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I Getting Started
 
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c) How A.A. Was Formed!
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The Oxford Groups

1. Frank Buchman was a Lutheran minister from Pennsylvania. In 1908, he founded the First Century Christian Fellowship. This was his attempt to recapture the spirit of first-century Christianity in his own time. In 1921, he started the Oxford Group Movement. It was based on the same principles.

2. This movement was open to anyone, with any problem or behavior, as well as those just seeking spiritual growth. It sought to bring about a spiritual healing through surrender to God.

3. The Oxford Groups did this through a specific process. This involved members undertaking a rigorous self-examination of their lives. Following this came the act of confessing their defects to another human being. Next came their attempt to set right any harm they had done, and finally them giving of themselves to others without any thought of reward or compensation.

4. The Oxford Group's philosophy caused them to become involved in many different aspects of society. They tried to mediate between labor and management. They became involved in politics. They publicly endorsed some candidates and opposed others. They felt that if they "saved" the community leaders, their example would encourage others to change.

5. They also brought a spiritual approach into the field of medicine. Through the implementation of their program, they attempted to bring about rehabilitation from various forms of physical and mental illnesses.

6. In the early 1930's, Frank Buchman attempted to meet with Hitler. He thought that he could perhaps change Hitler's nature through the spiritual principles of the program.

7. Frank Buchman never did see Hitler. However, in 1936, when Frank Buchman came back to New York from Berlin, a newspaper misquoted him, inaccurately making it sound as if Buchman was endorsing Hitler.

8. Due to this bad publicity, starting in 1938, the Oxford Groups gradually changed their name to Moral Re-Armament. Frank Buchman continued to head the MRA for the next 23 years until his death in 1961. The movement again changed its name in 2001, becoming Initiatives of Change.

Bill Wilson

9. Occasionally, the Oxford Groups were successful with an alcoholic. One of these was Ebby Thatcher. After Ebby had been sober for two months, he decided to look up his old friend Bill Wilson. Ebby had known Bill his whole life. He considered Bill to be as hopeless an alcoholic as he had been.

10. Bill Wilson, at this point in his life, rarely left his house except to buy alcohol. His wife, Lois, was working to support him. Even on the phone, Bill somehow knew that Ebby was sober. Bill could not remember a time when Ebby had been sober.

11. Bill invited Ebby over to reminisce about old times. When Ebby arrived, Bill had been drinking all day. He had a pitcher of pineapple juice mixed with gin sitting on the table. Bill offered Ebby a drink. However, Ebby told Bill he had been sober for two months and didn't want to drink. Bill found this amazing!

12. Ebby wanted to talk about the program that had produced sobriety for him and for several other alcoholics of his acquaintance. This program involved a simple spiritual idea and a practical program of action.

13. Bill Wilson's grandfather had been an alcoholic. He had sobered up through a spiritual conversion. After talking to Ebby, Bill could easily see that some kind of change had also taken place in his friend.

14. Ebby told Bill how he had been in court about to be committed for alcoholism. Then two members of the Oxford Group had intervened. Ebby shared that he had gone through their very simple program. It had stopped him from drinking.

15. Bill had considered Ebby hopeless, yet here he was sober! Ebby's experience intrigued Bill. Though he continued drinking for several more days, Bill decided to do some further investigation on his own.

16. Bill went to visit the Oxford Group meeting Ebby attended. On his way, Bill stopped off for drinks at a number of bars. He finally arrived at the meeting drunk. After a cup of coffee and some baked beans, and with his head only slightly clearer, he attended his first Oxford Group service. During the service, he offered himself to God. As the result Bill had a spiritual conversion.

17. After the meeting, Bill sobered up. Ebby then told Bill that he had gone to the front during the meeting and surendered to God. As Bill made his way home, he realized that he had walked past all the bars he had stopped into on his way to the meeting.

18. Bill didn't continue with the rest of the program. So, he started drinking again. However, his Oxford Group experience had been vivid enough for him to realize that the program had some validity.

19. Bill's drinking continued. After several days, Bill thought that he needed a clearer head to understand what had happened to Ebby and to himself. So, he admitted himself to Towns Hospital. On the way there, he again went on a binge and arrived drunk. At the hospital Bill sobered up for the last time.

20. Ebby visited Bill in the hospital. Over the next few days, the two men discussed the simple religious idea and practical program of action that Ebby had introduced to Bill.

21. Bill had become convinced that God is concerned with each of us when we want him enough. In the hospital, Bill once again offered himself to God as he had then come to understand Him. Ebby then took Bill through the rest of the practical program of action that was suggested by the Oxford Groups.

22. As the result of this course of action, Bill had a spiritual awakening, a rather dramatic one. As he described it, the room filled with a blinding light. He felt filled with a feeling of peace and joy. In his mind's eye, he saw himself on a mountaintop, with a great wind of spirit, not air, blowing through him. He felt free.

Working With Others

23. Part of the practical program of action that was suggested as a way to find recovery and to stay recovered was to give of oneself to others. This was to be done without any thought of reward.

24. When Bill came out of the hospital, he and his wife immediately started to work with others. Bill knew he needed to carry the program of recovery that had worked for him to other alcoholics.

25. Since Bill was an alcoholic, he concentrated on helping other alcoholics. The Oxford Groups were not very supportive of this. They thought that their program had wider applications than alcoholism. Further, they believed that alcoholics as a whole, were hopeless.

26. They thought Bill would be better off trying to help people who had more of a chance of benefiting from their program. However, Bill continued to try to help other alcoholics. But, after five months of strenuous effort, Bill had still not succeeded in bringing recovery to a single person.

27. A business trip took Bill to Akron, Ohio. However, the venture was unsuccessful and fell through. Feeling very depressed and alone, Bill paced back and forth in his hotel lobby. At one end of the lobby there was a bar. At the other end there was a directory of churches.

28. Bill then remembered something his wife had pointed out a few weeks before. Although he had not sobered up even one other person, his intensive work with others during those five months had KEPT HIM SOBER.

29. Bill turned his attention to the directory of churches. He picked a minister at random and called him. Bill identified himself as a member of the Oxford Groups. He said that he needed another alcoholic to talk to so he could stay sober himself.

30. The minister Bill called was the Reverend Walter F. Tunks. Of all the ministers in Akron, he just happened to be the most involved in the Oxford Groups. Reverend Tunks gave Bill a list of ten names to call.

Dr. Bob Smith

31. Eventually, Bill reached another Oxford Group member, Henrietta Seiberling. She knew another member; an alcoholic named Dr. Bob Smith. Dr. Bob had not been successful in using the Oxford Group principles to stop his alcoholism, even though he had been trying for two and a half years.

32. Henrietta Seiberling called Dr. Bob's wife, Anne, and tried to arrange a meeting between Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob. However, when Dr. Bob's wife was asked if she and Dr. Bob could come over to Henrietta's home right then, Anne declined.

33. Anne explained that Dr. Bob had just brought home a potted palm for Mother's Day. She didn't want to admit that Dr. Bob was more potted than the palm and had passed out under the table the palm was on. So, they arranged to meet the next day.

34. When Bill arrived at the Seiberling home, Dr. Bob was still shaky from this last bout with alcohol. So, Bill Wilson offered him a drink to help steady his nerves.

35. While everyone else ate dinner, Dr. Bob sat there drinking. After dinner, he retired to the library, glass in hand, to talk with Bill Wilson.

36. Dr. Bob had extracted a promise from his wife that they would only stay about fifteen minutes. However, they did not leave until more than six hours had passed.

37. Bill and Dr. Bob's first meeting is not considered the start of the program. This is because Dr. Bob did not permanently stop drinking as the result of it.

38. Dr. Bob said that the one thing Bill had learned in his five months in the Oxford Groups in New York, and that he had not learned in his two and a half years in Akron, was the need to be of service to others.

39. Bill and Dr. Bob immediately began to work with an alcoholic surgeon of Dr. Bob's acquaintance. Adding the concept of service to the Oxford Group principles that Dr. Bob already practiced produced a period of sobriety for Dr. Bob.

40. However, approximately a month after Dr. Bob's initial meeting with Bill, Dr. Bob left for a medical convention. As soon as he left, Dr. Bob started on a terrific bender. After five days, he called his nurse and asked her to pick him up at the Akron train station.

