Bill W. –
Devising a plan that has helped millions of people, Bill Wilson started a group called Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) by coming together with Dr. Bob Smith and developing a twelve-step strategy to ending alcoholism. With little success at first, the group set out rules that would help govern their organization. A similar organization called the Washingtonians had had similar goals, but did not have the governing rules that would keep the focus off of politics and on the actual members attempting to better their lives.
Bill Wilson’s group would from the start follow a doctrine published in the form of a book that he and Dr. Smith had written. This 400-page manual contains inspiration and foresight into the steps needed to overcome alcoholism in order to be considered fully recovered. Two of those steps are the member’s admittance of the problem and the member’s right to anonymity.
Suffering from bouts of depression, especially after losing his fortune after several successful years playing the stock market, Wilson began drinking. His drinking got out of control and he was losing control of his life. Upon visiting a friend who had been given a vision from God to stop drinking, Bill left and suffered an even worse bout with alcohol that sent him to the hospital. During his time there, he had his own spiritual vision where he claims he lost his will to drink alcohol.
Then, while on a business trip to Ohio, Wilson felt the urge to drink when a business deal fell through. It was at that moment when he felt tempted to drink in order to escape that he called a clergyman on the phone. While this did help, Wilson kept calling numbers at random, hoping to contact another alcoholic. He dialed surgeon Dr. Smith’s number whose last drinking day in June of 1935 is considered the official birthdate of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. After an article published by The Saturday Evening Post, A.A.’s membership grew exponentially. The group’s fame spread to other countries and used Bill Wilson’s informal, yet practical approach to solving one of the world’s worst, yet most curable diseases. Despite outside organizations wanting to commend Wilson for his outstanding social work, he always rejected any claim to fame, holding true to his own beliefs and doctrines.
Dr. Bob –
A co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The birth of our Society dates from his first day of permanent sobriety, June 10, 1935. To 1950, the year of his death, he carried the A.A. message to more than 5,000 alcoholic men and women, and to all these he gave his medical services without thought of charge. In this prodigy of service, he was well assisted by Sister Ignatia at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, one of the greatest friends our Fellowship will ever know.”
Dr. Bob met Bill W. and stopped drinking on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1935, but about three weeks later he drank again while on a trip to attend a medical convention. His last drink was June 10, 1935, (or perhaps June 17, 1935, according to some sources).
Except for a secret taste of hard cider when he was about nine, he didn’t drink until he was about nineteen and attending Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, described as “the drinkingest” of the Ivy League schools.
Soon his alcoholism progressed and he was hospitalized repeatedly. His father sent a doctor to Akron to take him back to Vermont where he stayed for a few months, then he returned to his practice, sufficiently frightened that he did not drink again for some time. During this sober period he married Anne.
When he was introduced to the Oxford Group he tried hard for three years to follow their program, and did a lot of study, both of spirituality and of alcoholism. But it wasn’t until Bill Wilson arrived in the spring of 1935 that Dr. Bob found the kind of help he needed – one alcoholic talking to another.
Anne S. died on June 2, 1949. Bill noted that she was “quite literally, the mother of our first group, Akron Number One. In the full sense of the word, she was one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.”
There is no large monument on his grave. Doctor Bob, who always admonished A.A. to “keep it simple,” when he heard that friends were planning a monument, remarked “Annie and I plan to be buried just like other folks.” Alcoholics Anonymous itself is Dr. Bob’s monument.
THE TWELVE STEPS
The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in twelve steps (aka 12 Steps) describing the experience of the earliest members of the society:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Copyright © A.A. World Services, Inc.
THE TWELVE TRADITIONS
During its first decade, A.A. as a fellowship accumulated substantial experience which indicated that certain group attitudes and principles were particularly valuable in assuring survival of the informal structure of the Fellowship. In 1946, in the Fellowship’s international journal, the A.A. Grapevine, these principles were reduced to writing by the founders and early members as the Twelve Traditions (aka 12 Traditions) of Alcoholics Anonymous. They were accepted and endorsed by the membership as a whole at the International Convention of A.A., at Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950.
1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
3. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
7. Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
9. A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
While the Twelve Traditions are not specifically binding on any group or groups, an overwhelming majority of members have adopted them as the basis for A.A.’s expanding “internal” and public relationships.
THE TWELVE CONCEPTS
The Twelve Concepts (aka 12 Concepts) for World Service were written by A.A.’s co-founder Bill W., and were adopted by the General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1962. The Concepts are an interpretation of A.A.’s world service structure as it emerged through A.A.’s early history and experience. The short form of the Concepts reads:
1. Final responsibility and ultimate authority for A.A. world services should always reside in the collective conscience of our whole Fellowship.
2. The General Service Conference of A.A. has become, for nearly every practical purpose, the active voice and the effective conscience of our whole society in its world affairs.
3. To insure effective leadership, we should endow each element of A.A.—the Conference, the General Service Board and its service corporations, staffs, committees, and executives—with a traditional “Right of Decision.”
4. At all responsible levels, we ought to maintain a traditional “Right of Participation,” allowing a voting representation in reasonable proportion to the responsibility that each must discharge.
5. Throughout our structure, a traditional “Right of Appeal” ought to prevail, so that minority opinion will be heard and personal grievances receive careful consideration.
6. The Conference recognizes that the chief initiative and active responsibility in most world service matters should be exercised by the trustee members of the Conference acting as the General Service Board.
7. The Charter and Bylaws of the General Service Board are legal instruments, empowering the trustees to manage and conduct world service affairs. The Conference Charter is not a legal document; it relies upon tradition and the A.A. purse for final effectiveness.
8. The trustees are the principal planners and administrators of over-all policy and finance. They have custodial oversight of the separately incorporated and constantly active services, exercising this through their ability to elect all the directors of these entities.
9. Good service leadership at all levels is indispensable for our future functioning and safety. Primary world service leadership, once exercised by the founders, must necessarily be assumed by the trustees.
10. Every service responsibility should be matched by an equal service authority, with the scope of such authority well defined.
11. The trustees should always have the best possible committees, corporate service directors, executives, staffs, and consultants. Composition, qualifications, induction procedures, and rights and duties will always be matters of serious concern.
12. The Conference shall observe the spirit of A.A. tradition, taking care that it never becomes the seat of perilous wealth or power; that sufficient operating funds and reserve be its prudent financial principle; that it place none of its members in a position of unqualified authority over others; that it reach all important decisions by discussion, vote, and whenever possible, substantial unanimity; that its actions never be personally punitive nor an incitement to public controversy; that it never perform acts of government; that, like the Society it serves, it will always remain democratic in thought and action.
Copyright © A.A. World Services, Inc.
The text of the complete Concepts is printed in The A.A. Service Manual/Twelve Concepts for World Service (BM-31). This publication is available from the General Service Office, Grand Central Station, P.O. Box 459, New York, NY 10163.