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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Alcohol research

Project Summary

The Behavioral Health Recovery Management (BHRM) project seeks to apply the principles of disease management to assist individuals with chemical dependency and/or serious mental illness to engage in a process of recovery from these illnesses.
The major components include the application of evidence based treatments coupled with longitudinal recovery support as an alternative to the acute interventions that characterize traditional behavioral health approaches. In addition, the project emphasizes a consumer-centered, strengths-based service delivery model.

The project is a partnership of Fayette Companies located in Peoria, Illinois and Chestnut Health Systems headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois and the University of Chicago, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation in Chicago, Illinois. Funding is provided by the Illinois Department of Human Service’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

A full description of the project is contained in the BHRM Project Description”  
The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A small matter of honesty!

Extracts from the aacultwatch forum (old)

Thanks ….... I regard myself as a Christian, like Joe McQ and yourself, but I also try to be honest enough to admit that what I aspire to be in my thoughts and religious beliefs doesn’t always match my behaviour. Chapter Five of the Big Book starts with the matter of honesty. It gives the reason why some alcoholics fail to achieve sobriety; they may be constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. It is possible for someone to be a very dishonest Christian. It is also possible for an honest person to practice another religion or to be an honest agnostic or atheist. When it comes to being honest or dishonest it matters little what religion of philosophy a person aspires to follow. In terms of the alcoholic in Step Two, (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions) it describes the alcoholic who is“ full of faith” in his religious belief, but with no real communication with a power greater than himself; his faith superficial, or wallowing  in emotionalism, mistaking this for true religious feeling. An atheist or agnostic alcoholic can go through the process of ego deflation and acquire the humility to be honest with himself and others, and to understand that there is a power or powers greater than himself. Conversely, an alcoholic who has his own idea of faith in God and Jesus can still be an alcoholic with an inflated ego; unable to comprehend this concept of God as a power greater than himself; and unable to acquire the humility of being honest. In such a case the exercise of prayer can simply be the alcoholic's time spent communicating to himself, rationalising his own self deceit into the will of God as imagined by him.  Honesty, ego deflation, are the most important things for an alcoholic to acquire and hold on to in order for him to maintain lasting emotional sobriety. His religious beliefs become irrelevant without these.

The Big Book is only the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous written in 1938, published in 1939; the first A.A. book to be published in what was a developing program of recovery, based on only four years or so of experience. It was written at a time when most of the fellowship was under four year’s sobriety. Dr. Bob and Bill W. counted 40 alcoholics dry in 1937, so the remaining 60 of the first one hundred members at the time of writing the book in 1938 and publishing it in 1939, were under a year or two in continuous sobriety. Most were in the honeymoon period, yet to meet the acid test of their sobriety in living life’s successes and failures. The editor of the Big Book was drunk by the time it was published and others later fell off the wagon as well. For a brief period around 1939-1941 the fellowship was largely under direct leadership from Dr. Bob, Bill W. and the founding members. However, after large scale publicity such as the Jack Alexander article in 1941, the New York office mailed out big books all over the USA and new groups started without direct guidance from the rest of A.A.  It was soon found that the Big Book alone was not enough to sustain an alcoholic’s ego deflation in many cases, or to sustain unity in the fellowship. Egos ran riot, groups became dictatorships; local public relations went haywire. There were times which brought the fellowship close to collapse.

From 1940 to 1950, we were beset by group problems of every sort, frightening beyond description. Out of these experiences the Twelve Traditions of AA were forged - Traditions that now protect us against ourselves and the world outside. This effort, requiring immense office correspondence and experience, finally resulted in a whole new literature dealing with AA's unity and services. Under these influences we grew solid.” (Bill W. “Guardian of AA: Our General Service Conference” AA Grapevine April 1958. The Language of the Heart pp 167- 168)
Therefore, in good time, I hope you don't mind me suggesting that you gently nudge …....... to read the Twelve Steps in the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” as well as the Big Book. They go a little deeper into the understanding of ego deflation and the ways in which an alcoholic rationalises truth into deceit than does the Big Book.  I also suggest “As Bill Sees It” and “The Language of the Heart.” There are some good readings for personal recovery in “The Language of the Heart,” like “This Matter of Honesty” “This Matter of Fear” “What is Acceptance?” “The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety” “Take Step Eleven.” You might find he’ll be a much easier person to live with in the long run, than if he just bobs along with Joe McQ and the Big Book. 

