B. got sober on April 15, 1950, in Norfolk, Nebraska.
has lived in Toledo, Ohio, for the past thirty-four
years. His home group is the Raab Road Group near Toledo.
How did you come to Alcoholics Anonymous?
At sixteen years of age, I was on the threshold of alcoholism.
In 1946, I saw a March of Time documentary film
about AA. I had read about AA even before that. The
Fellowship was still new and several magazines wrote
positive articles about it.
I went to my first AA meeting in Santa Paula, California,
in October 1948, about a month after my twenty-third
birthday. It was a small meeting, with only about ten
people. I remember that a guy came in drunk. In thousands
of meetings since then, Iíve hardly ever seen anyone
come in drunk. Drinking, maybe, but not staggering into
the meeting. Everyone handled this man very gently,
and one member took him home. The way they helped him
made quite an impression on me.
It took me another year and a half to get sober. Finally,
in 1950, I went into the Nebraska state hospital in
Norfolk, my hometown. Once again, I joined AA. Iíve
stayed sober ever since.
What compelled you to join AA at age twenty-four? Back
then it was considered to be a young age to join.
I was having blackouts and I was out of control. I couldnít
work and had a lot of trouble getting along with people.
I went to jail several times. I was in bad shape mentally
and emotionally. Between drunks, I was tense, withdrawn,
sensitive, and nervous.
But when I got sober, I could see that using AA principles
helped me solve some of my problems and I gained some
confidence. I read the Grapevine, and I read the Big
Book many times. When Twelve Steps and Twelve
Traditions came out, I read that, and then I read
AA Comes of Age. I admired Bill right from the
What kept you coming back when many of your peers didnít?
I learned from other peopleís mistakes. For example,
when I was about three years sober, I met a guy with
eight years of sobriety. In 1953, eight years was a
lot of time. He said that he wasnít going to meetings
anymore. If you hadnít learned enough in eight years
to stay sober without meetings, he said, then you hadnít
listened. The man was drunk three months later.
When you first joined AA, did you have a relationship
with a Higher Power?
I was an agnostic or an atheist or something. I was
bitter about religion. I had been involved in it as
a teenager, and it wasnít a good experience. I see now
that it was my poor attitude.
You have been a frequent contributor to the Grapevine
over the years.
Iíve always wanted to write. When I first came to AA
and got sober, I told myself that being a professional
writer was just a fantasy. People in my family didnít
do things like that, I said. My dad thought I should
be a mechanic, but Iím a terrible mechanic. I should
never get near a set of tools.
I got a job doing production control work in Jackson,
Michigan. The company had a magazine, and I started
writing articles for it. My first article was published
in June 1955, and the Grapevine published one in September
of the same year. Seeing your work in print is a big
thing. You see it on the typewriter, but when it actually
gets into print, that does something to you.
The next year, 1956, the company magazine needed an
editor and they gave me the job. I didnít have a college
degree or real writing experience, but the company president
liked my work. Later, I became their public relations
manager and stayed on with them until I retired. AA
made that possible.
You were in AA when Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
was published. Do you remember what kind of reaction
I donít remember any unfavorable reaction. Although
later, in the early 1980s, I interviewed a member who
was critical of Bill and didnít like the ďTwelve and
Twelve.Ē Later, I discovered that Bill was depressed
when he wrote it. At first, I resented him for giving
the rest of us advice while he was in this big slump.
Now, I see that the ďTwelve and TwelveĒ has a lot of
wisdom. Bill talked about dealing with real human problems
as you go along in sobriety.
How did people feel about Dr. Bob?
I met people who knew Dr. Bob, and none of them spoke
of disliking him. It was usually Bill who was the lightning
Of the two men, Bill was more outgoing?
Yes, and he also thought of the future from the beginning.
Yev G., an early member of AA, said that when they were
just a rinky-dink outfit with a handful of people, Bill
was already talking about AA as a worldwide Fellowship.
When The Saturday Evening Post said they wanted
to do a story, Bill saw it as a great opportunity for
AA. Thereís a picture with the story showing an early
meeting, and Billís right in the center of it. They
arenít mentioned by name but the Post demanded
a photograph of a meeting. No photograph, no article,
they said, so Bill made an exception and allowed it.
