Q: “‘I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?’ A: “Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship (we share within our autonomous A.A. fellowships), and so will you (in an autonomous spiritual entity of your own).” (“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 152)
Some of us used to believe sobriety might be a solution for our problems. We knew we did not have drinking troubles while sober, of course, but sobriety had become just as unbearable as our drinking. Consider:
S.O.B.E.R. = SonOf aBuck,Everything isReal!
We who used to drink for the effect needed something much greater than sobriety, and we knew that. So, what makes the difference today? Spiritual fellowship, and we experience that by taking, by living and by sharing the Twelve Steps that can facilitate permanent recovery.
Many people who know little of that actual experience might try to convince you sobriety either is or can be very beautiful and wonderful all in itself. They typically begin their days with something like “Don’t drink, no matter what”…and then they end even their worst days with a bit of moral or philosophical comfort (while patting themselves on the back for not drinking and) while saying something like, “There is no day so bad that a drink would not make it worse…”
…then they all nod and try to smile a bit as if something so painfully obvious is somehow actually profound…and it is not our intent to sound cynical or sarcastic here. Rather, it is a simple fact that we could never have continued to live that way without eventually drinking again…and actually, neither can many of them. No, and just as we hope those folks might yet discover, we needed much more than mere sobriety. If sobriety had been enough to treat our alcoholism, detox would have released us from our alcoholic troubles. So, and as we have learned…
“Choose your path for its destination and not by the depth of its rut.” –unknown
Q: We are an AA fellowship with 21 meetings a week. As a fellowship we are autonomous but is each meeting autonomous? In our guidelines we state if any meeting wants to change their format for them to take a group conscious 3 weeks in a row and if positive for 3 weeks then come to the business meeting and present the changes. We then vote on it as a fellowship and we can hear dissenting opinions. [Our] guidelines also say that all meetings are autonomous. We have a conflict and either way to be in unity we have to remove one of them…[and we are] looking for [any other] way to [possibly] stop the conflict.
A: First, it is virtually impossible for an A.A. fellowship group to have that many meetings per week since there is little chance of “Any two or three alcoholics…(calling) themselves an A.A. group” (Tradition Three) being able to actually do that. So what you have there is more like some type of steering committee that would actually be an inter-group “Central Committee” calling itself an A.A. group and then “ruling over” other groups.
Is each meeting autonomous? Not if any other entity has any say in the handling of the meeting/group’s affairs. For example:
>> In our [committee’s] guidelines we state [how the meeting/group should conduct its affairs]…then [later] vote on it…
>> We have a conflict and either way to be in unity we have to remove one of them.
Exactly, and no Steering Committee should ever presume to tell any A.A. group how it must conduct its affairs.
“If you are an alcoholic who wants to get over it, you may already be asking… Q: “‘What do I have to do?’
“It is the purpose of this book to answer such questions specifically… A: “We shall tell you what we have done.”
“Further on, clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 20, 29)
Some new members have recently registered at our NoNameYet site and have also been added to this discussion list, and hopefully this e-mail will prove helpful.
Our autonomous NoNameYet A.A. fellowship group carries the original A.A. message of permanent recovery from chronic alcoholism, and we are very aware of the various differences between the original A.A. message and the message or messages more commonly heard within today’s AA. To read a little about that, maybe have a look here: https://www.nonameyet.org/aa-or-a-a/
For the record, we have no issues with today’s AA and we do not ever mean to speak against anything or anyone anywhere. Rather, and with the alcoholic who cannot stop drinking in mind, we only ever mean to portray this:
“That the man (or woman) who is making the approach has had the same difficulty, that s/he obviously knows what s/he is talking about, that his/her whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that s/he is a wo/man with a real answer, that s/he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured – these are the conditions we have found most effective. After such an approach many take up their beds and walk again.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous“, pages 18-19)
Some of us first tried what we now know as “today’s AA” prior to our actual recoveries, so sometimes we do make mention of something like this:
Many people might try to suggest you actually can stop drinking just one-day-at-a-time if you have sufficient “support” for trying to do so, but that failed completely for many of us prior to A.A. and we have since learned these truths about ourselves and our alcoholism:
So, please be cautious about not falling into today’s trap of not drinking one-day-at-a-time until you again end up drunk and then again not drinking one-day-at-a-time until you again end up drunk and then again not drinking one-day-at-a-time until you again end up drunk…rinse and repeat until dead.