There’s a good example of how an alcoholic rationalises his own idea of the truth into deceit on the acknowledgments page of “Carry This Message” by Joe McQ.  Some people might call it dishonest, others might call it fraud.
The author and editors are grateful to the following for their contributions to this book: …. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., for permission to use the Steps.” (Extract from Acknowledgments. “Carry This Message” by Joe McQ. published 1990 by August House Inc.)
Extracts from “Big Book Study Guides Reviewing a Position Paper” (A.A. World Services Inc):“In 1977, faced with a rising number of requests from non-AA sources and some AA members to reprint portions of the Big Book and other material in study guides, the directors of AA World Services, Inc. took a hard look at the subject and appointed a committee to explore the question. Members of the committee unanimously recommended that the board not grant permission to outside entities to use excerpts from our literature in study guides, and that AA itself should not publish study guides… … … … … … … The AA World Services Board of Directors feels strongly that permission should not be granted to outside publishers or other parties to reprint AA literature for the purpose of study guides or interpretive or explanatory texts, etc. If such interpretive or study guides are to be prepared, they should be published by AA World Services, Inc.” (Box 459, Vol. 51, No. 6, December 2005.) (AA Service News 127, Summer 2006)
In my experience, alcoholic Christians seem to have just as much trouble in being honest with themselves as do non Christian alcoholics. And when an alcoholic tries to wear the halo of “Teacher or “Preacher” it sooner or later works its way down to his ankles. I keep my Christian religious beliefs out of AA meetings and sponsorship, because I understand the reasons why Bill W. wrote the following:
If we recognize that religion is the province of the clergy and the practice of medicine is for doctors, then we can helpfully cooperate with both.” (Extract from Concept 12, warranty five)
Nothing however, could be so unfortunate for A.A.’s future as an attempt to incorporate any of our personal theological views into A.A. teaching, practice or tradition.” (Bill W. footnote, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age p 232)
Beyond a Higher Power, as each of us may vision him, A.A. must never, as a society, enter the field of dogma or theology. We can never become a religion in that sense, lest we kill our usefulness by being bogged down in theological contention” (Bill W. Letter 1954, As Bill sees It p 116)
Our Traditions are set down on paper. But they were written first in our hearts. For each of us knows, instinctively I think, that AA is not ours to do with as we please. We are but caretakers to preserve the spiritual quality of our fellowship; keep it whole for those who will come after us and have need of what has so generously been given to us.” (Bill W. “AA Is Not Big Business” AA Grapevine November 1950 The Language of the Heart p 124)
Like you say …...., all most newcomers want to do at first, is stay sober, nothing else; they can't cope with much else until their minds defog from alcohol. AA needs to be kept dead simple for the sake of the newcomer. The changes in the fellowship due to the influence of outside published literature which incorporates the authors’ personal religious beliefs are making it confusing and exclusive to some newcomers. I hope this newcomer on the AA Grapevine forum makes it. I have a feeling many just walk away never to return. They are being denied the traditional and gentle “Easy Does It,” “I came; I came to; I came to believe.” approach; and therefore denied their chance to defog from alcohol first before coming to their own understanding of the steps and a power greater than themselves; according to their own agnostic, atheist or other religious beliefs.
AA Grapevine I Say forum: New to AA?: “God, Booze and Food”: Anonymous, Fri, 2012-04-27 15:57 http://www.aagrapevine.org/forum/331
I stopped drinking ten days ago, attended a couple of meetings, and now I'm feeling depressed and frustrated. I'm attending a meeting tonight, but at this point, I'm just listening and trying to get my bearings and the right kind of meeting. I realize that more than one group can help, but I'm reluctant to embrace a strong religious approach. I understand the idea of a higher power and I know I'm powerless over alcohol, but falling on my knees and praying to Jesus (and I'm sorry if I'm insulting some of you) isn't for me. Any advice? And,unfortunately, I've been replacing booze with food, but that's just adding to my plummeting self esteem. Please advise and many thanks.”
God Bless,
P.S. Since this is not an AA website, I’ll incorporate a few more of my Christian beliefs into this post. I think these quotes from the Bible are good ones for any alcoholic Christian in recovery to remember. I have a sneaky feeling from Christian alcoholics in the fellowship that I know, that some of them spend about as much time reading the Bible as they do reading the Twelve Concepts for World Service. As the saying goes along with being “happy, joyous and free!” sometimes “Ignorance is bliss.”
Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 (King James version 2003)

