Tuesday, August 13, 2013

For alcoholics, addicts, AAs, and NAs: "God, Help Me!"

God, Help Me!


By Dick B.

© 2013 Anonymous. All rights reserved



The Cry to God for Help and God’s Answer


Psalm 30:2-3 (KJV):


O LORD, my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave; thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.


AAs, Christians involved in other 12-Step Fellowships, other addicts, and other alcoholics who want God’s help in overcoming alcoholism and addictions need never shrink from relating in a 12-Step meeting their own experience meeting as to God, His Son Jesus Christ, the Bible, their church, and their religious beliefs and practices.[1] Early AAs did so freely.[2] They did not deviate because of criticisms. They confirmed that they had been cured of their alcoholism by their Heavenly Father, and that he had delivered them from the power of darkness and had translated them into the kingdom of His dear Son.[3]


What others may believe or practice today in A.A. does not give them any authority over Bible-believing AAs or other Christians in the process of overcoming alcoholism and/or drug addiction;[4] and it does not give them the authority to suppress, criticize, intimidate, or censor what Bible-believing AAs or other recovering Christians may share or read.[5] Stick with the winners![6] The winners were folks like the highly-successful A.A. pioneers for whom Alcoholics Anonymous claimed a 75% overall success rate,[7] and the early Cleveland AAs who recorded a 93% success rate (with no relapses among those making up the 93%!) “by keeping most of the ‘old program,’ including the Four Absolutes and the Bible.”[8],[9],[10]


The Experience of the First Three AAs—Asked God for Help and Were Undisputed Winners


How AA Number One, Bill W., Got Sober


Bill W.’s cry for help: The A.A. General Service Conference-approved book, The Language of the Heart, quotes Bill’s cry to God for help while he was a patient at Towns Hospital in New York from December 11-18, 1934, and God’s response as set forth below.


First, however, the reader should note that Bill’s cry for help was abuilding for some time before he called out to God from his room at Towns Hospital.


Bill had received a virtual death sentence from his psychiatrist, Dr. William D. Silkworth. Bill’s wife Lois asked Dr. Silkworth, “Just what does this mean, doctor? And the old man slowly replied, ‘It means that you will have to confine him, lock him up somewhere if he would remain sane or alive.’”[11]


During his third visit to Towns Hospital, Bill had a discussion with Dr. Silkworth on the subject of the “Great Physician.”[12] Dale Mitchel, Silkworth’s biographer, described the talk as follows:


Silkworth has not been given the appropriate credit for his position on a spiritual conversion, particularly as it may relate to true Christian benefits. Several sources, including Norman Vincent Peale, in his book The Positive Power of Jesus Christ, agree that it was Dr. Silkworth who used the term “The Great Physician,” to explain the need in recovery for a relationship with Jesus Christ. . . . In the formation of AA, Wilson initially insisted on references to God and Jesus, as well as the Great Physician. . . . Silkworth challenged the alcoholic with an ultimatum. Once hopeless, the alcoholic would grasp hold of any chance of sobriety. Silkworth, a medical doctor, challenged the alcoholic with a spiritual conversion and a relationship with God as part of the program of recovery. His approach with Bill Wilson was no different.[13]


[Referring to a similar situation in the case of a hopeless alcoholic named Charles who also was treated by Dr. Silkworth, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale related that in desperation Charles had asked who could possibly heal him]. And Silkworth replied, ‘There is another doctor who can complete this healing, but he is very expensive.” ‘That’s all right,” cried Charles. “I can get the money. I can pay his fees”. . . . Oh, but the Great Physician is not at all moderate as to expense. He wants everything you’ve got. He wants all of you. Then He gives the healing. His price is your entire self” [said Silkworth to his patient Charles.] Then Silkworth added slowly and impressively, “His name is Jesus Christ and he keeps office in the New Testament and is available whenever you need Him.”[14]


Bill Wilson used the term “cofounder” when describing Silkworth on occasion.[15] Bill also used the term “cofounder” when referring to Rev. Sam Shoemaker.[16] And Bill later was to credit the content of the Twelve Steps primarily to Silkworth, Professor William James, and the teachings of Rev. Shoemaker.[17] In fact, Bill actually asked Sam Shoemaker to write the Twelve Steps, but Shoemaker declined, suggesting that Bill—an alcoholic—should write them.[18] Mitchel added some other items relevant to Silkworth’s religious beliefs. He wrote: (1) “William had been taught by his father to serve his God and his country, and he served proudly without any regrets.”[19] (2) “A devout Christian, he initially fit well into the temperance mind-set developing across the country. For years he attended a church that would also have an impact on the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Calvary Christian (Episcopal) Church”[20] [of which A.A. cofounder Rev. Samuel Shoemaker was the Rector]. (3) “Bill Wilson, Sam Shoemaker, and William Silkworth all became friends through the growth of A.A. . . . William and his wife, Antoinette, would occasionally still visit the church for Sunday services.”[21] (4) Silkworth “spoke frequently about the need for a reliance upon God and a firm foundation of spiritual strength in order to handle the obsession to drink.”[22] (5) “He was a man who believed in a spiritually sound approach to healing.”[23]


