Alcoholics Anonymous & History of AA

 Last updated:
April 17, 2010

Alcoholics Anonymous History
New Guidebook for Christians in Recovery

By Dick B.

The Good Book-Big Book Guidebook

The Good Book-Big Book Guidebook

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 arena.

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 Jesus Christ.

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 Embrace


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. publication.

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 to know.

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 do.

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, and applicable.

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


Dick B.'s son Ken
P.O. Box 837
Kihei, Hawaii
Tel.: (808) 276-4945
Fax: (808) 874-4876

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Publications, Inc.
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Trademarks and Disclaimer: ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS®, A.A.®, and Big Book® are registered trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Dick B.'s web site, Paradise Research Publications, Inc., and Good Book Publishing Company are neither endorsed nor approved by nor associated or affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.