June 10th 1935 … The First Day

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Pioneers of A.A.

Dr. Bob and the nine men and women who here tell their stories were among the early members of A.A.’s first groups. All ten have now passed away of natural causes, having maintained complete sobriety. Today, hundreds of additional A.A. members can be found who have had no relapse for more than fifty years. All of these, then, are the pioneers of A.A. They bear witness that release from alcoholism can really be permanent.

Dr. Bob’s Nightmare

A Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The birth of our society dates from his first day of permanent sobriety, June 10th 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 or fellowship will ever know.

83 years ago today, the fellowship marks its beginning. The first day of Dr. Bob Smith’s permanent sobriety date. This also marks what we now call Founder’s Day and Gratitude week, all over the world.

On that fateful day, as Bill’s business went South, and he stood in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, heaven held its breath, waiting to see what choice Bill would make next. There he stood in that lobby, the bar to one side and the phone and church directory to the other.

It only took mere seconds, the choice Bill eventually made. And in that choice the fellowship of A.A. was on its way to being born. After several failed calls, Bill reached, one Henrietta Sieberling who put him in contact with Ann, Dr. Bob’s wife.

Quoting Dr. Bob …

“Of far more importance was the fact that Bill was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what he was talking about in regards to alcoholism from actual experience, in other words, he talked my language.”

Monday: Dr. Bob’s Nightmare

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We begin the month of Monday’s for Monday Night in the Big Book, Once again. And tonight’s fare came from Dr. Bob’s Nightmare.

In Ernest’s Book, The Spirituality of Imperfection, chapter six talks about story tellers, and the need we have to find them. And when we venture out to seek, we eventually find that others, had been looking for us.

And once we find each other, we can, finally, tell someone our story.

And so it went on that night, when Bill, faced with the failure of his business deals in Akron, stood in the Mayflower Hotel, thinking a drink …

In that moment, as Lorna Kelly said to us … “Heaven held its breath, waiting to see what Bill would do.” We speak of spiritual moments in our lives, and for Bill, his very next decision was “Spiritual.” Instead of thinking the drink, he thought that what he really needed was another alcoholic.

He walked over to that church directory located on the other side of the room, and he started making phone calls, looking for a prospect. When all seemed lost, he dialed that last number on the list in front of him, and Henrietta Sieberling answered.

Anne, Dr. Bob’s wife, knew people. She had been looking for a solution for her husband’s inability to Not Drink. That night Bill was invited to Henrietta’s to meet Dr. Bob and his wife. Thinking that he could handle very little, Dr. Bob offered a mere fifteen minutes to Bill, for his trouble. Six hours later, after that first conversation began, two men sat together, sharing their stories with each other, when Bob tells us in his story …

“Of far more importance was the fact that he (read: Bill) was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what he was talking about in regards to alcoholism from actual experience. In other words, he talked my language.”

This story also mentions Spiritual Principles. And for many in a room, whether there is a God, or whether one believes in said God is the first stumbling block for a lot of folks.

I listened to my friends talk tonight. atheists, Agnostics, Believers and those in-between. Many of them have faith, one way or another. Each of them knows, what works for them.

The book goes on to say …“But if you really and truly want to quit drinking liquor for good and all, and sincerely feel that you must have some help, we know that we have an answer for you. It never fails, if you go about it with one half the zeal you have been in the habit of showing when you were getting another drink.

Your Heavenly Father will never let you down.”

Funny that the chair read these two pages to us, but omitted that very last sentence in her read. And someone in the crowd offered up that thought to complete the read, on the second pass.

The movement from Self Seeking and Selfishness, will change. And we learn the wisdom in seeking to help others, because at some point we came in, and were found ourselves, and over time, we too were relieved from the bondage of the craving and the consumption of alcohol.

And we learn the Four Reasons … of why we carry the message to others …

  1. Sense of Duty
  2. It is a Pleasure
  3. Because in doing so I am paying my debt to the person who took the time to pass it on to me.
  4. Because every time I do it I take out a little more insurance for myself against a possible slip.

I heard one of our young women talk about the highlight of her week last week: When having a good time meant imbibing and ending up in a gutter with vomit in her hair, last week she got together with other women and they talked about The Work.

The highlight of her week.

Who knew, she said, “that sharing the message would be the highlight of her week, when in the beginning she admitted saying that she did what she was told to do because she had to, in order NOT to drink. Over the years she learned just how good it would feel to share her story with other women over coffee …”

When I came back, I had no other choice. I did everything I was told to do. I connected and remain connected to this very day. Having a service commitment, made me useful and gave me a purpose for getting out of bed every day.

Making coffee all these years later, the best music to my ears is hearing some drunk come in the room and complain that he did not like my coffee …

The reply is standard … Keep Coming Back.

You will Learn to Love My Coffee …

Sunday Sundries: Remembering Ebby T.

