Meeting Dick B

While on holidays the past 2 weeks, I had the privilege of meeting Dick B.

Dick is regarded as one of the most notable historians on Alcoholics Anonymous.  Being one of few, if not the only person, to have researched in-depth the individuals and material used in the orignal AA fellowship.

Dick has met and interviewed numerous family members and others who knew AA founders such as Bill W, Dr. Bob, Anne Smith (Dr. Bob’s wife), and Reverend Samuel Shoemaker.  He has researched many of their published and unpublished writings and visited the places they lived and worked.

It was fascinating to hear of the origins of AA in contrast to where it has gone today.   I was able to recognize the source of some of my discomfort with my current experiences in AA.  I was also able to see areas I can redirect my focus in recovery and personal growth closer to ways that worked for the original AAs.

The AA founders did not endeavor so much to please everyone.  They found what worked and focused intently on it.  They believed in God and sought him diligently.  They seemed to have far greater purpose than what I experience today in the rooms of AA.

This experience left a question malingering in my mind.  Why, when in AA we hear so many warnings against anything centred around “self”, do we then accept the suggestion by many AA’s to self-design our own god/higher-power? 

This is not what the original AAs practiced.  I have begun reading more on original AA and am discovering an AA that I never knew.

Thanks Dick for a great chat and lunch together in the beautiful setting on the island of Maui.  It was particularly special given that our meeting happened to be on the day of my sobriety anniversary.

Ciao.

Chaz

Dick B’s web site is www.dickb.com

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About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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18 Responses to Meeting Dick B

  1. eremophila says:

    Congratulations on your sobriety anniversary! Well done!
    It is interesting to read how the original intent has wandered off…..sadly it oft happens with great movements and what we’re left with is barely recognisable. It’s a reminder to me to check where I may have strayed from my original intent…..

    • Chaz says:

      Yes, it appears to be the human way. Actually, AA would probably be relatively static and stable by comparison to many organizations over 75 years. Look what happened to so many empires of past and recent history… Roman, British, Spanish, many church groups, General Motors, the list goes on.

      In the end… grateful I am sober still. Grateful life continues to improve.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  2. jeremy says:

    We’ve seen here in our city, the dilution of the fellowship. The falling off of doing it “by the book” to rather, doing it my way. I’ve seen too many things change in the last nine years I’ve been sober here.

    Old timers have disappeared and meetings are loosing numbers so badly that they are closing. With not many old timers chairing or supporting meetings now, it is left to some of us who try to carry the message and do what they did. With some minor successes.

    It’s sad that the wealth of information that we have on history and meaning is being ignored by the masses. They don’t have time to read in today’s day and age.

    Jeremy

    • Chaz says:

      So are you saying they are ignoring sobriety altogether or using other approaches?

      I know in our city 12-step meetings are alive, well, and growing in numbers. What actually happens in them is another question. Wonder if there is a regional aspect to it.

      I was also just in Hawaii and there are several meetings daily in most major areas. Also seem to be growing. Again though, in numbers of attendees perhaps, but who knows the quality of the recovery.

      The fascinating thing I learned from Dick B’s research is how the very early AA operated 1935 to 1939 versus how it changed after publication of the steps and big book… and continued to change to this day.

      Given that my recent experiences have left me wondering, I am really finding it fascinating learning to work a program closer to what the pioneers did. They appear to have got amazing results and were more focused.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  3. Dick B. says:

    Many many thanks Chaz for the splendid article. It was a pleasure to spend time with you and your lovely and talented wife. And so far you have struck of discerning chord among those replying to date.

    The sad thing is not what is or can be found wrong in A.A. The sad thing is that there is so little information about the real heart of A.A. That is what has prompted my last 20 years of research, writing, and publication. AAs and the public need to know the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible played in the origins, history, founding, original Christian Fellowship A.A. program, and its successes. Also the role that they can play today for those who want God’s help. And also how such knowledge is compatible with an A.A. Big Book which talks about the Creator, Maker, God. And talks about establishing a relationship with Him. And talks about the original message about the importance of a “spiritual experience”–not a spiritual “awakening” or a “personality change sufficient to overcome the disease of alcoholism.” You can pursue the first in a sauna and the latter in a psychiatrist’s office.

