The Watering Down of AA


By Bobby Beach

Not a New Thing

On any given day, the AA world witnesses a remarkable volume of whining about the watering down of Alcoholics Anonymous. Various individuals, groups, and institutions comprise the extensive cast of offenders. The names are gravely uttered through the gritted teeth and snarled lips of our fundamentalist members, the keepers of the faith. The further we move to the right, and into the dominion of those deeply committed to the “Rarely have we seen a person fail…” narrative, the greater the passion to rationalize the increasing hordes of slackers failing to “thoroughly follow our path”.

We’ve gotta blame somebody!

The ultimate in scapegoats of choice may well be treatment centers. For forty plus years, they have been indicted for all manner of loosey-goosiness running counter to the dogma of an organization that continually professes to have no dogma. Within our non-religious society (no offense, Toronto Intergroup), it IS imperative that one and all MUST (we have a musty book) follow AA’s program religiously. Dogmatic adherence to our non-dogmatic book describing our non-dogmatic program is the very essence of our non-dogmatic dogma.

Nobody Move!!!!!! Some sumabitch misplaced a semi-colon!!

Who should be held responsible??

In general, we lay the culpability for AA’s undeniable decline squarely at the feet of the accursed (3 syllables) agents of the watering down of Alcoholics Anonymous. Apart from treatment centers, the prime culprits for the added H2O diluting our tea are court referrals, agnostics, hard drinkers, two-steppers, 13th steppers, atheists, weak sponsors…

WOW!!! That’s SOME list!!!

…druggies, open disgusting meetings, Al-Anon, “Acceptance Is The Answer,” physicians, Pax Prentice, AA Agnostica,  Larry K., donut eaters, the Russians, the word “suggested,” Roger, and a partridge in a pear tree…

Book thumpers are even greatly disturbed and perturbed by other corrupting, albeit conference-approved,  literature such as Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Living Sober, and The Grapevine. All are seen at different times, and in different ways, as having contributed to the watering down of AA, and the sacred message of 1939.

…the American Medical Association, anda’s, harm reductionists, Oprah, psychiatrists, Narcotics Anonymous, Buddhism, group therapy, naltrexone, meeting makers…

Gresham’s Law

There is nothing new in our newer people being told, by our not-so-new people, that AA isn’t at all like what it was in the old days, God damn it!! The 2004 guy is told this by the 1999 guy, who was told this by the 1991 guy who told this by the 1986 guy, who was… who was… Probably, the 2017 guy is even told about the glory days by the 2015 guy. So just when WAS the golden era, the time BEFORE the adulteration that sent us hurtling into the abyss?

It cannot be 1976, because that’s when we were informed by Tom Powers Sr., in Gresham’s Law & Alcoholics Anonymous, that the AA world was already on its way to Hell in a hand-basket. Powers’ “strong tea – weak tea” analogy is PERFECT, watering down being the exact, literal cause of the weakening of the tea. The weak way of working AA’s 12 steps “turns out to be really no way at all but literally a heresy, a false teaching, a twisting and corruption of what the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous clearly stated the program to be”.

Powers overview of the steps, and the embodied principles, includes “3. Total surrender to God.”

Let’s pause a moment to call 3 words to the attention of the atheistic execrable rabble… “TOTAL”… “SURRENDER” …”GOD.” (I hope you’re writing this down.) Let’s add a 4th word… “LAW.” It’s a LAW, fer heaven’s sake!! You can’t argue with a  damned law!!

A-breakin’ rocks in the hot sun,
I fought the law and the law won.
I fought the law and the law won.

Old Grumpy Guy Goes Apoplectic

He hath met the enemy, and it is us – the belligerent God deniers

In 2010, a semi-senile codger in Florida donned a fresh Depends, mounted a white charger, and, having identified AA’s principal adversaries, rode to the defense of the God of our fathers. Waving a broadsword, 46 years of sobriety, and possibly a quill pen, a not-so-anonymous Sandy Beach, as legend has it, produced the greatest single piece of writing since the immortal Rick Dees penned the equally immortal “Disco Duck”. Quack quack.

