The early success of Alcoholics Anonymous can be summed up in four words: The Power of God. This is not opinion; this is fact.
It is estimated that an amazing 75-93% of the early A.A. members fully recovered from alcoholism. There were no relapses, no returning to the old life. They never drank again, and they moved on with healthy, happy, productive lives. That was in the 1940's and 1950's, before the program of Alcoholics Anonymous began to change. Ever so slowly, over time a watered down version of the original program began to emerge. A.A.'s success rate is not nearly as great today.
One of our members, a special man named Dick B., has made it his passion to bring out the truth about the nature of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous as it was originally designed.
I was thrilled to receive a note from Dick B. about New-Life-in-Recovery.com! It read:
"A beautiful and valuable resource site. God Bless you."
Not only that, he has graciously allowed me to re-print his story here. It’s a great read. Enjoy!
I was born in Stockton, California in 1925. I was the only child of two loving parents. My dad was a successful securities salesman. My mother was a concert pianist and a daily student of the Bible. My dad had quit smoking before I was born, and neither parent gave evidence of any problem with alcohol. I saw no reason to smoke, and I didn’t. I saw no reason to drink, and I did not drink until I returned from the Army at age 21.
In school, I excelled. Top of my class in high school and valedictorian at my graduation. At the University of California in Berkeley, I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in my Junior Year and was president of the Inter Fraternity Scholastic Honor Society. At Stanford University, I was elected to the board of Stanford Law Review, on the basis of grades, and became Case Editor of the Stanford Law Review in my second year on the board.
I married a Stanford girl, and we had two sons. Neither she nor the sons were or became alcoholics. And, after a successful ten-year career as an attorney in a San Francisco law firm, I opened my own law office in Corte Madera, California. I had suffered from sleeping problems in law school and ever since. A psychiatrist had been the first of many physicians who enabled me, step by step, to become dependent upon and to abuse high powered sedatives and such mind-altering palliatives as valium, thorazine, and quide. Worse, I began mixing them with drinks during the night; and soon I was passing out on the kitchen floor each morning with an almost unbearable body discomfort I called the "heeby jeebies", not a shaking without, but certainly an unbelievable trembling within. None of this had the slightest impact in deterring my continued excessive drinking.
As success in my law practice progressed, the time spent practicing law regressed. The money poured in. The drinking accelerated to an almost daily drunken state by day’s end.. I drank at service club meetings, at chamber of commerce functions, at church meetings, at social events, at the business quarters of a regular drinking buddy next door to my office, and finally alone at home in the evenings. My wife wouldn’t even leave the kitchen to join me despite appeals for her company. If someone had told me I had a problem with alcohol and prescription drugs, and they did, my response was that the problem was my wife, my sleep disorders, and occasionally the number of "minor" auto accidents which occurred when I drank "just a little too much." Friends, colleagues, physicians, my minister, and other erring commentators, including even some bartenders, began to tell me and others that I was drinking too much. But that did not deter me at all. I had reached the point where I didn’t care what they thought.
I quit drinking for almost two years, however, when my doctor suggested I go on the Pritikin Diet to lose an inordinate amount of weight and also to eliminate liquor "for a while." In this endeavor, I also excelled, losing some 80 pounds, swimming daily, drinking soda water, and following the Pritikin formula. Then I left my wife—cold turkey. The kids had graduated from college and made new lives, and the joy had long since left. Or so I thought.
