Dick B. gives another preview of our forthcoming historical video series on the January 29, 2014, episode of the “Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show
You may hear Dick B. give another preview of our forthcoming historical video series on the January 29, 2014, episode of the “Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show here:
Episodes of the “Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show are archived at:
Tonight, we will delve into the proposed content of our upcoming video series, “Bill W., Dr. Bob, and the Cure of Alcoholism: The Rest of the Story.” Right now, we are developing an outline for the A.A. history presentations and the format for an appealing Introduction showing what has been missed and what we will supply.
Yesterday, we proposed that there were five epochs in A.A. history from A.A.’s founding in 1935 to Bill W.’s publishing of “the new version of the program” in the Big Book in 1939. The first epoch deals with how the first three AAs got sober before there were any 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, Big Books, war stories, or meetings like those today. We also acquainted you with the missing facts about how A.A. Number One, Bill W., got sober and how that information can be used to help others.
This evening, we will deal with the missing facts about how A.A. Number Two, Dr. Bob, got sober and how that information can be helpful in the same way. The following show will have to do with how A.A. Number Three, Akron attorney Bill D., got sober and what his statements contribute to the healing process.
If time permits, we will introduce you to all five A.A. History Epochs that will be covered in these shows and in our videos. In brief, they are: (1) How the first three got sober. (2) The original Akron A.A. “Christian fellowship” program. (3) The so-called six “word-of-mouth ideas” Bill claimed were in use before he wrote the 12 Steps. (4) Bill’s “new version of the program,” the 12 Steps, published in the Big Book. (5) The very significant compromise in language referring to God made in Steps 2, 3, and 11 just before the Big Book was published–a change made by a mere four people, yet attributed to atheists and agnostics.
And now, here come the documentation, footnotes, and facts.
The Five Alcoholics Anonymous History Epochs – 1935 to 1939
The Programs of Recovery that AAs Used – And When!
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved
The First Epoch – The First Three AAs to Get Sober. And How!
[The First Epoch from 1934-1935. The Period When the First Three AAs Achieved Permanent Sobriety, and Then Immediately Followed by the Founding of Akron’s First Group—Akron Number One]
Part Two of the First Epoch: “The First Three AAs”: A Summary of how and when Dr. Robert H. Smith (known as Dr. Bob, A.A. Cofounder and A.A. Number Two) was cured of his alcoholism after admitting his seeming hopelessness and, in beginning the march back to healing, seeking God’s help through prayer with Akron Oxford Group friends in 1935 and again just before his last drink
Russell Firestone of the Firestone rubber dynasty gets saved and healed of alcoholism with the help of Rev. Samuel Shoemaker on the train back to Akron from the 50th triennial General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church—a General Convention of the Episcopal Church—held in Denver, Colorado, September 16-30, 1931.
October 1931 through January 1933
Russell and his friend James D. Newton travel widely for the Oxford Group in the ensuing months, giving their testimony in the United States and elsewhere.
At the request of Russell Firestone’s father, Harvey Firestone, Sr., Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman—founder of “A First Century Christian Fellowship” (also known as “the Oxford Group”)—and other Oxford Group members, hold a series of testimonial meetings in Akron from January 19-23, 1933. Dr. Walter F. Tunks, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron, is actively involved in hosting the meetings. Russell Firestone attends and speaks at several of the many Akron meetings, which are heavily covered by the Akron newspapers. He and others give testimony as to their Oxford Group life-changes through Jesus Christ.
Henrietta Seiberling (of the well-known rubber dynasty family), Dr. Bob’s wife Anne, and two other ladies attended the large, January 1933 Akron Oxford Group events. They soon start attending the small, weekly, Thursday night West Hill Oxford Group meeting, persuading Dr. Bob to join the group. And Dr. Bob attends Oxford Group meetings regularly until Mother’s Day, May 12, 1935, when he met Bill W. Dr. Bob had also followed his friends’ suggestions by joining a church, reading an immense amount of Oxford Group literature, refreshing his memory of the Bible, in which he had had excellent training as a youngster in Vermont, and enjoying fellowship with the Oxford Group people.
But Bob didn’t want to quit drinking.
He didn’t, and his alcoholism progressed still further.