    I hold with those–and they are many–who believe the abc’s which end in “God could and would if he were sought.” The formula requires “diligent seeking”–Hebrews 11:6.

    Keep up the fine writing. You will assuredly help the many who read your articles.

    God Bless, Dick B. http://www.dickb.com.

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks for popping by and commenting Dick.

      I have been reading Power of God with great fascination. More importantly, I have been applying some of the original AA practices in my program.

      The writings by Rev Sam Shoemaker in particular I find extremely profound, penetrating, and meaningful. Without question, he is a largely overlooked contributor to the original program of AA. Which I imagine ran mainly in its purest form from the time Dr. Bob sobered up to the release of the Big Book which I take to be 1935 to 1939.

      I can imagine there would have been resistance by some to the Christian aspect of the program that the publishers of the Big Book adapted around. It appears to be human nature to change things for many and varied reasons.

      I am first and foremost interested in working a program more relevant to my belief in Jesus Christ. I simply have to be realistic about what I believe and act accordingly. I fully understand and accept that there are others who believe differently, but I cannot alter my program to appease them or anyone’s sensitivities about God, Jesus, or the Bible. How authentic would that be?

      Will look forward to dialoguing more as life unfolds.

      Thanks again for the wonderful lunch and conversation. My wife enjoyed the time as well.

      All the best.

      Chaz

  4. Punch says:

    Chaz:

    Your work here never fails to help and comfort me as I try to turn the corner and live a life more aligned to my values and my moral compass. I love to no end the openness and acceptance I feel with Al-Anon, and the strength I garner from the truth of unconditional love. I struggled so long, out in the wilderness of my insanity, with knowing that there was a program that could help me, in its universal truth and purpose, but that there was a barrier of Belief that I couldn’t overcome. I couldn’t cross the chasm of having to believe in a specific deity in order to achieve the full value of what are essential and pure principles of self-responsibility, a commitment to selflessness and adherence to the simplicity of the Golden Rule. I am not a Believer in the same way that you and others are in your hearts. It does fill my heart with joy that you can find a path that brings you joy and comfort, and I never want to lose that.

    For me, I’d never link the purity of the true wonder of the program to a requirement for Belief. I celebrate you, and every other member of any 12-Step, in finding your path. But I don’t see a loss at all, in the inclusiveness and opening of the tent, for otherwise, I wouldn’t be alive.

    • Chaz says:

      Hey Punch….

      Glad to hear you are continuing to do well.

      And thanks for understanding my point. I am simply being true to what I believe and have observed. Nor can I overlook the fact that orignal AA’s primary source was the Bible. That gets my attention. I understand that others do not see it the same way.

      I suppose my journey is somewhat the reverse mirror of your experience where I haven’t been able to connect with the notion of a non-specific diety.

      One of the founders of AA had suggested to surrender as much of ourselves to as much of God as we could. And of course, there will always be variances in how any of us understand God, even those who believe in the same specific diety.

      None the less, our journies through recovery from our maladies are similar and there is strength in helping one another. I know the agonizing feelings of depression, anxiety, and compulsive thinking that ruled my life for a time.

      Am happy to walk through this journey with any and all seeking to find recovery and glad that any positive I’ve experienced is of value to you and others.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  5. spj says:

    There was no Big Book of lies and manipulation for the original Ohio groups. Dick knows that and he needs to step forward and write the book the way it was meant to be. Once that is done, whatever the group is called, they can stand tall and know there is no deceit or manipulation or darkness in their approach to sobriety. It would be a proud day for Christians to have a truly honest and straight-forward Christain approach to recovery. There would be no need to try to deceive people with the blatant falsehood that the program is spiritual, not religious and then talk of God and deny the successful Christian roots in Akron. Those that have researched AA deeply would not fault anyone that wrote a program true to the real roots of AA. And it needs to be done before the march of time covers up the truth forever. Once Dick is gone, there will be his writings, but the situational knowledge he has will be gone forever.

    • Chaz says:

      Thank you for your reply.

      To the best of my knowledge, Dick has written many books that document the original AA the way it was based on a tremendous amount of thorough research. They remain in print and are widely distributed. So I dont think his work will fade into the sunset.