" For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Ecclesiastes 1:18 (King James version 2003)”

The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

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PPS Join us on Diaspora* here (Diaspora)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Again at the Crossroads, November, 1961, Bill W

The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here

Monday, 27 October 2014

European Commission – Public Health – Alcohol Policy

Alcohol related harm is a major public health concern in the EU accountable for over 7% of all ill health and early deaths. Even moderate alcohol consumption increases the long term risk of certain heart conditions, liver diseases and cancers and frequent consumption of large amounts can lead to dependence. Any amount of alcohol can be dangerous during pregnancy and when driving. Young people are particularly at risk of short term effects of drunkenness, including accidents and violence, with alcohol-related deaths accounting for around 25% of all deaths in young men aged between 15 and 29.”


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (contd)

aacultwatch's perspective on:

(an almost as wildly discursive commentary as our 'take' on the Big Book)

This tome is much reviled in cult circles (especially amongst the Big Book nutters who regard it as almost heretical! (A point of interest – if you're looking for meetings largely free of the aforementioned 'fruitcakes' – and for that matter sundry other screwballs – then a Twelve Step meeting following the format of the above text is usually a safe bet). The text we will be using is as indicated above. And now we come to the:

Step One

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Who cares to admit complete defeat? Practically no one, of course. Every natural instinct cries out against the idea of personal powerlessness. It is truly awful to admit that, glass in hand, we have warped our minds into such an obsession for destructive drinking that only an act of Providence can remove it from us.

No other kind of bankruptcy is like this one. Alcohol, now become the rapacious creditor, bleeds us of all self-sufficiency and all will to resist its demands. Once this stark fact is accepted, our bankruptcy as going human concerns is complete.

But upon entering A.A [or before – such an admission is not purely contingent upon attending AA] we soon take quite another view of this absolute humiliation. We perceive that only through utter [“absolute”, “complete”, “utter”- these superlatives serve to emphasise the point] defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength. Our admissions of personal powerlessness finally turn out to be firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built.

We know that little good can come to any alcoholic who joins A.A. unless he has first accepted his devastating weakness and all its consequences. Until he so humbles himself, his sobriety—if any—will be precarious. Of real happiness he will find none at all. Proved beyond doubt by an immense experience, this is one of the facts of A.A. life. The principle that we shall find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot from which our whole Society has sprung and flowered.

When first challenged to admit defeat, most of us revolted. We had approached A.A. expecting to be taught self-confidence. Then we had been told that so far as alcohol is concerned, self-confidence was no good whatever [this suggests that self-confidence is not entirely devoid of utility]; does not necessarily in fact, it was a total liability. Our sponsors declared that we were the victims of a mental obsession so subtly powerful that no amount of human willpower could break it. There was, they said, no such thing as the personal conquest of this compulsion by the unaided will. Relentlessly deepening our dilemma, our sponsors pointed out our increasing sensitivity to alcohol—an allergy, they called it. The tyrant alcohol wielded a double-edged sword over us: first we were smitten by an insane urge [mental obsession] that condemned us to go on drinking, and then by an allergy of the body [physical compulsion] that insured we would ultimately destroy ourselves in the process. Few indeed were those who, so assailed, had ever won through in single-handed combat. It was a statistical fact that alcoholics almost never recovered on their own resources [but see Recovery/Remission from Substance Use Disorders: An Analysis of Reported Outcomes in 415 Scientific Reports, 1868-2011]. And this had been true, apparently, ever since man had first crushed grapes.

In A.A.’s pioneering time, none but the most desperate cases could swallow and digest this unpalatable truth. Even these “last-gaspers” often had difficulty in realizing how hopeless they actually were. But a few did, and when these laid hold of A.A. principles with all the fervour with which the drowning seize life preservers, they almost invariably [a qualified assurance – nothing in life is certain except, of course, death and taxes!] got well. That is why the first edition of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous[4th edn], published when our membership was small, dealt with low-bottom cases only. Many less desperate alcoholics tried A.A., but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.

It is a tremendous satisfaction to record that in the following years this changed. Alcoholics who still had their health, their families, their jobs, and even two cars in the garage, began to recognize their alcoholism. As this trend grew, they were joined by young people who were scarcely more than potential alcoholics. They were spared that last ten or fifteen years of literal hell the rest of us had gone through. Since Step One requires an admission that our lives have become unmanageable, how could people such as these take this Step?

