Children of the Healer
P. Christine Brewer

partly reprinted with permission of the author

Copyright © 1992 Parkside Publishing Corporation
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, record-
ing, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without express
permission in writing from the publisher.
Smith, Bob, and Windows, Sue Smith, as told to P. Christine Brewer
Children of the Healer
ISBN 0-94242148-5
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 92-64114

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Children of the Healer

The foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar programs
is the Twelve Steps. The Twelve Steps were developed over a period of four
years by Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson and were published in the Big Book for the
first rime in 1939. Although Bill Wilson wrote the steps, they are an articula-
tion of the program he and Dr. Bob had developed together with Anne
Smith, Dr. Bob's wife, beginning in 1935. A series of unlikely coincidences
brought together in Akron the three people in the world whose combined
ideas and experiences catalyzed to create the A.A. program.
Dr. Bob was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, August 8, 1879. He was
the son of a judge and an overprotective mother. His wife Anne would later
blame his mother's rigidity and formal religiosity for his drinking. Although
Anne would eventually learn not to blame anyone or anything for the
disease of alcoholism, she would still maintain that Dr. Bob's youthful
excesses were in defiance of his mother's rigid control.
Dr. Bob was a popular young man, well liked for his cheerful willing-
ness to thumb his nose at authority. He did well enough in school and
entered Dartmouth in 1898. In spite of heavy drinking, he graduated in 1902.
After a few unsuccessful years of conforming to his mother's wishes that he
enter the business world, he entered the University of Michigan as a pre-
medical student in 1905. He was 26 years old, His alcoholism progressed,
resulting in his being forced to leave in 1907. He finished his M.D. at Rush
University in Chicago in 1910 when he was 31. He interned at City Hospital
in Akron, Ohio.
In 1915 he married Anne Ripley. after what he would later call their
"whirlwind courtship" of 17 years. Their son, Robert Ripley Smith, was
born in 1918. Unable to have more children, they adopted Suzanne Smith in
1923. She was the same age as their son.
Dr. Bob suffered the inevitable progression of the disease in spite of his
best efforts to stop it. He tried 'many cures and voluntarily hospitalized
himself on several occasions. Nothing worked.
In 1933 Anne Smith began attending Oxford Group meetings with her
friend Henrietta Seiberling. The Oxford Group had been brought to Akron
by a wealthy founder of the rubber industry because the group appeared to
have sobered up his son. Unfortunately the son relapsed, but the Oxford
Group stayed.


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Children of the Healer

Group, biblical sources, Wilson's spiritual experience, Anne Smith's practi-
cal applications of spiritual principles, Dr. Bob's personal and medical experi-
ence of alcoholism, and many other diverse influences.
Doctor Bob began going to Akron City Hospital and lacer, in 1939, St.
Thomas Hospital to identify prospects and dry them out. He required that
every new "pigeon" spend some time in the hospital, partly because detox
was a necessary prerequisite to any intelligible conversation, and partly to
emphasize that they were indeed suffering from an illness. Dr. Bob developed
a lifelong friendship with Sister Ignatia of St. Thomas, who is still remem-
bered today as a sort of A.A. saint.
Slowly, Bill and Bob developed a little group of recovering people who
formally met ac Oxford Group meetings but kept in constant communica-
tion with each other at get-togethers in their homes. The Smith's house on
Ardmore Avenue was the hub of the Akron group, and the Wilson's house
on Clinton Street was open to the growing New York fellowship.
In 1938, Bob and Bill began accumulating stories for a book. Bill
decided that they needed something to promote what they were doing, and
a book would do it. It would explain everything and have personal testimoni-
als to back it up. Many of the personal stories were written at Dr. Bob's
dining room table. They were all compiled for the book, and Bill wrote the
chapters describing the program. At that point, he articulated the Twelve
Steps, the first written description of what he and Bob had been doing. He
asked Anne Smith to write the chapter on the family, since she had actively
organized the families into a support system of their own. She was too self-
effacing to do it, so Bill wrote it himself. Alcoholics Anonymous was published
in June 1939. Sales were disappointingly slow.
With the publication of the book, the alcoholics, who had for some
time begun to feel a distinction from the rest of the Oxford Groupers,
acquired an identity and a name for themselves. The A.A. groups grew
simultaneously in New York and Akron as more and more drunks were
brought into the Oxford Group through the efforts of Bill, Dr. Bob, and the
newly-sober proselytes. As it became uncomfortably apparent that there
were distinct differences between the needs of the alcoholics and those of the
other Oxford Groupers, tensions grew. Finally. the New York A.A.'s split
away in 1937, and the Akron A.A.'s moved away in 1939.


[red emphasis by editor]