AA HISTORY

 

 

Definition of history:
the study of past events, particularly in human affairs.
Synonyms of history:
annals, chronicle, record

These notes are from recovery in AA and/or other 12 step programs.
Readers are encouraged to click the external links for more detail.
We hope you find them helpful.
Love in fellowship.
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11 December 1934
1934 – Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, takes his last drink and enters treatment for the last time.

Ebby T. – The Man Who Carried The Message To Bill W.
It was Ebby who found relief from his alcoholism in the simple spiritual practices of the Oxford Group.

The program offered by Ebby to Bill involved taking a personal moral inventory, admitting to another person the wrongs we had done, making things right by amends and restitution, and a genuine effort to be of real service to others.
In order to obtain the power to overcome…. –Walter L./The Man Who Carried The Message To Bill W. | More…

Dr Bob co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The birth of our Society dates from Dr Bob’s first day of permanent sobriety. June 10, 1935.

To 1950, the year of his death, he carried the A.A. message to more than 5,000 alcoholic men and women, and to all these he gave his medical services without thought of charge.
In this prodigy of service, he was well assisted by Sister Ignatia at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, one of the greatest friends our Fellowship will ever know. – Big Book p.171
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A powerful Tradition
In the years before the publication of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, we had no name… by a narrow majority the verdict was for naming our book The Way Out…
One of our early lone members… found exactly twelve books already titled The Way Out… So Alcoholics Anonymous became first choice.

That’s how we got a name for our book of experience, a name for our movement and, as we are now beginning to see, a tradition of the greatest spiritual import.
God is no stranger to anonymity and often appears in human affairs in the guises of “luck,” “chance,” or “coincidence.”
If anonymity, somewhat fortuitously, became the spiritual basis for all of our Traditions, perhaps God was acting anonymously on our behalf. –Daily Reflections 25/11 | More…

The word-of-mouth program
The 12 steps followed the creation of A.A. by a few years, and they did not come into being all at once; rather, they developed somewhat organically before coming together in a very short period of time while co-founder Bill Wilson was writing what would become the Big Book in 1938. — More…

Dr. Silkworth supplied us the missing link without which the chain of principles now forged into our Twelve Steps could never have been complete. Then and there, the spark that was to become Alcoholics Anonymous had been struck.

During
the next three years after Dr. Bob’s recovery our growing groups at Akron, New York and Cleveland evolved the so-called word-of-mouth program of our pioneering time. As we commenced to form a society separate from the Oxford Group, we began to state our principles something like this:

1. We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol.
2. We got honest with ourselves.
3. We got honest with another person, in confidence.
4. We made amends for harms done others.
5. We worked with other alcoholics without demand for prestige or money.
6. We prayed to God to help us to do these things as best we could.

Though these principles were advocated according to the whim or liking of each of us, and though in Akron and Cleveland they still stuck by the Oxford Group’s absolutes of Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love, this was the gist of our message to incoming alcoholics up to 1939, when our present Twelve Steps were put to paper. –Barefoot’s World | More…
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Father Ed Dowling and AA’s Bill W.
Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was down. His feet hung over the end of the bed that nearly filled the small room he and his wife, Lois, had rented above the 24th Street AA Club in New York. It was a cold, rainy November in 1940.

Lois, who supported them both with a job at a department store, was out. Bill was wondering whether the stomach pain he was feeling was an ulcer. The walls were closing in. Thousands of copies of the Big Book were waiting in a warehouse, unsold. A few people were sober, but Bill was frustrated…. It was 10 p.m. The doorbell rang.

Tom, the Club’s maintenance man, said there was “some bum from St. Louis” to see him. Reluctantly, Bill said, “Send him up.” As the man shuffled to a wooden chair opposite the bed and sat down, his black raincoat fell open, revealing a Roman collar.

“I’m Father Ed Dowling from St. Louis,” he said. “A Jesuit friend and I have been struck by the similarity of the AA twelve steps and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.” –Robert Fitzgerald, S.J/Barefoot’s World | More…

The Reverend Samuel Moor Shoemaker, Jr., S.T.D., DD, is known to a few (far too few) members of Alcoholics Anonymous as a “co-founder” of the Society and the well-spring of its ideas. In fact, Sam taught Bill Wilson most of the spiritual principles that were incorporated into A.A.’s basic text (Alcoholics Anonymous) and in A.A.’s Twelve Steps.

