& History of AA
April 17, 2010
Alcoholics Anonymous History
New Guidebook for
By Dick B.
The Good Book-Big Book
You might call this a new and different guide book
for AAs, Christians in A.A., 12-Step people, Christian Track and
Christian Treatment Recovery Programs, and those in recovery
work—whether regular treatment center professionals, therapists, clergy,
physicians, psychologists, or correctional workers.
It’s not meant to replace existing curricula or rehabilitation modes.
It’s designed to SUPPLEMENT what is already being presented—to fill a
gap that exists almost everywhere in the alcoholism/substance abuse
Honest 12 Step people, AAs, Christians, clergy, counselors,
facilitators, and therapists know quite well that there’s a huge hole in
today’s approaches to prevention and treatment. Some like to call it
“religion.” The modern thing is to call it a “Faith-based” or
“Faith-Centered” gap. That hole involves early A.A.’s Christian
Fellowship, Bible emphasis, reliance on the Creator, and surrenders to
Nobody really wants to talk about it. They’d rather tell you that A.A.
is not a religion. They’d rather say today that you really don’t have to
believe anything having to do with Divine Aid. They’d rather talk about
“spirituality,” a “higher power,” “spiritual but not religious,” and
“inclusive, but not exclusive” fellowships. Nobody can silence them. But
anyone should ask “why.”
There’s no reason to dodge history or spiritual truths or the power of
God. All should be met head on and then considered in context. They need
to be INCLUDED in recovery discussions.
I believe every approach to prevention and recovery needs to include a
SEGMENT on early A.A.’s Christian Fellowship and history. Why not? It
had a 75 to 93% documented success rate. It astonished a nation which
had thought alcoholism to be “medically incurable.” It caused a decade
of early AAs to tell the nation how they had been “cured,” that the
“Lord had cured them,” and that alcoholism could be cured. “God could
and would if He were sought” was the phrase that survived. But “God” was
and is frequently interpreted to mean anything from radiators to light
bulbs to coke bottles to rainbows, to “Somethings,” to “Somebodies,” and
even to nothing at all.
Include, without an
There seems to have been 60 years of terror in
treatment that if God were mentioned, people would flock from Alcoholics
Anonymous, from 12 Step programs, from treatment facilities, from book
sales, and from therapists. But where’s the proof! Perhaps the largest
religious contingent in today’s A.A., at least, is the body of Roman
Catholics and their religious beliefs. They proclaim their faith. They
go to their church. They speak about God. And they have spiritual
retreats—and have had them almost from the beginning. Sister Ignatia of
St. Thomas Hospital fame has become a heroine to many in Mid-west A.A.
Her biographer calls her the “Angel” of Alcoholics Anonymous. Father Ed
Dowling, S.J., is a name better known than that of Rev. Sam Shoemaker,
the Episcopal rector who taught Bill most of the material in the 12
Steps. And Fathers Ed Dowling and John C. Ford, both Jesuit priests,
edited A.A.’s “Conference Approved” Twelve Steps and Twelve
Traditions as well as Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age. The
former book is sold in the tens of thousands in A.A. and to treatment
programs, and distributed by most treatment programs. The latter—an
early bird partial history by Bill is still a much-discussed A.A.
And, if you don’t know A.A.’s spiritual roots, early program, and great
successes, this is part of our history you should learn and
know—whatever your faith or denomination, and whatever your level of
participation in recovery. IT SHOULD BE ADDED. And it does not have to
be embraced, believed, or replace anything just because it’s important
The two greatest sources of A.A.’s principles and practices are the
Bible and the teachings of Rev. Sam Shoemaker. Yet how many know it? How
many can define the principles, practices, and materials in A.A. that
came from those sources? How many appreciate the successes achieved when
those two sources were relied upon? And how many know just enough about
A.A.’s alleged history to think that it came from the Oxford Group,
taught A.A.’s what not to do instead of what to do, and didn’t work. How
many know where Akron A.A. really got its ideas? How many know what
United Christian Endeavor is and the major role it played in early A.A.
ideas of love and service? How many know the 7 point program of early
A.A. that Frank Amos reported to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., after a week
of careful investigation of events and the program in Akron? How many
know that it was this 1935-1938 that proved the worth of A.A.?
Yet how many think all of this and the rest of the ignored history has
any relevance today?
I’m an active, recovered member of the Fellowship of Alcoholics
Anonymous. I’ve achieved almost 20 years of sobriety. I’m a Christian
and a Bible student. I’ve sponsored over 100 men in their recovery. Some
of us in California used to call ourselves the “God Squad.” I’ve spoken
on A.A. history at most conferences attended by Christians, whether they
belong to A.A. or not, where Christian Recovery is of paramount concern.
They want to know. They want to learn. They want to apply. And they are
not close-minded about this or that religious item or this or that
portion of the Bible or this or that piece of A.A. Christian history.
I’ve also spoken to far more A.A. groups, seminars, conferences, and
retreats than I have to non-A.A. groups; and I’ve yet to be tarred and
feathered or stoned. These people want to learn, to know, and to grow.
There have been almost 450,000 visits to my website, and more than
150,000 of my published titles are in circulation. Every day, ten to
twenty people write to ask about the early A.A. program and history.
My effort has to do with including history in history, not replacing
history with other history. I believe all of us can stand more history
in every field of investigation. We still look at the U.S. Constitution
and Declaration of Independence even though both embraced slavery,
non-representative legislative bodies, and limitation of Federal
powers—concepts that teach but do not necessarily govern or control in
their original form today.
This is a new guidebook. It’s one you can use in A.A., with AAs, for
A.A. groups. It’s one you can use for Christians in A.A., Christian
groups in A.A., and meetings of Christians as AAs. Same for other 12
Step groups. Same for churches. Same for para-church groups. Same for
Christ-centered groups, Same for Christian Track programs. Same for
Christian Treatment programs. Same for Christian Recovery Programs and
Christians in recovery. Same for any other
Treatment model or mode or therapy.
I urge all those connected with overcoming the horrendous alcohol and
substance abuse problems of society today to INCLUDE early A.A. history
in their meetings and groups and to look on the inclusion as a SEGMENT
of their own program. You’ll find this history compatible, instructive,
One abrasive historian claims there is a movement to bring A.A. back to
Christianity and to ignore the Roman Catholics in A.A. It so happens he
is a former Roman Catholic priest and seems to be more upset with A.A.’s
tenuous Oxford Group link than with the truth about our history. This
work and this guide book are not at all about returning A.A. to
Christianity. Not possible! A.A. has so universalized, secularized, and
managed the Fellowship that there isn’t a chance that hanging a cross
around your neck will ever be a condition of membership. In fact, it
never was. What was important, and still should be, is that Almighty God
can help you.
It’s about telling people in and out of A.A. what the early Christian
program was, what it accomplished, and how—if they choose—it can be
helpful to them today. For sobriety. And for a new life.
The Good Book-Big Book Guidebook: How to
Include the Creator’s Impact on Early A.A. in Recovery Programs Today
By Dick B.
Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2006