Sunday, October 26, 2014

Have You Been Talked out of A.A.'s Cure for Alcoholism?

[An article written by Dick B.'s son, Ken]
Yes, the statement “We are not cured of alcoholism” does occur on page 85 of the fourth edition of Alcoholics Anonymous (“the Big Book”). Interestingly, a number of writers on A.A. history see that statement as an influence from Richard Peabody, a man about whom Bill W. himself had observed that he had died drunk.  

The question is, “How much do you, your sponsor, and/or today’s ‘old-timers’ know about early A.A. history and how the Big Book was written?”

For example, did you know that one of the earliest documents associated with the writing of the Big Book—a document Bill W. called on page 159 of the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age “a hastily drawn-up list of possible chapter headings” from which he “began to dictate rough drafts of the chapters of the coming book”—contained a page numbered “7” in the upper right-hand corner and labeled “Title Page” which stated in part: “. . . a foundation for promotion of cure and understanding of alcoholism.” A.A.’s primary attraction in its earliest days was that it offered a cure for alcoholism to alcoholics who had been declared “medically incurable” by medical doctors. As A.A. cofounder Bill W. said of his “old school friend” from Burr and Burton Seminary days, Ebby T.: “Doctors had pronounced him incurable.” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 11]

In fact, in strong contrast to the statement from page 85 quoted above, there are seven (7) occurrences of the word "cure" used in a positive sense of the cure of alcoholism on pages 1-192 of the current (fourth, 2001) edition of the Big Book. Here they are in rough historical order:

1.      A.A. cofounder and medical doctor Dr. Bob stated about his first meeting(s) with A.A. cofounder Bill W. in May/June 1935: “But this was a man [i.e., Bill W.] who had experienced many years of frightful drinking, who had had most all of the drunkard’s experiences known to man, but who had been cured by the very means I had been trying to employ, that is to say the spiritual approach.” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 180].

2.      A.A. cofounder Bill W. speaking of A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob as Bill and Bob were trying to find another alcoholic to help (who turned out to be “AA Number Three,” Akron attorney Bill D.) in late June 1935: “Straightway, Bob called Akron’s City Hospital and asked for the nurse on the receiving ward. He explained that he and a man from New York had a cure for alcoholism. Did she have an alcoholic customer on whom it might be tried?” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 188].

3.      AA Number Three, Akron attorney Bill D., speaking of A.A. cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob when they were about to visit Bill D. for the first time in late June 1935: “All the other people who had talked to me wanted to help me, and my pride prevented me from listening to them and caused only resentment on my part, but I felt as if I would be a real stinker if I did not listen to a couple of fellows for a short time, if that would cure them.” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 185].

4.      A.A. cofounder Bill W., speaking to the wife of “AA Number Three,” Akron attorney Bill D., “a week or two after” Bill D. “had come out of the hospital” (which he did on July 4, 1935): “Bill [W.] looked across at my wife and said to her, ‘Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 191].

5.      “AA Number Three,” Akron attorney Bill D., stated concerning Bill W.’s declaration to Bill D.’s wife Henrietta that the Lord had cured Bill W. of his alcoholism “a week or two after” July 4, 1935: “I thought, I think I have the answer. Bill was very, very grateful that he had been released from this terrible thing [i.e., his alcoholism] and he had given God the credit for having done it, and he’s so grateful about it he wants to tell other people about it. That sentence, ‘The Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep telling people about it,’ has been a sort of a golden text for the A.A. program and for me.” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 191].

6.      “Another feeling we [i.e., wives of alcoholics] are very likely to entertain is one of resentment that love and loyalty could not cure our husbands of alcoholism. We do not like the thought that the contents of a book or the work of another alcoholic has accomplished in a few weeks that for which we struggled for years.” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 118].

7.      “Though he is now a most effective member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he still smokes and drinks coffee, but neither his wife nor anyone else stands in judgment. She sees she was wrong to make a burning issue out of such a matter when his more serious ailments were being rapidly cured.” [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 135].

By September/October 1938, Bill W. had apparently only completed chapters one and two of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill’s wife Lois stated in her autobiography that Bill had only begun to write the book in May 1938 [Lois Remembers, 111]. In May-July 1935, A.A. cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob, together with “AA Number Three” Bill D., were talking about a “cure for alcoholism,” with Bill W. saying that “the Lord” had cured him (Bill W.) of his (Bill W.’s) alcoholism. And when Bill W. started writing the first two chapters of the Big Book in May 1938, he and his partner Hank P. were (still) talking about “a foundation for promotion of cure and understanding of alcoholism.” And yet, when Bill W. finally got to writing chapter six in the Big Book, “Into Action,” apparently around late 1938—more than three years after the many positive statements about the cure of alcoholism were made in May-July 1935—we find on page 85 the statement “We are not cured of alcoholism.” A statement which directly contradicted Bill W.’s own declaration to Bill D.’s wife in mid-July 1935 that “the Lord” had cured Bill W. of Bill W.’s alcoholism.

Seven positive statements about the cure of alcoholism on pages 1-192 of the fourth edition of the Big Book. One negative statement that has been latched onto by AAs far and wide.

Did Bill W. change his story about the cure of alcoholism?

Please "pass it on."

In GOD's love,
Dick B.'s son, Ken:)

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