A.A. #3 Bill D.

The month of June is coming to a close. And this evening was the last “reading” meeting of the month. Last week, June 10th, (1935) was the 82nd anniversary of Dr. Bob’s first full day of sobriety. This also marks the first day of the Fellowship of A.A.

Where it all started.

This week, I decided to go full bore and offer up Dr. Bob’s Nightmare, for the group to read. It is good to be the chair, because we get to choose what it is we will read, weekly.

The discussion went around the room, and one of my old timer friends, a man who was there at my first meeting at Tuesday Beginner’s more than fifteen years ago, spoke about EBBY T.

Not many  tend to remember Ebby T. in the grand scheme of things.

Back in the day, before the fellowship came together with Dr. Bob and Bill, Bill had his first pass at sobriety, in the guise of Ebby T, sitting in Bill’s kitchen one night.

Ebby had gotten sober via the Oxford Group. The forerunner of the Fellowship.

Ebby and Bill were talking over drinks, sitting in Bill’s kitchen. Bill filled his tumbler with drink and offered one to Ebby.

Ebby replied to Bill, “No Bill, I’ve found religion…”

Obviously, Bill did not take to that first pass.

Eventually Bill did get sober. Ebby did not stay sober over the years, but he did die a sober man.

Dr. Bob was a hopeless case. His story is quite drastic, as to the story he relates of just how bad it had gotten at the bitter end.

Dr. Bob tells the story of his activity at home. I can see that house in my minds eye, because my grandparents had a similar house that was built, back in the forties. I spent a number of years in that house and I could see, where Dr. Bob had hid his liquor.

(Read: All over the house)

My grandfather was a drinker like Dr. Bob.

Lorna Kelly talks about the night that Bill had contacted a priest, who led him, that fateful night, into Dr. Bob’s life.

Nikos Kazantzakis tells us that

“To always chose the easy path is Treason for the Soul.”

On that night, as Bill was standing in the Mayflower Hotel in Akron Ohio, his business deal had fallen through, he was broke, and he wanted a drink.

Heaven Held Its Breath, in that moment …

What was Bill going to do ? Off to one side of the lobby was the bar. A drink seemed the most logical choice. But was drinking a choice Bill wanted to make ?

On another wall, was a telephone and a church directory. Bill knew that his sobriety hinged on talking to another alcoholic. He made a number of calls, that went no where.

On his last dial, from that church directory, Bill reached a parish priest, whom he inquired if that man knew someone that Bill might speak to.

I kind of remember Henrietta Sieberling somewhere inside this rendition. But I am not sure of that. But she sticks out in my minds eye.

Dr. Bob was that other man, that very night.

Dr. Bob was a mess. His life was in the hole, but his wife, Anne Ripley Smith, had other ideas. She had been searching for a solution to her husband’s drinking problem.

Dr. Bob, quotes himself in the read by saying …”We alcoholics seem to have a gift of picking out the world’s finest women…” Admitting that Anne was a woman he was blessed to be married to.

At the start, Bill told Anne that he only had fifteen minutes to offer their visitor.

Dr. Bob writes: “We entered the house at exactly five o’clock and it was eleven fifteen when we left.” A friend of Anne’s had called Anne and told her that Dr. Bob, might want to meet this man (read: Bill) who might help Dr. Bob stop drinking.

Dr. Bob goes on to write: “Of far more importance was the fact that he was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what he was talking about in regard to alcoholism from actual experience. In other words, he talked my language.

Bill knew all the answers, and certainly not because he had picked them up in his reading.

The theme of One Alcoholic talking to another, is how we get sober and we remain sober, for our lives sake. If we don’t connect, sobriety does not work.

It is all about that most important blessing … CONNECTION.

Dr. Bob did stay sober for a few weeks. He went to a conference in Atlantic City, where he found the drink again. But he returned to Bill and on June 10th, 1935, Dr. Bob achieved his first full day of Sobriety.

The dawn of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous began.

The very next story in the Big Book: Is about Bill D. Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three.

This photo (Above) is the seminal photo you will find in almost every General Service Office world wide, and in New York’s GSO. The photo is of Bill W., Dr. Bob and Bill D. Sitting in his hospital bed.

Bill D. was the Pioneer member of Akron’s Group Number 1. The First A.A. group in the world. Bill kept his faith; therefore, he and countless others found a new life.

Bill D. was the first successful transmission of the message of recovery, and Bill D. did remain sober and founded Akron recovery.

Bill closes his story with this gem:

If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you. If you still think you are strong enough to beat the game alone, that is your affair.

But if you really and truly want to quit drinking liquor for good and all, and sincerely feel that you must have some help, we know that we have an answer for you. It never fails, if you go about it with one half the zeal you have been in the habit of showing when you were getting another drink.

Your Heavenly Father will never let you down.