A.A. and AA.’s Own Talent
Let’s Get Our Speakers, Sponsors, Historians, and Archivists Producing

By Dick B.
Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved

Put A.A. and 12 Step Speakers, Sponsors, and Historians to Work! Now.
Look at the Talent Before You Right Now!

Right now, take a look at the speakers, sponsors, historians, archivists, and secretaries you know or have known in your Alcoholics Anonymous (“A.A.”) or other 12-Step Fellowship. I’ve been involved with hundreds of them, and you may have been too. Many are talented, experienced, and articulate speakers and, in fact, good instructors. They are also caring, loving, giving people. But what are you hearing from them today?

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of women and men in the recovery movement who have never studied A.A.’s basic text or learned how to take people through the Twelve Steps in accordance with the instructions in Alcoholics Anonymous (also known as “the Big Book”). There are far more who haven’t a clue about A.A.’s history and roots, and haven’t any idea where the recovery program got its ideas. And many of these have never opened an A.A. history book, been to an A.A. history conference, or even cared to learn our history.


Generally speaking, it’s because many have previously had no resources to work with or with which they cared to work. Sometimes because they just don’t care. Or because they think their hearers won’t laugh, cry, applaud, or want to listen if they use those resources to help others. Or often because most resources will not serve the required purpose.

What are their resources? The Big Book contains virtually no history. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions contains virtually no history. A.A. General Service Conference-approved pamphlets by the dozen tell you nothing significant about history. And the two or three significant A.A. history books either omit the details, omit entire segments of history, or focus on what the writers think or thought AAs should hear, rather than on what actually occurred. And are treatment programs, conferences, and workshops any different?

Ask yourself how much you heard about history in a treatment program or rehab. Are sponsors any different? Ask yourself how much your sponsor talked to you about A.A. history. Are certification courses and facilities teaching even the rudiments of history or the techniques by which the early pioneers sought God and were healed? Ask someone who is certified. Ask them about history, and watch them go blank.

Then there are the “history” books currently proliferating outside the fellowships. Do they talk about God? Do they talk about the Bible? Do they mention Jesus Christ? Do they talk about the literature early AAs read? Do they detail the contributions of such major A.A. influences as Anne Ripley Smith and her journal, the books and teachings of Rev. Sam Shoemaker, the life-changing program of “A First Century Christian Fellowship” (also known as “the Oxford Group”) which underlies the Steps, the devotionals which were a major part of Quiet Time, and even the Bible itself? For it was quite clear that the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and 1 Corinthians 13 were considered absolutely essential to the early program. But how often have you ever heard them read, discussed, or studied in your program or by your conferences or by your sponsor or by any counselor you’ve encountered?

Would talented speakers, sponsors, and counselors revolt if challenged?

Dr. Bob never let a pigeon loose from the hospital without asking him if he believed in God. Then he insisted they get out of bed and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In the little-known interview of Dr. Bob on pages 84-88 of the September 1939 issue of Your Faith magazine titled “I Saw Religion Remake A Drunkard” by D.J. Defoe, Dr. Bob told how he read the Bible with each hospitalized newcomer. Have you ever put that historical set of facts to, and asked about them to, a potential speaker, sponsor, or treatment facilitator?

According to page 144 of the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (New York, N.Y.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980), when asked a question about the program, Dr. Bob usually replied: “What does it say in the Good Book?” Have you ever called that fact to the attention of those we mention?

Page 53 of the current (fourth) edition of the Big Book (2001) states clearly that “God either is, or He isn’t.” Have you ever asked a speaker or instructor if he agrees?

According to the “‘Get Honest with Yourself, Pray,’ Alcoholics Anonymous Advise” article found on page 17 of the Friday, March 26, 1948, issue of The Tidings, Bill W. and Dr. Bob spoke at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles before thousands of AAs and their families. Bill commented on the “religious element” of A.A. and the need for “Divine Aid.” Have you ever inquired about these?

Page 29 of the fourth edition of the Big Book states: “Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in his own language and from his own point of view the way he established his relationship with God.” Have you ever asked a speaker or instructor to do likewise?

According to the March 26, 1948, article in The Tidings cited above, when it was A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob’s turn to speak at the Shrine Auditorium, the entire audience rose in tribute to him. And he succinctly suggested that all “cultivate the habit of prayer” and “study the Bible.” Have you ever asked your teachers about that one? Or if they have ever even heard or talked about the fact?

We now know that A.A.’s many roots included the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor, the great Evangelists like Moody and Sankey, the Salvation Army, the Rescue Missions, “A First Century Christian Fellowship” (the Oxford Group), and the Young Men’s Christian Association. Have you ever asked that these be explained to you? The 12 Step roots included Dr. Carl Jung’s views on “conversion,” and Professor William James’s views on the variety of conversion experiences he’d studied. Do your instructors talk about these? Dr. William D. Silkworth told A.A. cofounder Bill W. on his third visit to Towns Hospital in September 1934—as well as his other patients—that Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, could cure them of their alcoholism? Have you ever heard that? Have you ever had the Four Absolutes, the Five C’s, Quiet Time, and Conversion explained to you in terms of their A.A. significance? They represent the heart of what Bill codified in the Big Book and Steps from the Oxford Group.

What a Speaker Can Be and Do

The so-called Conference and “circuit” speakers that are entertaining and dynamic attract crowds. How many people have rushed to hear Clancy I., Gene Duffy, June G., Eve, Poor Richard, Geraldine D., Frank Mauser, Earl Husband, Joe McQ., Charlie P., Father Martin, and dozens of others—because these men and women are entertaining and dynamic. I’ve heard them all, and I’ve been entertained. They’ve made me laugh, and laughter is either “the best medicine” or a great help. They’ve made me cry, and emotion is part of needed enthusiasm. They’ve made me admire what they’ve done and what they’ve become. But how many times have you or I heard them talk about the early A.A. fellowship and what worked?

