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A.A. History
When did Bill W. pass away?
B:  Circle and Triangle Symbol Trademark.
C:  Origin of "I am Responsible..."?
D:  Origin of AA's Statement of Responsibility?
E:  Origin of The Chip System
F:  The 4 Absolutes.
G:  What happened to The Oxford Group?
H:  When was the first AA Meeting?
I:   Who wrote the Big Book?
J:   Why do meetings end with The Lord's Prayer?
K:  Wilson and Silkworth in The Dr.'s Opinion.
L:  Did Bill Wilson use LSD?
M Who was Ebby Thather?

Learn even more about the history of Bill W. & the program of alcoholics anonymous from Joe & Charlie who met and new Bill W.


A: When did Bill W. pass away?
Bill W. Obituary. William Griffin Wilson


B: Circle and Triangle Symbol Trademark

Question: Why did A.A stop using the circle and triangle symbol?

Did we lose the trademark on it?

Answer: What happened was that after many years of using the symbol and claiming it as a trademark, A.A. World Service tried to stop non-A.A. companies from using it on things link anniversary chips.

In this process they learned that the symbol had been in wide spread use, even in temperance societies, well before A.A. existed. Because of that AA never had a legitimate claim to ownership of the symbol and stopped using it.

From the start of the symbols use in A.A. it was recognized as dating back hundreds of years. Page 139 of A.A. Comes of Age describes its start, meaning and history this way:

Above us, at the International Convention at St. Louis in 1955, floated a banner on which was inscribed the then new symbol for A.A., a circle enclosing a triangle. The circle stands for the whole world of A.A., and the triangle stands for A.A.'s Three Legacies: Recovery, Unity and Service

It is perhaps no accident that priests and seers of antiquity regarded this symbol as a means of warding off spirits of evil.


C: Origin of "I am Responsible..."?

Question: Where did the phrase "I am responsible" come from?

Answer: The Responsibility Declaration was written by Al S., a former Grapevine editor and trustee of Alcoholics Anonymous for the 1965 International Convention held in Toronto. Bill W. expanded on the theme in an essay called "Responsibility Is Our Theme" for the July 1965 Grapevine. It became a regular feature of the Grapevine shortly thereafter.

The Responsibility Declaration: "I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible."

This goes hand in hand with the Fifth Tradtion. The long form says "Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purposeóthat of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers."


D: Origin of AA's Statement of Responsibility?

Question: What is the origin of AA's Statement of Responsibility?

Answer: Also known as "The Responsibility Pledge of Alcoholics Anonymous", the Responsibility Declaration was first introduced in July 1965 at the 30th Anniversary International Convention in Toronto, Canada.

It was written by Al S., an editor of The AA Grapevine magazine. The theme of the convention was "Responsibility." The recitation of this pledge was part keynote presentation during the conventions "big meeting."

The Statement of Responsibility says:

I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.


E: Origin of The Chip System

Question: Where did the chips system originate and why were those specific time periods chosen as times for awarding a chip?

Answer: Sometimes referred to as coins, medallions or tokens, the practice of giving out a chip of some kind to mark a period of sobriety actually predates A.A.

Well before A.A. began, organizations such as temperance societies, gave out medallions or coins to people who pledged to quit drinking or for marking periods of sobriety. This common custom was taken up by individual A.A. groups as each saw fit. Eventually private companies began to make "A.A." chips and began selling them to groups.

There is no codified system for giving out chips in A.A. What might be given out, how it is done and for what lengths of sobriety varies from place to place and even group to group. The periods of sobriety denoted by the chips are determined by their manufacturer. In most cases the medallions given out in A.A. are made by private companies who have no affiliation with A.A.


F: The 4 Absolutes

Question: What were the "Four Absolutes" that were part of the Oxford Group?

Answer: The Oxford Group, a Christian fellowship out of which A.A. grew, had four guiding spiritual goals that they tried to practice to the fullest extent possible. These ideals called for:

Absolute Honesty,

Absolute Unselfishness,

Absolute Love, and

Absolute Purity


G: What happened to The Oxford Group?