Stringing words together with the artistry of a George W. Bush, the man with the oh-so-clever nickname explains how the nonbelievers have essentially been the agents of their own demise.  Almost tolerable back in the days when they STFU, “as time passed, however, certain atheists/ agnostics decided that their beliefs were entitled to be expressed openly”. (The White Paper on Why Atheists Should Eat Shit And Die, by Anonymous, aka Grumpy B., p. 12)

Horror of horrors!! SAY IT ISN’T SO!!!

And then, surprisingly at first, until we see the dashed (two syllables) genius of the man’s subtle wit, there is a shot fired over the bow of the Good Ship Big Book. “Perhaps some of our Big Book thumpers and our ‘Back to the Basics’ members get a little carried away sometimes with comments that make the Big Book look almost Biblical…. the Big Book is only the treasure map – the real ‘treasure’ is God. We are advised by the Book itself to look to God for answers, not to the Book.”

Well, “wit” may have been an overstatement, but “halfwit”, at the very least.

Towards the merciful end of a narrative that drones on like the drunken ditty, “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”, the aging author treats us to a defense of AA’s incongruous use of the King of Christian prayers.

I especially didn’t like the Lord’s Prayer. I was told to keep an open mind and eventually I would come to love it. This turned out to be true as it was for all the others who didn’t like the prayer. We come to love it as AA’s prayer. When I sometimes attend church with a friend and the Lord’s Prayer is recited, I think to myself, “Why, they are using our prayer!” A resentment about the Lord’s Prayer is still a resentment. I must not try to use the power of the prayer itself in an attempt to elevate my resentment to the status of justified resentment. (White Paper On Kicking Out The Heathens To SAVE AA, Playa de Arena, p. 4)

There’s at least a bit of unintended irony in ending a resentful diatribe with a couple of potshots at the perceived resentments of others.

Nonetheless, it’s a powerful essay, and long. Lordy, it’s LONG! But, never has there been so much underlining. (The underscoring distinguishing the EXTRA powerful stuff from REGULARLY powerful stuff.) And although obstinately recalcitrant God deniers are the crystal clear target of the anonymous author’s fangs, some venom finds its way to the bloodstreams of The Grapevine, GSO, AA’s trustees, and some shamefully inclusive pamphlets with EGO – Easing God Out – at their very core.

Some Beachy Cleverness From Bobby

The watering down of AA does not, in fact, have its origins in treatment centers, drug court referrals, human rights complaints, or in the other atrocities listed above. Let’s meander back a little further into the presumed “golden era”.

Page 26 of AA’s Big Book reports the adventures of “a certain American business man” who had gone to Switzerland, “placing himself under the care of a celebrated physician (the psychiatrist, Dr. Jung) who prescribed for him.” The man “finished his treatment with unusual confidence”, but relapsed a short time later. The principal message of the tale is the total inefficacy of human power.

Mister Page 26, Rowland Hazard, some years later found sobriety back in America by calling on two resources. One was lay therapist and reformed alcoholic, Courtenay Baylor, whose other noteworthy client was Richard Peabody. The second was  a “First Century Christian Fellowship”, the Oxford Group. A sober Hazard then carried the message to Ebby Thacher, who carried the message to Bill Wilson. At 5 months sober, Bill brought the message to Dr. Bob, and so on.

(Astonishingly, neither the name “Oxford Group”, nor “Courtenay Baylor”, are to be found anywhere within the First Edition Big Book. In 1936, OG leader Frank Buchman had made some injudiciously favorable remarks about Herr Hitler, and Baylor’s lay therapy simply reeked of human power.)

At the time of Rowland and Ebby, what WAS the message?

It was redemption through Jesus Christ.

