A.A.-12 Step Speakers, Sponsors, and Counselors
A.A.-12 Step Speakers, Sponsors, and Counselors
Talent Before You Right Now
take a look at the speakers, sponsors, and
counselors you know or have known in your
A.A. or 12 Step Fellowship. I’ve been involved
with hundreds of them, and you may have
been too. Many are talented, experienced,
and articulate speakers and, in fact, good
instructors. They are also caring, loving,
giving people. But what are you hearing
from them today? There are hundreds and
hundreds of women and men in the recovery
movement who have never studied A.A.’s basic
text or learned how to take people through
the Twelve Steps in accordance with the
instructions. There are far more who haven’t
a clue about A.A.’s history and roots, and
haven’t any idea where the recovery program
got its ideas. And many of these have never
opened an A.A. history book, been to an
A.A. history conference, or even cared to
learn our history. Why? Generally speaking,
it’s because they’ve had no resources to
work with or with which they cared to work.
Sometimes because they just don’t care.
What are their resources? The Big Book contains
virtually no history. Twelve Steps and Twelve
Traditions contains virtually no history.
Conference Approved pamphlets by the dozen
tell you nothing significant about history.
And the two or three significant A.A. history
books either omit the details, omit entire
segments of history, or focus on what they
think AAs should hear, rather than on what
actually occurred. And are treatment programs
any different? Ask yourself how much you
heard about history in a treatment program
or rehab. Are sponsors any different? Ask
yourself how much your sponsor talked to
you about A.A. history. Are certification
courses and facilities teaching history?
Ask someone who is certified. Ask them about
history, and watch them go blank.
Then there are the “history” books currently
proliferating outside the fellowships. Do
they talk about God? Do they talk about
the Bible? Do they talk about the literature
early AAs read? Do they detail the contributions
of such major A.A. influences as Anne Ripley
Smith and her journal, the books and teachings
of Rev. Sam Shoemaker, the life-changing
program of the Oxford Group which underlies
the Steps, the devotionals which were a
major part of Quiet Time, and even the Bible
itself? It was quite clear that the Book
of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1
Corinthians 13 were considered absolutely
essential to the program; and yet have you
ever heard them read, discussed, or studied
in your program or by your conferences or
by your sponsor or by any counselor you’ve
Talented Speakers and Sponsors Revolt if
never let a pigeon loose from the hospital
without asking him if he believed in God.
Have you ever put that question to a potential
speaker, sponsor, or treatment facilitator?
When asked a question about the program,
Dr. Bob usually replied: “What does it say
in the Good Book?” Have you every put such
a question to those we mention? The Big
Book states clearly that “God either is,
or He isn’t.” Have you ever asked a speaker
or instructor if he agrees? Bill and Bob
were speaking at the Shrine Auditorium in
Los Angeles before 4500 people. Bill commented
on the “religious element” of A.A. and the
need for “Divine Aid.” Have you ever inquired
about these? The Big Book says a number
of times that its stories were written to
tell how, from the writer’s own viewpoint
and experience, he “established his relationship
with God.” Have you ever asked a speaker
or instructor to do likewise? At the Shrine
Auditorium, the entire audience rose in
tribute to Dr. Bob. And he succinctly suggested
that all “cultivate the habit of prayer”
and “study the Bible.” Have you ever asked
your teachers about that one?
We now know that A.A.’s many roots included
United Christian Endeavor, the Salvation
Army, the Rescue Missions, the Oxford Group,
and even the YMCA. Have you ever asked that
these be explained to you? The roots included
Dr. Carl Jung’s views on “conversion,” Professor
William James’s views on the variety of
conversion experiences he’d studied. Do
your instructors talk about these? Dr. William
D. Silkworth told Bill Wilson and Silkworth’s
other patients that the Great Physician
Jesus Christ could cure them? Have you ever
heard that? Have you ever had the Four Absolutes,
the Five C’s, Quiet Time, and Conversion
explained to you in terms of their A.A.
significance? They represent the heart of
what Bill codified from the Oxford Group.
a Speaker Can Be and Do
that are entertaining and dynamic attract
crowds. How many people have rushed to hear
Clancy I., Gene Duffy, June G., Eve, Poor
Richard, Geraldine D., Mel B., Joe McQ.,
Charlie P., Father Martin, and dozens of
others—because these men and women are entertaining
and dynamic. I’ve heard them all, and I’ve
been entertained. They’ve made me laugh,
and laughter is either “the best medicine”
or a great help. They’ve made me cry, and
emotion is part of needed enthusiasm. They’ve
made me admire what they’ve done and what
they’ve become. But how many times have
you or I heard them talk about the early
Can they? Could they? Will they? Would you
have the courage to ask them?