Question: Does The Oxford Group still exist? What happened to it and can I still join?

Answer: In a way you can still join The Oxford Group, in some fashion or another it has never stopped going.

AA grew in part out of The Oxford Group, a Christian group by Frank Buchman, a Lutheran Minister around the year 1919. The first group was loosely called A First Century Christian Fellowship and the Oxford Group name was later attached to the fellowship due to coincidental affiliation with Oxford, England.

Soon after the start of AA, The Oxford Group in the USA was renamed to Moral Re-Armament in 1938. It became more widely known as MRA. In England, Oxford Groups continue to exist and follow the original tenets of the movement more closely than the groups descendant from MRA.

In 2001 MRA changed its name to Initiatives of Change and can be found today on the Web at: http://www.initiativesofchange.org. Today, Initiatives of Change bears little resemblance to the original fellowship in structure, belief or practice.


H: When was the first AA Meeting?

Question: Where and on what day was the first A.A. meeting held?

Answer: Typically June 10, 1935, the day of Dr. Bob's last drink is considered the day that A.A. was founded.

When the first "meeting" was is less clear. At first it was Bill and Bob hanging out and looking for someone else they could help. Perhaps when they met with "A.A. Number Three", Bill D. in his hospital bed on June 26, 1935 counts as the first meeting. According to the story "Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three" in the second edition of the Big Book, A.A. Group Number 1 of Akron Ohio, started that day with that meeting in Akronís City Hospital.

Some might say the first meeting was when Dr. Bob first met with Bill W. According to Dr. Bob's Story, they first met with Bill trying to help sober up Dr. Bob on Mother's Day of 1935 which would have been May 12 at 5pm at the home of Henrietta Seiberling, a friend of Bob's wife. This house has come to be known as "The Gatehouse" and is in Akron, Ohio. Dr. Bob drank after this meeting, but it was still the first meeting of two men talking about the program that was becoming Alcoholics Anonymous. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Bob's Story:

About this time a lady called up my wife one Saturday afternoon, saying she wanted me to come over that evening to meet a friend of hers who might help me. It was the day before Motherís Day and I had come home plastered, carrying a big potted plant which I set down on the table and forthwith went upstairs and passed out. The next day she called again. Wishing to be polite, though I felt very badly, I said, "Letís make the call," and extracted from my wife a promise that we would not stay over fifteen minutes.
We entered her house at exactly five oíclock and it was eleven fifteen when we left. I had a couple of shorter talks with this man afterward, and stopped drinking abruptly. This dry spell lasted for about three weeks; then I went to Atlantic City to attend several daysí meeting of a national society of which I was a member. I drank all the scotch they had on the train and bought several quarts on my way to the hotel.


I: Who wrote the Big Book?

Question: Who wrote the Big Book?

Answer: While AA co-founder Bill Wilson is often credited with writing The Big Book and he describes his role as more of an editor in a talk he gave in 1954. In part he said then

So, the preparation started and some more chapters were done and we went to A.A. meetings in New York with these chapters in the rough. It wasn't like chicken-in-the-rough; the boys didn't eat those chapters up at all. I suddenly discovered that I was in this terrific whirlpool of arguments. I was just the umpire - I finally had to stipulate. "Well boys, over here you got the Holly Rollers who say we need all the good old-fashioned stuff in the book, and over here you tell me we've got to have a psychological book, and that never cured anybody, and they didn't do very much with us in the missions, so I guess you will have to leave me just to be the umpire. I'll scribble out some roughs here and show them to you and let's get the comments in." So we fought, bled and died our way through one chapter after another. We sent them out to Akron and they were peddled around and there were terrific hassles about what should go in this book and what should not. Meanwhile, we set drunks up to write their stories or we had newspaper people to write the stories for them to go in the back of the book. We had an idea that we'd have a text and all and then we'd have stories all about the drunks who were staying sober.

