Applying “Old School” A.A. in Today’s 12-Step Fellowships

What the First, Original, Akron A.A. Program Was and Did

The way the first three AAs-Bill W., Dr. Bob, Bill D.-got sober before there was a “Big Book.” See The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010, pp. 57-59.

    1. There were no Steps;

    2. There were no Traditions;

    3. There was no “Big Book”;

    4. There were no “drunkalogs” (of the kind seen today); and

    5. There were no meetings (of the kinds seen today).

Instead, each of the first three AAs:

    1. believed in God;

    2. was a Christian;

    3. asked God for deliverance; and

    4. received the requested deliverance from God.

The Summary by Frank Amos, Published in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 131.

    1. 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.

    2. He must surrender himself absolutely to God, realizing that in himself there is no hope.

    3. 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.

    4. 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

    5. He must be willing to help other alcoholics get straightened out. This throws up a protective barrier and strengthens his own willpower and convictions.

    6. It is important, but not vital, that he meet frequently with other reformed alcoholics and form both a social and a religious comradeship.

    7. Important, but not vital, that he attend some religious service at least once weekly.

The fourteen practices of the Akron pioneers, as identified by Dick B. and discussed in The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010, pp. 54-57.

    1. They qualified the newcomer;

    2. They hospitalized the newcomer;

    3. They required of the newcomer belief in God and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior;

    4. They sent the newcomer out of the hospital with a Bible and instructions to “go out and fix drunks as an avocation”;

    5. Most newcomers lived in the residences of recovered Akron pioneers after their initial hospitalization;

    6. The pioneers held and the newcomers participated in Christian fellowship meetings every day;

    7. Dr. Bob’s wife, Anne, led a morning “Quiet Time” at the Smith Home;

    8. The pioneers and the newcomers participated in a “regular” Oxford Group meeting each Wednesday which included a “real surrender” upstairs for the newcomers;

    9. The pioneers and the newcomers did extensive reading of Christian devotionals and other Christian literature;

    10. The pioneers and the newcomers stressed the study of the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible;

    11. The pioneers reached out to newcomers and encouraged the newcomers who had been released from the hospital to do the same;

    12. The pioneers and the newcomers frequently socialized in each other’s homes;

    13. The pioneers knew each other well, visited each other, phoned each other (when they had phones), and kept address books; and

    14. The pioneers maintained rosters containing the names, addresses, sobriety dates, relapse date(s), and successes of the fellowship members.

The spiritual resources used in the original Akron A.A. “Christian fellowship” program. See Dick B., Real Twelve Step Fellowship History: The Old School A.A. You May Not Know, pp. 27-30, 85-92.

1. The Bible;

2. Conversion to God through Jesus Christ;

3. Anne Smith’s personal journal;

4. Background ideas from:

  • Professor William James;
  • Dr. Carl Gustav Jung;
  • Dr. William D. Silkworth;
  • lay therapist Richard Peabody;
  • the New Thought writings of Emmet Fox; and
  • the writings of Rev. Sam Shoemaker;

5. Christian literature Dr. Bob circulated;

6. “Quiet Time”;

7. daily devotionals;

8. the Oxford Group “Four Absolutes” and restitution practices; and

9. the biblical training and Christian upbringing of Dr. Bob as a youngster in Vermont.

The seven major Christian influences that impacted on the work and plans of the cofounders. See The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., pp. 8-26.

    1. Evangelists and revivalists like Dwight Moody and Billy Sunday;

    2. The Gospel Rescue Missions;

    3. The Young Men’s Christian Association (the YMCA) lay workers;

    4. The Salvation Army;

    5. The Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor;

    6. Oxford Group books; and

    7. The writings of Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Jr.

A.A. claimed a 75% success rate among the “seemingly-hopeless,” “medically-incurable,” “last-gasp-case,” “real” alcoholics who thoroughly followed the early A.A. path. See The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., pp. 77-85. And see, for example, Dr. Bob’s hand-written list on his office stationery of the early A.A. Pioneers and their successes preserved in the Rockefeller Archives in New York.