Said Silkworth’s biographer: “It is obvious that in prior visits Silkworth had tried to explain the ‘Great Physician’ to Bill without success.”[24] And Bill wrote that he had thought about this discussion before he decided to check himself into Towns for the last time, at the urging of his wife and his brother-in-law. In Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, Wilson wrote: “Alcoholism took longer to kill, but the result was the same. Yes, if there was any Great Physician that could cure the alcohol sickness, I’d better find him now, at once.”[25]


Bill’s next introduction to what the Great Physician could do for him--if sought for a cure of his alcoholism--came from Bill’s old drinking buddy, Edwin Throckmorton Thacher (known as “Ebby.” In the deep throes of alcoholism, Ebby was about to be incarcerated for inebriety. He went before Judge Collins Graves, a Bennington, Vermont magistrate. But it so happened that Cebra Graves, the son of Judge Graves, went to his father and asked that Ebby be paroled to his (Cebra’s) care. Three recovered Oxford Group friends of Ebby’s—Cebra Graves, F. Shepard Cornell, and Rowland Hazard (all of them cured of their alcoholism)—had banded together to rescue their friend Ebby. And Ebby wound up primarily in the care of Rowland Hazard, then of Vermont.[26]


A word or two about the three friends, about Rowland Hazard particularly, and about Ebby’s own situation when he was rescued. And the details have been pieced together in our book, Dick B. and Ken B., Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the Green Mountain Men of Vermont: The Roots of Early A.A.’s Original Program (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2012).


The story goes as follows:


(1)   Ebby’s family were from New York, but they spent long summers in Manchester and Emerald Lake in Vermont. Ebby had matriculated with Bill Wilson at Burr and Burton Seminary in Manchester, Vermont, and boarded with Congregational Minister Reverend Sidney Perkins—receiving substantial Christian and biblical training from both Burr and Burton and from the Perkins family. Ebby had been strongly influenced by his family’s church attendance while he was growing up, and the Thacher family had both Episcopalian and Presbyterian connections.[27]


(2)   Speaking of Cebra Graves and Shep Cornell, “Ebby said they had gotten some pretty sensible things out of it [the Oxford Group], based on the life of Christ, biblical times—I listened to what they had to say, and I was very much impressed because it was what I had been taught as a child and what I inwardly believed.”[28]


(3)   Rowland’s story was more powerful, from Ebby’s standpoint. Rowland had treated unsuccessfully with the eminent Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung. When Rowland asked Dr. Jung what the problem was, Jung told him that he had the mind of a chronic alcoholic and that he had never seen such a case recover. Pushed further, Jung did tell Rowland that at times, alcoholics had been cured by conversions—vital religious experiences. And Rowland returned to the United States, accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and was healed.[29]


(4)   Ebby spent a week or two with Rowland. Rowland told Ebby he was impressed by the simplicity of the early Christian teachings as advocated by the Oxford Group [actually called “A First Century Christian Fellowship”] and really lived them and practiced them himself. Ebby said: “he made me believe in them as I had as a young man.”[30]


(5)   Then Ebby was lodged with the brotherhood in Calvary Episcopal Rescue Mission—an outgrowth of New York’s famous Water Street Mission. And Ebby accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior there on November 1, 1934, a month before he called on Bill Wilson.[31]


(6)   Ebby then visited Bill to help Bill make Bill’s decision for Christ. The material is thoroughly covered in Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W. and Dick B. and Ken B., The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 4th ed. In substance, the facts are these: (a) Ebby told Bill that he had been to the altar at Calvary Rescue Mission at accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He used an Oxford Group expression for conversion, saying: “I’ve got religion.” Ebby told Bill that God had done for him what he could not do for himself.

Bill believed Ebby had been born again. Bill wrote: “Nevertheless here I  was sitting opposite a man who talked about a personal God, who told me how he had found Him, who described to me how I might do the same thing and who convinced me utterly that something had come into his life which had  accomplished a miracle. The man was transformed; there was no denying that he had been reborn.”[1][32]


(7)   He could not get the story out of his mind. He went to Shoemaker’s church to hear Ebby’s testimony in the pulpit. And Bill decided that if the Great Physician had delivered Ebby, he had better go to the Calvary Mission and see if he could get the same results.[33]