January 1933 through May 1935
During this period, and while still drinking, Bob feels it necessary to “renew” his familiarity with the Bible in which he said he “had had excellent training” as a youngster in Vermont. He reads the Bible three times from cover to cover. He joins a Presbyterian Church in Akron, the church of which Rev. J.C. Wright was pastor. He reads all kinds of Christian literature (which is still available for view at Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron as to one part, and at Brown University as to the other part). In addition, Bob said he read all the Oxford Group literature he could get his hands on.
Late April, 1935(?)
Henrietta Seiberling feels guided to convene a special meeting for Dr. Bob and asks Oxford Grouper members T. Henry and Clarace Williams if their home could be used for the meeting. Henrietta then gathers some Oxford Group members to attend. She wants them to share things that were very costly in order to make Dr. Bob lose his pride. She warns Anne Smith about the meeting and tells her: “Come prepared to mean business. There is going to be no pussyfooting around.” But she doesn’t tell Mrs. Smith that the meeting was for Dr. Bob. At this meeting, all shared deeply of their shortcomings and the victories achieved in overcoming them. Then they waited for Dr. Bob to share.
Dr. Bob shares: “I am going to tell you something which may cost my profession. I am a secret drinker, and I can’t stop.” Those present asked: “Do you want us to pray for you?” And someone said, “Should we get on our knees?” Dr. Bob answered, “Yes” to both questions. So those present, including Dr. Bob, dropped to their knees on the rug in the home of Oxford Group leader T. Henry Williams. And they all prayed for Dr. Bob’s deliverance
The next morning, Henrietta says a prayer for Bob. She prayed, “God, I don’t know anything about drinking, but I told Bob that I was sure that if he lived this way of life, he could quit drinking. Now I need Your help, God.” She then reflected: “Something said to me—I call it ‘guidance’; it was like a voice in my head—‘Bob must not touch one drop of alcohol.’” Henrietta calls Bob and tells him she had guidance for him. He comes over at ten in the morning. She he tells him that her guidance was that he mustn’t touch one drop of alcohol. [See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, pages 53ff. for these details.]
Bob continues to drink excessively. And he didn’t find an answer until he met Bill Wilson. He would say to Henrietta Seiberling: “‘. . . I think I’m just one of those want-to-want-to guys.’ And she’d say, ‘No, Bob, I think you want to. You just haven’t found a way to work it yet.’” [DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 59]
Two weeks later, Bill Wilson arrives in Akron. He was a person unknown to Henrietta Seiberling, to Dr. Bob, and to Anne Smith—a complete stranger.
Bill Wilson had failed in a business venture and was tempted to drink. Instead, he calls Dr. Walter Tunks from the Mayflower Hotel in Akron. Tunks gives Bill a referral that leads to Henrietta Seiberling. For Henrietta received a telephone call from this absolute stranger. And it was Bill Wilson.
Bill tells her: “I’m from the Oxford Group, and I’m a rum hound from New York. And I need to talk to a drunk.” Said Bill: “I got the guidance to look at the minister’s directory. I just looked there. And I put my finger on one name—Dr. Walter Tunks. So Bill called Dr. Tunks and was, in turn, referred to Henrietta Seiberling. Bill recalled: “Something kept saying to me, ‘You’d better call her’.”
Henrietta thought and concluded, ”This is really like manna from heaven. I (who was desperate to help Bob in something I didn’t know much about) was ready.” “You come right out here,” she said. And she planned to put these two men together. Bill came out to her Gate Lodge home and stayed for dinner. She told Bill to come to church with her the next morning and that she would get Bob, which she did.
She arranges to have Dr. Bob come to her home at the Seiberling Gate Lodge to meet with Bill W. Dr. Bob was virtually roused from his prior day’s drunken stupor. Yet the next day he went to Henrietta’s home. Dr. Bob vowed he intended to stay there for 15 minutes “tops.” But the two men talked for six hours.
May 12, 1935
Bill W. and Dr. Bob meet on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1935. After talking with Bill W., Dr. Bob concludes that, despite his and Bill’s association with the Oxford Groups, only Bill had grasped their idea of “service”—helping others get well. Something Dr. Bob said he had never thought of, considered, or done.
Bob noted that Bill “was a man. . . who had been cured by the very means I had been trying to employ that is to say, the spiritual approach. . . he was the first living human with whom I had ever talked who knew what he was talking about in regard to alcoholism from actual experience. In other words, he talked my language. He knew all the answers, and certainly not because he had picked them up in his reading.
Bill recalled: “We were under awful compulsion. And we found that we had to do something for somebody or actually perish ourselves.