What to Study to Learn about the Highly-Successful, Early A.A. Program

    The Bible (preferably the King James Version, as that is the version the early AAs used). And for more information on the role of the Bible in early A.A., see:

    The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches, Their Last

    Major Talks

    The Good Book and the Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible by Dick B.

    The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials by Dick B.

    Why Early A.A. Succeeded (a Bible Study Primer) by Dick B.

    Belief in God, and coming to God through His Son Jesus Christ:

    See, for example: Hebrews 11:6; John 3:16; John 14:6; and Romans 10:9.

    The Conversion of Bill W.: More on the Creator’s Role in Early A.A. by Dick B.

    Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book as a

    Youngster in Vermont by Dick B. and Ken B.

    The Golden Text of A.A.: God, the Pioneers, and Real Spirituality by Dick B.

    A New Way In: Reaching the Heart of a Child of God in Recovery with His Own,

    Powerful, Historical Roots by Dick B.

    The teachings of Dr. Bob’s wife, Anne Ripley Smith, whom Bill W. called the “Mother of A.A.”:

      Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939: A.A.’s Principles of Success, 3rd ed., by Dick B.

      Children of the Healer: The Story of Dr. Bob’s Kids.

    The influence of Professor William James and Dr. Carl Gustav Jung: the importance of having a “spiritual experience” and/or “conversion experience” in conjunction with overcoming alcoholism.

      Real Twelve Step Fellowship History: The Old School A.A. You May Not Know by Dick B.

      The Conversion of Bill W.: More on the Creator’s Role in Early A.A. by Dick B.

      “Pass It On”: The Story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. Message Reached the World, pp. 286-381.

    The influence of William Duncan Silkworth, M.D.: the idea of “seemingly-hopeless” and “medically incurable”.

      Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., pp. Xxv-xxxii.

      The Conversion of Bill W. More on the Creator’s Role in Early A.A. by Dick B.

      Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks: A Biography of William Duncan

      Silkworth, M.D. by Dale Mitchel.

    Christian literature circulated by Dr. Bob and at meetings.

      Dr. Bob and His Library, 3rd ed., by Dick B.

      The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth, 7th ed., by Dick B.

      “Quiet Time”-Bible reading, prayer, seeking God’s guidance, Anne Smith’s personal journal.

      Good Morning: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation and Early A.A., 2d ed., by Dick B.

      The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous: A Design for Living That Works, 2d ed., by Dick B.

      Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Bible as a Youngster in Vermont by Dick B.

    Daily Devotionals.

      The Runner’s Bible by Nora Smith Holm

      The Greatest Thing in the World by Henry Drummond

      The Upper Room (quarterly of the Methodist Church)

      My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

    The Four Absolutes-Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love

      The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous by Dick B.

      Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939, by Dick B.

    The History of the Early Program.

      The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous by Dick B.

      Real Twelve Step Fellowship History by Dick B.

      Turning Point: A History of Early A.A.’s Spiritual Roots and Successes by Dick B.

Basic Ideas of Early A.A. Fully Available and Applicable Today as a Choice

    Complete abstinence from drinking alcohol of any kind.

    Qualifying the newcomer.

    Hospitalization and possible detoxification.

    Surrender of one’s life to God, and becoming one of his children through Jesus Christ.

    Obedience to God’s will-eliminating sin and living love.

    Growth in understanding: God, His Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Bible, commandments, salvation, healing, guidance, forgiveness, love, the renewed mind, resisting the Devil, prayer, thankfulness, fellowship, witness; and the return of Jesus Christ.

    Study of the Bible-particularly Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, James & 1 Corinthians 13

    Individual and group prayer

    Seeking God’s guidance from the Bible and from His revelation

    Studying Christian literature on the Bible, prayer, thankfulness, love, forgiveness, healing

    Intensive personal work helping others to get straightened out by the same path.

    Recommended social and religious fellowship and attending a religious service weekly.

Making & Using Links Between the Founders & Present-Day A.A.’s Basic Text

    Bible Basics: the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13, Book of Acts.