(8)   Bill then got drunk, but he did go to Calvary Mission. There he went to the altar and in all sincerity handed his life over to Jesus Christ. This is an event witnessed by Mrs. Samuel M. Shoemaker, reported by Bill’s wife Lois, recorded by Shoemaker’s Assistant Minister W. Irving Harris, and attested by one of the brothers at the Mission. Bill wrote a letter to his brother-in-law Dr. Leonard Strong and said that he (like Ebby) had “found religion.” In his autobiography, Bill wrote, “For sure I’d been born again.” And Rev. Shoemaker had described Calvary Rescue Mission to be a place “where God reclaims men who choose to be reborn.”[34]


(9)   After that, Bill was drunk and despairing once again. So he decided to check in to Towns Hospital. Bill decided he should call on the “Great Physician” for help at once. Checking into Towns, he met Dr. Silkworth and told Silkworth he had “found something.” Soon he thought it was time to ask for help from the “Great Physician.” Bill said, “I remember saying to myself, “I’ll do anything, anything at all. If there be a Great Physician, I’ll call on him.[35]


(10)                       Said Bill: “And I cried out as a child, expecting little—indeed, expecting nothing. I simply said, “If there is a God, will he show himself?” Then I was granted one of those instantaneous illuminations. . . . I was seized with great joy and ecstasy beyond all possible expression. In the mind’s eye, it seemed to me I stood on a high mountain. I was taken there, I had not climbed it. And then the great thought burst upon me: “Bill, you are a free man! This is the God of the Scriptures.” And I was filled with a consciousness of a presence. A great peace fell over me. . . . So I hung on, and then I knew there was a God and I knew there was a grace. And through it all, I have continued to feel, if I may presume to say it, that I do know these things.[36] [emphasis in original]


And Bill W. never drank again!


Bill’s explanation of God’s help: In the current (fourth) edition of Alcoholics Anonymous (“the Big Book”), Bill is quoted as saying to the wife of A.A. Number Three:


“Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.”[37]


A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob’s affirmation of Bill W.’s cure: Dr. Bob stated in his personal story in the Big Book:


[Bill W.] . . . was a man . . . who had been cured by the very means I had been trying to employ, that is to say, the spiritual approach.[38]


How A.A. Number Two, Dr. Bob, Got Sober


Dr. Bob’s surrender and prayer for deliverance. The A.A. General Service Conference-approved book DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers states the following about how A.A. Number Two, Dr. Bob, got sober:


. . . Henrietta [Seiberling] . . . gathered some Oxford Group members to attend . . . [a very special meeting]. “I decided that the people who shared in the Oxford Group had never shared very costly things to make Bob lose his pride [through their example (this text is bracketed in the original)] and share what I thought would cost him a great deal,” she said.

. . .

“We all shared very deeply our shortcomings and what we had victory over. Then there was a silence, and I waited and thought, ‘Will Bob say anything?’

“Sure enough, in that deep, serious tone of his, he said, ‘Well, you good people have all shared things that I am sure were very costly to you, and I am going to tell you something which may cost me my profession. I am secret drinker, and I can’t stop.’

“We said, ‘Do you want us to pray for you?’

“Then someone said, ‘Should we get on our knees?’

“And he said, ‘Yes,’ so we did. . . .

“The next morning,” Henrietta continued, “I, who knew nothing about alcoholism . . . was saying a prayer for Bob.

“I said, ‘God, I don’t know anything about drinking, but I told Bob that I was sure that if he lived this way of life, he could quit drinking. Now I need your help, God.’ Something said to me—I call it ‘guidance’; it was like a voice in my head—‘Bob must not touch one drop of alcohol.’

“I knew that wasn’t my thought. So I called Bob and told him I had guidance for him.”[39]

Explanations of God’s response: Henrietta Seiberling had received guidance from God that Bob must quit drinking completely. And the answer to the prayers by Bob and the group came in a surprising way when Bill W. arrived in Akron to salvage a business venture. The A.A. General Service Conference-approved book ‘PASS IT ON’ states:


. . . Bill faced a solitary weekend in a strange city where he had just sustained a colossal disappointment. He had time on his hands and bitterness in his heart. . . .

. . . There was a bar at one end of the lobby, and Bill felt himself drawn to it. . . .

. . . [F]or Bill Wilson, the alcoholic, the idea was loaded with danger. . . .

In New York, he had kept himself sober for more than five months through working with other drunks at Towns [Hospital] and at Calvary Mission. . . . . Now he had nobody. As he later recalled, “I thought, ‘You need another alcoholic to talk to. You need another alcoholic just as much as much as he needs you!’” . . .

 . . . . Bill asked [Rev. Walter F. Tunks, an Episcopalian clergyman, on the phone] for help to get in touch with a drunk to talk to. . . . [Rev. Tunks gave Bill the names of ten people to call. One of the people he called, Norman Sheppard, suggested Bill call Henrietta Seiberling.]

. . .

