The Guide for Beginners’ Recovery from Alcoholism and Addiction Today
By Applying Old School Akron A.A. in Today’s Recovery Scene
© 2015 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Summary of the Stages of Healing Techniques, Beginning with the Apostles, and How They Lived Their Lives--Praying, Witnessing, converting others, healing, fellowshipping in homes and temple, and breaking bread together
How Recovery “Christian techniques” Began to be employed in the manner of First Century Christian Fellowships
The Turning by Christian groups in the 1850’s to Ministering to the “Unworthy”
The Christian Entities That Led the Way
Christian Revivals in the Upbringing of A.A.’s Co-founders
[The Great Revival of 1876 in St. Johnsbury]
Congregationalism in Vermont and in the Families of A.A.’s Co-founders
Participation of Grandparents and Parents
Church, Sunday School, Sermons, Reading of Scripture, Hymns, Prayer Meetings, Young Men’s Christian Association, Christian Endeavor Societies
The Congregational Domination of Academies Attended by Dr. Bob, Bill W., and Ebby Thacher; and the Christian Practices Required of Students
The Spiral Downward (glass in hand) by Dr. Bob and by Bill W. as They Departed for College
The Early Formative Days for Alcoholics and Addicts
How the First Three AAs Got Sober
A.A. Number One. Bill W. became born again at Calvary Chapel in New York. Then Bill was cured of his alcoholism at Towns Hospital when Bill cried out to God for help, there experienced a blazing indescribably white light in his hospital room, and concluded, “Bill, you are a free man. This is the God of the Scriptures.” Bill never again doubted the existence of God, and never drank again.
On a rug on the floor of the home of T. Henry Williams, Dr. Bob (the alcoholic) had joined a small group of friends in prayer for his deliverance from alcoholism. A miraculous phone call soon emerged from the prayers. Bill W., a stranger, phoned Henrietta Seiberling seeking a drunk to work with. She introduced two men (Bill W. and Dr. Bob) at her home; and, after a six hour talk, the two men were bound to the principle of serving others. But Dr. Bob had yet to be cured. Before long, after a bender, Dr. Bob undertook scheduled surgery. Bill and Bob’s family were concerned that Bob was too shaky to operate. But Bob proceeded. He told Bill he had placed the surgery and his life in God’s hands. The operation was a success. Dr. Bob was cured then and there of his drinking problem and said so. It was June 10, 1935; and Bob never drank again.
Bill W. and Dr. Bob visited attorney Bill D. in Akron City Hospital, persuaded him to admit to his seemingly hopeless alcoholism. Bill D. got on his knees and gave his life to God. He also promised to help others get well. And he walked out of the hospital a free man. He never drank again. And Bill W. announced that the date was July 4. 1935—the founding of Akron Group Number One.
All three men had renounced liquor for good. They believed in God and were students of the Bible. They were Christians. And in their darkest hours, they sought God’s help for their ascent from the abyss.
The First Program of Recovery
The pioneers soon developed a recovery program consisting of seven points; investigated by Rockefeller agent Frank Amos and reported on page 131 of DR. Bob and the Good Oldtimers. The summarized seven points are accompanied in our book, Stick with the Winners and details the 16 principles and practices the pioneers used to implement the seven point program published in A.A. literature; and Dick B. and his son Ken B. have set forth their summary of those principles and practices. In Stick with the Winners! How to Conduct More Effective 12-Step Recovery Meetings Using Conference-Approved Literature: A Dick B. Guide for Christian Leaders and Workers in the Recovery Arena. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., (2012). Dick and his son Ken have set forth on pages 27-38, with documentation those 16 principles and practices
The Next Major Program Development Was the Remarkable Cleveland Program Offshoot and Its Top Success
There are five reliable summaries of the Cleveland application of old school A.A.
(1) They are Our A.A. Legacy to the Faith Community For Those Who Want to Believe, By Three Clarence Snyder Sponsee-Old-timers and Their Wives: Compiled and Edited by Dick B. (Winter Park, FL: Came to Believe Publications, 2005.) The three author-couples were sponsored by Clarence, sponsored many others, put on retreats organized by Clarence, and were at his side for many years until his death. And, after Clarence died, they later devoted almost a year to interviews, phone calls, correspondence, and manuscript work with Dick B. It is widely used by AAs, at the retreats, and by hundreds who use it as a guide to A.A. and how to take its steps.
(2) Dick B. spoke at many retreats with Grace Snyder. He and his son Ken B. interviewed Grace extensively, and reviewed such books, papers, and records owned by Clarence as Grace made available when Dick and Ken spent a week at the Grace Snyder home in Florida. And her biography is That Amazing Grace: The Role of Clarence and Grace S. in Alcoholics Anonymous published by Paradise Research Publications, Inc. (Kihei, HI Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1996. It was authored by Dick B.
(3) The next significant Snyder book was written by Mitchell K. and titled How It Worked: The Story of Clarence H. Snyder and the Early Days of Alcoholics Anonymous in Cleveland (1991). Mitchell had been sponsored by Clarence, gained possession of most of Clarence’s papers, and told the story of Clarence and Cleveland quite well.