      As far as a program goes, I do believe Dick has written one. You may be familiar with the Christian Recovery Coalition? There is more information at http://christianrecoverycoalition.com/index.shtml

      We dont have to wait for Dick…. any of us can start any time we want. Many have. There are 12 step programs focusing on the fundamentals of early AA in many places.

      Dick is a huge contributor and resource. I appreciate the work he has done and was very impacted by my meeting with him.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

    • Wow. And thank you. At age 88 with 27 years of continuous sobriety, I’m still convinced that AAs and others in recovery want to know where A.A. came from; want to know the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible played in the history and founding of our fellowship; and want to know how to apply that history in recovery today. Here’s my conclusion: Start with A.A. Conference-approved literature, and master it. The best answer to those who resist historical facts is to show them the foundation in their own literature. Then you can look at the 46 books and 1500 articles I’ve published on A.A. history. Finally, get in touch. I love sharing with anyone who communicates in a courteous and thirsty way. We can learn from one another. http://www.dickb.com. God Bless, Dick B., Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

  6. Piper Bayard says:

    Congratulations on your sobriety anniversary! Honestly, I was only able to benefit from 12-step groups because they did NOT favor Christianity. Having been raised in an extremely fundamentalist area of the nation, exactly nothing in Christianity brought me comfort or guidance during the first several years of my recovery. I am aware there was some debate in the phrasing of the third step, and I believe the founders made the correct choice for some very good reasons. A Christian-based group could not have reached me after the abuse I had experienced in the name of Christianity. Thanks for your thoughtful post. All the best.

    • Chaz says:

      Hey Piper, ya, thats a tough one.

      I know many people who have become alergic to one faith system or another due to the poor examples they have seen in them. And I will admit, even though I am someone who finds great meaning in the Bible and believes Jesus was who he said he was, I find a lot of people who claim to represent him … well… I guess they don’t represent who I believe Jesus was. But I choose not to judge them. They just are not who I align with or wish to be influenced by.

      It seems to me though that the pendulum has swung way too far the other way. To the point where the original notion of “give as much of yourself to as much of God as you can” has morphed to “make up any God you wish”.

      I am kind of the opposite. I was not raised with much Christian influence. Yet came to believe what I believe as a young adult. So I suppose I don’t have the same alergic reaction to longterm exposure to Christian culture from a young age.

      I am not a big fan of North American Church culture. Yet this is often mistaken for what Chrstianity is supposed to be.

      Shall we do politic next? 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and for your candid reply. Much appreciated.

      See ya on the blogs!

      Ciao.

      Chaz

      • Just get a coffee pot and take your resentments against Christianity into the melting pot of honest inventory, confession, and removal. I’m sure you can find tens of thousands of Christians in A.A. who love God enough to love you too and to focus on serving or glorifying Him instead of taking someone else’s inventory and missing the good fruit.

  7. Dick B. says:

    Your comments and the replies are going extremely well. And here are some things that might help the viewers who have never had time or even the information to read my 42 published titles and 500 articles on the history of A.A. and its biblical roots.

    There is an easier softer way right now. The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010 http://www.dickb.com/Christian-Recover-Guide.shtml can be purchased through our website by clicking on the URL above. And it represents the culmination of pulling all the Christian, biblical roots together in one useful guide for those who want God’s help and want to know the role that God, His Son, and the Bible played in the original recovery movement from the 1850’s on and in the original Akron A.A. Fellowship.

    For those who read A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature, the best starting place is with two A.A. books: (1) DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, particularly page 131 and further. (2) The P- 53 Pamphlet titles The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks.

    There are two other resources that would be helpful:

    1. The first is our 4 DVD class called “Introduction to the Foundations for Christian Recovery” http://www.dickb.com/IFCR-Class.shtml. It will, by audio and video, put the reader where A.A. was, is, and is becoming in terms of Christian recovery.

    2. To put the picture in focus, if you will post it, I will be glad to forward the original 7 point Akron program summary from A.A. literature as well as a summary of the 14 practices of the early A.A. fellowship.

    God Bless. You are helping folks with your efforts – just look at their replies.

    Dick B. dickb@dickb.com

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Dick…

      By all means, email me the 7 point Akron program summary and I will make a specific post of it.

      Thanks again for the meeting…. was one of the highlights of our trip. We returned to the Grand Wailea for dinner at the Humuhumu a few nights later. What a spectacular setting. I could handle retiring in your neck of the woods.