For sharing and discussion, here is something for either of two kinds of people:
1. Anyone wanting to know how A.A. works;
2. Alcoholics or others wanting A.A. to work.
I came to A.A. knowing nothing about alcoholism. I already knew my problem was something other than alcohol, but I had no idea why I could not stay sober…and then the people who first helped me began explaining…
“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity…decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
“So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making.” (page 62)
For anyone still thinking alcohol is our problem, just stop drinking for a while and watch as our problem appears…
“Resentment (a manifestation of self) is the ‘number one’ offender.” (page 64)
From the dictionary:
resent = to be angry or upset about someone or something thought to be unfair
resentment = a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury
“In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry.”
Nobody in A.A. ever told me to “Don’t drink.” Just like me, they already knew I could not do that. So, and since getting drunk over resentment seemed to be my actual problem, they instead told me to begin praying for the people I resented…
…and then they also told me it would not be helpful to pray for the man I resented the most to be run over by a truck! At the time, I had no idea how they knew that is exactly what I had been thinking.
Returning to our text:
“We turned back to [our resentment] list, for it held the key to the future…
“This was our course: We realized the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick…like ourselves…
“We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person [next] offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’
“We avoid retaliation or argument…
“We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.” (page 67)
I now had “the key to the future” and knew I never again had to take a drink over resentment…and much to my surprise, I had yet to look for even the very first defect of character.
“The basic principles of A.A., as they are known today, were borrowed mainly from the fields of religion and medicine, though some ideas (our Twelve Traditions) upon which success finally depended were the result of noting the behavior and needs of the Fellowship itself.” (Forewords to “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“)
Dr. William D. Silkworth (from the field of medicine) is the one who had first mentioned our physical allergy making controlled drinking impossible…
Along with that, Dr. Silkworth also shared with us his awareness of “something more than human power [being] needed to produce the essential psychic change” in order for people such as ourselves to be able to remain completely abstinent altogether so we could avoid early graves. At that point of fundamental awareness concerning our alcoholism, we had what we needed for what would eventually be called “Step One”…and there in our hopeless state is where we next heard Dr. Carl Jung (a psychiatrist within the field of medicine) first share with us (through Rowland H.) the essence of some specific experience leading to what we now know as “Step Two”:
“Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences… phenomena… in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes (old ideas) which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.” (page 27)
In so many words, Dr. Jung had just suggested we alcoholics “Go see God” and place our lives and our wills under His care and direction or “management” if we would like to get over drinking for good and all.
Does that mean A.A. is a religious fellowship with a religious program? No, it does not, and here is more about that:
“Upon hearing [God could do for him what he could not do for himself], our friend (Rowland H.) was somewhat relieved, for he reflected that, after all, he was a good church member. This hope, however, was destroyed by the doctor’s telling him that while his religious convictions were very good, in his case they did not spell the necessary vital spiritual experience.” (same page)
At this point along the way, we had knowledge of our problem (alcoholism) and its solution (spiritual experience or spiritual awakening), but we were still in need of a way to apply that solution to our problem…and there is where we began receiving from the field of religion without becoming bogged down in sectarianism. In other words, we were next shown how we could step right on past mere religion and go “straight to God”, so to speak, and here is how that became reality amongst us:
“In a matter of fact way (Ebby) told how two men…had told of a simple religious idea (now known as Step Three) and a practical program of action (later known as Steps Four through Nine). That was two months ago and the result was self-evident. It worked!” (page 9)
Maybe you have already heard one or more religious folks presuming to speak over and above the “combined experience and knowledge” (page 19) shared in our Basic Text while trying to either bring religion into A.A. or even trying to drag A.A.s on out into religion. We understand their concerns amidst today’s non-A.A. idea of “a god of your own understanding” (nowhere to be found within our Basic Text), but religion is still religion and the original “experience, strength and hope” of A.A. is still something much different:
“Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.” (page 164)
One A.A. member here amongst us once heard his first sponsor say, “One of these days I am going to go sit in the sunlight at the top of a mountain somewhere and take a look to see what is really in this book…”
Having since “been to the mountain” ourselves, we now share with you what we have learned.
As “Charlie & Joe” (see last) had learned and then began sharing during many “Big Book Comes Alive!” seminars during the 1980s, three essential elements came together at the inception of what some of us today still know as “the original A.A.” (where real alcoholics are never told to “Don’t drink!”):
1) Knowledge of our problem (a physical allergy and no defense) from Dr. William D. Silkworth;
2) Knowledge of a solution (a spiritual experience or spiritual awakening) from Dr. Carl Jung;
3) A program of action (applying that solution to remove “no defense”) from the early Oxford Groups.