Armed with this new-found fighting trim, I seemed of the belief that I deserved to renew drinking. But alcohol and drugs had taken a toll I did not recognize. They had unleashed inhibitions and restraints that had previously been solid moral standards in my life. I began engaging in unethical and irresponsible behavior with a "let them eat cake" attitude. And then I got caught. A resentful relative of a client called the newspapers and the State Bar. My name appeared repeatedly in the news, along with my picture. I became severely depressed; my clients vanished; and I drank with a vengeance I hadn’t imagined possible. Nothing changed. In fact, everything seemed to get increasingly worse and unbearable—the depression, the drinking, the sleeping pills, the troubles, and the terror. Finally, I consulted a psychiatrist who recommended different sleeping pills and anti-depressants. But I couldn’t wait. I went home, poured a four ounce glass of cheap gin, and went into an entire week’s blackout—a period I can’t recall or describe even these 22 years later. And that incident, plus a return to the psychiatrist, and the suggestion of my ex-wife, brought me to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous two days sober and ready to conquer the world without booze. But nobody in A.A. had told me about detoxing, seizures, brain damaged thinking, and bodily withdrawal misery.
What did happen was a series of events that has left me with a continuing appreciation of the unique value of Alcoholics Anonymous to new and still suffering alcoholics. At early meetings, I had feared the opinions of those who had seen my picture in the newspapers, who might discover some of the things I had done, and who were not as crazy as I was becoming. But those items were definitely unimportant to the mass of drunks I met. At every meeting I attended, I was hugged, welcomed, given phone numbers to call, invited to join other alcoholics after the meetings, given meeting schedules for later meetings, told to "stick with the winners," and "keep coming back" because "it works." I used the phone numbers repeatedly, followed other recovered alcoholics around, and went to meetings without ceasing. I began to participate in A.A. service where given the opportunity. What these things did for me inspired me to go and do likewise. And I still do. I never see a newcomer at a meeting or a conference or even in a personal encounter without a focus on that person’s story and needs and a possible opportunity to help.
Within the first nine days of sobriety, however, things changed. I had three grand-mal seizures, the first at an A.A. meeting, the second in the ambulance on the way, and the third in the Emergency Room. And these, in turn, took me to a 28 day treatment program—in all cases, with no significant mention of the importance of turning to God for help. Hence I didn’t. I put abstinence and A.A. first—just as they seemed to be urging.
In no time at all, I faced the wreckage of the past—sober, but stuck as well with a relentless District Attorney, State Bar investigations, a series of ponderous tax audits and levies, divorce outcroppings, loss of my Law License, lack of means of support other than that remaining from my own earlier investments, and a terror and depression and despair that far exceeded that in my drinking period. Without booze or sleeping pills, I went sleepless for months and months. I felt like a zombie. I shook for five years. They called me "Shaky Dick." And my mind was seemingly only a shadow of its former self—producing mostly forgetfulness, confusion, bewilderment, incessant and irrelevant chatter, and tangential talk patterns. Add to that the unpleasant fact that I was wetting my pants regularly in A.A. meetings.
I couldn’t handle any of this in the second month of my sobriety—theperiod just after I was discharged from the treatment program; so I checked into a VA psychiatric ward in San Francisco and there remained for two months. I wasn’t as looney as some, but twice as jittery, anxious, and talkative than most. I was diagnosed as having some form of "hypomania." I now believe it was "fear" mania!
But I had definitely caught the A.A. bug. I didn’t drink. I didn’t take sleeping pills. I suffered miserably from fear and insomnia. I went to A.A. meetings devotedly, called my sponsor regularly, and followed the crowd. Very important—I was made to feel wanted. I sought A.A. companionship in meetings and retreats and conferences and studies. I chased newcomers and tried to help them—even dragging alcoholics from the VA psych ward to A.A. meetings with me all over the San Francisco Area. But terror and despair still plagued me at every turn.
I faced prison, financial ruin, a lost reputation, unbearable physical consequences of delayed withdrawal, incredible mental incapacity, insomnia, depression, uncontrolled anxiety, loneliness, and a seemingly hopeless state of fear. I briefly wanted to take my life—in sobriety! Neither abstinence nor A.A. nor the psych ward were cutting it for me.
