Category Archives: Some A.A. & Group History

Origins Of A.A. As We Know It

Here are the origins of A.A. as we know them:

“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…

“…drinking to overcome a (physical) craving beyond their mental control.” (“The Doctor’s Opinion“)

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.

Elder Pics

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.

William Wilson

“I (Bill W.) met a kind doctor (William D. Silkworth) who explained … I had been seriously ill, bodily and mentally.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous”, page 7)William D. Silkworth, M.D.

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 drinkStep One.

Roland H.“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 …”Dr. Carl Jung



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.

Bill W. and Ebby T.“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)

Samuel Moor ShoemakerThose 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 and Anne Smith“(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:

Clarence SnyderFew 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.

Big Book Sponsorship (an article about Clarence)

My Higher Power – The Light Bulb? (a pamphlet written by Clarence)

Clarence Snyder − 1966

Clarence Snyder − 1975

Clarence Snyder − 1982

Wesley ParishWe 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.)

Wesley Parish

Charlie P. and Joe McQ. at Marathon Key, Florida, 1989In 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)

From The Days Of Boo (Bough)

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.

To begin here, and as published in The Elkhart Truth on April 22, 1980:

“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?!
Bough Fired
Hoping to offer at least a glimpse of Boos Driars, we have found these excerpts to pass along:

Boos Driars, Inc.
803 W. Wolf Avenue
Elkhart 46514
Tel: 219/294-6687
Dir: Gerald Bough
Established: 1971
Capacity: 43
Age Served: 13-75
Sex served: Coed
Function: Multi-faceted
scan of partial page from following document listing Boos Driars
National Criminal Justice Reference Service Document 47437NCJRS

“…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.

Gerald Wayne Bough Gravesite
Gerald Wayne Bough Memorial

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!”

The Reason You Were Chosen

“You can help when no one else can.  You can secure their confidence when others fail…  Ministers and doctors are competent and you can learn much from them if you wish, but it happens that because of your own drinking experience you can be uniquely useful to other alcoholics.”
“Doctors are rightly loath to tell alcoholic patients the whole story unless it will serve some good purpose.  But you may talk to him about the hopelessness of alcoholism because you offer a solution.”
“… He has read this volume and says he is prepared to go through with the Twelve Steps of the program of recovery.  Having had the experience yourself, you can give him much practical advice.”
“Showing others who suffer how we were given help is the very thing which makes life seem so worth while to us now.  Cling to the thought that, in God’s hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have – the key to life and happiness for others.  With it you can avert death and misery for them.”
“God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.  Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick.  The answers will come, if your own house is in order.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, pages 89, 92, 98, 124, 164)

The following was first shown to one of us late in the summer of 1981, and it appears to be a “Bright Star” piece originating from Bright Star Press where “The first ‘Bright Stars’ were open letters of encouragement from the company’s founder (Walter S.) mixed with anecdotes and sayings to encourage each recovering person to live ‘One Day at a Time.'”

Why We Were Chosen

God in His wisdom selected this group of men and women to be purveyors of His goodness. In selecting them through whom to bring about this phenomenon, He went not to the proud, the mighty, the famous or the brilliant. He went instead to the humble, to the sick, to the unfortunate. He went right to the drunkard, the so-called weakling of the world. Well might He have said to us:

“Unto your weak and feeble hands I have entrusted a power beyond estimate. To you has been given that which has been denied the most learned of your fellows. Not to scientists or statesmen, not to wives or mothers, not even to my priests or ministers have I given this gift of healing other alcoholics which I entrust to you.

“It must be used unselfishly; it carries with it grave responsibility. No day can be too long; no demands upon your time can be too urgent; no case be too pitiful; no task too hard; no effort too great. It must be used with tolerance for I have restricted its application to no race, no creed, and no denomination. Personal criticism you must expect; lack of appreciation will be common; ridicule will be your lot; your motives will be misjudged. You must be prepared for adversity, for what men call adversity is the ladder you must use to ascend the rungs toward spiritual perfection, and remember, in the exercise of this power I shall not exact from you beyond your capabilities.

“You are not selected because of exceptional talents, and be careful always, if success attends your efforts, not to ascribe to personal superiority that to which you can lay claim only by virtue of my gift. If I had wanted learned men to accomplish this mission, the power would have been entrusted to the physician and scientist. If I had wanted eloquent men, there would have been many anxious for the assignment, for talk is the easiest used of all talents with which I have endowed mankind. If I had wanted scholarly men, the world is filled with better-qualified men than you who would be available. You were selected because you have been the outcasts of the world and your long experience as drunkards has made or should make you humbly alert to the cries of distress that come from the lonely hearts of alcoholics everywhere.

“Keep ever in mind the admission you made on the day of your profession in AA – namely that you are powerless and that it was only with your willingness to turn your life and will unto my keeping that relief came to you.”

— Helping others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth. —

Charlie P. & Joe McQ.

“People often say it took Bill and Bob to write the Big Book,
but it took Joe and Charlie to explain it.”
(source: The Legend of Joe and Charlie)

The late “Charlie & Joe” were two men who met in 1973 and spent the next 30 years studying and trying to carry together the message first presented in our A.A. “Big Book”.  Either directly or indirectly, each and all of our NoNameYet A.A. members have benefited from many of their insights and thoughtful explanations shared during their world-wide “Big Book Comes Alive” seminars.  If you might be interested, here are links to some recordings of one of those seminars.  To read more about or to find similar recordings of these two Twelve-Steppers of yesteryear, maybe try this type of search.

Spared from twist and garble

“We wrote the book (“Alcoholics Anonymous“) to keep our message from becoming garbled and twisted beyond recognition.” – Bill W. and Dr. Bob in “A.A. Comes of Age“, page 144

“The Big Book is the practical exposition of the original of The Almighty, and our pages here are the practical exposition of the Big Book since all the information keeps getting ‘lost’ and having to be clarified once again.”– Sarah B.

We have said there is nothing about our NoNameYet Fellowship group making us much different than any other A.A. group, but we do realize our group actually is different than possibly most groups in today’s AA.  For example: You will never hear us suggest anything such as “Don’t drink, one-day-at-a-time”, and neither do we offer “support” for people trying to stay sober that way.  Instead, we share and suggest taking *all* of Step One (including our admission and acceptance of our being just as powerlessness over alcohol while sober as while drinking), and then we share and suggest also *taking* the remainder of the Steps as presented in our Basic Text in order to permanently recover rather than “working” them in one’s own seeming “self-help” or utilitarian kind of way. Some members of our group certainly did hear “Don’t drink” before coming into contact with us, then they began understanding the original A.A. is about giving up the fight — quit trying to quit — and simply taking the Steps to have our problem removed. If you might be someone who has repeatedly tried to “Don’t drink, one-day-at-a-time” (either with or without “support”) and still ended up drinking again every time, we hope the things we share here at our site will help you escape the twist and garble — read the book to know the difference — that is killing you one-drunk-at-a-time.