. . . Something kept telling him to call Mrs. Seiberling. He went back to his room and placed the call.

. . .

As Henrietta later told it, Bill introduced himself over the telephone thus: “I’m from the Oxford Group and I’m a rum hound from New York.”

Her silent reaction, she said, was: ‘This is really manna from heaven.” Aloud, she said, “You come right out here.”

. . .

Henrietta relied on God’s guidance in her life. She was certain that the telephone call was the help she and other Oxford Group members had been seeking for one of their members.[40]


The A.A. General Service Conference-approved pamphlet The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks provides Dr. Bob’s description of Bill W.’s meeting with Henrietta Seiberling and Bill’s momentous meeting with Dr. Bob the following day:


“[Over lunch with Henrietta Seiberling at Mrs. Seiberling’s home,] he [Bill W.] went into his story in considerable detail, and she [Henrietta Seiberling] said, ‘I have just the man for you.’

            “She rushed to the phone and called [Dr. Bob’s wife] Anne and told her that she had just the fellow to be helpful to me [Dr. Bob], and that we should come right over, . . .

            “. . . Anne had to tell her I was bagged [i.e., drunk] . . . and the visit would just have to be postponed. So Henry started in about the next day being Sunday and Mother’s Day [May 12, 1935], and Anne said we would be over then.

            “. . . We got there at five o’clock, and it was 11:15 when we left.

“. . . Bill had acquired their [the Oxford Group’s] idea of service. I had not, . . .”[41]


And, as ‘PASS IT ON’ put it: “Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith hit it off from their very first talk at Henrietta’s home, . . .”[42]


Dr. Bob’s cure: But Dr. Bob’s wife Anne was still worried about him and invited Bill W. to live with them at their 855 Ardmore Avenue home in Akron. Bill W. moved into the Smith home for the summer of 1935.[43] Speaking of this time period, Bill said: “We were under an awful compulsion. And we found that we had to do something for somebody or actually perish ourselves.”[44] By the end of May 1935, within two weeks or so of their first meeting, Bill W. and Dr. Bob had started carrying the message to others together.[45] Commenting on his stay with Bob and Anne, Bill said: “For the next three months, I lived with these two wonderful people. . . . I shall always believe they gave me more than I ever brought them.”[46] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers adds:


Each morning, there was a devotion, he [Bill W.] recalled. After a long silence, in which they awaited inspiration and guidance, Anne would read from the Bible. “James was our favorite,” he said.[47]


It also states:


[Dr. Bob’s daughter] Sue . . . remembered the quiet time in the mornings—how they sat around reading from the Bible.[48]


In the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, Bill W. described these morning sessions with Dr. Bob and Anne in this way:


How well I remember our morning meditation, when Anne would sit in the corner by the fireplace and read from the Bible, and then we would huddle together in stillness, awaiting inspiration and guidance.[49]


Then along came the 86th annual convention of the American Medical Association which was held June 10-14, 1935, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.[50] Dr. Bob “. . . hadn’t missed one in 20 years.”[51] He decided to go to the medical convention and “. . . began drinking everything he could get as soon as he boarded the train to Atlantic City. On his arrival, he bought several quarts on his way to the hotel. That was Sunday night.”[52] He began drinking again Monday evening. And he drank all morning on Tuesday, at which point he checked out of the hotel and headed home by train.[53] The next thing Dr. Bob knew, “. . . he was coming out of it [a blackout] in the Cuyahoga Falls home of his office nurse and her husband.”[54] “Five days from the time Bob left—on the following Thursday—they [Bill and Dr. Bob’s wife Anne] got a telephone call from Dr. Bob’s office nurse, . . .”[55] Bill and Anne headed over to the nurse’s home to pick up Dr. Bob.[56]


Then began “a three-day sobering-up period, . . .” as Dr. Bob “. . . was due to perform a surgery three days later.”[57] Here is Bill W.’s report as to what happened early on the third day:


. . . [A]t four o’clock on the morning of the operation, both of them [Bill W. and Dr. Bob] were wide awake. Dr. Bob, shaking, turned to look at Bill. He said, “I’m going through with it.”

“You mean you’re going through with the operation?”

“I have placed both the operation and myself in God’s hands,” Dr. Bob replied. “I’m going to do what it takes to get sober and stay that way.”[58]


The “tapering-off process” ended while Bill and Anne were driving Dr. Bob to the hospital on the day he had to perform the surgery. “Bill handed him [Dr. Bob] ‘one goofball’ and a single bottle of beer, to curb the shakes.”[59]


The bottle of beer Bill gave him [Dr. Bob] that morning was the last drink he [Dr. Bob] ever had.