    Overview: Shoemaker’s definition of spiritual awakening: prayer, conversion, fellowship, witness.

    The Solution: Establishing a relationship with, or finding or rediscovering God now!

    More about Alcoholism: Conceding to one’s innermost self that he cannot drink at all.

    How It Works: [the abc’s, ending] God could and would if He were sought.

    Chapter Five: Surrender, Inventory, Confession, Conviction, Conversion, Amends, Continuance in Step 10, Prayer and Meditation in Step 11, Witnessing and Practicing the principles from the Bible through Step 12.

    “Taking” the 12 Steps as Clarence Snyder taught them.

    Reading the first edition (1939) “Personal Stories”-almost all of which have been omitted from the fourth edition (2001).

    Understanding the importance of fellowship with like-minded believers, worship.

Spiritual Tools Bill W. Had Before Him When He and Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker Expanded Bill’s Six “Word-of-Mouth” Ideas to 12 Steps

The Bible references and the references to sources are based on the verses and the writings the early AAs actually used-not some fabricated thoughts about relevant verses or ideas.

    Step One: Dr. Silkworth’s view of problem of alcoholism; and Psalms 23, 91; “O God Manage Me because I can’t manage myself” prayer used by the Oxford Group, Rev. Sam Shoemaker, and Anne Smith.

    Step Two: Hebrews 11:6; God either is, or He isn’t; and “Power greater than ourselves” from Anne Smith and Rev. Shoemaker; and Bill’s statements that only God could restore us to sanity.

    Step Three: “Thy will be done”-Matthew 6:10; James 4:7-Rev. Shoemaker.

    Step Four: Inventory of faults using the Four Absolutes-Matthew 7:1-5; Anne Smith, the Oxford Group, Rev. Shoemaker.

    Step Five: Confession of Faults-James 5:16, Anne Smith: to God, ourselves, another.

    Step Six: Conviction of Faults-the Oxford Group.

    Step Seven: Conversion-John 3:16, Romans 10:9, James 4:10-Rev. Shoemaker.

    Steps Eight and Nine: Willingness and Restitution-John 7:17, Matthew 5:23-26; Shoemaker, Anne Smith.

    Step Ten: Continuance: Shoemaker, Oxford Group, Anne Smith.

    Step Eleven: Quiet Time-Psalm 5:1-3; Shoemaker, Oxford Group, Anne Smith.

    Step Twelve-Awakening (Matthew 7:20-29); Pass It On (Mark 16:15-20); Practice the Principles (Matthew 5:1-16, 38-48; Matthew 6:9-13, 33; 7:9-12, 16-20)-Rev. Shoemaker, and the Oxford Group. In summary: the Ten Commandments, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Book of James, 1 Corinthians 13, Four Absolutes taken from Speer’s The Principles of Jesus.

Further Specific Suggestions for Christians and Those Who Want to Become Children of God in Today’s Fellowships

[The following are books by Dick B.; published by Paradise Research Publications, Inc.; described in; available through or Dick B.’s Web site:]

The Good Book and the Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible by Dick B.

The Good Book-Big Book Guidebook by Dick B.

Twelve Steps for You: Take the Twelve Steps with the Big Book, A.A. History, and the Good Book at Your Side, 4th ed., by Dick B.

By the Power of God: A Guide to Early A.A. Groups & Forming Similar Groups Today by Dick B.

(Big Book, Twelve Step, and Bible Study Groups; James Clubs; Bible fellowships, Christian Recovery Fellowships, Prayer Groups, Retreats, and Churches).

Dick B. and Ken B., The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed.:

Dick B. and Ken B., “Introductory Foundations for Christian Recovery,” four DVD’s and one or more Guides:

Dick B. with Ken B., The Dick B. Handbook for Christian Recovery Resource Centers (available to those participants in International Christian Recovery Coalition who establish Christian Recovery Resource Centers:

The 29-volume, comprehensive, “Dick B. Christian Recovery Reference Set”: