‘Get Honest With Yourself, Pray,’ Alcoholics Anonymous Advise

Reprinted from The Tidings: Friday, March 26, 1948, page 17

Los Angeles — “It takes cultivation of a habit of prayer and development of a spirit of service to overcome the obsession of alcoholism. this straight advise mixed with plenty of common sense was given t some 4500 alcoholics, their friends and relatives, last Sunday night at a public Meeting in Shrine Auditorium. the speaker was a man known publicly only as Bill. In direct, soft spoken narrative he told his story — “the story of a drunk” — and then described the origin of the method that has brought recovery to him and to more than 60,000 alcoholics throughout the nation.

The method is simple, effective:

“I got honest with myself,” Bill said. “I straightened out my relations with others. I’m trying to help others without asking ‘gimme’ — and I pray.”

Bill advised alcoholics to talk over their problems in confidence, “make what amounts to a confession–an internal house cleaning.

It Does the Job

Speaking with the calm of a man who enjoys peace of mind, tall, spare, middle aged Bill went on.

“It starts when you get to a point in life where you can’t go over, above or around any more and you appeal to a higher power.”

“You’d call it a conversion,” he said, “although most of us drunks still gag on that one. But whatever it is, it does the job.”

“I’d had one of those dandy modern educations that taught me I was self sufficient and religion was only a sop for sissies.”

Religion Out of a Bottle

An alcoholic, Bill said, is a fellow who is “trying to get his religion out of a bottle,” when what he really wants is unity within himself, unity with God. But he is suffering from a “cancer of the emotions, maybe of the soul.”

Alcoholics Anonymous recommends a return to religion, resumption of Church attendance.

“There is a definite religious element here,” Bill said. “I pray and I feel released.”

He emphasized that Divine Aid was AA’s greatest asset, more effective than confinement, environment changes and dietary experiments.

Bill advised alcoholics to talk over their problems in confidence, “make what amounts to a confession–an internal house cleaning.

Alcoholics Anonymous, he (Dr. Bob) explained, is not an entertainment program, not a nursery. “It is an opportunity–an opportunity to acquire and maintain sobriety.”

Make Amends

“Make amends to people you have hurt: give yourself in a way that demands nothing in return.”

He placed particular emphasis on this last point, for in effect, Alcoholics Anonymous are their brother’s keepers. Clergymen and doctors are able to aid alcoholics to a certain extent, Bill said, but somehow only another alcoholic can transmit with impact and convincing authority the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Dr. Bob, another founder of AA, also addressed the Shrine assembly. As he was introduced the audience rose to its feet in tribute. the fame of Dr. bob is great in AA.

In soft, confident and unhurried words he too reiterated the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Read religious literature Resume church attendance, cultivate the habit of prayer, and transmit the desires and principles of Alcoholics Anonymous to others.” He particularly recommended reading the Bible.

Dr. Bob told how perseverance in such a program had aided him overcoming alcoholism at a time when his whole professional career was in jeopardy.

In the name of Alcoholics Anonymous he paid high tribute to the Sisters of St. Augustine in Akron, Ohio who have greatly aided the work of AA by turning over to alcoholics an entire ward of their hospital. as many as 500 men a year are treated here.

Of Sister Ignatia, superior of the hospital, he said: “They don’t make many like her.”

“We are stewards of our time,” he declared, “and we should give a good account of it.”

Alcoholics Anonymous, he explained, is not an entertainment program, not a nursery. “It is an opportunity–an opportunity to acquire and maintain sobriety.”

Statistics have shown that members of AA are giving a good account of their time.

Editor’s Note: This article was sent to us from Dick B., an A.A. archivist.

Here’s an exciting piece of evidence just revived. It is the long sought Tidings article on the address of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith (their wives were also present) to an audience of 4500 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Friday, March 26, 1948. Note what Bob and Bill said about conversion, Divine Aid, prayer, reading the Bible, reading religious literature, religion, and the resumption of church attendance as favored.

The article contents make even more clear the findings in our two most recent books about the younger years of Bill Wilson and of Dr. Bob–conversion, the power of God, the importance of prayer, the required Bible reading, the suggested reading of religious literature, and the “resumption” of church attendance (something that Dr. Bob had certainly accomplished, while Bill never got much farther along than presence in Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Episcopal Church where he met Sam and also served as a godfather.

God Bless, Dick B.

7 thoughts on “‘Get Honest With Yourself, Pray,’ Alcoholics Anonymous Advise

  1. Any article from the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles certainly would talk about a return to church! And Bill certainly knew how to work the press. It’s an interesting historical tidbit, but if the source had been from FOX, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill would have been reported as a neo-conservative Republican.