Although arguments have been and will be made for other significant occasions in A.A. history, it is generally agreed that Alcoholics Anonymous began there, in Akron, on that date: June 10, 1935.[60]


Number Three: How A.A. Number Three, Akron attorney Bill D., Got Sober


A.A. Number Three Bill D.’s Surrender to God for help: Dr. Bob and Bill W. decided to look for another alcoholic to work on. . . “But where can we find any alcoholics?” Bill W. remembered asking. “They always have a batch down at the Akron City Hospital,” Bob said, “I’ll call them up and see what they’ve got.” He called Mrs. Hall, the admissions nurse, who was a friend of his, and explained that he and a man from New York had a “cure” for alcoholism and needed a prospect to try it out on.[61]


The nurse asked whether Dr. Bob had tried the new method on himself. “Yes.” Dr. Bob replied, somewhat taken aback, “I sure have.” Mrs. Hall did have a prospect—“a dandy.” He was a lawyer who had been in the hospital six times in the preceding four months. He went completely out of his mind when drinking, and he had just roughed up a couple of nurses. At the moment, he was strapped down tight.” This was Bill D., who would become A.A. number three; and Bill D. became known as “the man on the bed.”[62]


Bill D. himself told of his sense of hopelessness and despair before the visit from Dr. Bob and Bill W. The attorney also remembered how he was told to go out and carry the message of recovery to someone else.[63] Bill D. and his wife Henrietta attended church every Sunday and often prayed about his problem. He told Bill W. and Dr. Bob: “You don’t have to sell me religion, either. I was at one time a deacon in the church and I still believe in God. But I guess He doesn’t believe much in me.[64] Speaking of this new-found prospect, Dr. Bob called him “Bill D., our good friend from Akron.” Bob added: “I knew that this Bill was a Sunday-school superintendent, and I thought he probably forgot more about the Good Book every night than I ever knew. . .  and I’m glad to say that the conversation fell on fertile ground.”[65]


If A.A. Number Three thought God had given up on him, his wife Henrietta thought otherwise. Dissatisfied with the progress she and Bill were making in their own church, she had visited another minister to pray about her husband’s illness. She became convinced that her husband would stop drinking. And when Bill W. and Dr. Bob were calling on him, she had no doubt her prayers were being answered.[66]


He was there about five days before Bill W. and Dr. could make him say that he couldn’t control his drinking and had to leave it up to God. He certainly did believe in God, but he wanted to be his own man. Nonetheless, the two cofounders made him get down on his knees at the side of the bed right there in the hospital and pray and say that he would turn his life over to God.[67]


God’s response to Bill D.’s prayers. In his personal story, Bill D. said: “It was in the next two or three days after I had first met Doc and Bill that I finally came to a decision to turn my will over to God and to go along with this program the best I could. . . . I wasn’t afraid that the program wouldn’t work. . . I still was doubtful whether I would be able to hang on to the program, but I did come to the conclusion that I was willing to put everything I had into it, with God’s power, and that I wanted to do just that. As soon as I had done that, I did feel a great release. I had a helper whom I could rely upon, who wouldn’t fail me. If I could stick to Him and listen, I would make it. . . when the boys came back, I told them.. . I am willing to put His world first, above everything. I have already done it, and I am willing to do it again here in the presence of you, or I am willing to say it any place, anywhere in the world from now on and not be ashamed of it. . . . Then they said, ‘There is one other thing. You should go out and take this program to somebody else who needs it and wants it.’”[68]


Bill D.’s cure: On page 191 of the 4th edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A. number Three wrote: “I noticed that the others seemed to have such a release, a happiness, a something that I thought a person ought to have. I was trying to find the answer. . . a week or two after I had come out  of the hospital, Bill (Bill Wilson) was at my house talking to my wife and me. . . . Bill looked across at my wife and said to her, “Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.” I thought, I think I have the answer. Bill [Wilson] was very, very grateful that he had been released from this terrible thing and he had given God the credit for having done it, and he’s so grateful about it that he wants to tell other people about it. That sentence, ‘The Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep telling people about it,’ has been a sort of a golden text for the A.A. program and for me.”


What the Successful Efforts of the First Three—“The Winners”--Actually Involved


Dr. Bob explained how simple the program had been when he and Bill W. were working with Bill D. and the other old-timers. In his last major speech (in The Co-Founders pamphlet P-53), Dr. Bob said at pages 13-14:


In early A.A. days. . . our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of. When we started in on Bill D., we had no Twelve Steps, either; we had no Traditions. But we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts that we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5-7], the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James. We used to have daily meetings at a friend’s house.


It wasn’t until 1938 that the teachings and efforts and studies that had been going on were crystallized in the form of the Twelve Steps. I didn’t write the Twelve Steps. I had nothing to do with the writing of them. . . . Bill came to live at our house and stayed for about three months. There was hardly a night that we didn’t sit up until two or three o’clock, talking. It would be hard for me to conceive that, during these nightly discussions around our kitchen table, nothing was said that influenced the writing of the Twelve Steps. We already had the basic ideas, though not in terse and tangible form. We got them, as I said, as a result of our study of the Good Book. . . . We were maintaining sobriety—therefore, we must have had them.