“I (Bill W.) met a kind doctor (William D. Silkworth) who explained … I had been seriously ill, bodily and mentally.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous”, page 7)
Dr. Silkworth later offered that insight to us all in this way:
“They are restless, irritable and discontented (a troubled emotional-mental state), unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks – drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops (where each drink physically demands yet another), they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over (such as by not drinking one-day-at-a-time until once again ending up drunk), and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his or her recovery.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous”, “The Doctor’s Opinion”, bold typeface added)
At that point, Bill understood the two-fold nature of our alcoholism:
a) We are physically powerless over alcohol while drinking (each drink demands yet another);
b) While yet in our natural states, we are also mentally-emotionally powerless over the first drink … Step One.
“A certain American business man (Rowland H.) had gone to Europe, placing himself in the care of a celebrated physician (the psychiatrist, Dr. Jung) who prescribed for him …”
Said the good doctor: “Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences … huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.'” (“Alcoholics Anonymous”, pages 26-27)
In so may words, Dr. Jung had suggested we alcoholics be willing to “Go see God”, so to speak … Step Two.
“The cheery voice of an old school friend (Ebby, on my left) … told (me, Bill W.) how two men … had told (him, Ebby) of a simple religious idea (Step Three, ‘Trust In God’) and a practical program of action (Steps Four through Nine, ‘Clean House’) … (and) It worked!” (“Alcoholics Anonymous:, pages 8-9, italic added)
Those two men first helping Ebby (Bill’s sponsor) had been members of the Oxford Groups at New York City after Sam Shoemaker – Samuel Moor Shoemaker (1893–1963), past rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City, the USA headquarters of the Oxford Groups during the 1930s – had first learned of and had begun speaking of and sharing with others what we today know as “Let go and let God.”
Sam had also helped start a Chapter of the Oxford Groups in Akron, Ohio, where Dr. Bob Smith had become involved (but could not remain sober) until after being “Twelfth-Stepped” by Bill W. In 1917, Sam had met Frank Buchman (Oxford Groups) who had told him of the four absolutes: honesty; purity; unselfishness; love. Shoemaker later spoke of his meeting Buchman as having been a major influence upon his own decision to “let go of self and let God guide his life.” Bill Wilson occasionally referred to Sam as a co-founder of A.A., but Sam (while not denying Bill’s memory) would reflect the credit to God and the influence of the Oxford Groups. (adapted from Wikipedia)
So with the above having all taken place, we now had (1) knowledge of our problem, (2) knowledge of a solution, and (3) “a practical program of action” together in one set of hands for the first time ever when Bill W. and Dr. Bob got together for the first time ever …
“(Dr. Bob) had repeatedly tried (within the Oxford Groups of that day) spiritual means to resolve his alcoholic dilemma but had failed. But when the broker (Bill W.) gave him Dr. Silkworth’s description of alcoholism and its hopelessness, the physician (Dr. Bob) began to pursue the spiritual remedy for his malady with a willingness he had never before been able to muster.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous”, Foreword to Second Edition, italic added)
Dr. Bob had already known of our solution (a spiritual experience or awakening), and he had even made efforts along the lines of what we today know as our “practical program of action” (Steps Four through Nine). However, the “willingness he had never before been able to muster” had ultimately come about for him only after Bill W. had “smashed home” through his (Bill W.’s) own experience the fact that “the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge (knowing s/he will never be able to drink safely)” (page 39) … and all of that “seemed to prove one alcoholic could affect another as no nonalcoholic could” since Dr. Bob then “sobered, never to drink again up to the moment of his death in 1950.” (Foreword to Second Edition) Here on his own prescription pad is something we have excerpted from his personal story in our A.A. “Big Book”:
“…if you really and truly want to quit drinking liquor for good and all, and sincerely feel that you must have some help, we know that we have an answer for you. It never fails, if you go about it with one half the zeal you have been in the habit of showing when you were getting another drink.
“Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!” — “Dr. Bob’s Nightmare”
Update: We have since discovered this brief version of that in Dr. Bob’s own handwriting:
Few people ever hear much about Clarence Snyder and the fact Bill W. and Dr. Bob learned much from him while A.A. was getting started in Cleveland. Clarence helped break sectarian (religious) barriers to open A.A. up to anyone at all, and Clarence placed emphasis on “Trust in God and clean house” (“A.A.”, page 98) over any kind of mere “Don’t drink and go to meetings” type of mantra.
We do not have a photo of Wesley Parish to share with you, yet we mention him here because he was a man who had learned and lived this well: “When we are merely ‘thankful’, it is enough to say ‘Thank you.’ But when we are truly grateful, we spend much of our spare time in search of suffering alcoholics so we might have the opportunity to pass along to them what has been so freely given us.” (Wesley P.)