But two factors dramatically changed both the circumstances and my entire life at about eight months of sobriety. These came into play while I was in the psychiatric ward in San Francisco. One of my sons kept insisting that I needed to study the Bible and get back into what I had learned about the availability of my Heavenly Father and the accomplishments of His son Jesus Christ. He sent me tapes to which I began listening. And then, almost every day, an elderly friend from our Bible fellowship kept calling me long distance and listening to me wail. Finally, he asked why I didn’t stop trying to program my life and let God guide it. He cited the story of Peter’s walking on the water. When Peter believed, said this man, he walked. When he became afraid, he sank. And it took Jesus to pull him out of the water. I quickly saw that I had a choice—to learn and believe what God had to offer, or to yield my thinking to the seeming disasters the world was offering. I chose the former. I believed. Peace came. And without a doubt, Ican say that my almost instantaneous response to these events was to believe that, no matter what might lie ahead, God had the answers to life; and that I had better seek Him first.
On weekend passes from the psych ward, I began attending my elderly friend’s Bible fellowship. I stuck with A.A., and I stuck with the Bible fellowship also. And I got well. Quickly! Nurses noticed it. Family noticed it. And even my attorney announced that I was ready to bite the bullet—facing whatever the courts, the State Bar, and the newspapers had to throw at me.
The result? I was buttressed with solid sobriety, the A.A. program, and the Word of God. I had a Big Book and a Bible. And my sponsor jokingly observed: Dick is armed, but not dangerous. The fear vanished. I faced and dealt with court hearings, imprisonment, financial problems, divorce problems, tax problems, and reputation problems. I was released from the VA and began A.A. life in earnest. I studied and learned A.A.’s Big Book. I studied, practiced, "took," and learned how to take others through, the Twelve Steps. I sponsored newcomers. I served the fellowship as a speaker, chairperson, secretary, treasurer, General Service Representative, greeter, chair carrier, and floor sweeper. I went to A.A. meetings, gatherings, retreats, conferences, birthday parties, dances, and campouts. It was then time to grow in my relationship, understanding, and fellowship with my Heavenly Father and change my emphasis to serving and glorifying Him. But I hadn’t fully grasped the fact.
Nonetheless, I began bringing newcomers to Christ, and into our Bible fellowship. Not in any way diminishing their participation in and service to Alcoholics Anonymous. Today some of these newcomers are more than eighteen years sober, married, with family and job, and blessed with strong believing. I thanked God daily for what He had done for me. I asked God daily for His directions as to how to serve Him. I studied the Bible daily and read Bible-based literature daily. I prayed to God daily for myself and others. I affirmed the clear evidence that God could and would and did rescue me.
I began fellowshipping with like-minded believers—many of whom had been completely cured of alcoholism and addiction without even hearing of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous though they had previously been crippled with addiction and alcoholism. But I stuck to them, to A.A., and to helping others in A.A. I still do.
I had done all this without any information about, or knowledge of, the fact that my behavior much resembled what early AAs and many recovery movements before them had done. And what was that?
Here is how I found out. I had been sober and very active in A.A. for about four years. One night, a young man named John—now dead of alcoholism—walked up to me in a Step Study meeting in San Rafael, California and asked if I knew that A.A. had come from the Bible. John was in our Bible fellowship and knew of my interest in Scripture. I responded that I had been to hundreds and hundreds of meetings and conferences and never heard such a thing. John suggested that I read the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book—DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. It had been published in 1980 by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., in New York. John said it would provide details about our Bible roots. He pointed out that the Book of James had been so popular in early A.A. that members had wanted to call their Society the James Club. I jumped at the suggestion and began reading as much A.A. historical material as I could find. There was actually relatively little. Yet, sure enough, the Bible was mentioned frequently. Also the James Club account. Also Dr. Bob’s statements that the basic ideas of A.A. had come from their study of the Bible; that the oldtimers believed the answers to their problems were in the Good Book (the name they gave to the Bible); and that the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 were considered absolutely essential to the program’s success. (See The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks (NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975, pages 11-14, 18-20). I was later to find that most of the material in Dr. Bob’s talk was incorporated into the DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers book I had previously read.
