There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about AA, so let’s have Bill Wilson help us out. Remember Bill? He was the guy who envisioned and co-founded AA. It also wouldn’t hurt to read some history of AA, from his friend Ebby Thacher’s experience with the Oxford Group to the contributions of William James and Carl Jung, and even back to the Washingtonians. And just in case nobody has any interest in reading from the source, here is a nice, succinct summary:
Trust God. Clean House. Help Others.
From Bill’s Story, Alcoholics Anonymous, pp.12-16:
“It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning. I saw that growth could start from that point. Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend.
Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view.
The real significance of my experience in the Cathedral burst upon me. For a brief moment, I had needed and wanted God. There had been a humble willingness to have Him with me – and He came. But soon His presence had been blotted out by worldly clamors, mostly those within myself. And so it has been ever since. How blind I had been.
There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch. I have not had a drink since.
My schoolmate visited me, and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies. We made a list of people I had hurt or toward I felt resentment. I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability.
I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciouness within. Common sense would thus become uncommon sense. I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me. Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others. Then only might I expect to receive. But that would be in great measure.
My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems. Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements.
Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.
These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had ever known. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound.
For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He listened in wonder as I talked.
Finally he shook his head saying, ‘Something has happened to you I don’t understand. But you had better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were.’ The good doctor now sees many men who have such experiences. He knows that they are real.
While I lay in the hospital the thought came that there were thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be glad to have what had been so freely given me. Perhaps I could help some of them. They in turn might work with others.
My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that.
My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems… Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in the rough going.
We commenced to make many fast friends and a fellowship has grown up among us of which it is a wonderful thing to feel a part. The joy of living we really have, even under pressure and difficulty. I have seen hundreds of families set their feet in the path that really goes somewhere; have seen the most impossible domestic situations righted; feuds and bitterness of all sorts wiped out. I have seen men come out of asylums and resume a vital place in the lives of their families and communities. Business and professional men have regained their standing. There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us. In one western city and its environs there are one thousand of us and our families. We meet frequently so that newcomers may find the fellowship they seek. At these informal gatherings one may see from 50 to 200 persons. We are growing in numbers and power.
An alcoholic in his cups is an unlovely creature. Our struggles with them are variously strenuous, comic, and tragic. One poor chap committed suicide in my home. He could not, or would not, see our way of life.
There is, however, a vast amount of fun about it all. I suppose some would be shocked at our seeming worldliness and levity. But just underneath there is deadly earnestness. Faith has to work twenty-four hours a day in and through us, or we perish.
Most of us feel we need look no further for Utopia. We have it right here and now. Each day my friend’s simple talk in our kitchen multiplies itself in a widening circle of peace of earth and good will to men.”
So that’s what AA is, and as you can see, it isn’t really about AA. It’s about getting better. It’s about growing spiritually, taking right action and helping others. Doesn’t matter how we get there, but whatever our path, it must involve hard work, humility, service and God.