It was obviously necessary to raise the bottom the rest of us had hit to the point where it would hit them. By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression. To the doubters we could say, “Perhaps you’re not an alcoholic after all. Why don’t you try some more controlled drinking, bearing in mind meanwhile what we have told you about alcoholism?” This attitude brought immediate and practical results. It was then discovered that when one alcoholic had planted in the mind of another the true nature of his malady, that person could never be the same again. Following every spree, he would say to himself, “Maybe those A.A.’s were right....” After a few such experiences, often years before the onset of extreme difficulties, he would return to us convinced. He had hit bottom as truly as any of us. John Barleycorn himself had become our best advocate [ie there is no better alternative to confronting active alcoholism than direct experience – reasoned argument, persuasion, education etc are insufficient substitutes].

Why all this insistence that every A.A. must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practising A.A.’s remaining eleven Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.’s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centred in the extreme, doesn’t care for this prospect—unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself [the bottom line!].

Under the lash of alcoholism, we are driven to A.A., and there we discover the fatal nature of our situation. Then, and only then, do we become as open-minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be. We stand ready to do anything [“willing to listen” but then act according to our own judgement – not someone else's!] which will lift the merciless obsession from us.”

(our emphases)(our observations in red print)

Coming next – Step Two


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Saturday, 25 October 2014

What Is Acceptance?, March, 1962, Bill W


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS For AA Minority Report 2013 click here

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Oxford Group – How It DOESN'T Work!

Extracts from the aacultwatch forum (old)

Thanks …... I agree Joe’s books are really simple, that’s the problem I have with them. It’s all there in black and white, how to take the steps and how to sponsor, according to Joe. Done and dusted; a quick fix. I can understand their appeal. However, much of the way we communicate is subconscious. The subliminal insinuated messages in Joe’s writing are disturbing to me. Anyone who hasn’t much knowledge of AA history will probably be unaware of them. For many alcoholics recovery is not so simple. Nor is AA history as simple and as black and white as Joe McQ portrays. He makes little distinction between early AA groups and Oxford Groups. Early AA groups were not Oxford Groups. He takes the 1935-1939 pre formative AA timescale (Oxford Group/alcoholic group) out of its context and then mixes it with the post 1939 early AA timescale. His account of the early AA period (post 1939) doesn’t appear to distinguish between what was the overall developing AA policy at the time and what were the painful mistakes of inexperienced groups who were either dictatorships or on rule making benders.

To me, Joe McQ portrays a half truth of early AA history which leaves a very distorted picture of the origin of the twelve steps, of AA history and of sponsorship.  His books just give you the white, as Joe sees it, leaving out most of the black and shades of grey to be found in the Alcoholics Anonymous World Service books. What Joe doesn’t say is just as telling as what he does. To explain why I have a problem with Joe’s books will take a number of posts, so I hope you’ll bear with me. I’ll reference the posts with literature published by AA World Services and AA Grapevine, so if you then wish to do so, you’ll be able to check out what I have to say for yourself. The first post will be a few things about the Oxford Group that Joe doesn’t tell you, the 2nd will be a few things from the early AA period that Joe doesn’t tell you, the 3rd will be relating AA traditions to the reason why I have a problem with his books. First post coming up soon….. “

Here’s the first post about the problem I have with Joe McQ’s portrayal of The relationship between early A.A. and the Oxford group. The beginnings of A.A. are complex because A.A. began simultaneously both in New York and Akron. It is noted in the forward to “Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers” that a joint biography of the Co-founders was planned, but this proved impractical; therefore the biography of Dr. Bob and the development of A.A. in the Midwest was published in “Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers” and Bill W’s biography and the development of A.A. in New York was published in “Pass It On”.  The development of AA in the Midwest around Akron is only half the story. In this post I’ll focus on a couple of issues I have with Joe McQ’s version of events and the development of A.A. in New York.

Joe McQ writes very simply about the Oxford Group as though it was a successful and positive influence; Bill W got his ideas for the AA program from the Oxford Group in Akron.

