In The Beginning
A.A. had its beginnings in 1935 at Akron, Ohio, as the outcome of a meeting between Bill Wilson, a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob Smith, an Akron surgeon. Both had been hopeless alcoholics. Prior to that time, Bill and Dr Bob had each been in contact with the Oxford Group, a mostly nonalcoholic fellowship that emphasized universal spiritual values in daily living.
“We of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book”. Forward to the First Edition
The Part One of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, includes the Doctor’s Opinion and 11 chapters that have remained unchanged since 1939.
The chapters of Part One of the book include all the steps and why-fors of the whole program of recovery authored by those first 100 members. It includes Bill’s Story, How It Works, We agnostics for the non-believers, and the action steps needed to do the whole 12 yards.
It is as comprehensive a course that you could find in 164 pages, providing you don’t want specifics about the disease model, the nutritional needs of an alcoholic, or the medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century.
What Has AA Ever Done For Me?
However, the plight of the alcoholic has changed little and that is why the book has not changed at all.
So, you may be asking, “What the fuck has AA got for me?”
Well, heaps, actually.
Joe McQuany and Charlie Parmley, Authors of The Big Book Study, have been very instrumental to my mental health in recovery. Funnily enough I came upon their writing and audio course through a lady who wanted to teach the AA program the ‘Right Way’. Whilst this is a noble cause I have found that this kind of talk creates fights and disruption within the ranks of the fellowship like few other.
There are millions of successful people in AA around the world today and no two addicts have recovered the same way, although the Big Book is explicit. I liken it to the pedestrian crossings around the world. We all know that’s the safest way to cross the road, but even at a zebra crossing one could walk slowly, quickly, skip and hop safely across. And let’s not forget the rest of us who just look both ways and cross wherever we fucking like.
Joe and Charlie
There’s even a parable on pages 37-38 of the book about the guy who was addicted to jaywalking. He’s a riot!
Joe and Charlie mention in the early part of their outstanding audio presentation, that there are three Alcoholics Anonymous. I love this idea.
There is the original ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ – a book by that name copyright @1939. It remains relatively the same 80 years later.
In the book, there are the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous – the program of recovery advocated by the authors of the book. This is known as the ‘AA program’.
Thirdly, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is the foundation of recovery in AA today. My friend Paul continuously tells us that it’s the Unity and Love of AA that makes all the difference in people’s lives. WIthout the fellowship, the book and the steps would mean little to me today.
It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. A drunken alcoholic is very much like a child that needs the love and care of a village.
She is immature in a lot of ways, precocious and hurt in some ways, and defiant like a child can be. Mostly, we are hurt and need care.
In ‘The Doctor’s Opinion’, Dr Silwood says, “We doctors have realized for a long time that some form of moral psychology was of urgent importance to alcoholics, but it’s application presented difficulties beyond our conception”.
Many doctors will testify to this statement today; in fact, several doctors I know have had experience with 12 Step groups as physicians, and still more are regular attendees. On the IDAA (International Doctors in Alcoholics Anonymous) website it states that ‘we are over 9,900’ strong.
Which brings in a new dimension of the fellowship in recovery, that wasn’t conceived of by the founding fathers. The internet has grown so rapidly and become so ubiquitous that the ‘AA fellowship’ and other organizations have arrived to help the suffering addict.
I can still remember my first sponsor getting an iPhone the year I got sober. I was amazed. A handheld device that was similar in many respects to the computers I was using at College. What miracles could this kind of ‘telephone’ do? And the ‘cloud’ – what was that?
Just a few years later, and I’ve received this week my fourth HTC smartphone. I can, if I want contact hundreds of alchies, worldwide in the touch of a button. One of the wonderful people I have the privilege of knowing in a technological fashion lives in France and goes by the name of Belle. Belle now sends messages of encouragement and simpatico to her 2,800 penpals daily.
Still, the one on one connection of being ‘at a meeting’ is hard to replicate.
When one alcoholic speaks to another and confers the message of ‘me too’ directly there is something magical at that moment. Hopefully, the online world will provide something like that magic in the future as more and more people with addiction seek help from faraway friends.
As Russell Brand says in Recovery, “This program helps us to recognize early when we are transitioning from our ‘right mind’, a balanced and connected perspective, and into the warped perception of our disease”. If we are able to achieve some of this online then more people will theoretically benefit from the three AA’s and other resources that are available and are becoming available.
He goes on, “When we recognize this we can take action – attend support groups, contact a mentor, do step work, help others – we have a choice, we don’t have to wait for the agony to arrive before we take action”.
Nearly all of those action steps that we can take, we can take alone or with an online friend or mentor. Reading, doing steps work, and contact with another person can all be done at home, although talking with a sponsor/mentor and helping others is often best-done face to face.
I will finish this section with a story about my good friend and fellow sufferer, Barbeque Bob.
When he was three weeks sober they let him out of a hospital, where he had been given life and a second chance. We met at an early morning meeting, and we have been close ever since.
For about a year, I helped him with steps work and with staying relatively sane in a chaotic world that he had created. In the house where he lived, there were death threats, suicides, gambling, and lots of relapsing around him – yet BBQ didn’t drink.
Then he moved in with me, he thought that being sponsored by your housemate was too difficult so he flicked me as his ‘sponsor’. Within six months he had met a woman and was moving out, I was Best Man at their wedding and we have remained close friends as well as confidantes. We talk on the phone about four times every week.
Our relationship has grown through changes in habitation, marital status, and now tyranny of distance. I put this down to the close bond of one alcoholic with another, the sharing of long-held secrets, and the love few men will ever share. It is a lesson in life for me and for Bob.
The 12 Steps of AA work. It is said they will work if you work them, and I 100%, wholeheartedly concur. But can the program and the fellowship survive the changes of the 21st Century?
If you like the feel of this article and are thinking you would like to give sobriety a go, try my FREE 5 part course, “Stop Drinking – Start Living”.