In short, the first three AAs took their cue from the Bible. Each studied it: (1) Bob had had excellent training in the Bible as a youngster and said so.[69] (2) Bill had read the Bible as a youngster, with his friend Mark Whalon, and with his grandfather Fayette Griffith. All were voracious readers.[70][71] (3) At Burr and Burton Seminary, Bill attended daily chapel where there were hymns, prayers, reading of Scripture, and Sermons. And Bill took a four-year Bible study course.[72] According to A.A. Conference approved literature, Dotson had been a Sunday school teacher and a deacon in his church, and “probably knew more about the Bible than Bob had forgotten.” As stated above, each of the three turned to God for help—Bill’s crying out to God for help at Towns Hospital; Dr. Bob’s getting down on his knees at Henrietta’s special meeting and praying with the group for deliverance; and Dotson’s relating that he had given his life over to the care and direction of God. Each was cured and said so. For the rest of their lives, each never drank again; and each began serving and glorifying God and also others who suffered.


And The Emphasis on the Bible Continued


DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers said:


We had much prayer together in those days and began quietly to read Scripture and discuss a practical approach to its application in our lives, page 111


Bob E. remembered that he, too, spent a lot of time with Anne. . . She read the Bible and counseled me, page 114


Dr. Bob was a prominent man in Akron. Everybody knew him. When he stopped drinking, people asked, ‘What’s this not-drinking-liquor club you’ve got over there?’ ‘A Christian fellowship,’ he’d reply, page 118


[Frank Amos investigated the Akron program and summarized it in seven parts. In Part 4, he wrote] “He must have devotions every morning—a ‘quiet time’ of prayer and some reading from the Bible and other religious literature,’ page 131


            [At the meetings,] The leader would open with a prayer, then read Scripture, page 139.


            After the meeting closed with the Lord’s Prayer. . ., page 141.


(Dr. Bob was always positive about his faith, Clarence said. If someone asked him a question about the program, his usual response was: ‘What does it say in the Good Book? . . ., page 144


The Bible was stressed as reading material, of course, page 151.


[At the meeting:] Dr. Bob, who put his foot on the rung of a dining room chair, identified himself as an alcoholic, and began reading the Sermon on the Mount, page 218.


Stick with the Winners! The first three got well by turning to the Bible for the answer to their problems. There were no Steps, no Traditions, no Big Books, no war stories, and no meetings as we know them today. And studying the Bible for answers was “absolutely essential.”


The Spiritual Battle and What Daily Phone calls, Emails, conferences and Meetings Keep Telling us about Christian AAs Today


·         Scarcely a day goes by here in Maui, Hawaii without our receiving phone calls and emails or meeting with some alcoholic or drug addict who is a Christian and has had difficult experiences with criticisms, rejections, intimidations, and shout-downs in their fellowship, group, meetings, and personal confrontations by others.


·         Generally, these Christian AAs are folks with substantial sobriety and don’t want to leave their A.A. fellowship or cease serving God and AAs who want and need God’s help.


·         But their concerns as Christians, and often as recovered AAs with long term, continuous sobriety, leave the problem with “Whatever happened to God, and God’s love, power, and healing.” And—despite the rebuffs,  their difficult task is to accept the rejections, tell their actual stories, express thanks for their new lives, and “Stick with the Winners!”


·         Nobody is trying to Christianize A.A. The variety of beliefs and unbelief in the Fellowship is an accepted fact today. But this multitude of views neither grants nor authorizes anyone to suppress literature, condemn remarks, criticize individuals, and prevent mention of God, His Son Jesus Christ, or the Bible in a meeting, a conference, a phone call, or a Central Office.


·         There are no police or governors in A.A. There is no index of forbidden books. There is no office of censorship. There is not and never has been an authorized or successful attempt to evict anyone because of his beliefs, his reading, or his remarks. And that includes the thousands of Christians in A.A. who have that unfettered right and freedom.