“…Buchman was immediately successful. People who followed this procedure were changed. The Oxford groups grew and spread. Realizing that these five basic principles – these tenets – were the foundation of Christianity (and other religions worldwide), Buchman called his movement “First Century Christian Fellowship”…  (Carry this message p14)

.. “After visiting with the Oxford Group members in Akron, Bill went back to New York with a better understanding of their program. And he went back with knowledge of the powerful dynamics he had learned in Akron: the problem, the solution, and the program of action…” Carry This Message p18)

Bill expanded the Oxford Group’s tenets, and this is what he, Dr. Bob Smith, and the ‘first one hundred’ got sober on. Although they got sober in the Oxford Groups, Bill felt that alcoholics needed to change more drastically than other members of the Oxford Groups did. He realized the tenets needed to be adapted and the meetings made separate for alcoholics. When he wrote the steps in 1938, Bill Wilson did a lot more than just put them together. He found a language alcoholics were more likely to respond to.”(Carry This Message p 19)

The Oxford Group wasn’t as successful as Joe portrays, it mostly failed in sobering up alcoholics. The relationship between the Oxford Group and early AA wasn’t as simple, nor was it as positive. Joe doesn’t mention the Oxford Group’s negative side of coercion or the development of A.A. in New York.  It can be seen from the extracts from Conference Approved literature below that Bill W. and Ebby T. were with the Oxford Group in New York.  Bill W started going to the Oxford Group meetings in December 1934 in New York. The first pre-formative AA meetings in New York were held in 1935 at Bill W’s house in Clinton Street. Perhaps if these meetings had not been suppressed by the Oxford Group in 1935, Bill might have had more success with sobering up alcoholics in the early days in New York. The alcoholics attending the Oxford Group Calvary mission in New York were instructed by the Oxford Group not to attend the meetings at Bill’s house. After about six months of early failures in trying to sober up alcoholics in New York by preaching the Oxford Group message, Bill changed his approach on the advice of psychiatrist Dr. Silkworth. He tried Dr. Silkworth’s approach shortly after with Dr. Bob when he made a trip to Akron. It is clear that Bill W. was not getting a better understanding of the Oxford Group program and the “powerful dynamics he had learned in Akron” as Joe McQ insinuates, but that he was carrying his own developing A.A. program to Dr. Bob in Akron. At this time, it was based on Bill’s previous six month experience of trying to sober up alcoholics in New York combined with the advice gained from Dr. Silkworth. The following are extracts from AA Conference approved literature:

After Bill’s release from Towns on December 18, he and Lois started attending Oxford Group meetings at Calvary House, adjacent to Calvary Episcopal Church.” (Pass It On p127)

In those early months of 1935, Bill Wilson preached the Oxford Group message to anybody who would listen. He spent long hours at Calvary Mission and at Towns, where Dr. Silkworth, at the risk of his reputation, gave Bill permission to talk with some of the patients.” (Pass It On p 131)

My new Oxford Group friends (the religious group in which Ebby had made his, first, but not final recovery) objected to the idea of alcoholism as an illness, so I had quit talking about the allergy –plus- the- obsession. I wanted the approval of these new friends, and in trying to be humble and helpful, I was neither. Slowly I learned, as most of us do, that when ego gets in the way it blocks communication” (Bill W. The Language of the Heart p 247)

In that fall of 1935, a weekly meeting took shape in our Brooklyn parlour. In spite of much failure, a really solid group finally developed. There was first Henry P., and there was Fitz M., both out of Towns Hospital. Following them, more began to make real recoveries.” (Bill W. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age p74)

"While Lois later admitted that their success rate was low during the 1935-36 period at Clinton Street, she pointed out that many of the alcoholics Bill worked with during that time did recover later on. In other words, Lois said, the seeds of sobriety were being planted, to take root slowly." (Pass It On Page 166)

Tension began to develop between the main group at Calvary Church and Bill’s struggling band of alcoholics. The Oxford Group leaders resented the fact Bill was holding separate meetings for alcoholics at Clinton Street. They criticized his work with the alcoholics as being “narrow and divisive” The alcoholics, on the other hand, felt they needed these special meetings because many of the nonalcoholic O.G. members did not understand them. Jack Smith, one of Sam Shoemaker’s assistants, disapproved of Bill’s work and finally brought the conflict out into the open. In an informal talk at a Sunday Oxford Group gathering, he made references to special meetings “held surreptitiously behind Mrs. Jones’s barn.” The atmosphere of the Oxford Group then became “slightly chilly” toward the Wilsons.  Near the end of 1935, the alcoholics living at Calvary Mission were instructed not to attend the meetings at Clinton Street. “This not only hurt us but left us disappointed in the groups’ leadership,” Lois remembered.1” (Pass It On p169)

