The History of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps is, in one sense, more valuable than ever. As folks pour into and out of A.A. through court orders, probation officers, treatment programs, counselors, detox, sober living there is a new population; and the old timers who knew where they came from are few and far between today.
Why important? Because the foundations of A.A. were laid 75 years before its founding. They were laid by the Salvation Army, the YMCA lay brethren, the Rescue Missions, Evangelists, the Young People’s Christian Endeavor Society and later the Oxford Group. They were amplified by the Christian upbringing of the cofounders Dr. Bob and Bill W. as youngsters in Vermont. The basic ideas were quire simple. If alcoholics decided to quit drinking permanently, “find God” through Jesus Christ and study of the Bible they could be cured. The next step was to help others get straightened out the same way.
The successes were astonishing. Documented 75% success rate in Akron, and then a 93% success rate in Cleveland which adopted the Bible ideas, the practical program of action of the Oxford Group, the Big Book, and the Steps. They were taught specifically in Cleveland just where the roots of A.A. had come from. And, as Bill Wilson put it early on, “The Lord has cured me of this terrible disease and I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.”
But the entire picture changed in 1939 when atheists and agnostics were placated by the introduction of some strange new names for “a” god–not Almighty God, the Creator, the Maker, the Heavenly Father upon Whom the founders had relied.
Then the major leader of the early Christian fellowship (Dr. Robert H. Smith of Akron) died. And his surviving cofounder wrote books that began to talk about a “higher power” with one even stating your higher power could be the A.A. group itself. As time went on, as treatment centers promoted A.A., the Twelve Steps superseded the power of God in the eyes of many members. That change was pronounced as more and more atheists and people of non-Christian religions or just plain unbelievers began to talk their way into a newer program that neither came from Akron or from the Big Book. In substance, it came from “the wisdom of the rooms.”
The importance of the total history is that it shows how the priceless views and successes of early A.A. can still be applied successfully in today’s 12 Step Fellowship by those who want God’s help and learn that this power was the real power behind Alcoholics Anonymous. http://www.dickb.com/realhistory.shtml.