Bob stated: “Bill had acquired their (the Oxford Group’s) idea of service. I had not.” The two men started trying to help yet another drunk. And a letter from Bill dated May 1935 showed they had started carrying the message together at least within two weeks or so of their first meeting.
June 1935 through August, 1935
Bill was invited to and did in fact live for the next three months with the Smiths. He said: “I shall always believe they gave me more than I ever brought them.” He said that each morning there was a devotion. After a long silence in which they awaited inspiration and guidance, Anne would read from the Bible. “James was our favorite,” Bill said. Also, Bob said the two men would stay up until the wee hours of the morning discussing the possible solution for alcoholics and the possible basic biblical ideas for a program.
Then came a brief and final relapse on Bob’s part.
Bob had decided to attend the American Medical Association Convention in Atlantic City. Bob began drinking everything he could get as soon as he boarded the train. Bob had a blackout during this period. They brought him home when he got back to Akron, and Bill stayed with Bob in the corner room where there were two beds. Upon Dr. Bob’s return, they found he was scheduled to perform surgery three days later. To prop him up, they gave him some beer to steady his nerves.
At four o’clock in the morning of the operation, Bob turned to Bill and said: “I am going through with it.” Bill said: “You mean you are going through with the operation?” Bob said: “I have placed both the operation and myself in God’s hands. I’m going to do what it takes to get sober and stay that way.”
Much later, Bob returned home after the operation. The bottle of beer Bill gave him that morning was the last drink he ever had. Dr. Bob was cured, and he said so. As to the date of this last drink, A.A. literature stated: “Although arguments have been and will be made for other significant occasions in A.A. history, it is generally agreed that Alcoholics Anonymous began there, in Akron, on that date: June 10, 1935.
Henrietta and Dr. Bob felt his cure (which is what Bob called it) was in answer to the prayers. Dr. Bob said so.
The Five Epochs of A.A. History from 1935-1939
By Dick B.
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved
ONE: How the First Three AAs got sober before there were any 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, Big Books, drunkalogs, or meetings as they are seen today. They believed the answers to their problems were in the Bible.
TWO: The original Akron A.A. “Christian fellowship” program consisting of seven points as summarized and 16 practices implementing the program as summarized. The data comes from four major sources:
- DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers;
- Dick B. and Ken B., Stick with the Winners!;
- Dick B. and Ken B., Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous (about the 29 personal testimonies in the “Personal Stories” section of the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous; and
- Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W. and Dick B. and Ken B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous
THREE: The various “six” “word-of-mouth” ideas as to which Bill Wilson said there was no common agreement, but which were nonetheless used until 1939 and were, he said, the basis for the 12 Steps.
FOUR: The “new version of the program” which Bill had fashioned between 1938 and 1939, and which he said involved Twelve Steps which were drawn from three men he called “founders” of A.A.: (1) Dr. William D. Silkworth of Towns Hospital, particularly as to Step One. (2) The book by Professor William James and called The Varieties of Religious Experience, particularly as to Step Twelve. (3) The other ten Steps drawn straight from the Oxford Group, “as then led in America by the Episcopal Rector, Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.”
FIVE: The compromised program which was fashioned by four people (the secretary Ruth Hock; Bill’s partner Henry Parkhurst; the Christian John Henry Fitzhugh Mayo; and Bill Wilson himself). In addition to the many changes in Bill’s “new version” of the program (the Twelve Steps) in the loan copy manuscript, there were three major ideas adopted after a sizzling battle over portions of that manuscript. The changes were agreed to in the A.A. offices—with only the named four individuals present. The three changes were these: (1) There was said to be “too much God” in the manuscript; and the language of Steps Two, Three, and Eleven was changed to delete the unqualified word God and substitute “Power greater than ourselves” and “God as we understood Him” in three of the twelve steps. (2) This was done over the vigorous objections of Fitz who wanted religious content with Bible and Christian sources, gleaned in part from what A.A. had learned from the missions and the churches. But Fitz was overruled. Wilson said the changes were made due to “the great contribution of the atheists and agnostics” when they took their position as to “God” to the program. (3) A handwritten summary, erroneously suggesting that Ebby Thacher had told Bill he could “choose your own conception of God,” was inserted at the very front of the typewritten loan copy manuscript though no author was named or identified in any way. This change opened the “broad highway” that eventually became the path to higher powers, not-god-ness, unbelief, and a host of religions other than Christianity.