The Dick B. Interview February 24, 2013 on Christian Recovery Radio – with Emphasis on Why the Early A.A. “program,” “technique,” and “System” Are so Important and Applicable in the Recovery Scene Today
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You Can Hear Dick B.’s Talk on Christian Recovery Radio Right Now!
You may listen to Dick B. discussing how to apply early A.A. success today on the February 24, 2013, episode of the "Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B." show here:
Episodes of the "Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B." show are archived at:
Alcoholics and drug addicts today don't need a new therapeutic program. Nor a new treatment model. Nor criticism of a valuable society that has successfully relied on the power of God for recovery for decades.
The afflicted souls need teachers who will accurately inform them about what their predecessors did that was so unique and so astonishingly effective.
The ingredients we will discuss today are these: (1) How the first three AAs were healed without a Big Book, 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, drunkalogs, or meetings like those today. (2) How much the Bible basics that early AAs studied daily gave them reliable information on how to pray, what to read, what God expects, and what they were to do in obedience to His will. (3) Why the grounding of old-school ideas in the successes of Christian predecessors set the stage for their unique approach of acting FOR the alcoholic instead of against liquor, of insisting on abandonment of drinking of any kind, of turning to God for deliverance, and of turning their focus then to helping others get well by the same means.
This was the story of the Salvation Army, the Young Men’s Christian Association, Gospel Rescue Missions, Congregationalism, and Christian Endeavor.
Beginning there, we will briefly show you from history's own pages just what the old-timers did, just what their program required, just how much the help of God was utilized, and just how important giving help to others without pay or subsidy became as the hallmark of the A.A. victory story.
Subsequent Highlights of Dick B.’s A.A. History Points
These are the points our A.A. History itself makes
First, the idea of having one recovered or qualified Christian alcoholic helping others was commonplace long before A.A. Commonplace among the Great Evangelists, Dwight Moody, Ira Sankey, F. B. Meyer, Allen Folger, and others. Commonplace among Rescue Mission workers. Commonplace among Young Men’s Christian Association lay brethren. Commonplace in the Salvation Army. Commonplace among New England Congregationalists.
Second, our A.A. Cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob were steeped in such ideas and efforts—including the good news of salvation and the reliability of the Word of God. The ideas and practices were immersed in them in their Christian upbringing in Vermont. Such teachings were conveyed by parents and grandparents, Bible studies, prayer meetings, church, Sunday school, temperance and revival and conversion meetings, attendance at Congregational-dominated academies such as St. Johnsbury Academy, Burr and Burton Seminary, and Norwich Academy. At the academies, they attended required daily chapel (with sermons, Scripture reading, hymns, and prayers); prayer meetings, required church attendance, (in Bill’s case, a required four year Bible study course), and the activities of the Young Men’s Christian Association (of which Dr. Bob’s father was President in St. Johnsbury, Bill Wilson was President at Burr and Burton, Bill’s girl-friend Bertha Bamford was President at Burr and Burton, and YMCA activities abounded in churches, academies, and nearby buildings.
Third, early AAs were quick to keep recovery simple—from the very first and before they had developed an actual program for others. Thus, in his last major talk, Dr. Bob is quoted as follows on page 13 of The Cofounders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks:
In early A.A. days. . . our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of. When we started in on Bill D. [A.A. Number Three], we had no Twelve Steps, either; we had no Traditions.
But we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts that we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James.
We used to have daily meetings at a friend’s house.
As will be seen in a moment, the pioneers simply renounced liquor, sought recovery facts from the Bible and prayer, asked God’s help, and worked with others to help them get well.
Fourth, the big gap in their work was one which Bill foresaw when he was in Towns Hospital for the last time. He had been converted to God through Christ. He had then had a vital religious experience. He believed he had heard from the God of the Scriptures. He stopped doubting God. And he was cured. In fact, he said on page 191 of the 4th edition of the Big Book: The Lord has cured me. . . Bill also believed he had been commissioned by God to help all of the drunks in the world get well. He sallied forth from the hospital with a Bible under his arm, reached out to drunks in the streets and in flea bag hotels, told them to give their lives to God, and then told them how the Lord had cured him. But his efforts did not “gel.” And when Bill and Bob had brought the cure to A.A. Number Three, beginning in the summer of 1935, they worked until the wee hours of the morning studying and teaching and learning. And, upon succeeding with Bill D., they developed a successful program.
That program or technique is described in A.A.’s Conference-approved DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers as follows:
The next person mentioned in the Amos report was “Dr. Howard S—general practitioner at Cuyahoga Falls, aged about 35. S---had been an alcoholic and had been cured by Smith and his friends’ activities and the Christian technique prescribed. S--said that Smith stood at the top of his profession. He said Smith was the keystone of the alcoholic reform movement there. . . .
He [Frank Amos] noted, however, that when it came to recovery, they were all remarkably alike in the “technique used and the system followed.” He described the “Program” as stated below (pp. 129-30)
[Following his visit to Akron in February 1938, Frank Amos, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s agent, summarized the original Akron A.A. “Program” in seven points. Here are those points, as quoted in Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers: (New York, N.Y.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc, 1980), 131.
· An alcoholic must realize that he is an alcoholic, incurable from a medical viewpoint, and that he must never drink anything with alcohol in it.
· He must surrender himself absolutely to God, realizing that in himself there is no hope.
· Not only must he want to stop drinking permanently, he must remove from his life other sins such as hatred, adultery, and others which frequently accompany alcoholism. Unless he will do this absolutely, Smith and his associates refuse to work with him.
· He must have devotions every morning—a “quiet time” of prayer and some reading from the Bible and other religious literature. Unless this is faithfully followed, there is grave danger of backsliding.
· He must be willing to help other alcoholics get straightened out. This throws up a protective barrier and strengthens his own willpower and convictions.
· It is important, but not vital, that he meet frequently with other reformed alcoholics and form both a social and a religious comradeship.
· Important, but not vital, that he attend some religious service at least once weekly.
Fortunately, we now have precise documentation as to how these seven points were implemented and what the early A.A. Christian fellowship practiced. Details can be found in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers; the personal stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: The Original 1939 Edition With a New Introduction by Dick B.; Dick B. and Ken B., Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: God’s Role in Recovery Confirmed!; Stick with the Winners! How to Conduct More Effective12-Step Recovery Meetings Using Conference-Approved Literature: A Dick B. Guide for Christian Leaders and Workers in the Recovery Arena.
Fifth, probably the most important link that has now been established between early A.A.’s Christian Fellowship program and the new version of the program published by Bill W. in the First Edition with the Twelve Steps is this: The word “God” is still used dozens of times there and even today in the 4th edition of the Big Book. And the “Solution” published on page 25 of the current edition of the Big Book is quite consistent with early A.A. principles and practices. It states:
There is a solution. . . .
The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences [originally called “vital religious experiences” by Bill’s mentors—William James, Carl Jung, and Rev. Sam Shoemaker] which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.
Finally, then, we can say positively that you can apply all the points in this talk in your 12 Step recovery efforts today. They are totally consistent with and available to believers in God and His power and help, just as they were in A.A.’s old school beginnings.