We’re big in A.A. about “love and service.”
We even insist that our “leaders” are but
trusted servants. And in fact, all speakers,
sponsors, and counselors are “but trusted
servants.” And what do trusted servants
do? I’d like to think they do what they
are told! But nobody tells these speakers
what to say, nor the “staff” at World Services,
nor the editors of the AA Grapevine—at least
not you or me. Why? The servants are beyond
the reach of the masters, and their instructors
are long dead and gone. They are peopled
or persuaded by professionals, by universalists,
by revisionists, and by timid unbelievers.
The servants dote on pleasing everyone.
Thus if they write a piece of literature
like a daily reflection, they’d rather get
365 views, one for each day, than to select
from the hundreds of pieces of literature
which were part and parcel of early A.A.
Long Will You Wait?
the point in Twelve Step history where there
are few, if any, who ever met, talked to,
or learned directly from Bill Wilson, Dr.
Bob, Anne Smith, Henrietta Seiberling, Sam
Shoemaker, Dr. Silkworth, or even A.A. Number
Three—Bill Dotson. Speakers cannot speak
from experience about these people. But
they can learn!
Speakers can, could, and would (if asked)
spend the same amount of time looking into
A.A. history resources that Joe and Charlie
spent in studying the Big Book so that they
could explain it and teach it to our members
all over the world. And now even these servants
are hanging up their jock straps as they
play “the last quarter of the game,” as
Charlie put it to me.
Instead of bemoaning the absence of “old
timers” or “elder statesmen” or “people
who knew or were sponsored by Bob or Clarence
Snyder” or those archivists who have studied
and know the archives, why not bring up
a new crop? Would you rather listen to Eli
Whitney tell you how he invented the cotton
gin, or would you find it more instructive
if a football star told you how he helped
win the Super Bowl?
at the Early Teachers
were humble. Our founders were students.
Our founders were ever on a quest to learn
more. Our founders believed in God. Our
founders read the Bible. Our founders read
all kinds of religious literature. Our founders
put their learning to use in directly working
to help others with what they had found.
Dr. Bob read the Bible three times to refresh
his memory before helping others with Bible
materials. Anne Smith was in the trenches,
reading her Bible, suggesting literature,
and teaching from her journal. So was Henrietta
Seiberling. So were Mr. and Mrs. T. Henry
Williams. And so was Bill until he got hung
up with depressions shortly after he published
the Big Book. Sam Shoemaker never stopped
writing, preaching, and teaching. And these,
plus Dr. Silkworth, were the people who
handed us the most information.
What About You!
willing to look for speakers, sponsors,
and programs which will provide a full platter
of information? Are you willing to read
whatever you need to read to learn what
you’ve been missing? Are you willing to
organize meetings, seminars, and conferences
that will tell others our history? Are you
willing to pass along what you learn? Are
you willing to stand up and be counted when
someone asks if you believe in God, if you
believe in the importance of the Bible to
AAs, if Jesus Christ has any place in your
heart, and if you attend a church or Bible
fellowship or Christian study group?
Are you willing to be a student, a researcher,
a learner, a speaker, a teacher, an organizer,
and a supporter of the quest to learn the
truth and carry it to others in order to
help them recover, get well, and be cured?
Would you rather promote and pass on information
about the program Frank Amos described when
he told of the five-point program in Akron
that had produced such astonishing results?
It’s all right there for you to see in A.A.’s
own DR. BOB and the Oldtimers. You don’t
even have to go to the bookstore or library.
Surprise! You can study the Book of James,
the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians
13 by buying a used Bible and reading it.
You don’t even have to go to church or to
your rabbi, minister, or priest. Although
it could help!
If you don’t want to be one who does or
leads, are you willing to support those
who do? Do you realize that in the World
Services offices of A.A. itself there are
scrap books that contain hundreds of newspaper
clippings and articles that tell of the
cures early AAs claimed they had received
at the hands of their Creator. Have you
thought of ordering, reading, or donating
one where it will actually help someone?
And, if you found great joy, at learning
what the Big Book was all about and how
to take the Twelve Steps properly, are you
willing to start or join a group that does
this and studies history as well?
helped a drunk today? Do you belong to a
group that really carries out its primary
purpose of helping the alcoholic who still
suffers? Do you vote with your feet when
you hear a speaker, a sponsor, or a counselor
who talks about “higher powers,” about meetings,
about how much he drank, about how much
trouble he had, and yet who never mentions
whether or not he established a relationship
with God and has had something more than
a dry drunk in his life?
Think about it. Think how much you can help
others if you are able to tell them what
God has done for you, what God did for the
pioneers, and how they learned about Him
from the Good Book!
Dick B., PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837;