Rowland enthusiastically embraced religion, taking up lifelong membership in the Episcopal Church, where he served as a vestryman. Ebby was indoctrinated by the Oxford Group’s Christian membership, and stayed for a time at Calvary Mission, a Christian hostel, where he was housed and fed, and where he participated in daily Christian services. When he called on old chum, Bill Wilson, he was 10 or 12 weeks sober.

“How?” we ask with bated breath. “I’ve got religion.” (BB, p. 9)

A few pages along in “BILL’S STORY,” we have the first enormous watering down of the message at Ebby’s hands with “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” (BB, p. 12) After some days of drunken ruminating on Ebby’s religious “cure”, Bill ventured down to the Calvary Mission where, only semi-drunk,  he made an altar call and testified articulately.

Within only a few days, Wilson’s conception of God had become substantially more “Jesussy”. We should ALL evolve so quickly.

The Writing And Editing Of The Book

Bill Wilson demonstrated exceptional vision, and astute insight into the personality of alcoholics, as he steered the book content, for the most part, away from overt Christianity. From the perspective of the majority of Akron members, the book version of the “program” was a watered down rendering of what they had actually been doing. Jesus, kneeling, surrender, biblical quotations, and the like, were left on the cutting room floor.

The de-Christianized book presented an account not remotely close to being “precisely how we have recovered”, regardless of the advertised claims. Many of the Akronites were skeptical about the book project, and not entirely from wariness over the financial motives of the New York entrepreneurs, Bill and Hank. The less religious had watered down the book, even BEFORE there was a book!

And then, in the editing phase, they had watered it down some more!

To Bob Smith, and his followers, God was God. The tacking on of “as we understood Him” must have been quite offensive. Had my life been saved at the (sandy) beach by Tom the Lifeguard, would I be comfortable extolling lifeguards “as we understood them”, or would I prefer to express my gratitude directly to Tom? Certainly to those in Ohio, terms like “a Power greater than ourselves” were nothing more than the wishy-washiest of gobbledygook. In the words of Bob Smith to Clarence Snyder at the time of their first meeting, “God is God, Young Man”.


Akron-Style AA

With the book editing having watered down the program as they knew it, the Akron folks simply carried on as they had before. At their gatherings, bibles were read, confessions were confessed, and the 5 “C’s”, 4 Absolutes, and other Oxford Group practices that were good enough pre-book, continued to be utilized post-book. As the big book was more than a little pricey at 60 dollars, in today’s money, 1940 saw the dawn a little 10 cent pamphlet, The Akron Manual, that covered the basics, and recommended taking along one’s bible on 12 step calls.

The Cleveland folks had some ideas of their own.

On May 10, 1939, a month after publication of “the book,” Clarence S. announced at the Oxford Group meeting that his Cleveland contingent of a dozen or so men, would be no longer be driving down to Akron for the weekly convocation at the home of T. Henry and Clarace Williams. The Akron meeting was NOT an AA meeting, and was not called an AA meeting. Dr. Bob and his sober Ohio cohorts were all, at the time, still under the auspices of the Christian fellowship of the Oxford Group.

Fifteen months earlier, at his first meeting, Clarence had been stunned by the overt religiosity and the “holy rollerish” nature of the proceedings. Bill V.H. gave him a card that read “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things become as new”. All recruits did a kneeling 3rd step in an upper bedroom in the presence of the initiated. Absent a willingness to make that surrender, they were sent on their way.

In the watered down Big Book, the word “surrender” is nowhere to be found.

The Clevelanders’ decision to detach was not well received (see AA Started in Riots). Snyder not only changed the geographical location to Cleveland, but the format of the gathering was significantly altered, watered down, if you will. Cleveland Catholics were being criticized by pastors for participating in the very Protestant Oxford Group meetings. Snyder later reported on the new Cleveland group that there was “not much ‘spiritual business’ at meetings”. (Letter to Hank P.) Clarence believed that prayer and bible reading were better left to be done at home.

Although far from being a nonbeliever himself, Clarence Snyder played a crucial role in moving AA away from its religious roots, ironically on behalf of a religious minority, the Catholics.