41. When Dr. Bob's nurse arrived at the station, she found Dr. Bob to be in "some confusion and disarray." She took Dr. Bob to her home and called Anne, Dr. Bob's wife. Anne and Bill Wilson then took Dr. Bob back to his own house. There Dr. Bob announced that he had an important operation to perform in three days.

42. Bill and Anne then had the task of sobering up Dr. Bob. They spent the next three days trying to taper Dr. Bob off. However, even after the three days, he was still not totally sober. In spite of that, early on the day of the operation, Dr. Bob told Bill that he was now ready to go through with "this thing."

43. Bill thought Dr. Bob meant the operation, but Dr. Bob said no. He said that he meant he was now ready to go through with the full course of action that Bill had been describing to him.

44. To help steady his nerves, Bill Wilson gave Dr. Bob a bottle of beer and a "goof ball." This was a term used by the pioneers to describe various sedatives. Then Dr. Bob walked into the operating room.

45. When Dr. Bob finished the surgery, he called Bill and Anne with the news that the operation had been successful. Then he left the hospital and disappeared. No one knew where he was for hours.

46. When he returned, he told them where he had been. He had been making amends to friends, acquaintances, creditors, and other people he had harmed or avoided in his many years of drinking.

47. Dr. Bob, in spite of the terrific strain, in spite of his still shaky condition, had finally taken the actions now called for in the Ninth Step.

48. That day, June 10, 1935, was the day Dr. Bob took his last drink. That is the day that A.A. now considers its true beginning.

Alcoholics Anonymous

49. Even though A.A. now considers June 10, 1935 as its true beginning, it was not until the spring of 1937 that the pioneers from New York broke away from the Oxford Group to form a separate organization.

50. A.A.'s growth up to this point had been slow. Five men had recovered at the end of the first year. There were fifteen at the end of the second year. A total of forty people had recovered three years after Dr. Bob's last drink. This figure reached one hundred after four years.

51. In the spring of 1938, these one hundred pioneers decided to write a book. It would explicitly detail what they had all done that had produced their recovery. The book they wrote was to become their basic text. It was to be named "Alcoholics Anonymous."

52. This text, usually called the "Big Book," is an explicit instruction manual. It details what the pioneers did, how they did it, the results they found, and how these same results will be there for those who follow their "clear-cut directions." The pioneers' course of action has now become known as the Twelve Step program of recovery.

53. Bill Wilson wrote the Big Book. He would produce a draft of a chapter, then he would submit it to the group in New York for their suggestions and comments.

54. Bill would then rewrite the draft to include these suggestions. Next, he would send this revised copy to the group in Ohio for further suggestions and comments. Then, he would rewrite the chapter again, and resubmit it to the New York group.

55. He would then again rewrite it, submit it to the Ohio group again, and so on. He continued this process until the group conscience endorsed the finished typewritten manuscript. This is now known as the Multilith Copy of the Big Book.

56. With the publication of the hard cover First Edition of the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous" in April 1939, the pioneers in Ohio finally broke away from the Oxford Group. They took the title of their book as the name of their fellowship.

57. After the publication of their book, their membership mushroomed. At the end of the next year, which was their fifth, four hundred men and women had recovered.

58. Two thousand people had recovered by the end of their sixth year. At the end of the seventh year, they could count eight thousand recoveries.

59. The pioneers had formalized the program that was, and still is, astoundingly successful in helping people recover from alcoholism. However, they had stopped there. This was even though the original Oxford Groups program had been open to and worked with many different kinds of problems and behaviors.

60. The pioneers believed that the large numbers of people seeking their help could easily overwhelm their small group. Therefore, they needed to make a deliberate determination to limit themselves, and their program, to alcoholics.

61. Over the following years, many other organizations, totally independent of A.A., developed programs derived from A.A.'s Twelve Steps. They were attempting to help those with the other problems and behaviors beyond A.A.'s focus of working with alcoholics.

62. For example, there are: Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Emotions Anonymous, and approximately four hundred other totally independent groups. The one thing that distinguishes them from each other is that they are variations of the A.A. program, but not identical to it.

63. These organizations often adapt, interpret, and even rewrite the original Twelve Steps and the suggested program that describes how to work these steps. They do this in a manner that they believe is more appropriate to their particular problem or behavior.

64. Some of these organizations have been successful. However, none of them have been able to come close to equaling the success that the original Twelve Step program has had in dealing with the alcoholism problem.

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