write about
A.A. in his interpretation of the source of the A.A. Twelve
Steps. The Oxford Group's "Five C's" are discussed
as the source of the Steps. Confidence, confession, convic.
tion, conversion, and continuance are illustrated by Walker
as they apply to the Steps.
are all fortunate that For Drunks Only is again available
as it illustrates the influence of the Oxford Group. But
more importantly, it shows us that the A.A. program of over
forty years ago remains essentially the same today. This
is reflected in Richmond W.'s conclusion where he states:
And, finally, if you want to, you can become a uniquely
useful person by using your own greatest defeat and failure
and sickness as a weapon to help others.
The Big Book is "Alcoholics Anonymous", published
by A.A. World Services, Inc., New York, NY.