Can they? Could they? Will they? Would you have the courage to ask them?

We’re big in A.A. on “love and service.” We claim our “code” is “love and tolerance.” We even insist that our “leaders” are but trusted servants. And in fact, all speakers, sponsors, and counselors are “but trusted servants.” And what do trusted servants do? I’d like to think they do what they are told! But nobody tells these speakers or the “staff” at World Services or the editors of the AA Grapevine what to say—at least not you or me. Why?

The “servants” are beyond the reach of the masters, and their instructors are long dead and gone. They are peopled or persuaded by professionals, universalists, revisionists, and timid unbelievers. The servants clearly dote on pleasing everyone. If they write a piece of literature like a Daily Reflections, they’d rather get 365 different views from 365 alcoholics, one for each day, than to select from the hundreds of pieces of biblical, prayer, meditation, Quiet Time, and Christian literature which were part and parcel of early A.A.

How Long Will You Wait?

We’ve reached the point in Twelve Step history where there are few, if any, who have ever met, talked to, or learned directly from Bill W., Dr. Bob, Anne Smith, Henrietta Seiberling, Sam Shoemaker, Dr. Silkworth, or even A.A. Number Three—Bill D. Speakers cannot speak from experience about these people. But they can learn! And why not tell them you are concerned!

Speakers could, if they cared to, spend the same amount of time looking into A.A. history resources that Joe McQ. and Charlie P. spent in studying the Big Book so that they could explain it and teach it to our members all over the world. And now even these servants are gone or are playing “the last quarter of the game,” as Charlie P. put it to me before he died.

Instead of bemoaning the absence of “old timers” or “elder statesmen” or “people who knew or were sponsored by Dr. Bob or Clarence S.” or those archivists who have studied and know the archives, why not bring up a new crop? Would you rather listen to Eli Whitney tell you how he invented the cotton gin, or would you find it more instructive if a football star told you how he and his team won the Super Bowl?

Look at the Early Teachers

Our founders were humble. Our founders were students. Our founders were ever on a quest to learn more. Our founders believed in God. Our founders read the Bible. Our founders read all kinds of religious literature. Our founders put their learning to use in directly working to help others with what they had found. Dr. Bob read the Bible three times to refresh his memory before helping others with Bible materials. He circulated the Christian literature he read. Anne Smith was in the trenches, reading her Bible, suggesting literature, and teaching from her personal journal. So was Henrietta Seiberling. So were Mr. and Mrs. T. Henry Williams. And so was Bill until he got hung up with depressions shortly after he published the Big Book. Bill’s spiritual mentor, Rev. Sam Shoemaker, never stopped writing, preaching, and teaching. And these, plus Dr. Silkworth, were the people who handed us the most information.

And What about You!

Are you willing to look for speakers, sponsors, and programs that will provide you and others who need help with a full platter of information? Are you willing to read whatever you need to read to learn what you’ve been missing? Are you willing to organize meetings, fellowships, seminars, and conferences that will tell others our history? Are you willing to pass along what you learn? Are you willing to stand up and be counted when someone asks if you believe in God, if you believe in the importance of the Bible to AAs, if Jesus Christ has any place in your heart, and if you attend a church or Bible fellowship or Christian study group?

Are you willing to be a student, a researcher, a learner, a speaker, a teacher, an organizer, and a supporter of the quest to learn the truth and carry it to others in order to help them recover, get well, and be cured?

Wouldn’t you rather promote and pass on information about the program Frank Amos described when he told of the seven-point program in Akron that had produced such astonishing results? It’s all right there for you to see in A.A.’s own DR. BOB and the Oldtimers on page 131. You don’t even have to go to the bookstore or library. Surprise! You can study the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 by buying a used Bible and reading it as you can see the early AAs did in A.A.’s own pamphlet, The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. You don’t even have to go to church or to your rabbi, minister, or priest. Although it could be very helpful!

If you don’t want to be one who does or leads, are you willing to support those who do? Do you realize that in the World Services offices of A.A. itself there are scrap books that contain hundreds of newspaper clippings and articles that tell of the cures early AAs claimed they had received at the hands of their Creator? Have you thought of ordering, reading, or donating one where it will actually help someone? Are you circulating The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlet where Bill W. and Dr. Bob told bits of our history in their last major talks?

And, if you found great joy in learning what the Big Book was all about and how to take the Twelve Steps properly, are you willing to start or join a group that does this and studies history as well?

The Bottom Line

Have you helped a drunk today? Do you belong to a group that really carries out its primary purpose of helping the alcoholic who still suffers? Do you vote with your feet when you hear a speaker, a sponsor, or a counselor who talks about “higher powers,” about that strange “spirituality,” about the meetings he attends, about how much he drank, about how much trouble he had, and yet who never mentions whether or not he established a relationship with God and has had something more than a dry drunk or a passive sedentary position in his life?

Think about it. Think how much you can help others if you are able to tell them what God has done for you, what God did for the pioneers, and how they learned about Him from the Good Book!

Dick B., PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837; DickB@DickB.com; www.DickB.com; http://drbob.info; (808) 874-4876

Gloria Deo

Author's Bio: 

Dick B. is a writer, historian, retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active recovered AA member with more than 26 years of continuous sobriety. He has published 44 books and over 1000 articles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and of the Christian Recovery Movement