Shoemaker’s whole dedication was to opening the door and showing people how to find God, and several times wrote articles bearing titles like “How To Find God.” It is not surprising that Shoemaker penned several versions of a poem which most have titled “So I Stand By The Door.”
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I stay near the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
The door is the most important door in the world—
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside, and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men.
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it . . .
So I stay near the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door—the door to God.
The most important thing any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
And put it on the latch—the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.
Men die outside that door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter—
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live, on the other side of it—live because they have found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him . . .
So I stay near the door.

Go in, great saints, go all the way in—
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics—
In a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms,
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes venture a little farther;
But my place seems closer to the opening . . .
So I stay near the door.

The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving—preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door,
But would like to run away. So for them, too,
I stay near the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not even found the door,
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply, and stay in too long,
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.
Where? Outside the door—
Thousands of them, millions of them.
But—more important for me—
One of them, two of them, ten of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch,
So I shall stay by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
‘I had rather be a door-keeper . . .’
So I stay near the door.”

The poem contains many reminders of the A.A. I found. The early A.A. Pioneers in Akron, Ohio, were not trying to find God. They got their information, their belief system, and their instructions from the Bible. They studied the Bible. And they believed that God is (See Hebrews 11:6).

For doubters, unbelievers, and those like Bill Wilson – who was an atheist and lacked both a relationship and fellowship with God – A.A.’s basic text was written to show newcomers the steps to take to find God. The very thing Rev. Sam Shoemaker was teaching to his friend Bill Wilson in New York. They told “how it worked!” –© Dick B./DickB.com | More…
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The Book Before The Book
The following book, “The Common Sense of Drinking” (1930) by Richard R. Peabody, Ph.D., and the books by Charles B. Towns, Ph.D., “Habits That Handicap” (1915), “Reclaiming The Drinker” (1931), and “Alcohol And Drug Sickness” (1934), were perhaps the best thinking of the professionals in the treatment of alcoholics and addicts up to the time of the publishing of Alcoholics Anonymous (April 16, 1939).

Bill Wilson, with his inquiring analytical mind, used them in part as source material in the writing of the Big Book manuscript in 1938. The great difference in effectiveness of the information presented is because, in the Big Book and the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous it is: Unity, Service, Recovery. –Barefoot’s World | More…

The Upper Room
From the time A.A. started in 1935 down to 1948 when A.A. member Richmond Walker began publishing and distributing Twenty-Four Hours a Day from the basement of his home in Daytona Beach, Florida, most A.A. people carried out their morning meditation by reading The Upper Room each day.

In the excerpts below, six people from the early days of A.A. talk about its use…
The Upper Room began publication in April 1935, only a month before Bill W. and Dr. Bob met for the first time.

Reading meditations from The Upper Room from that early time period (1935-48) can help us enormously in understanding the meaning of a number of traditional A.A. concepts and beliefs.
In order to provide some examples of this… doing some kind of reading in this area is necessary however to the good A.A. historian.

People who do not learn to appreciate that world of The Upper Room and the great theological ideas which lay behind it, will never understand some of the most important aspects of the A.A. understanding of life… Read the full Article by Glenn C. / Hindsfoot Foundation
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The Four Absolutes
The so-called “Four Absolutes” of A.A. were cherished ‘yardsticks’ in earliest A.A.—standards for determining right behavior as measured through God’s eyes. And A.A.’s Cofounder Dr. Bob made that clear. The Four Absolutes were Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love. –The Four Absolutes –The Facts One More Time by Dick B. | More…

12 Step History Reflections
How Can History Help?
Principal Sources
Where, then, did the Twelve Steps really come from?
Some Helpful Roots

And what were the principles 12 Steppers were to practice?
Those principles – honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love – were the “yardsticks,” as Dr. Bob called them.

