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of The Big Book
article is written by nationally recognized historian and
oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
W., Dr. Bob and now Bill D. began immediately working to
find others to carry the message to. Their attempts were
met with failure until they came across Ernie G. There were
two Ernie G.'s eventually, but Ernie G. the first came from
accepted the way of life that was outlined to him and joined
the new alcoholic squad of the Oxford Group. Ernie's story
in the First Edition of the Big Book is entitled, The
Seventh Month Slip. Ernie explains in his story what
one day I had a couple of visitors, one a man from New
York and the other a local attorney. During our conversation
I learned that they had been as bad as myself in this
drinking, and they had found relief and had been able
to make a come-back. Later they went into more detail
and put it to me very straight that I'd have to give over
my desires and attitudes to a power higher than myself
which would give me new desires and attitudes.
was religion put to me in a different way and presented
by three past-masters in liquor guzzling. On the strength
of their stories I decided to give it a try. And it worked,
as long as I allowed it to do so." (Alcoholics
Anonymous - First Edition, 5th printing, January 1944,
p. 285. Works Publishing Company. Printed by the Cornwall
Press, Cornwall, Orange County, New York)
Ernie had "gotten" sober but as his story's title
states, he didn't stay that way. He mentions that he got
drunk after a year and stayed out for seven months, he then
came back in. Ernie married Dr. Bob's daughter Sue in 1941
much to the chagrin of Dr. Bob. Sue related how on several
occasions Ernie had to be secreted out of Dr. Bob's home
by other AA members due to his drinking.
say the least, Ernie had a difficult time staying sober.
The longest continuous sobriety Ernie had ever achieved
was for a period of eleven years. Ernie continued to drink
on and off until his death. Ernie and Sue eventually got
divorced and she married her childhood sweetheart, Ray Windows
who was not a member of AA. Sue and Ray remained married
until his death.
Begins to Grow
several failures, the alcoholic squads in New York and Akron
continued to grow in numbers and lengths of sobriety. In
New York they attended Samuel M. Shoemaker's Calvary Church
meetings of the Oxford Group and in Akron they attended
Oxford Group meetings at the home of T. Henry and Clarace
late 1937, the Akron contingent also included a couple of
members from Cleveland, one of them was Lloyd T. (whose
story, The Rolling Stone, was in the first Edition).
In February 1938, Clarence S., also of Cleveland joined
the meetings in Akron (Clarence's story, The Home Brewmeister
is in all three editions of the Big Book).
discussed with Dr. Bob the need for a book outlining their
experiences as well as hospitals and "paid missionaries."
All of this to carry the message of recovery they had found.
Dr. Bob agreed with the book idea, but was against the hospitals
and missionaries. They decided to write the book.
for the Big Book
Bill and Dr. Bob had read all of the Oxford Group literature
and several other volumes relating to religion and alcoholism.
Among them were The Varieties of Religious Experience
by William James, The Common Sense of Drinking by
Richard R. Peabody and Twice Born Men by Harold Begbie.
They both also read books by Samuel M. Shoemaker, E. Stanley
Jones, A.J. Russell, E. Stanley Jones, V.C. Kitchen and
of the ideas and wording in the AA book came from these
other writers. Some of the wording in the Big Book is almost
verbatim. In fact, the Begbie book, Twice Born Men
gave Bill the idea on how to format the Big Book. Begbie's
book, which was the story of the Salvation Army was divided
into two sections. The first section outlined their "program,"
and the second section was comprised of personal stories.
"A Power greater than oneself" and "half
measures will avail you nothing" as well as other concepts
were themes mentioned in several of these other books.
the Steps have been outlined in different ways in some of
the aforementioned books. In a book by Cecil Rose, he talks
about how one changes their life. He outlines the way one
does this. He states that among other things, the fifth
step is where you admit your sins, one to another. This
also was a common theme in the Oxford Group literature and
book project continued. Bill and Dr. Bob discussed several
ideas from the literature they had read for inclusion in
the book of theirs.
will be revealed