There were some principal points that Grace and Mitchell made clear to me. They incorporated these in their writings about the Cleveland fellowship founded by Clarence in 1939. And these are the important parts of A.A. history Clarence brought with him to Cleveland: (Big Book, Twelve Steps, “most of the old program” including the Four Absolutes and the Bible). The “old program” which included belief in God, surrender to Him through Jesus Christ, study of the Bible, visiting newcomers, particularly in the hospital; and participating in a great deal of fellowship—including sports, choir, braking bread, dances, and group prayer.
In Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: A Brief History of A.A. pp. 21-22, Bill W. described what Cleveland had done with “most of the old school A.A.” program,” and wrote:
We old-timers in New York and Akron had regarded this fantastic phenomenon with deep misgivings. Had it not taken us four whole years, littered with countless failures, to produce even a hundred good recoveries? Yet here in Cleveland we now say about twenty members, not very experienced themselves, suddenly confronted by hundreds of newcomers as a result of the Plain Dealer articles. How could they possibly manage? We did not know. But a year later we did know for by then Cleveland had about thirty groups and several hundred members. . . . Yes, Cleveland’s results were of the best.
Bill W.’s new book and “New Version of the Program” the Twelve Steps
No sooner did the presentation of the Akron Christian Fellowship practices and accomplishment take place, than Bill W. wanted a book, hospitals, and missionaries. But his proposal failed with the Akron group. He did gain approval of the book by a slim vote; but he began writing untethered as to its contents. Dr. Bob had merely commented: “Keep it simple!” And Bill’s product came up with the “new version”—the one that enabled the original or “First” manuscript draft to be written and circulated. But the AAs felt a story or case history was needed—evidence in the form of living proof, written testimonials of the membership.
But there was dissension. For example, Fitz M., the Episcopal minister’s son and the second man to recover at Towns Hospital constantly traveled to reinforce the position that the book ought to be Christian in the doctrinal sense of the word and should say so. Fitz favored using Biblical terms and expressions to make this clear. But the atheists and agnostics, were still to make a tremendously important contribution, said Bill. The protesters, led by Bill W.’s friend Henry, were for deleting the word “God” from the book entirely. Henry had come to believe in some sort of “universal power.” He wanted a psychological book
There was still argument about the Twelve Steps. Bill wrote: “All this time I had refused to budge on these steps. I would not change a word of the original draft, in which I had consistently used the word “God.’ But praying on one’s knees was still a big affront to Henry. He argued, he begged, he threatened. . . He was positive we would scare off alcoholics by the thousands when they read those Twelve Steps. A detour was fashioned. Bill pointed out that the steps could be made suggestive only.
And the totally compromised draft of the First Edition manuscript was chopped up by a committee of four—Wilson, Hank Parkhurst, Fitz, and the secretary, Ruth Hock. And then an endless number of parties took a crack at it. The Multilith was the name given for the text of the, working manuscript. And it contained “accepted” changes, “rejected” changes, the marginalia, and the “proof sheet” changes. Later editors insisted that it was badly mangled. But a bidder at auction paid almost a million dollars for the manuscript. Then it was published for sale as The Book That Started It All: The Original Working Manuscript of “Alcoholics Anonymous” (Center City, MN, Hazelden, 2010).
And, though there are suspect additions, and many hand-written opinions and suggestions, one can look at the Hazelden publication and see the manuscript that contained the First Edition of the Big Book, published by Works Publishing Company in New York
There was a huge compromise in Bill’s 12 Step version. And regardless how you regarded the great compromise, it proposed language such as describing God as a “Power greater than ourselves and inserting the words “God as we understood Him”
So the real “new version” of the program and its steps were compromised in tenor and purpose. In Bill’s language, “God was certainly there is our Steps, but He was now expressed in terms that anybody—anybody at all—could accept and try, , , , “Such were the final concessions to those of little or no faith. . . so all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.”
The Present Program as Embodied in the Several Published Manuscripts That Has Left God in the Dust
Was He a “power?” Could He merely be described as a “Power greater than ourselves?” Was He a light bulb or Big Dipper as some frequently said? Could you –with the stroke of a pen--change God into someone or something anyone or anything could expect to heal him?
Jim H., probably the A.A. with the most sobriety when he died, once said to me: “Dick. If you take God out of A.A., you have nothing.”
Should a newcomer hear that he should pray to nothing for help? That he need believe in nothing for rescue? That A.A. is just about not-god-ness? That he can select a rock, a chair, a door knob, a table, or some undefined “higher power” for healing?
We think the newcomer needs to hear the whole story and not just about rocks and tables, higher powers, light bulbs, or “nothing at all” and expect to be cured of alcoholism with such an approach. Or should he hear the rest of the story and believe affirm what his basic text claims: that the Creator of the heavens and the earth could have, would be able to wield, can, and does have more power than any product of man’s mind, book, or hands?