  2. All very interesting… I can see the benefit in working the program as outlined and even reading the bible. from being a recovering Christian too i can only look at interpretations of the bible. Emmet Fox who was an early contributer to alcoholics wrote a lot of great books which looked at the bible on a metaphysical level were of great benefit. I am extremely wary of religion which preach fear and conditional love, right and wrong, punishing Gods and so forth. if self centered fear is my problem as it says in the text Alcoholics Anonymous then how can learning about fear from the source from which it all came help me??!!! Very Interesting! What do people think of that? Have I just opened a can of worms?! Ha!!

  3. "God as we understood Him". "Not Christ, you will understand Him". I read the Bible almost daily. It helps me. When I get to the parts that reference the fear of God, I interpret that to mean faith in God. The Bible was not written in English, therefore I personally don’t know exactly what the authors of the various books meant by certain references. The Bible has many places where it talks of a loving forgiving God. Why would I fear that? So again I agree with my new friend, Richard. There is lots of great wisdom in the Bible, but many things can be interpreted in different ways. As far as returning to church, it sure can’t hurt! I go with my wife once in a while, and I’m not even Christian. I hear lot’s of good things, and Christ was all about love and forgiveness. So where is the harm in hearing that? Kurt, the FOX News thing was amusing. I guess that’s because I’m a neo-conservative Republican myself.

  4. There is no doubt that encouraging people to go to religious services was and should still be a part of what we do. After all the world’s religions have the vast majority of resources for people looking for a spiritual life. As was pointed out, bill was not marrying AA to religion, but rather working the audience, which he was quite good at.

    I reject the indication by some that this is evidence that AA is, or should be, a Christian program or fellowship. Not only does our book contradict such an idea, Bill’s own words in this article are inconsistent with the notion. My own personal experiences, as well as the experience of many people I know in AA with solid spiritual programs are proof positive that a Christian belief system is not required to recover from Alcoholism. In as many cases where regular church attendance strengthens spiritual development, it can also be looked upon as a hindrance. This is why we leave the idea out of AA and up to the individual.

  5. The bible is hardly the only source of wisdom. There’s a lot a great wisdom available from sources other than the bible. One of the beauties of the AA founders is that they didn’t hesitate to grab what wisdom they could from ANY source, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, atheist, etc.

    There is certainly some evidence that people that find sobriety then decide to attend churches. But I would say theres as many coming from churches (what with all the conditionality, fear and guilt stuff) to 12 steps as there are people from 12-steps going to church!

    Now I want to get this straight, nobody here seems hesitant to interpret the words of the bible, but in the BB, we have to take it precisely as its written? LOL

    And I wouldn’t worry about being a neo-conservative Bruce. Being a neo-conservative is a bit like being an alcoholic we dig ourselves into a rut and then we furnish it. (Besides, most so-called neo-conservatives I’ve met don’t even have a very good understanding of what one really is.) But in all events, its curable as November in the U.S. will demonstrate. J

  6. Quite a fascinating group of comments on the Tidings Article. Somehow, a good many seem to confuse Christians in A.A. with Christianity and A.A. A.A. was a Christian Fellowship. A belief in God, conversion to Christ, obedience to God’s will, growth through Bible study and prayer were coupled with abstinence and helping other drunks. That was Christianity in A.A. A.A. is no longer a Christian fellowship. Nor are members required to believe in God or accept Christ or read the Bible. Today, when I write about Christianity and A.A., I simply address the point that there are thousands and thousands of Christians in A.A. And there are thousands and thousands of unbelievers, atheists, agnostics, and people of other religious persuasions. Nobody can talk about love and tolerance and love and service and claim the right to throw rocks at someone else’s religious beliefs or non-religious beliefs today. Nor can someone reasonably condemn the learning of A.A.’s history, beliefs, principles, and practices. There is no index of forbidden books in A.A. No police force to ban belief or unbelief. Just a large group of people hopefully dedicated to the primary purpose of carrying an accurate message that will help the still suffering alcoholic. God Bless, Dick B.

  7. Only an egocentric alcoholic would post a very interesting piece of AA history to specifically promote his own agenda to promote his personal idea of God,in this case citing use of the Bible. The ego is cunning and baffling, much more than a bottle of booze.

    Dr.Bob and Bill were speaking for themselves at this meeting, not for AA. The Program of Recovery is unchanged,and resides in the first 164 pages of the Big Book. It suggests returning to a religious practice MIGHT be a good idea for some, it does NOT suggest reading the bible. If it did, it would be imposing one persons idea of God upon another, this is the opposite of what is stated in the Steps and Traditions.

    Christian centric egoism threatens the existence of AA.Wake up to this. A primary reason AA exists is because Ebby told Bill, “why not choose your own conception of God,” this freed Bill from past negative feelings about God and religion that were forced down his throat, which, however well intentioned, the author of this article is trying to do.

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