1. This incident led Sam Shoemaker to apologize to Bill later, after he himself had broken with the Oxford Group in 1941. Shoemaker wrote: ‘If you ever write the story of A.A.’s early connection with Calvary, I think it ought to be said in all honesty that we were coached in the feeling that you were off on your own spur, trying to do something by yourself, and out of the mainstream of the work. You got your inspiration from those early days, but you didn’t get much encouragement from any of us and for my own part in that stupid desire to control the Spirit, as he manifested Himself in individual people like you, I am heartily sorry and ashamed.” (Footnote Pass It On page 178)

After some six months of violent exertion with scores of alcoholics which I found at a nearby mission and Towns Hospital, it began to look like the Oxford Groupers were right. I hadn’t sobered up anybody.” “Bill W. “A fragment of A.A. History: Origin of the Twelve Steps” AA Grapevine July 1953, The Language of the Heart p 198)

There was, though, one bright spot. My sponsor Ebbie, still clung precariously to his newfound sobriety. What was the reason for all these fiascos? If Ebbie and I could achieve sobriety, why couldn’t all the rest find it too? Some of those we’d worked on certainly wanted to get well. We speculated day and night why nothing much had happened to them. Maybe they couldn’t stand the spiritual pace of the Oxford Group’s four absolutes of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love. In fact some of the alcoholics declared that this was the trouble. The aggressive pressure put upon them to get good overnight would make them fly high as geese for a few weeks and then flop dismally. They complained too of another form of coercion – something the Oxford Groupers called ‘guidance for others.’ A ‘team composed of nonalcoholic Groupers would sit down with an alcoholic and after ‘quiet time’ would come up with precise instructions as to how the alcoholic should run his own life. As grateful as we were to our O.G. friends, this was sometimes tough to take. It obviously had something to do with the wholesale skidding that went on.” (Bill W. “A fragment of A.A. History: Origin of the Twelve Steps” AA Grapevine July 1953, The Language of the Heart page 199)

Just before leaving for Akron, Dr. Silkworth had given me a great piece of advice. Without it A.A. might never have been born. ‘Look, Bill,’ he had said ‘you’re having nothing but failure because you are preaching at these alcoholics. You are talking to them about the Oxford Group precepts of being absolutely honest, absolutely pure, absolutely unselfish, and absolutely loving. This is a very big order. Then you top it off by harping on about this mysterious spiritual experience of yours. No wonder they point to their finger to their heads and go out and get drunk. Why don’t you turn your strategy the other way around? Aren’t you the very fellow who once showed me that book by the psychologist James which says that deflation at great depth is the foundation of most spiritual experiences? Have you forgotten that Dr. Carl Yung in Zurich told a certain alcoholic, the one who later helped sober up your friend Ebby, that his only hope of salvation was a spiritual experience? No, Bill you have got the cart before the horse. You’ve got to deflate these people first. So give them the medical business, and give it to them hard. Pour it right into them about the obsession that condemns them to drink and the physical sensitivity or allergy of the body that condemns them to go mad or die if they keep on drinking. Coming from an alcoholic, one alcoholic talking to another, maybe that will crack those tough egos deep down.  Only then can you begin to try out your other medicine, the ethical principles you have picked up from the Oxford Groups. ” (Bill W. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age pp 67- 68)

Shortly after this history-making conversation, I found myself in Akron, Ohio, on a business venture which promptly collapsed. Alone in the town, I was scared to death of getting drunk. I was no longer a teacher or a preacher, I was an alcoholic who knew that he needed another alcoholic, as much as that one could possibly need me. Driven by that urge, I was soon face to face with Dr. Bob. It was at once evident that Dr. Bob knew more of spiritual things than I did. He also had been in touch with the Oxford Groupers at Akron. But somehow he simply couldn't get sober. Following Dr. Silkworth's advice, I used the medical sledgehammer. I told him what alcoholism was and just how fatal it could be. Apparently this did something to Dr. Bob, On June 10, 1935, he sobered up, never to drink again. When, in 1939, Dr. Bob's story first appeared in the book, Alcoholic Anonymous, he put one paragraph of it in italics. Speaking of me, he said: "Of far more importance was the fact that he was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what be was talking about in regard to alcoholism from actual experience".” (Bill W. “A fragment of A.A. History: Origin of the Twelve Steps” AA Grapevine July 1953, The Language of the Heart pp 199-200)

