Alcoholics Anonymous & History of AA

 Last updated:
May 01, 2012

Alcoholics Anonymous History
The Twelve Steps and Alcoholics Anonymous – Step One Study

The Twelve Steps and Alcoholics Anonymous – Step One Study

Dick B.

Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved

Here’s what AA Cofounder Bill Wilson said about Step One

“Our recovery Step One reads thus: ‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.’ This simply means that all of us have to hit bottom and hit hard and lastingly. But we can seldom make this sweeping admission of personal hopelessness until we fully realize that alcoholism is a grievous and often fatal malady of the mind and body—an obsession that condemns us to drink joined to a physical allergy that condemns us to madness or death.

“So, then, how did we first learn that alcoholism is such a fearful sickness as this? Who gave us this priceless piece of information on which the effectiveness of Step One of our program so much depends? Well, it came from my own doctor, ‘the little doctor who loved drunks,’ William Duncan Silkworth. More than twenty-five years ago at Towns Hospital, New York, he told Lois [Bill Wilson’s wife] and me what the disease of alcoholism actually is.” The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings, page 297.

Here’s what Rev. Sam Shoemaker, the man Bill Wilson called a “cofounder of A.A.” said

“The reason so many people in A.A. give thanks that they are alcoholics is that the problem of living, and the failure to meet life successfully, is singled down for them to the problem of alcohol. It is definite and specific. This is exactly what Christianity has taught from the beginning, not only about a problem like alcoholism, but about the whole range of human defeat: that the old clichés like ‘exerting more will power’ are utterly impractical. We are just as powerless by ourselves over temper, or a bad tongue, or a moody disposition, or a habit of lust, or a hard and critical spirit. It is only pride and lack of insight into ourselves that would keep anyone from saying, ‘our lives have become unmanageable.’ This is the first step, not only towards sobriety, but towards self-understanding and the knowledge of life.” Bill Pittman and Dick B., Courage to Change: The Christian Roots of the Twelve-Step Movement, pages 208-09.

In his usual short and pithy language, A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob said

“’The first one will get you.’ According to John R., he kept repeating that.” DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 227.

“. . . Dr. Bob advocated that members stay in dry places whenever possible. ‘You don’t ask the Lord not to lead you into temptation, then turn around and walk right into it,’ he said.” DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 281.

“Nobody pushed you into that bar. You walked in there, and you ordered that drink, and naturally, you drank it. So don’t tell me you don’t know how you got there.” DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 274.

Bill Wilson called Dr. Bob’s Wife “The Mother of A.A.,” and she said

“Surrender is a simple act of will. What do we surrender? Our life. When? At a certain definite moment. How? ‘Oh God, manage me because I cannot manage myself.’” Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939, page 21.

“Paul speaks of a wish toward good, but power to carry it out is lacking. A stronger power than his was needed. God provided that power through Christ, so that we could find a new kind of relationship with God. Christ gives the power, we appropriate it. It is not anything that we do ourselves, but it is the appropriation of a power that comes from God that saves us from sin and sets us free.” Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal, page 22

Early AAs often said

“We admitted that we were licked, that we were powerless over alcohol.” Dick B., Twelve Steps For You: Take the Twelve Steps with the Big Book, A.A. History, and the Good Book at Your Side, page 33; Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, page 160.

One Personal Story in the First Edition of the Big Book quoted the Bible and said:

“One morning, after a sleepless night worrying over what I could do to straighten myself out, I went to my room alone—took my Bible in hand and asked Him, the One Power, that I might  open to a good place to read—and I read ‘For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death.’

That was enough for me—I started to understand. Here were the words of Paul, a great teacher. When then if I had slipped? Now, I could understand.

From that day I gave and still give and always will, time every day to read the word of God and let Him do all the caring. Who am I to try to run myself or anyone else?” Alcoholics Anonymous, 1st ed. 1939, page 347. [See Romans 7:22-25].;

Gloria Deo


Dick B.'s son Ken
P.O. Box 262
Kihei, Hawaii
Tel.: (808) 276-4945

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