From the Akron perspective, Snyder had watered down AA meetings, eliminating some of the key religious tools that had been at the heart of their personal transformations. It’s no wonder that the righteous were moved to smite him with fists of fury. In fairness to Clarence, the New York folks had done something similar two years earlier.

The Unification Myth

The Cleveland shemozzle took place a month AFTER the publication of the big book. For thumpers, AA IS the book. They could try to make the case that no watering down could have occurred in pre-book times, but that would be contradicted by the words of the book. “Here are the steps we took…” (p. 59) The book Alcoholics Anonymous puts on paper an existing program of recovery. What’s in the book is repped as what they had been doing. Past tense. Not true, but that IS what it says.

The myth is that in the aftermath of the book, AA became unified in its practices, and followed to the letter the compromised, and now codified, prescription. “The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree…” (BB, p. 17)

The reality is that the Cleveland folks were big on the book; the New Yorkers not so much; and the Akron folks continued to revere the Good Book above the very expensive money-making publication that watered down the original message carried from Rowland to Ebby to Bill.

The Spiritual Experience Appendix

The final nail in our leaky coffin comes at the hands of the founder himself. In 1941, Bill Wilson completed the early watering down of Alcoholics Anonymous with perhaps the unkindest cut of all. In 7 simple paragraphs, the solution to alcoholism falls from the empire of angels, clouds, harps and haloes, plummeting to the realm of the real, the material, the human, the psychological.

The transformative experiences, needing neither cool breeze nor blinding light, become “educational”. The previously essential intervention of a rescuing deity is replaced by “the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism”. It’s no wonder that the fundiest of fundamentalists cringe at the heresies of this addendum. Fans of seeing their newfound clarity as “God-consciousness”, have to bear the insult of being called “our more religious members”.

“Et tu Bill, eh?, you watering down sonofabitch!!”

I hope this makes you heathen bastards feel a little better.

aka bobby beach

PS. Please buy my buddy bob k’s marvelous book Key Players in AA History. It’s awesome, and not the least bit watered down.

YouTube Audio

44 Responses

  1. Mike B says:

    Thanks for your comments Tim. I appreciate your approach to sobriety.

    The only positive I see in studying AA history is the knowledge we gain to help us avoid past mistakes and point AA in the right direction.

    Unfortunately the history of mankind and AA is to continue repeating those mistakes in spite of the consequences we suffer.

    It is becoming more difficult to soar with the eagles when we are surrounded by a bunch of turkeys! The herd mentality in AA just keeps thundering on.

    Thanks for the story on “watering down”. The fundamentalists think AA is getting worse and many freethinking secularists think AA is going to the fundie’s hell in a hand basket. I really enjoyed this story and the many insightful comments.

    Mike B.
    Oliver, BC

  2. Jack B. says:

    After about 25 years, this is the best discussion of this topic that exists. I’ve shared this extensively and it’ll give my printer a workout. Well done!! First rate!! Let’s have more!!

  3. Tim Mc. says:

    I have only been sober in AA for thirty years so I don’t have personal direct knowledge of the early days. Except that I spent a lot of time with a member whose wife read the Jack Alexander article and got him to join the other 7 AA members in Erie, PA in 1942.

    Obie, as he was sometimes affectionally called would spend hours talking about what it was like. His insistence that the steps had two parts and purposes. The first nine to get well and the last three, the meat and potatoes steps, to keep getting better.

    He got sober without the 12 and 12’s obfuscation of the process. Bill’s essays on the steps has so confused AA members that many of them today think that we are supposed to do all twelve steps all of the time. Which leads to confusion and sometimes to drunk.

    I for one think that AA is better than ever. Look at what just happened in Toronto. With AAWS telling the Toronto intergroup that they can’t tell any group or member what to believe AA got better. Hurrah!

    As for original manuscripts and early writings being the essence of AA’s message and purpose, bullshit. We learn as we go and we continue to learn. First drafts are not finished books and even finished books can and should be “fixed” as needed.