In Pompano Beach, Florida, in the early 1980s, Wesley and other A.A. members put a lot of effort into arranging “Big Book Comes Alive!” seminars presented by “Charlie & Joe”. The walls of the assembly halls displayed near-life-size photos from the early days of A.A….and the fresh doughnuts, juice and hot coffee nearby were free for everyone present! Joe & Charlie Big Book Study History
Charlie P. tells his personal story here:
Joe McQ. tells his personal story here:
“…you may…be asking – ‘What do I have to do?‘
“We shall tell you what we have done.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 20)
Our desire here is to share a little about our No Name Yet Group’s “A.A. Ancestry”, so to speak, and for the purpose of recognizing and passing along the idea of continuing and building upon specific efforts of those who came before us. Dr. Bob used to say something along the order of our Big Book having been published “to keep our message from becoming garbled and twisted beyond recognition” (“A.A. Comes of Age“, page 144), and we have since come to see how even that type of challenge or responsibility has been passed along to us.
“Gerald Bough … (had) created Boos Driars Inc., a rehabilitation center for alcoholics …
“Bough today (April 22, 1980) said he believed (his dismissal from Boos Driars) was in response to his opposition to a detoxification facility Elkhart General Hospital (had) attempted to establish (the previous) year …
“Charles Lewis, chairman of the board … explained the (board’s) action by saying, ‘… a change was needed to be done for the best interests of the board, the Twelfth-Step House (Boos Driars), and the community.’”
Our question: What about “for the best interests of” alcoholics seeking help at Boos Driars?!
Hoping to offer at least a glimpse of Boos Driars, we have found these excerpts to pass along:
“…the 12 Golden Steps at Boo’s Driars. [Sal H.] remembers how back in those days the police would give drunks an option, they would take you to jail or drop you off at Boos Driars for detox. ‘Some would lay on the floor shaking for days; then we would help them get a shave and a hair cut.'” −Elkhart County A.A. Shareguide − Spring 2013−
While we do know “a shave and a haircut” were required for men wishing to remain at Boos Driars, we do not know all the issues and details leading up to Bough being fired from the “rehabilitation center for alcoholics” or “Twelfth-Step House” he had started several years earlier…and yet we do know our opportunities and responsibilities along the lines of Twelfth-Step work and helping still others like ourselves were thereby being compromised and taken away from even those of us yet to find A.A. and recovery there in that community. So, we mention the above as evidence of certain conflicts or challenges commonly faced by so-called “grass roots” types of efforts such as our own either when or where people with an overall lack of A.A. knowledge, understanding, experience and/or with distracting concerns or goals either have or attain the authority or power to affect, effect or even dictate how things are done. Some people would be critical of Gerald for having solicited and accepted any “outside support” (money) for starting a halfway house and/or presuming to become its director in the first place, yet his goal was nothing other than to help provide a place where alcoholics with a desire to stop drinking could be detoxified (including professional attention when medically necessary), Twelfth-Stepped and sponsored into permanent recovery free-of-charge…and with all of that being done by recovered alcoholics.
According to Dave and Bonnie (husband and wife) who had sobered and recovered together there at Boos Driars and who later sponsored two of our members for a time, Gerald had moved away not long after his dismissal and had later died in an automobile accident.
Along with Bonnie and Dave, Betty O. had also been among the many alcoholics first helped at Boos Driars…and our No Name Yet Group’s weekly meeting slot at Serenity Hall years later had become available to us not long after Betty had died (still recovered, of course) and we had begun “calling ourselves an A.A. group” (Tradition Three). Betty had been conducting a weekly old-school-style A.A. meeting for a number of years, and Dave and Bonnie had also been leading meetings (nightly for two hours each) at one of Serenity Hall’s earlier locations (5th Street) between the time of Gerald’s dismissal and their own move to another state at some point during the early 1980s.
Overall, we actually know very little about Gerald and “recovery at Boos Driars”, so to speak, but Dave and Bonnie always spoke of him lovingly and respectfully whenever they did occasionally mention him. Once while speaking at an out-of-town meeting, Dave shared a recollection of the sound of Gerald’s heavy shoes hitting the steps of the stairway as he (Bough) would be coming down into the basement meeting room at Boos Driars “with an armload of books, a pot of coffee and two packs of cigarettes…and you knew you were in for an A.A. meeting!” According to Dave, Gerald had our Big Book, 12 & 12 and several other A.A. books “all cross-indexed and annotated”, and that description of Gerald and the apparent depth of his efforts to “get your information straight from the source” and to then also share it that way later stuck with and greatly inspired more than one of our own group’s members. So as Dave had first suggested to two of us in ’81…
“Read the book to know who and what to listen to in an A.A. meeting!”