By Ken B.
© 2015 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Yes, the statement “We are not cured of alcoholism” does occur on page 85 of the fourth edition of Alcoholics Anonymous (“the Big Book”). The question I pose here is, “How did that negative assertion makes its way into the Big Book?”
According to hospital records, A.A. cofounder Bill W.’s third stay at Towns Hospital in New York for treatment for alcoholism, under the care of Dr. William D. Silkworth, occurred in September 1934. Silkworth’s biographer states:
During his third visit to Towns Hospital, Bill had a discussion with Dr. Silkworth on the subject of the “Great Physician.”
Bill W. accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at Calvary Mission about December 7, 1934. Over the next several days after having gone to Calvary Mission, and before he decided to return to Towns Hospital for treatment of alcoholism on December 11, Bill thought back on his experience at the mission. He stated: “. . . I had seen some kind of light, and . . . I kept pondering that mission experience.” He also stated:
On the morning of the third day [after having gone to Calvary Mission,] my wandering thoughts gathered into a sharp focus. . . . [I]f there was a great Physician who could cure the alcoholic sickness, I had better seek Him now, at once. I had better find what my friend had found. (emphasis in original).
And around December 14, 1934, while Bill was in Towns Hospital for his fourth and final stay there, he stated:
The terrifying darkness was complete. . . . But what of the Great Physician? . . . I remember saying to myself, “I’ll do anything, anything at all. If there be a Great Physician, I’ll call on him.”
Silkworth’s biographer states that Bill, in his references to the “Great Physician” quoted above, was “. . . referring to his prior discussions with Silkworth.”
Between the spring and winter of 1938, Hank P.—Bill W.’s A.A. “sponsee” and business partner—prepared a 12-page, handwritten, rough draft of what appears to a book proposal for the Big Book. The page numbered “7” in the upper right-hand corner reads:
Alcoholics Anonymous, Inc.
A NON PROFIT organization
for the promotion of
cure and understanding
Profits accruing from sale
of this book will be administered
by a foundation for promotion
of cure and understanding
of alcoholism. Members of
this foundation . . .”
Post Box . . .
x x x x x x x x x x 
Note the repetition of the phrase “. . . promotion of cure . . . of alcoholism.”
Later, a 14-page, typewritten “prospectus” proposing the formation of “THE ONE HUNDRED MEN CORPORATION” for the purpose of publishing a book titled “One Hundred Men” was produced. (The title of the book later became Alcoholics Anonymous.) The page titled “The Present Program” stated:
An understanding of the nature of the disease and its cure must be mastered by wives, relatives and employers of alcoholics. A definite program of attitude and action should be offered every-one concerned.
Note the reference to “. . . the disease [of alcoholism] and its cure . . .”
A.A.’s primary attraction in its earliest days was that it offered a cure for alcoholism to alcoholics who had been declared “incurable” by medical doctors. In fact, in strong contrast to the single statement from page 85 of the Big Book 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.”
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?”
3. AA Number Three, Akron attorney Bill D., speaking of A.A. cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob when they were about to visit him 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.”
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.’”
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.”
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.”
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.”
In the May-through-July-1935 time period, A.A. cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob, together with “AA Number Three” Bill D., were talking about a “cure for alcoholism.” At that time, Bill W. said that “the Lord” had cured him (Bill W.) of his (Bill W.’s) alcoholism, hearkening back to his earlier conversations with Dr. Silkworth about the “Great Physician” (Jesus Christ). Bill’s wife Lois stated in her autobiography that Bill had only begun to write the Big Book in May 1938. And when Hank prepared the handwritten “book proposal” for the Big Book; and when he and Bill prepared the later prospectus for “The 100 Men Corporation”; they were (still) talking about “a foundation for promotion of cure and understanding of alcoholism,” and “an understanding of the nature of the disease [of alcoholism] and its cure.” And yet, when Bill W. finally got around 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 had been 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?
The following resources published by A.A. World Services, Inc., contain reproductions of hundreds of newspaper articles from 1939-1944, many of which include uses of the word “cure” to describe the victories of A.A.’s pioneers over alcoholism:
(M-42) Archives Scrapbook 1939-1942 **
Offset reproduction of newspaper clippings about A.A. 18 ½” x 16 ½” [$75.00]
** This item is not in the 2011-2012 catalog; it may now be out of print. [original publication date: 1985?]
(M-66) Archives Scrapbook 1943
Offset reproduction of newspaper clippings about A.A. 18 ½” x 16 ½” [$65.00]
[Publisher: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Incorporated, 1996;
ISBN: 0916856909; 9780916856908.]
(M-69) Archives Scrapbook 1944
Offset reproduction of newspaper clippings about A.A. 18 ½” x 16 ½” [$65.00]
[Publisher: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Incorporated, 2003;
ISBN: 1893007332; 9781893007338.]
[“M-66” and “M-69” are found in the “2013 Conference-Approved Literature & Other A.A. Material” literature catalog. “M-42” was listed in one or more earlier A.A. literature catalogs and may now be out of print.]
The following article in the Box 459 publication discusses the “Archives Scrapbooks” above:
“News Clippings Open Window on A.A.’s Early Years,” Box 459: News and Notes from the General Service Office of A.A., Vol. 49, No. 6 / HOLIDAY ISSUE 2003, 6-7.
For more information on the use of the word “cured” by early AAs, see also:
Richard K., So You Think Drunks Can’t Be Cured? Press Releases by Witnesses to the Cure (Haverhill, MA: Golden Text Publishing Company, 2003)
Please "pass it on."
In GOD's love,
Dick B.'s son, Ken
 See “four times” in footnote, 26, in “Notes to pages 14-16,” in Ernest Kurtz, Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 1979), 254: “The hospital records, except for photostats of Bill’s final two admissions in September and December 1934 have been lost.”
 Dale Mitchel, Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 2002), 44.
 See: (a) Bill W., My First 40 Years (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 2000), 136-37; (b) Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1957), 59-60; and (c) ‘Pass It On’ (New York, N.Y.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984), 116-19.
 Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1957), 61.
 Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, 61. In his autobiography, Bill’s statement is worded as follows: “. . . [I]f there was any great physician that could cure the alcohol sickness, I’d better seek him now, at once. I’d better find what my friend [Ebby] had found.”
 Bill W., My First 40 Years, 145.
 Mitchel, Silkworth, 47.
 In “The Doctor’s Opinion” chapter in Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. William D. Silkworth stated: “. . . [A]mong physicians, the general opinion seems to be that most chronic alcoholics are doomed.” Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., xxx.
 Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 180.
 Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 188.
 Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 185.
 Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 191.
 Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 118.
 Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 135.
 Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 191.
 Lois Remembers (New York: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1979), 111.
 http://library.brown.edu/find/Record/b2774148/Details; accessed 2/28/13.