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Alcoholics Anonymous

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Alcoholics Anonymous


The phrase 'early A.A.' refers to the early fellowships and meetings held in Akron, Ohio. These meetings took place between 1935 and 1939 when Alcoholics Anonymous was an integral part of 'A First Century Christian Fellowship' (Pitman 56). A.A. was the outcome of a meeting between Bill W., a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob S., an Akron surgeon. Both had been hopeless alcoholics (Fingarette 14).

Before this time, Bill and Dr. Bob had each been in contact with the Oxford Group, a mostly nonalcoholic fellowship that emphasized universal spiritual values in daily living(Fingarette 15). During this period, the noted episcopal clergyman, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker, headed the group. Under this spiritual influence, and with the help of an old time friend, Ebby T., Bill had gotten sober and had then maintained his recovery by working with other alcoholics, though none of there had actually recovered (Wekesser 23) . Meanwhile, Dr. Bob's Oxford Group membership at Akron had not helped him enough to achieve sobriety. When the doctor met Bill, he found himself face to face with a fellow sufferer who had made good (Pitman 62). Bill emphasized that alcoholism was a malady of mind, emotions and body. Though a physician, Dr. Bob had not known alcoholism to be a disease. Due to Bill's convincing ideas, he soon got sober, never to drink again. The founding spark of A.A. had been struck (Wekesser 26).

Both men immediately set to work with alcoholics at Akron's City Hospital, where one patient quickly achieved complete sobriety (Pitman 69). In the fall of 1935, a second group of alcoholics slowly took shape in New York. A third appeared at Cleveland in 1939. It had taken over four years to produce 100 sober alcoholics in the three founding groups. That same year, the Fellowship published it's basic textbook, Alcoholics Anonymous. The text, written by Bill, explained A.A.'s philosophy and methods, the core of which was the now well-known Twelve Steps to Recovery (Pitman 75 & 76). The book was reinforced by case histories of around thirty recovered members. From this point on, A.A's development was rapidly growing (Wekesser 36).

One milestone in A.A's history was in 1939. The Cleveland Plain Dealer carried a series of articles about A.A. supported by warm editorials. The Cleveland Group, with only 20 members, was covered in countless pleas for help. A few months later, Cleveland's membership had expanded to 500 (Fingarette 28). For the first time, it was shown that sobriety could be mass-produced.

Meanwhile, in New York, Dr. Bob and Bill had organized an over-all trusteeship for the growing Fellowship. All efforts to raise money failed. Nevertheless, the foundation managed to open a tiny office in New York to handle inquires and to distribute the A.A. book ( Fingarette 30). An article was carried by Liberty magazine in the fall of 1939, resulting in some 800 urgent calls for help. At the year's end, the membership stood at 2,000 (Pitman 83).

Then, in March of 1941, the Saturday Evening Post featured an excellent article about A.A. and the response was enormous (Pitman 84). By the close of that year, the membership had jumped to 6,000, and the number of groups multiplied in proportion. The Fellowship was spreading across the U.S. and Canada. By 1950, one hundred thousand recovered alcoholics could be found worldwide (Pitman 85). As spectacular as this was, the period of 1940-1950 was nonetheless one of great uncertainty (Wekesser 42). Could the mercurial alcoholics live and work together in groups? This was the unsolved problem. By 1946, however, it had already become possible to draw sound conclusions about the kind of attitude, practice and function that would best suit A.A.'s purpose (Fingarette 40). Bill codified those principles, which had emerged from the strenuous group experience, in what are today the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (Pitman 96). By 1950, the earlier chaos had largely disappeared. A successful formula for A.A. unity and functioning had been achieved and put into practice (Pitman 97).

Dr. Bob had devoted himself during this ten-year period to the question of hospital care for alcoholics, and to their indoctrination with A.A. principles (Wekesser 46) . Large numbers of alcoholics flocked to Akron to receive care at St. Thomas, a Catholic hospital. Dr. Bob became a member of its staff. He and Sister Ignatia cared for and brought A.A. to some 5,000 sufferers. After Dr. Bob's death in 1950, ...

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