The Oxford Groupers had clearly shown us what to do. And, just as importantly, we had also learned  what not to do as far as alcoholics were concerned. We found that certain of their ideas and attitudes simply could not be sold to alcoholics. For example, drinkers would not take pressure in any form, excepting from John Barleycorn himself. They always had to be led, not pushed. They would not stand for the rather aggressive evangelism of the Oxford Groups. And they would not accept the principle of ‘team guidance’ for their own personal lives. It was too authoritarian for them. In other respects, too, we found when first contacted most alcoholics just wanted to find sobriety, nothing else. They clung to their other defects, letting go only little by little. ” (Bill W. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age p 74)

One of the first insights Dr. Bob and I shared was that all true communication must be founded on mutual need. Never could we talk down to anyone, certainly not a fellow alcoholic. We saw that each sponsor would have to humbly admit his own needs as clearly as those of his prospect. Here was the foundation for AA’s Twelfth Step to recovery, the Step in which we carry the message.” (Bill W. “The Language of the Heart” The Language of the Heart p 247)

Until the middle of 1937 we in New York had been working alongside the Oxford Groups. But in the latter part of that year we most reluctantly parted company with these great friends. Naturally enough they did not think too highly of our objective, limited as it was to alcoholics.” (Bill W. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age p 74)

Bill had friends in the Oxford Group who understood his view of the situation. One of them was John Ryder, a New York advertising executive who knew Bill in the days of the Calvary Mission. Ryder made these comments about Bill’s separation from the Oxford Group: “I was, or felt, quite close to Bill Wilson in the early days before A.A. was started. Herb Wallace, a close teammate of mine, spent much time with Bill, caused him to take a public speaking course at the Downtown Athletic Club; but I think the ‘group’ proper disowned Bill when he proceeded on his guidance to create a special group for A.A.’s. At that time, if you were associated with the ‘group,’ your guidance seemed to be of questionable worth unless okayed by Sam Shoemaker or Frankie Buchman or one of his accredited representatives.” (Pass It On p173-174)

The Oxford Group disapproved of the alcoholics’ concentration on their problem to the exclusion of other group concerns. Lois even said that the “Oxford Group kind of kicked us out,” that she and Bill were not considered “maximum” by the groupers. (“Maximum” was used by the Oxford Group to define the expected degree of commitment to group activities.)” (Pass It On p174)

1937 Bill and the New York alcoholics separate from Oxford Group. More than 40 alcoholics are now staying sober. (Pass It On Page 407)

“…but by counting everybody who seemed to have found sobriety in New York and Akron, they concluded that more than 40 alcoholics were staying dry as a result of the program! (Pass It On page 178)

In 1938, Frank Amos, an assistant to John D. Rockefeller Jr., made several reports to Rockefeller about the newly forming A.A. In one report he put the membership as follows: “Of the 110 members then in the program, 70 were in the Akron-Cleveland area, the report said” (Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers p135) (This leaves 40 members in New York)

In 1939 Dr. Silkworth published a medical paper in which he stated: “These ex-alcoholic men and women number about one hundred at present. One Group is scattered along the Atlantic seaboard with New York as a center. Another and somewhat larger body is located in the Middle West”  (Dr. W.D Silkworth M.D. (A New Approach to Psychotherapy in Chronic Alcoholism,” Journal Lancet, July 1939; Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, appendix E:a, p 303)

To sum up, the first problem that I have with Joe McQ’s account of early AA history is his insinuation that Bill got his ideas for the A.A. program from the Oxford Group in Akron, and as Joe put it, “Bill went back to New York with a better understanding of their program.” It can be seen from the above that this statement should be the other way around. Bill took his own developing A.A. program to Akron and sobered up Dr. Bob, who couldn’t stay sober with the Oxford Group until he met Bill.  Secondly, it can be seen from the above that Joe McQ’s reference to ‘the first one hundred’ “got sober in the Oxford Groups” is simplistic. At the time the book Alcoholics Anonymous was published in 1939, the New York group had already been separated from the Oxford Group for some two years. It is unlikely that all the ‘first one hundred’ got sober with the Oxford groups. Those of the ‘first one hundred’ who joined the New York group after 1937 would have got sober in this group rather than the Oxford Groups.”


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

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