And success there had been for sure. The A.A. basic text stated that, of those alcoholics who really tried, 50% got sober and remained that way; and 25% sobered up after some relapses. (See Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed. (NY:Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001), p xx.) It said their personal stories in the book described in their own language and from their own point of view the way each individual had established his relationship with God (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 29). And the DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers book pointed out that records in the early Cleveland A.A. fellowship showed a 93% success rate using the same principles, as well as the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, and the Oxford Group Four Absolutes (honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love) as moral standards for testing behavior.
Then came a further turning point—an event which was to change my life pursuits, my interests, and my service to the Creator and His son Jesus Christ. I had never heard anything significant about God, or Christ, or the Bible in the A.A. fellowship meetings. Yet A.A.’s own General Service Conference-approved literature contained much to suggest there was more to the picture than most knew. I had read that early AAs in Akron had called themselves a Christian fellowship (See, for example, DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, p. 118.) I had read that they stressed Bible study and old fashioned prayer meetings. I had read that Christian literature was distributed to them by Dr. Bob for reading and study. And I had read that Dr. Bob always insisted that newcomers in the hospital profess a belief in God and surrender their lives to Christ. (See Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, 2d ed. Kihei, HI: (Paradise Research Publications, Inc. 1998—pp. 177-78, 181-86, 187, 188-215); and DR. BOB, page 144, for the specifics of what I later found.)
But I still knew very very little about what they actually did, where they got their ideas, and why their program produced such a high percentage rate of successes.
In almost every meeting I attended there was incessant chatter about some "higher power." One man insisted his "higher power" was Ralph. Another that "it" was a rock. Another that "it" was a chair. Another that "it" was the Big Dipper. These remarks were made regularly in meetings I attended in Marin County, California. There was also bizarre talk about "spirituality" that was foreign to my ears. Where, I thought, did such nonsense come from? To make matters worse, my own friend and sponsor began telling me that people who read the Bible got drunk His sponsor convened a meeting where he and my own sponsor "warned" me that I was getting ready to drink because I had brought my sponsees to a Bible fellowship. But there was still more to be experienced and endured.
I myself have never been the slightest bit concerned about the fact that many of my A.A. friends are Roman Catholics and Jews and that they talk about their faith in meetings. But I began picking up at A.A. meetings some A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature which seemed to endorse, and even encourage, unbelief—the idea that you didn’t need to believe in anything at all to get well. The following are but a few of many examples:
"A.A. is not a religious society, since it requires no definite religious belief as a condition of membership. . . .Included in its membership are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, members of other religious bodies, agnostics, and atheists. . . . A.A. suggests that to achieve and maintain sobriety, alcoholics need to accept and depend upon another Power recognized as greater than themselves. Some alcoholics choose to consider the A.A. group itself as the power greater than themselves; for many others, this power is God—as they individually understand Him; still others rely upon entirely different concepts of a Higher Power" (44 Questions, page 19).
"The majority of A.A. members believe that we have found the solution to our drinking problem not through individual willpower, but through a power greater than ourselves. However, everyone defines this power as he or she wishes. Many people call it God, others think it is the A.A. group, still others don’t believe in it at all. There is room in A.A. for people of all shades of belief and nonbelief" (A Newcomer Asks)
"While some members prefer to call this Power "God," we were told that this was purely a matter of personal interpretation; we could conceive of the Power in any terms we thought fit" (This is AA: An Introduction to the A.A. Recovery Program, page 15).
"Many people in A.A. talk about "God" or a "Higher Power," but A.A. is not connected with any religion. A.A. is a spiritual program, not a religious one. Faith is a personal thing and it is not necessary to believe in God or in any form of religion to be a member of A.A. . . . Atheists, agnostics, and believers of all religions have a place in A.A.—provided they wish to stay away from the first drink." (AA and the Gay/Lesbian Alcoholic, page 16).