    Do I think it would be great if the book Alcoholics Anonymous were rewritten? I don’t know. As an historical document and a primer for how those drunks got better eighty years ago it has its place. And those writers who feel compelled to write about AA and how it works an how it is evolving (which means it is alive) more power to them. Certainly there are chapters in the original that beg to be fixed.

    Regardless. I got sober because some sober men and women showed me how. Nobody read the book to me. I read it. I used a dictionary. And I attended book study groups that lead to light and confusion. I did the steps ignoring any notion that some benevolent force, other that those helpful men and women, was going to fix me.

    But don’t pay any attention to me. I have been sober a long time and I am a happy guy.

    Tim Mc
    Glad to know that I am alcoholic.

  4. Bill D says:

    Oh. I forgot to mention that the only prayer I “pray” is a slightly modified Serenity prayer. When the others say “God grant” I say “May I”. It works perfectly for me.


    ps. Sorry for getting the names mixed up. Thanks to you as well for maintaining this site. 🙂

  5. Bob K. says:

    Wear lots of sunscreen, and a bulletproof vest, maybe.

  6. Bob K. says:

    I’ll pass along your kind words to Bobby Beach.

    Some months into discontented sobriety, I could not even take a stab at the 12 steps as written, but I knew I needed to do something more than just show up at some meetings.

    It’s yet another irony that the 6 step process I found in PASS IT ON, and used at the time we were under the umbrella of a Christian fellowship, was far more palatable (less Godly) than our “spiritual not religious” thingee.

  7. Larry K says:

    This has left me rolling…

    I’ve been able to enjoy two beaches this month!

  8. Boyd P. says:

    Living with contradictions, and making sense of our personal experience, in fellowship works for me. “I can’t fix my thinkin with my thinkin” is a useful mantra. Put more eloquently, “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.”

  9. Len R. says:

    So what is the afterworld like? Lol

  10. life-j says:

    Len, my words!

    I had big-time cancer surgery a couple of years ago, and I asked the doctor to please do the operation exactly the way they did it in 1939 …

    I felt so much better being in god’s hands than in the hands of modern medicine.

  11. John S says:

    I enjoyed reading this. It’s great to laugh at this stuff. The watering down of AA is a complaint that I’ve been hearing for as long as I’ve been in AA.

  12. Bob K. says:


    I am pleased to be able to direct you to Beyond Belief which has reached over 5,000 SOLD, a remarkable circulation for a special interest book.

    It was reviewed here a little over 4 years ago: Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for a 12 Step Life.

  13. Al says:

    Y’all say “watered down” like it’s a BAD thing. Hell, water is essential to life and a person can go a long time without… manure.

    If AA fundies insist upon their Christian approach as the being the “only” way to sobriety, then they must, by logic, be 100% OK with being mowed down by a drunk-driving Aborigine, Jew, Muslim, Atheist or whatever else doesn’t fit in their wee shoe box. They better “accept it”. Otherwise, it is The Inquisition all over again. Maybe, if they read any history other than the extreme narrow POV of their own tracts, they would see the obvious results and success of such an approach. NAH, just kidding!

    These whiners are just more tiresome white male bigots, for the most part, and it seems to be a cultural stance. They are patronizing, exclusionary, condescending and just as obsolete as magic beans. Faith “healers” who have a pathetic track record.

    If you want what we have (ruling class), you have to become like us. Standard exclusionary rhetoric.

    They perceive the rest of the world is quickly outnumbering them* and they don’t like it.

    *Always has been like that, Western culture was just more isolated leading to delusions of control.

    I’ll never forget the late great George Carlin going on about how a book, a very special book, was the true tool to enlighten and progress human kind. And then he held up… a dictionary.

  14. Bill D says:

    Thanks Bob K for taking the time to do the research and writing. Just last week I was whining to a friend about my disappointment of the watered down nature of the meetings at the local Alano club. Your work has helped me to evaluate my thinking.