They were the “standards” and, since they were based on the teachings of Jesus, they can also be said to incorporate all the principles of the Ten Commandments, the two “Great Commandments” of Jesus, other commandments in the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13. –12 Step History Reflections/Dick B. | More…
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The word-of-mouth program
The 12 steps followed the creation of A.A. by a few years, and they did not come into being all at once; rather, they developed somewhat organically before coming together in a very short period of time while co-founder Bill Wilson was writing what would become the Big Book in 1938. | More…

Dr. Silkworth supplied us the missing link without which the chain of principles now forged into our Twelve Steps could never have been complete.
Then and there, the spark that was to become Alcoholics Anonymous had been struck.

During
the next three years after Dr. Bob’s recovery our growing groups at Akron, New York and Cleveland evolved the so-called word-of-mouth program of our pioneering time. As we commenced to form a society separate from the Oxford Group, we began to state our principles something like this:

1. We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol.
2. We got honest with ourselves.
3. We got honest with another person, in confidence.
4. We made amends for harms done others.
5. We worked with other alcoholics without demand for prestige or money.
6. We prayed to God to help us to do these things as best we could.

Though these principles were advocated according to the whim or liking of each of us, and though in Akron and Cleveland they still stuck by the Oxford Group’s absolutes of Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love, this was the gist of our message to incoming alcoholics up to 1939, when our present Twelve Steps were put to paper. –Barefoot’s World | More…
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Emmet Fox and Alcoholics Anonymous
One of the most influential New Thought authors of the 20th Century. Perhaps the fundamental contribution of Emmet Fox to Alcoholics Anonymous was the simplicity and power of “The Sermon on the Mount.”

This book sets forth the basic principles of the New Thought philosophy. Central to New Thought philosophy was the perspective which saw that love and personal forgiveness were the keys to fundamental transformation.

One of the cornerstones of Fox’s philosophy was to live but one day at a time, to be responsible for one’s own thoughts and to clear up resentments, just as AA was to teach that “resentments are our number one cause of slips.”

For Fox, one of the most important rules for growth was to live in the present. –Igor S./February 1996 AA Grapevine/ Barefoot’s World | More…

From Akron to the Internet
A time line of A.A. communication
The ways A.A’s carry the message have changed over the years. The message hasn’t changed. –Barefoot’s World | More…
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Ireland — the first European nation to accept the Message of Alcoholics Anonymous
In 1943, after immigrating to the U.S., Conor F., from Roscommon in the west of Ireland, and a tavern owner, joined A.A. in Philadelphia.

This led to the formation of the first A.A. group in Europe in Dublin in November 1946, when Conor returned to Ireland on vacation, three years sober, determined to set up an AA group in Dublin before his return to America in January 1947. It was known as the First Dublin Group or The Country Shop Group, the name of the restaurant where they met. –Barefoot’s World | More…

The First A.A. International Convention.
The first A.A. International Convention was held in Cleveland July 28-30, 1950.

A.A. membership was approaching a hundred thousand and there were thirty-five hundred groups worldwide. The decision to hold this first international convention was a fine example of how Bill Wilson was always able to stay on top of trends that threatened to divide A.A. His enormous personal popularity was the cement that bound A.A. together, but it was… | More…

Dr. Bob, whose cancer was painfully advanced, spoke only briefly. The experience exhausted him. He left the convention early and was driven home to Akron. He died within six months, November 16, 1950. But during his brief talk he told the assembled members… –Barefoot’s World | More…
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Meaning of the Circle-Triangle Symbol
The Sobriety Circle & Triangle Symbol, is the symbol used by Alcoholics Anonymous. The equilateral triangle represents the three part answer – unity, recovery and service – to a three part disease – physical, mental and spiritual, while the circle represents wholeness or oneness. The body should be triangular, stable, the mind circular, open.
The priests, medicine men and seers of antiquity regarded the circle enclosing the triangle as a means of warding off spirits of evil, and A.A.’s circle and triangle of…  –Barefoot’s World | More…

Did You Know……
• Neither A.A.’s Big Book, nor any A.A. literature we’ve found contains any of the details about Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939, which Dr. Bob’s wife shared with AAs and their families every single morning at the Smith Home in Akron.

• Neither A.A.’s Big Book, nor any A.A. literature, contains an accurate statement or description of the spiritual books Dr. Bob read and circulated, Anne Smith read and recommended, or early AAs read.