The foregoing statements were not consistent with A.A.’s Big Book text as I read it. A.A.’s steps said it was about "coming to believe." See Step Two. Nor were the statements consistent with Bill Wilson’s message that the Lord had cured him of his terrible disease (Big Book, page 191). Nor with Dr. Bob’s statement that he felt sorry for the atheist or agnostic because "Your Heavenly Father will never let you down" (Big Book, page 181). Nor with Dr. Bob’s insistence that a newcomer profess a belief in God before they were released from Akron City Hospital (DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 144). Granted, such statements are not today considered mandatory, any more than opening the parachute is when you jump out of an airplane. But they represented to me the wisdom of the winners—our founders.
I didn’t have a problem with the diversity and varieties of believers and unbelievers I met in the rooms of A.A. But I had a big problem with the ever-increasing vocalizing by a few "bleeding deacons" (as some call them) who said that you could not mention the Bible or God in a meeting; that the Bible and other religious literature were not "Conference-approved" and therefore could not be brought to a meeting; or that it was a violation of the Twelve Traditions of A.A. to share your own experience about how you established your relationship with God. And, the "official" General Service Conference-approved literature quoted above, plus the vociferous and irrepressible outbursts of some at meetings, seemed to me to be at great variance with the program I entered, the program I had learned from the Big Book, and the encouragement I had received from A.A. members and meetings when I needed it most—even when I talked much about looking to God for help in my life.
I wondered how one could reject God in a program which spoke so much about God. Thus an A.A. author Stewart C. published an analysis stating the word "God," with synonyms and pronouns referring to Him, can be found more than400 times in A.A.’s Big Book. So I resolved to go to the Seattle International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1990 and try to find out what role, if any, the Bible had really played in the founding, development, program, and successes of Alcoholics Anonymous. There I met Frank Mauser, the General Service Archivist from New York. But I was able to discover little, if anything about Bible specifics. And upon my return, my older son and I had a discussion that preceded a real effort to discover the role and impact on A.A., if any there was, of God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible.
With encouragement from Frank Mauser, Dr. Bob’s children—Sue Smith Windows and Robert R. Smith—as well as Ray G. (archivist at Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron) and later, Bonnie and Ozzie, the managers of the Wilson House at Bill Wilson’s birthplace in Vermont—I devoted the next nineteen years to learning details about A.A.’s use of the Bible. I investigated what its early program really did, where the reliance of members on God really fit in. what proofthere was of the early success rates, and what institutions, principles, practices, and Bible studies had impacted on early A.A., the Big Book and Twelve Steps, and the literature of today. I’ll let those who are interested in the answers learn the details from my thirty-three published titles on the subject. See http://www.dickb.com/titles.shtml. But it goes without saying that there is far more to A.A., its roots, its successes, and its early reliance on the Creator for healing and help than virtually any in present-day treatment, therapy, professional groups, 12-Step and even religious fellowships know or, in some cases, are even have a significant desire to seek.
Today I believe there is A New Way Out of a wilderness. A New Way Out for children of the living Creator who are awash and adrift in the sea of change that has occurred in the recovery scene. What wilderness? It is a wilderness of self-made religion, absurd names for a deity, outright idolatrous thinking, and amateur psychological introspection. Let me personalize my reply with my own experiences as here related.