·         The two A.A. phrases: “Love and tolerance”[73] and “Love and service”[74] mean that all AAs should look first at their own Conference-approved literature and then at the recorded remarks of the first three AAs, the cofounders, and the pioneers and see how much the literature of today encourages mention of God, of religion, and of the Bible. And, as Bill W. wrote in his Big Book: “There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about them may be obtained from one’s priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they have to offer.” And these are expressions of freedom of religious belief, principles, and practices that cannot be suppressed and certainly can’t be overcome by attacks, bitterness or bellicosity.[75]


First Things First


Scrambling and scrapping over what someone else has to say about his religious beliefs, or over what he brings to a meeting in the nature of reading material, or over what he believes as to God or even a higher-powered light bulb can and should be resolved by Dr. Bob’s explanation of the expression “First Things First.”: “If someone asked him a question about the program, his usual response was: ‘What does it say in the Good Book?’ Suppose he was asked, ‘What’s all this First Things First?’ Dr. Bob would be ready with the appropriate quotation: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’”


If individuals try to control, condemn, or reject some statement on the grounds that it “violates” a Tradition, or that it doesn’t come from “Conference-approved” literature, the most appealing starting place is with A.A.’s General Service Conference-approved Big Book, 4th ed. at page 85: “Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all our activities. ‘How can I best serve Thee—Thy will (not mine) be done.’


It is one thing for a person in despair, depression, and fear to cry out: “God, Help me!” It is quite another for a person in a meeting to attempt to play God and try to force his view down someone else’s throat just because he doesn’t agree with the other person’s belief or religious view or doesn’t want to hear about it. That’s more like: “Thanks but no thanks, God. I’ll handle this myself; and I don’t care what your will is.


Most Christians would agree that God’s will is set forth in the Good Book—often called the “word of God,” and that’s where Dr. Bob urged AAs  to look first for answers to their problems.


