like Alcoholics Anonymous. Anyone
got a problem with that?
B. © 2005
written about the history and spiritual
roots of A.A. for over 15 years now.
I think the early roots are growing
clearer and clearer. There were two
distinct sources of the A.A. program.
The first was fed by Dr. Bob’s training
and experience as a youngster, particularly
as a member of Christian Endeavor
in his North Congregational Church
at St. Johnsbury. Almost every idea
he learned and practiced there was
incorporated in the Akron pioneer
Christian Fellowship during its formative
years from 1935 to 1938—Reliance on
the Creator, acceptance of Christ,
Bible study, group prayer, elimination
of sin, helping others, fellowship,
witness, love and service. It happened
largely because of the resourcefulness
and tenacity of Henrietta Seiberling
who utilized the Oxford Group doings
in Akron to get Dr. Bob out of drink
and on the beam. The second source
was fed by a variety of sources on
the East Coast – Dr. Carl Jung, Rowland
Hazard, the Oxford Group, Ebby Thacher,
Calvary Rescue Mission, Dr. William
Silkworth, the ideas of Professor
William James, and primarily the inspiration
and teaching of Bill’s close friend
and spiritual wellspring Rev. Samuel
M. Shoemaker, Jr. Out of Bill’s experience
on the East Coast, and the successes
in Akron grew the authorization for
the Big Book. And Bill began writing
it in 1938, took most of its major
ideas from Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s teachings
on the Oxford Group, asked Sam to
write the 12 Steps, and then wrote
them himself in December, 1938 when
That’s it in a nutshell. All the early
AAs claimed they were cured. So did
the newspapers and magazines; and
this went on for a decade. And then
hordes of new people and ideas began
to enter the scene: women, Jews, Roman
Catholics, atheists, agnostics, treatment
center graduates, therapy and church
referrals, correctional and probation
referrals, and people of non Judeo/Christian
faiths, as well as those who were
unbelievers and had no religious connection
at all. A few got well. Many stuck
around for the ride. Most went out
and drank again, disappearing for
a time or forever.
When I came in to A.A. in April, 1986,
I was in dire straits. I faced and
was to face the hideous four horsemen
of which Bill Wilson wrote; and, of
course, I was saddled with the “curse
of alcoholism” as Dr. Bob called it.
I saw “God as we understood Him” on
the wall at my third meeting. I got
my sponsor that night and resolved
to do the whole A.A. thing. Actually,
that meant seizures, treatment, District
Attorney, State Bar, newspapers, the
VA psych ward, and even a brief stint
Here’s what I found. I found tons
of activity and friends right off.
They wrote me in prison. They visited
me in the nut ward. They even supported
me for the month I was in the treatment
center. And I unhesitatingly sought
the help of our Creator from the start.
In fact I made a speech about it at
the Beginners Meeting – my third A.A.
meeting. They didn’t treat me like
a leper. Instead, I was surrounded
by people handing out cards, offering
to tell me about meetings, giving
me their phone numbers, and showing
more concern than I had seen manifested
in the last nine months of my drinking.
The bottom line: I haven’t found it
necessary to take a drink or a mind-altering
prescription drug from the first day
of sobriety (April 21, 1986) or the
first day of A.A. (April 23, 1986).
I shook. I shivered. I hurt all over.
I bit my tongue almost in half during
seizures. I wet my pants in meetings.
And nobody shoved me toward the door.
I learned that A.A. had a program
which I needed to learn and take.
I had to study the Big Book carefully,
and did. I had to “take” the Steps,
and did. I had to participate in the
fellowship, its meetings, and its
service, and I did. I had to help
as many newcomers as possible, and
I did. I tried to sponsor as many
men as possible – finally more than
100, and I did. Most important of
all, I had to grow in my understanding
of, and reliance upon my Creator and
make use of the power I had received
through being born again of His spirit
through what Jesus Christ had accomplished,
and I have. I realized I didn’t need
to feel guilt, shame, fear, disgrace,
loneliness, or abandonment; and that
took a little time. Yet I was always
able to move forward. Eventually,
I came to realize that A.A. had originally
been a Christian Fellowship and took
its basic ideas from the Bible. That
was true primarily of Akron A.A.;
and it took some time to sort that
out. That gave me a lot of joy and
There have been those who scorn one
who confesses that he is a Christian,
reads the Bible, and looks to God
Almighty for healing, guidance, strength,
and deliverance. But actually they
are not large in number, articulate
in objections, or nearly as intimidating
as they want to be. And, almost 19
years later, I know how many people
– hundreds of thousands – have come
to realize the facts about A.A. history.
Some have fled A.A. altogether. Some
have sought out Christian churches.
Some have sought out “Christ-centered”
groups. Some have joined rational
or secular recovery groups. Many have
just left the whole thing behind.
And lots have maintained good sobriety
and healthy prosperous lives.
I just thought it was time to say
once again how much I like A.A., how
much you can give and how much you
can receive in A.A., and how important
it is to devote more time to talking
about its rich history, its ready
availability, and its still-present
availability to people of all beliefs
and unbeliefs – even to Christians
© Dick B.