The wilderness concerns the alcoholic’s own plight—not about the nature or shortcomings of A.A., N.A., or some other anonymous fellowship. As I have told above, I had become a full-fledged drunk and sleeping pill addict by the time of my entry into A.A., smitten by a seemingly uncontrollable intention to drink too much regardless of the consequences and driven by a desire to return to the mire again and again despite the known and predictable self-destructive disasters. Bill Wilson wrote: "Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person" (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., xiii). I was! The Bible called the sickness a sin. It clearly commanded "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess" (Ephesians 5:18). But I did just that! Later, in sobriety, I came to see what I had actually been doing. I drank. I got drunk. I produced disaster. Yet I returned to that same pattern over and over—always seeing the disasters get worse. Many have called this "lunacy." Perhaps the Apostle Peter best described the behavior when he spoke of the proverb, "The dog is returned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." (2 Peter 2:21). But I got tired of hearing in A.A. that I was "powerless" over alcohol, even over "people, places, and things."Such doleful "acceptance" didn’t set right with what I knew was my own need for responsibility, control, and accountability. In fact, however, the writings of Dr. Bob’s wife’s writings made plain in her journal (Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939— http://dickb.com/annesm.shtml), that a stronger power than mine was needed to achieve victory. And when, as a child of the one true living God, I utilized that power and did what the Bible commanded, I neither drank again, nor wanted to. There remained, however, a very real and destructive condition and illness still to be dealt with—brain damage, withdrawal, fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, despair, legal troubles, imprisonment, hospitalization, confusion, forgetfulness, sleeplessness, bewilderment. I didn’t want to drink. I just wanted it all to go away—immediately! I just wanted out. But I found for myself that God provided the power, the strength, the healing, the forgiveness, the guidance, and the rescue. I could and did face the multiple problems believing the truths in Biblical promises like these:
"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye." Psalm 32:8
"I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1
"In God have I put my trust; I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." Psalm 56:11
"In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be put to confusion." Psalm 71:2
"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies." Psalm 103:2-4
"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
"The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe." Proverbs 29:25
To me, these were not simply quaint or catchy sayings. They were promises of God. And, true to His promises, God produced the results when I put the words in my mind and consistently repeated and believed them. That, I believe, is what the Bible assures us.
There were more pertinent verses. They were specifically addressed to the born again believer, and based on what Jesus Christ had come to do and make available. I learned, believed, and saw that his work and sacrifice had made me free. I had to claim that freedom. The following proclaimed:
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God Romans 3:23-25
"There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" Romans 8:1
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Romans 8:35, 37
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Romans 10:9
"And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17
"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8
"Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5
"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of Christ in them that are saved, and in them that perish." 2 Corinthians 2:14
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." Ephesians 3:20
"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." Colossians 1:3
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7
My experience, then, was that—by reading these and many other verses over and over and over; by putting them in my mind as frequently as possible and whenever negative claims were made over me; and by believing them—my release, my deliverance, and the peace of God came into my life. The accomplishments of God's own son had delivered me from the wilderness, not merely of being an alcoholic (sick and sinful with excess), but from the status of a beaten-down child filled with guilt, shame, anxiety, despair, fear, bodily maladies, and a sense of hopelessness. And I know that, as one of God's kids, I still am and can be rescued.
When sober and instructed, the choice is mine. And I try to tell others that, through becoming a child of God and learning the truth about Him and His will and walking in fellowship, they too can be delivered from much much more than a drinking problem, and from their drinking problem too. That is my testimony.
There is a simple message that I carry today to those willing to listen and who want my help. It is this: God wants all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). We can be saved—born again of the Spirit of God—by confessing Jesus as Lord and believing God raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9; John 3:1-16). When God's kids then seek Him out by studying His Word and communicating with Him, they can walk from darkness to light as and when they walk in fellowship with Him and His son, and keep His word (John 1:1-10; 2:1-6).
For centuries, believers have pointed to the way out and rescue for those who wanted help. These laboring believers have included workers in the YMCA, Christian Endeavor Society, Salvation Army, Gospel Rescue Missions, and revivals. Even the Oxford Group with which Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob were briefly associated. Whatever their particular technique, their message was salvation and a new life in Christ. There was the additional stipulation that the message be carried to others. YMCA's founder took young men off the streets of London, into his basement, brought them to Christ, and held Bible studies—rescuing them from destruction. Evangelists in and out of the YMCA followed suit. Christian Endeavor Societies formed young people's groups in the churches themselves and taught them confession of Christ, Bible study, prayer, Quiet Hour, obedience, and the principles of love and service. Salvation Army workers dived into the slums of London and brought the wretched to Christ and into God's Army to help others. Gospel Rescue Missions furnished food, shelter, and brotherhood, but their unswerving objective was to bring men to the altar, a decision for Christ, and a changed Christian life. So too the old-time revivals and tent meetings. And so too the Oxford Group people who were focused on changing lives through surrender to God. This was the way alcoholics were helped in the early days of A.A. as well.