      I celebrated my sobriety anniversary at my home group after I returned and had a chance to share some of the details of our chat and things I have been reading.

      I have read your Power of God title and have found it a fabulous text for refining my program. Fascinating how much depth and focus there was by the original AA founders.

      I genuinely feel a revived connection with God in this part of my journey.

      So I look forward to the 7 point email and further discussion.

      Best regards Dick!

      Chaz

  8. Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks
    A Contemporary Perspective

    Dick B.
    © 2011 Anonymous. All rights reserved

    An Introductory Look at Silkworth as One of A.A.’s “Co-founders”

    William Duncan Silkworth, Jr., was born in Brooklyn on July 22, 1873. His family remembers him as a deeply spiritual man, not interested in any particular denomination. But he was, they said, a devout Christian. For many years, he attend Shoemaker’s Calvary Episcopal Church in New York.

    He matriculated at the College of New Jersey, later known as Princeton University, and did pre-med studies there. Dale Mitchel, in his biography of Dr. Silkworth [Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks: The Biography of William Duncan Silkworth, M.D. (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2002)], said Silkworth was told quite early of the need for crisis, reform, and conversion when dealing with alcoholism.

    In his medical studies, he eventually specialized in neuropsychiatry. And at a time when Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were looking at varied approaches to spiritual healing of the mind, Silkworth was busy with medicine and neuropsychiatry. He graduated from Princeton in 1896. He sought and obtained an internship at Bellevue Hospital Medical College and received his medical degree in 1899. Bellevue was one of the only hospitals in the United States with a department that focused on alcoholism treatment. And Silkworth spent many years connected with many hospitals focused on treating alcoholics. He studied under and was tutored by a prestigious physician and professor named Dr. Alexander Lambert—a doctor who had been especially interested in narcotic addiction and treatment. Finally, in the spring of 1929, Silkworth was hired as physician in charge of alcohol rehabilitation at Towns Hospital in New York. And it was at Towns that Silkworth became much involved with his patient, William Griffith Wilson.

    Silkworth, a Spiritual Experience and Medical Treatment—His Foundation for Long-term Recovery: It Depended, He Said, on the Great Physician Jesus Christ

    Throughout his medical career in dealing with alcoholic patients until his death in 1951, Silkworth—according to his biographer—had believed a spiritual experience and medical treatment formed the foundation for long-term recovery. He spoke frequently about the need for reliance upon God and a firm foundation of spiritual strength in order to handle the obsession to drink. In the beginning, the recovery success rate was less than 2 percent.

    When Bill Wilson entered Towns Hospital for treatment of his alcoholism in September 1934, he had already been there twice before for treatment. After each of the two prior hospital stays, he had wound up drunk. His wife Lois had all but given up hope of his getting sober.

    A.A. literature has long stated that Dr. Silkworth told Bill and Lois during Bill’s third stay at Towns that, if Bill didn’t stop drinking, he would either die or go insane. What only became publicly known a few years ago with the publication of Mitchel’s biography of Silkworth is that Silkworth also told Bill that Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, could completely heal him. And Bill understood that to mean that the Great Physician (Jesus Christ) could cure him of his alcoholism. Silkworth told Bill how he had read about the successes of other spiritual transformations. He also told Bill that, though he was a man of science, he was well aware of the success a spiritual conversion could have. They discussed how many have had to endure a great crisis in their lives before they are willing to accept any form of surrender or admission of a helping God.

    Silkworth used the term “the Great Physician” to explain the need in recovery for accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And in A.A.’s earliest days, Bill insisted on references to God and Jesus, as well as to the Great Physician. Silkworth had told Bill and at least one other patient that the Great Physician could complete the healing. He said, “His name is Jesus Christ.”

    The Early A.A. Big Book Solution: A Vital Spiritual Experience–A Conversion

    I have several times told how Bill acted on Silkworth’s advice. First, Bill learned around late November 1934 that his old friend, Ebby Thacher, had just recently made a decision for Christ at Calvary Mission, the Gospel rescue mission run by Shoemaker’s Calvary Church. Bill decided that the Great Physician might be able to help him just as he had helped Ebby. Bill said he thought, “Yes if there was any great physician that could cure the alcohol sickness, I’d better seek him now, at once. I’d better find what my friend [Ebby Thacher] had found.”