• We have found no A.A. literature or any other literature read in early A.A. that accurately tells what Quiet Time consisted of, the devotionals that were used, and the vital necessity for surrender to Christ as part of the process. –Passing On an Empty Message by Dick B. | More…
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The Twelve Steps & Biblical References

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol … that our lives had become unmanageable.
Biblical Reference: I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Biblical Reference: “… my grace is sufficient for you, for my POWER is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) …for it God Who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose.. (Phil. 2:13)

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of GOD as we understood Him.
Biblical Reference: …. If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23**)

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Biblical Reference: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40)

Step 5: Admitted to GOD, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Biblical Reference: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have GOD remove all these defects of character.
Biblical Reference: “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” (Isaiah 1:19)

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
Biblical Reference: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Biblical Reference: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23, 24**)

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Biblical Reference: Give and it shall be given you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38**)

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Biblical Reference: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith GOD has given you.” (Romans 12:3)

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with GOD as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will, and the power to carry that out.
Biblical Reference: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col. 3:16)

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.
Biblical Reference: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)

**The words of Christ

— Alcoholics Victorious (Founded 1948) | More…
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12 Defining Moments in AA History

1. Jung’s Refusal
2. A “Hot Flash” and Failed Evangelism
3. Panic at the Mayflower Hotel
4. Professionalism: AA’s First Temptation
5. Who can be an AA member?
6. A Rich Man’s Warning about Money
7. The Split from the Oxford Group
8. “Here are the steps we took…”
9. Growing Pains
10. AA and the Business of Alcoholism Treatment
11. The NCEA Affair
12. “Bill’s Damned Traditions”

–William L. White, MA and Ernest Kurtz, PhD | More…
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Descriptive Titles Bill W. Gave to Two A.A. “Founders”
Most thorough A.A. history accounts note that A.A. cofounder Bill Wilson recognized and appreciated the important service of others who were principals in the shaping of Alcoholics Anonymous ideas. In fact, the titles which Bill W. bestowed on those principals were not only descriptive; they highlighted the type of service rendered.

“Fisher of Men”: Dr. Bob, in Bill’s phrase, was the “fisher of men. . . .” “The Prince of all Twelfth-Steppers”: Dr. Bob became, as Bill described him, ‘the prince of the Twelfth Steppers’— a title for which he was well qualified

“The Rock Upon Which A.A. Was Founded”: Bill often described Bob as ‘the rock upon which A.A. was founded.’ Between 1940 and 1950, Dr Bob, in the company of that marvellous nun, Sister Ignatia, had treated 5,000 drunks at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron. His spiritual example was a powerful influence, and he never charged a cent for his medical care. –Descriptive Titles Bill W. Gave to Two A.A. “Founders”/Dick B. | More…
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The New York World-Telegram reported on the dinner held in honor of the tenth anniversary of Bill W’s sobriety (December 11, 1934). That newspaper erroneously called it the 10th anniversary of the founding of AA. There were 1500 members in attendance that night at the Commodore Hotel.

The New York Herald Tribune recounted that Bill’s report of AA’s 10 year history was impressive. AA went from 15 alcoholics released from the “drinking habit” in the first year to 40 “conversions” after 3 years. At the end of 4 years there were 100 members, and the book Alcoholics Anonymous had been written.

After nearly 10 years there were more than 12,000 members in 370 groups throughout the United States and Canada and a “new unit” functioning successfully in Hawaii (Hawaii would not become a state for another 15 years – in August of 1959). –A New Beginning. | More…
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How It (An AA Group) Works
Rarely have we seen a group fail that has thoroughly followed AA’s Traditions. Those who do not follow them are groups who cannot or will not accept these simple principles, usually groups that are constitutionally incapable of being humble.

Remember that we deal with alcoholics, seeking to direct rather than be guided, affiliate rather than cooperate, to accumulate rather than to pass it on. Without help unity is beyond our reach…. Warping the Traditions availed us nothing. We began to see our coming destruction. We asked His guidance toward unity with honest humility…. | More…

Many of us exclaimed, “those don’t apply to this situation”. Do not be unique. No group has had the misfortune of “curing” all alcoholics or people with other problems. We are not magicians….. The Traditions as written, the experience that developed them, and the chaos resulting from their avoidance or misuse make clear three pertinent….   –Author Unknown/Barefoot’s World | More…
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