Once informed of God's way, suffering souls flocked to the rescue, confessed belief in God, accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, fellowshipped together, and grew through Bible study, prayer meetings, and Quiet Times. Love and service to others was the only demand made of them.
Today, when someone in an A.A. meeting tells a person, as they did me, that people get drunk if they read the Bible, I feel disappointed that they know so little about the real Way out. When someone tells a person in A.A. or some recovery fellowship that they can't mention or study the Bible in A.A., I feel equally disappointed that hurting souls may soon be deprived of what the early solution was. When someone says that the Bible and religious literature cannot be read because they are not "Conference-approved," I wonder how many newcomers are being driven away from a relationship with and reliance upon God. When someone talks of some nonsense god that can be a tree, a radiator, a light bulb, or a group, I think of the clear-cut descriptive language in Psalm 115 about the impotence of false gods. And I regret that a newcomer is hearing that he can pray to a light bulb and get well. I've yet to see that happen.
For me, it is about telling my story, reporting the facts about the role our Creator has played in the YMCA, Christian Endeavor, Salvation Army, Rescue Missions, the Oxford Group, and in the early Akron A.A.'s Christian Fellowship. There are other ways, of course. But the one with unquestioned success is the Way (John 14:6). With increasing fervor, I try to tell people how God's liberation, power, and guidance worked in my life, how it worked in the lives of others, and what an appealing alternative it is to the way of idolatry, apathy, acceptance, and institutionalized meeting attendance. I point out that the abundant life and eternal life do not lie in meeting attendance. (See John 3:16, 10:10). They spring from a relationship with God and His son.
I believe there is a new way out—a way out of the wretchedness of alcoholism and addiction, out of the bondage of worldly wisdom and opinion and condemnation, out of the prisons of the mind that come from depression, fear, physical illness, anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, and resentment. There is a new way out for people—not just for people attending Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step fellowships—but for those who are homeless, imprisoned, physically disabled, mentally impaired, at risk, cowering in fear and self-loathing, drinking and drugging to excess, and encountering seemingly hopeless barriers and defeat at every turn. Those people need not be herded into centers for self-centeredness where they keep confessing how sick and hurting they are. The new way out is not a way out of A.A., or 12 Step fellowships, or therapy, or meetings, or groups, orchurches, or psychiatric wards. It starts with a decision to stop.
The path starts with a determination to stay stopped, to change, to abstain. It starts with a discipline that guarantees change for those who go to any length to bring it about. For those in deep holes, as I was, it may take time. But the way out starts by looking up from the hole – not out or down. The way out begins by believing that "with God nothing shall be impossible" when God gives the revelation. (See Luke 1:37). The way out begins by recognizing that God wants children and enables people to become His children by acknowledging what Jesus Christ did to make that new birth possible. (See 1 Peter 1:23). The way out—the path to deliverance and freedom—continues when a child of God sets his or her mind, thoughts, and outpouring words on what God reveals—not on what the world says. (See 1 Corinthians 2:1-16). The way out—the path assuring deliverance and freedom—is followed by walking in the light of God's Word and the revelation He chooses to give His family members. The way out is assured by obeying God, talking with Him, and staying in fellowship with Him, His son, and other believers. And that way out is just as available today as it was when Peter urged, after the miracle at Pentecost: ". . . . Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2:38-39)
This, and the messages from other messengers in the Book of Acts, changed the lives of millions and millions of those who believed throughout the following centuries.
I continue to find it a joy and a privilege to introduce myself to a newcomer, wherever he or she may be. Then to ask if that person would like to become a child of God. I invite the new person to invoke the simple process of confessing with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. (See Romans 10:9). And I'm seldom turned down. Then, with them, as it did with me, the healing and growth can begin. Freedom is certain to follow for those who walk in fellowship with our Heavenly Father. It did for me. That's my story.