Finding A.A. History and Hunting Game Birds – the Silkworth Example

Flushing Out Alcoholics Anonymous History and Game Bird Hunting

Dick B.
Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights Reserved

Part One – the Dr. Silkworth Story about the Great Physician and Bill Wilson

Back in 2005, I wrote an article along these same lines. I wrote it because I had discovered a key element of Alcoholics Anonymous History. It helped explain anew why early A.A. had succeeded. It also demonstrated the amount of A.A. History that had gone un-researched, uninvestigated, un-reported, and unknown. The article of 2005 was about Dr. William D. Silkworth, the man Bill Wilson designated as “the benign little doctor who loved drunks.”

It was a great find that was flushed out for me at a Clarence Snyder retreat in Southern California when a young man handed me a book by Norman Vincent Peale. Its title was The Positive Power of Jesus Christ. There Dr. Peale had opened a new A.A. history door. Dr. Peale related the story of “Chuck.” Chuck had been totally defeated by alcoholism. Like Bill Wilson, he had been told he was medically incurable and in a seemingly hopeless state. Chuck consulted Dr. Silkworth. The good doctor told him that Jesus Christ, the “Great Physician,” could cure him. Chuck—like Bill Wilson—soon sought the help of the Great Physician. And, as Dr. Silkworth had assured him, Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, did cure him of his alcoholism. At least, that’s how Dr. Norman Vincent Peale saw it.

Well, that was one of many game birds that had lurked in the bull rushes. And it took Peale to flush this one out. At least for me. Yet you never heard a word about this “Great Physician” in A.A. circles or A.A. history.

Then came two new books by Hazelden that linked the Great Physician to A.A. History. Also to Bill Wilson, to Dr. Silkworth and his advice tailored for Bill, and to the cure of alcoholism. The Great Physician —as Bill himself put it—was the “Lord.”

The first new book was Bill’s own autobiography published by Hazelden in 2000 and titled Bill W. My First 40 Years. It didn’t tell all the story, but it sure did make clear that Bill Wilson had received advice about the Great Physician, had decided he’d better seek help from that source, and had gone to the altar at Calvary Mission and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Bill wrote, in his autobiography, ‘For sure I’d been born again.”

Then Bill staggered on drunk and into Towns Hospital for the last time. There, Bill decided called on the Great Physician. Bill cried out to God for help, had his hospital room blaze with an “indescribably white light,” and was cured for life.

Bill never drank again.

Then my attention was called to a personal story in the Big Book. One I had never seen. It was about A.A. Number Three (Bill Dotson) and his wife Henrietta. There, on page 191 of even the latest edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson was quoted as saying to Dotson’s wife:

Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me curing me of this terrible disease that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.

Bill Dotson repeated that statement by Bill, confirmed that it applied to his own cure, and called it the “golden text of A.A.” for him and others in the fellowship.

Out came a second important A.A. History book published by Hazelden. It was Dale Mitchel’s
Silkworth The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks: The Biography of William Duncan Silkworth, M.D., published in 2002. Wow! There Silkworth’s biographer told the whole story of how Bill had been told by Silkworth that he would die or go insane if he didn’t quit drinking. Bill was in despair. But Silkworth then told Bill that the Great Physician Jesus Christ could cure Bill of his alcoholism.

The author related that Silkworth was a devout Christian. He was a good friend of both Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and of Bill’s spiritual teacher Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. In fact, Silkworth attended Shoemaker’s Calvary Church for a number of years.

What a long time to drive that bird out of the bushes!

It really was not until the A.A. founded in 1935 had, at last, become more clear to me. It was about Bill Wilson’s reliance on God and coming to God through His Son Jesus Christ—“the Great Physician.”

I have re-written this game bird story and published the Silkworth part in this segment. But many other birds have since been revealed as the result of further and intense good hunting. And Part Two will carry the story forward.

dickb@dickb.com

Gloria Deo

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About mauihistorian

Uses pen name Dick B.: Writer, Historian, Retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active and recovered A.A. member with over 25 years of continuous sobriety. Published 42 titles and over 650 articles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Christian Recovery Movement. www.dickb.com
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