[1] In speaking of the “forty-two personal experiences” in the “Personal Stories” section of the book, the fourth edition of Alcoholics Anonymous (“the Big Book”) states: “Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in his own language and from his own point of view the way he established his relationship with God.” Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed. (New York City: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001), 29.
[2] For example, A.A. cofounder Bill W., as quoted by AA Number Three, Bill D. of Akron in his personal story in the Big Book, stated:
“. . . ‘Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep talking about and telling people.’” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 191]
A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob stated the following in the last sentence of his personal story in the Big Book:
                “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 181]
AA Number Three, Bill D., also stated in his personal story in the Big Book:
“That sentence [of Bill W.’s], ‘The Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep telling people about it,” has been a sort of a golden text for the A.A. program and for me.” [Alcoholics  Anonymous, 4th ed., 191].
[3] Colossians 1:13 (KJV): “Who [the Father (verse 12)] hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated [us] into the kingdom of his dear Son:”
[4] Tradition Two (Short Form) “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” Tradition Ten (Long Form) “No A.A. group or member should ever, in such a way as to implicate A.A., express any opinion on outside controversial issues—particularly those of politics, alcohol reform, or sectarian religion. The Alcoholics Anonymous Groups oppose no one. Concerning such matters. They can express no views whatever.” Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 562. 565/
[5] Alcoholics  Anonymous Comes of Age provides the following guides: (1) “Many people wonder how A.A. can function  under such anarchy. . . . Happily for us, we found we need no human authority whatever. We have two authoritative which are more effective. One is benign, the other malign. There is God, our Father, who simply says, ‘I am waiting for you to do my will,’”105. (2) “. . . We believe that ‘spiritual faith’ and a ‘way of  life’ cannot be incorporated. . . A.A. can and will survive so long as it remains a spiritual faith and a way of life open to all men and women who suffer from alcoholism,” 127. (3) “. . . A.A. can  never have an organized direction or government. . . . To this rule: Alcoholics Anonymous is a complete exception. It does not at any point conform to the pattern of government. Neither its General Service Conference, its General Service Board, nor the humblest group committee can issue a single directive to an A.A. member and make it stick, let alone hand out any punishment. . . someone once suggested we put up a sign in each A.A. club saying: ‘Anything goes here, folks, except you mustn’t smoke opium in the elevators!, 119.
[6] See Dick B. and Ken B., Stick with the Winners!, http://mcaf.ee/s50mq.
[7] “Of alcoholics who came to A.A. and really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that way; 25% sobered up after some relapses, and among the remainder, those who stayed on with A.A. showed improvement.” From “Foreword to Second Edition” in Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., xx.
[8] For the “old program,” see the seven-point summary of the original Akron A.A. program: DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (New York, N.Y., Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980), 131.
[9] Mitchell K., How It Worked: The Story of Clarence H. Snyder and the Early Days of Alcoholics Anonymous in Cleveland, Ohio (Washingtonville, NY: AA Big Book Study Group, 1991, 1997), 108.
[10] “Records in Cleveland show that 93 percent of those who came to us never had a drink again. When I [Dr. Bob’s sponsee Clarence S. who started A.A.’s third group in the world on May 11, 1939] discovered that people had slips in A.A., it really shook me up. Today, it’s all watered down so much.” DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 261.
[11] Bill W. My First 40 Years: An Autobiography by the Cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2000), 116-17.
[12] Dale Mitchel, Silkworth The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks: The Biography of William Duncan Silkworth, M.D. (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2002), 44.
[13] Mitchel, Silkworth, 50.
[14] Mitchel, Silkworth, 50-51.
[15] Mitchel, Silkworth, 70.
[16] Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A., 2d ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1999), 551.
[17] The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings (New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc., 1988), 297-98.
[18] Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism, 9, 73.
[19] Mitchel, Silkworth, 27.
[20] Mitchel, Silkworth, 11-12.
[21] Mitchel, Silkworth, 63.
[22] Mitchel, Silkworth, 34.
[23] Mitchel, Silkworth, 35.
[24] Mitchel, Silkworth, 49.
[25] Mitchel, Silkworth, 44, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, 61.
[26] My First 40 Years, 127-31/
[27] Dick B. and Ken B., The Green Mountain Men of Vermont, np, Chapter 4.
[28] Dick B. and Ken B., The Green Mountain Men of Vermont, np, Chapter 12.
[29] Dick B. and Ken B., The Green Mountain Men of Vermont, np, Chapter  12.
[30] Dick B. and Ken B., The Green Mountain Men of Vermont, np, Chapter 12.
[31] Dick B. and Ken B., The Green Mountain Men of Vermont, np, Chapter 12.
[32] Dick B. and Ken B., The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide: Why A.A. and Other Early Christian Recovery Efforts Succeeded, and How to Use Their Methods to Achieve Similar Successes Today, 4th ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2011), 69-70. This statement was found by me in my  research at Stepping Stones in a manuscript titled, “Bill Wilson’s Original Story,” lines 935-942.
[33] Dick B. and Ken B., The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 4th ed., 70-72.
[34] Dick B. and Ken B., The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 4th ed., 72.
[35] Dick B. and Ken B., The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 4th ed., 73.
[36] The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings (New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc., 1988), 284.
[38] Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 180.
[39] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 58-59.
[40] ‘Pass It On’ (New York, N.Y.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984), 135-38.
[41] The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks, (New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975) 10-11.
[43] PASS IT ON,’ 147, 151. “. . . Bill returned to New York City on Monday, August 26, 1935, . . .” ‘PASS IT ON,’ 161.
[44] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 69.
[45] According to a letter of Bill W. to his wife Lois dated May 1935. See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 70.
[48] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 71.
[49] Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1957, 1985), 70.
[50] As to the actual dates of this convention, see The Journal of the American Medical Association, Saturday, June 22, 1935, 2258; [JAMA. 1935;104(25):2258-2259.]: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=260319; accessed 8/7/2013; The Canadian Medical Association Journal, December 1934, 163 [Can Med Assoc J. 1934 December; 31(6): 673.]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1561164/?page=1; accessed 8/7/2013; and House of Delegates Proceedings. 86th Annual Session of the American Medical Association,
Atlantic City, June 10-14, 1935: http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/ethics/policies.pdf ; accessed 8/7/2013.
[58]PASS IT ON,’ 149.
[60] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 75. Recently, some A.A. historians have argued that a different date, most likely Monday, June 17, 1935, was the actual date of Dr. Bob’s last drink, due to the dates of the American Medical Association’s convention in Atlantic City. See, for example: Mitchell K., “Dr. Bob’s Last Drink,” http://alcoholism.about.com/library/blmitch5.htm; accessed 8/7/2013.
[61] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 81-82.
[62] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 82.
[63] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 83.
[64] “PASS IT ON,” 133.
[65] The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, 12.
[66] “PASS IT ON,” 153.
[67] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 85.
[68] Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 189-90.
[69] The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, 11-12.
[70] As to the reading devotion of all three, see Susan Cheever, My Name is Bill, 37-38, 42, 47. As Cheever put it on page 48: “The more Bill read, the more he wanted to read. He had read about Horatio Alger and Thomas Edison. He read Heidi and the family encyclopedia and, of course, the Bible. . . . Bill became a reading addict, staying up all night while the rest of the Griffith house slept.”
[71] The details about the reading can also be found in Robert Thomsen, Bill W., 27-28, 32, 200-01, 308. On page 34, Thomsen wrote of Fayette Griffith, “With more free hours now, Fayette r read more, even sending off to the  city for special books. . . He went on, read his Bible, supported the church. . .” See also Bill W. My First 40 Years, 19.
[72] See Bill W. and Dr. Bob, The Green Mountain Men of Vermont np; Chapter 3, Frederica Templeton, The Castle in the Pasture: Portrait of Burr and Burton Academy (Manchester, VT: Burr and Burton Academy,  2005), 15, 17-22, 25-26, 33, 42, 56, 67.
[73] Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., page 84: “Love and tolerance of others is our code.”
[74] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 338: “Our Twelve Steps, when simmered down to the last, resolve themselves into the words “love” and “service.”
[75] Alcoholics Anonymous ,4th ed., page 84: “And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone—even alcohol..” Page 66: “To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. . . . But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got..” Page  67: “We avoid  retaliation or argument.”