The Post was the leading family magazine then
and went into almost every home. He knew it would be
a big breakthrough, and it was.
Do you think attitudes about the co-founders have changed?
We now have more devotion to them. In Akron, thereís
Dr. Bobís house with a monument on the lawn. Stepping
Stones is a shrine. Billís birthplace in East Dorset
has become a shrine. People go to his grave and leave
mementos. I have a picture I took in 1958, and there
were about three dozen people at Dr. Bobís grave for
a Founderís Day memorial program. Now on every Founderís
Day, thousands of people visit.
What changes have you seen in Alcoholics Anonymous?
There have been a lot of changes in society over the
last fifty years. Itís hard to imagine how many until
you sit down and start to think about it. And, of course,
some of those changes have come to AA. For instance,
in 1950 we didnít have gay meetings or anything like
that. So, thatís one big change. But there is still
the basic program and a strong belief in a Higher Power.
What are your thoughts about womenís and menís meetings?
I think they are necessary because some members need
them. My dentist goes to an Al-Anon menís meeting and
gets something big out of that meeting. I donít think
thereís anything wrong with them.
Are there any personal moments in your recovery that
Those times when Iíve learned something new. For example,
early in my sobriety I postponed taking the Fifth Step
for a long time. Then I read an AA Grapevine story,
ďThe Big Hump,Ē in the January 1955 issue. It called
taking that Step ďa big humpĒ to get over. Today, I
still tell people at AA meetings about how that article
helped me. Until I read that article, I had held back
on taking the Fifth Step because of fear.
Do you have any concerns, as some members do, about
the future of AA?
Although the membership seems to have leveled off at
two million or whatever it is, we may have reached a
point where we shouldnít expect much more growth. We
know that a lot of people wonít respond to AA, although
we wish they would.
On the other hand, the AA principles have influenced
far more people than we realize. Today, you can watch
a TV show and somebody will parody AA. A guy will say,
ďHello, my name is Joe, and Iím a so-and-so,Ē like itís
an AA meeting. That shows how much AA has become identifiable.
But one thing that assures our future, I think, is the
literature, and how much of it has been produced. Anyone
who wants to know about AA shouldnít have any trouble
Today, AAs have meetings online and we hear stories
of Twelfth Step calls via e-mail. Does technology have
a role in helping us carry the message? What are your
thoughts on the pros and cons of technology?
I have no quarrel with technology. There was a time
when people didnít have telephones; today, we take it
for granted. When I was growing up, we didnít get a
telephone until 1940. Today, the Internet is a better
way of communicating. If you ask me to write an article
about a subject, first I go online and find out what
information is available.
How do you think the information explosion has affected
the tradition of anonymity?
Some prominent people have broken their anonymity, or
at least come out as alcoholic, and I think itís helped.
In the 1950s, an actress named Lillian Roth wrote a
book called Iíll Cry Tomorrow and broke her anonymity.
They also made a movie based on the book, and both were
successful. An AA member I knew said he thought that
Lillian Roth helped women accept their alcoholism. Some
good came out of it, he said, although it violated an
AA Tradition. When Betty Ford came out, it probably
did recovery a lot of good. She never said she was an
AA member, but she certainly made it more respectable
to be in recovery.
What would you say to todayís young people coming into
We have a lot of good young people coming in. A lot
of drug stuff is cropping up. The old-timers are fading
away and many people coming in today have had some experience
with drugs. We should face the fact that many people
in AA were cross-addicted before they came in.
It is important to be careful and not judge everybody
by our own feelings and experiences. I think Bill was
always open to change. When young people went to see
him, he thought they were terrific. Bill provided a
good example of open-mindedness to the people who appealed
Do you have any closing remarks about the benefits of
the Twelve Steps and the AA Fellowship?
Iím eighty-one years old and I still go to three or
four meetings a week. I couldnít have the life Iíve
had without AA and sobriety.
B. has written sixty articles for the AA Grapevine that
can be found in the Digital Archive at
The article ďThe Big HumpĒ (January 1955), was reprinted
in October 1964 and is called ďThree SuggestionsĒ in the