A copy of Bill W's notes on the 
Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous


J: Why do meetings end with The Lord's Prayer?

Question: How did the practice of closing an A.A. meeting with The Lord's Prayer develop? Does it go back to the Oxford Groups?

Answer: In A.A. the closing of meetings with The Lord's Prayer is common in some regions and somewhat rare in others. Many groups open with the Serenity Prayer and close with The Lord's Prayer. It is also common for groups to open without a prayer and to close with the Serenity Prayer.

The Lordís Prayer, found in The Bible (Matthew 6:9-13), was used extensively in both the Oxford Group and early A.A.

In a letter written in 1959, Bill Wilson explained it this way:

Now about the business of adding the Lord's Prayer to each A.A. meeting.

This practice probably came from the Oxford Groups who were influential in the early days of A.A. You have probably noted in A.A. Comes of Age what the connection of these people in A.A. really was. I think saying the Lord's Prayer was a custom of theirs following the close of each meeting. Therefore it quite easily got shifted into a general custom among us.

Of course there will always be those who seem to be offended by the introduction of any prayer whatever into an ordinary A.A. gathering. Also, it is sometimes complained that the Lord's Prayer is a Christian document. Nevertheless this Prayer is of such widespread use and recognition that the arguments of its Christian origin seems to be a little farfetched. It is also true that most A.A.ís believe in some kind of God and that communication and strength is obtainable through His grace. Since this is the general consensus it seems only right that at least the Serenity Prayer and the Lord's Prayer be used in connection with our meetings. It does not seem necessary to defer to the feelings of our agnostic and atheist newcomers to the extent of completely hiding our light under a bushel.

However, around here, the leader of the meeting usually asks those to join him in the Lord's Prayer who feel that they would care to do so. The worst that happens to the objectors is that they have to listen to it This is doubtless a salutary exercise in tolerance at their stage of progress.


K: Wilson and Silkworth in The Dr.'s Opinionn

Question: On the bottom of Big Book page XXVII where it says: "Later, he requested the privilege of being allowed to tell his story to other patients here and with some misgiving, we consented." was this Bill W. asking the favor of Dr. Silkworth?

Answer: Yes, the story told in The Doctor's Opinion was written by William Duncan Silkworth, M.D. who worked at the Charles B. Towns Hospital in New York City.

Bill Wilson is the fellow first described on page XXV in this paragraph:

In late 1934 I attended a patient who, though he had been a competent businessman of good earning capacity, was an alcoholic of a type I had come to regard as hopeless.

Wilson later indeed told his story to other patients and A.A. began when he told Dr. Bob how he had found sobriety.


L: Did Bill Wilson use LSD?

Question: Is it true that A.A. co-founder Bill Wilson used LSD after he stopped drinking?

Answer: Yes, back when it was still legal in The United States and Canada, Bill used LSD in a clinical setting. At the time LSD was an experimental drug tried in many types of therapies. It was done in the company of Canadian pharmaceutical researchers who were investigating potential clinical uses for this new drug.

Bill first took LSD on August 29, 1956. According to Pass It On: The story of Bill Wilson and How the A.A. Message Reached the World, published by A.A. World Services, Inc., Bill was enthusiastic about his experience; he felt it helped him eliminate many barriers erected by the self, or ego, that stand in the way of one's direct experience of the cosmos and of God. He thought he might have found something that could make a big difference to the lives of many who still suffered.

Bill is quoted as saying:

It is a generally acknowledged fact in spiritual development that ego reduction makes the influx of God's grace possible. If, therefore, under LSD we can have a temporary reduction, so that we can better see what we are and where we are going ó well, that might be of some help. The goal might become clearer. So I consider LSD to be of some value to some people, and practically no damage to anyone. It will never take the place of any of the existing means by which we can reduce the ego, and keep it reduced.

See pages 370 & 371 in Pass It On.

Reprinted with permission of The A.A. Grapevine, Inc. Alcoholics Anonymous
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