    Bill went to Calvary Mission around December 7, 1934, made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and later wrote that for sure he had been “born again.” He decided to call on the Great Physician for help. And he made his way drunk to Towns Hospital where he was admitted for treatment of his alcoholism for his fourth and final stay on December 11, 1934. At the hospital, Bill cried out: “If there be a God, let Him show Himself!” He sensed the presence of God in his hospital room. He described a blazing, indescribably white light that had taken over the room. He concluded, “So this is the God of the Scriptures. . . . I knew there was a God and I knew there was a grace.”

    And he never drank again. In fact, in A.A.’s own basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous (affectionately known as the “Big Book”), Bill wrote on page 191 of the fourth edition:

    Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease, that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.

    Bill had—through Silkworth and through his own experience—found the solution to alcoholism. And this was this original solution that was set forth in his 1939 Big Book. A spiritual experience! Years later, Bill wrote the famous Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung, to tell him about the solution, to thank him, and to confirm that the spiritual experience he had discussed with his patient Rowland Hazard–who had helped Ebby Thacher get sober–had worked.

    As he had done with Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Bill Wilson called Dr. Silkworth a “cofounder” of A.A. and confirmed many times that Silkworth was “very much a founder of A.A.” He also said, “Perhaps no physician will ever give so much devoted attention to so many alcoholics as did Dr. Silkworth. It is estimated that in his lifetime he saw and amazing 40,000 of them.”

    The Silkworth Formula—The Essential Features of the New Approach

    Silkworth’s biographer quotes Silkworth’s article titled “A New Approach to Psychotherapy to Chronic Alcoholism.” In brief, Silkworth said:

    1. The ex-alcoholics capitalize upon a fact which they have so well demonstrated, namely: that one alcoholic can secure the confidence of another in a way and to a degree impossible of attainment by a non-alcoholic outsider.

    2. After having fully identified themselves with their “prospect” by a recital of symptoms, behavior, anecdotes, etc., these men allow the patient to draw the inference that if he is seriously alcoholic, there may be no hope for him save a spiritual experience.

    3. Once the patient agrees that he is powerless, he finds himself in a serious dilemma. He sees clearly that he must have a spiritual experience or be destroyed by alcohol.

    4. The dilemma brings about a crisis in the patient’s life. He finds himself in a situation which, he believes, cannot be untangled by human means. He has been placed in this position by another alcoholic who has recovered through a spiritual experience. Under these conditions, the patient returns to religion with an entire willingness and readily accepts a simple religious proposal. He is then able to acquire much more than a set of religious beliefs; he undergoes the profound mental and emotional change common to religious experience.

    5. The fellowship is entirely different concerning the individual manner of spiritual approach so long as the patient is willing to turn his life and his problems over to the care and direction of his Creator.

    6. The suggestion is made that he do certain things which are obviously good psychology, good morals and good religion, regardless of creed: (a) That he make a moral appraisal of himself, and confidentially discuss his findings with a competent person whom he trusts. (b) That he try to adjust bad personal relationships, setting right, so far as possible, such wrongs as he may have done in the past; (c) That he recommit himself daily, or hourly if need be, to God’s care and direction, asking for strength; (d) That, if possible, he attend weekly meetings of the fellowship and actively lend a hand with alcoholic newcomers.

    Important Tributes

    Reader’s Digest wrote of Silkworth a few months after his death.

    Dr. Silkworth was a great man who failed with all human science and was humble enough to use God for a medicine.

    Dr. Bob said:

    The Silkworth theory was what triggered him into a new way of life. Dr. Silkworth’s conversion ideas, as confirmed by William James, had struck him at great depth.

    Bill Wilson wrote:

    We drunks can thank Almighty God that such a man was designated by the divine Providence to inspire and guide us, individually and as a group, on the long way back to sanity.

    Silkworth himself wrote:

    Since I have been working with A.A. the comparative percentage of successful results has increased to an amazing extent.

    The percentage of success that A.A. has scored leaves no doubt that it has something more than we as doctors can offer. It is, I am convinced, your second step. Once the A.A. alcoholic has grasped that, he will have no more “slips.”

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