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How it worked
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How It Worked
Abstinence was Number One.
Usually there was hospitalization or at least medical help to save the newcomer's life.
At the hospital, the only reading material allowed in the room was the Bible.
Recovered Alcoholics Anonymous drunks visited the patient and told their success stories.
Dr. Bob visited daily. And he would explain the “disease” or “illness,” as it was then
understood. The newcomer had to identify as an alcoholic, admit that he too was licked,
and declare that he would do whatever it took to recover.
Reliance on the Creator was Number Two.
DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers records on page 144 the statement of
Clarence S. (who brought A.A. to Cleveland) as to how A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob
talked with him about God while he (Clarence) was still in the hospital:
“Then he [Dr. Bob] asked, ‘Do you believe in God, young fella?’ (He always called me ‘young
fella.’ When he called me Clarence, I knew I was in trouble.)
“‘What does that have to do with it?’
“‘Everything,’ he said.
“‘I guess I do.’
“‘Guess, nothing! Either you do or you don’t.’
“‘Yes, I do.’
“‘That’s fine,’ Dr. Bob replied. ‘Now we’re getting someplace. All right, get out of bed and on
your knees. We’re going to pray.’
“‘I don’t know how to pray.’
“‘I guess you don’t, but that’s all right. Just follow what I say, and that will do for now.
“‘I did what I was ordered to do,” Clarence said. “There was no suggestion.”
The Alcoholics Anonymous newcomer would very soon be given the opportunity
to “surrender” upstairs in the home of an Akron AA.
This “surrender” involved the newcomer’s confessing Jesus Christ as his personal
Lord and Savior in a prayer session resembling what is described in James 5:14-16.
(This confession of Christ by which the newcomer became born again has been confirmed
as a “must” by four different and well-known A.A. old-timers—J. D. Holmes, Clarence Snyder,
Larry Bauer, and Ed Andy.)
At the time of the newcomer’s “surrender,” the "elders" (usually Dr. Bob, T. Henry Williams,
and one other person) prayed with the newcomer that God would take alcohol out of
his life, and joined him in asking God that he (God) would guide the newcomer
so that he might live according to God's will.
Obedience to God’s will was Number Three.
Successful Alcoholics Anonymous members in Akron during the early years were expected
to walk in love and to eliminate sinful conduct from their lives.
Many newcomers were too sick to venture far from Akron; so they lived with
the Smiths (and later others) in Akron homes.
Early A.A. members who recovered from alcoholism with the help of Dr. Bob and other
Akron AAs did not do so in an afternoon or in four easy lessons.
They shook. They shivered. They fidgeted. They forgot.
They were ashamed, insecure, and guilt-ridden. But they learned from the Good Book
what a loving God had made available to them and that obedience to God’s will was
the key to receiving it.
Growth in Fellowship with their Heavenly Father was Number Four.
At the homes in Akron, AAs had daily Quiet Time.
This included Bible study, prayer, asking guidance from God, reading a devotional,
and discussing selections from Anne Smith’s journal.
They shared their woes and problems with Dr. Bob, with Anne (his wife), and with
Henrietta Seiberling. They also had personal Quiet Times at their homes and elsewhere
when they were not together with other AAs.
Alcoholics Anonymous members had one meeting a week.
There were no “drunkalogs.” There was no “whining.” There was no “psychobabble.”
They prayed, read from the Bible, and had Quiet Time.
They used The Upper Room or similar devotionals for discussion.
Intensive help for other alcoholics was the Fifth element.
Following the surrender of newcomers upstairs at the weekly meetings,
announcements were made downstairs about Alcoholics Anonymous newcomers
who had been placed at hospitals.
Religious comradeship and attendance at a church of choice were the two recommended,
but not required, elements of the Akron program.
Socializing followed an A.A. meeting. And it started all over again.
There were sessions with Dr. Bob involving doing a moral inventory (which related to
adhering to the Four Absolutes—honest, purity, unselfishness, and love), confession,
prayer to have the sins removed, and plans for restitution.
What Happened? Did the Akron program work? You bet it did.
Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron achieved a documented, 75% success rate among the
"seemingly-hopeless," “medically-incurable” alcoholics who really tried.
That success was primarily among Akron A.A. members.
And the fact that they had been cured by the power of God was widely publicized
across America. Soon, Dr. Bob’s sponsee, Clarence S., brought the Akron program to
Cleveland and achieved a documented, 93% success rate in Cleveland.
The same God (the Creator of the heavens and the earth), the same Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ (the Son of the living God), and the same Bible (the Word of God) that helped
early AAs in Akron and Cleveland recover from and be cured of alcoholism are still available
today to help alcoholics and others suffering with “life-controlling” problems.
The principles and practices of the early A.A. program in Akron and Cleveland were very
similar to the basic principles that had also been working in the Salvation Army,
the Rescue Missions, the YMCA, and Christian Endeavor.
And they can and should be made available again today to those who still suffer.
And It Will Work Today!
Alcoholics Anonymous is certainly no longer a Christian fellowship (as it was in Akron);
nor does it any longer require belief in God or even in anything at all.
But, for those who do believe that the Creator of the heavens and the earth still can,
and wants to, heal those suffering today, an accurate knowledge of A.A. history can help.
That knowledge is vital too if the healing power of God is to be passed along to those in
Alcoholics Anonymous who want it and who choose to receive it.
As future A.A. nonalcoholic trustee Frank Amos reported to John D. Rockefeller, Jr.,
the early Akron A.A. program took abstinence, God, Jesus Christ, the Bible,
a life-change decision, living consistent with that decision, witnessing to others,
fellowship with others, and time--lots of it. It was that simple.
There were no “Steps,” and there was no “textbook.”
The early AAs in Akron had Bibles.
They had several Oxford Group precepts.
They abstained from drinking and worked hard to avoid temptation.
They relied on the Creator and His Son Jesus Christ.
They endeavored to obey to God’s will—both through eliminating sin and by living a life
of love and service.
They sought to grow in fellowship with the Father, with His Son Jesus Christ,
and with each other through Bible study, prayer, asking God for wisdom,
and studying devotionals and other Christian literature.
That was the program that Bill W., Dr. Bob and his wife Anne, and the other early
A.A. pioneers founded in Akron during the summer of 1935. And the principles of that
program can still help, and are helping, those still suffering today.
As Dr. Bob—whom A.A. cofounder Bill W. called “the prince of all twelfth steppers”
because he had personally helped more than 5,000 alcoholics to recover—stated in the
last line of his personal story on page 181 of the Fourth Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!