    Over the years in sobriety my ideology has moved a great distance, from being a bible versed new age christian Catholic whose god was the one true all knowing and powerful – to comfortable atheist. It’s kind of funny, I got sober in one absolute belief system that perfectly fit with the program but have come to understand more fully what actually is important for sustained sobriety and comfort.

    My solace today is the framework provided by the original six steps (1,4,5,9,11,12) coupled with regular interaction with other alcoholics, both in and out of recovery. It’s simple, and it works!

    Thanks again,

    Bill. 🙂

  15. Paul JFT says:

    1.Talked with UU preacher after a service awhile back. Several folks were complaining about the talk presented as having “Too much theistic GOD stuff in it” AND another group was unsettled about the talk having not enough ‘Spirituality” in it. LOL 🙂
    2.From my perspective AA is “growing”! It must or it will “go”.
    3.Enjoyed the read immensely ~ stirred many thoughts & feelings for further examination.

  16. Diane B says:

    Thank you for coming out with a book that addresses the issues, not just bashes the “fundies”. As a non-“believer”, I have been hoping to see a non-god book of guidelines and steps. Tired of hearing that they are idiots. I KNOW that they are idiots!! But to make this work, we need our own “Big Book” that puts aside bashing and sets down, in, writing, ways to recovery. The only way to stand up to them on an even footing is to publish such a book and get it into the hands of freethinkers as basic text – and a worthy REPLACEMENT for the “holy holy” Big Book. I hope yours will be that book. While you’re at it, can somebody get up an alternate page to the “Just for Today” daily quotes and readings? Some are fine, but reading through them is like stepping through a “God” minefield, especially the “ambush” readings – where they the “only through God” message at the very end. Very sneaky! Please take these suggestions seriously. Thank you.

  17. Steve V. says:

    And Bill W. claimed the therapy Roland got from Jung was in 1931 – another exaggeration.

  18. Bill P. says:

    Thanks for a long and carefully researched read. All I know is that I’m not a Big Book ‘bible thumper”, agnostic, much less atheist, not a keen fan of “Organized Religion” but somehow I’ve managed to get sober and have persisted in that for nearly 29 years. (I hate the word “clean”, as if alcoholism is dirty and that we should go through the streets shouting “Unclean!, Unclean!”) If I’m only a “dry drunk” then this won’t last much longer since I’m 90 and most folks my age live only two or three more years. I look forward to see the sun rise, smell the flowers and live long enough to take care of my family and the dog. As for alcohol, it was destroying my soul That is all.

  19. David P. says:

    Fantastic read Bobby! Took great fondness in the “fundiest of fundamentalists”, as I know one or two of them. On my third read now and have shared with great AA friends, as this is a Gem and a cannon “BOOM” all at once!

  20. Brent P. says:

    Is there a conclusion to be drawn from this?

  21. Bob K. says:

    A fair point.

    This will not even register on the fundies’ scale of awareness. It’s mostly just for fun. In my area, and around the internet, fundamentalists and even semi-fundamentalists, complain about the “watering down of AA.” A lot of the blame falls on the heathen horde.

    It’s beneficial to members of our side to be aware that watering down is nothing new. What one sees as qualifying for the “watering down” label is, of course, a matter of perspective. From the perspective of the early members who bathed in the blood of Jesus Christ, the 1939 big book is a half-assed rendition of their path to redemption.

    What is too religious to some, is insufficiently religious to others.

  22. Ed O. says:

    Been an atheist in AA for over 38 years and, after livin’ a lonely-as-hell existence on the streets for around 10 years, slowly came to enjoy becomin’ part of something greater ‘n me. Baiting the “book thumpers” was fun til I didn’t care anymore – maybe just outgrew it – and came to realize I “changed” because I could avoid them authoritarian types steeped in the ignorance of “belief” and allowing my slowly growing free-thinker friends to become my community-within-a-community.

    As an “old-timer” who never needed to “crack my knees” in order to git-‘n-stay sober (happily and successfully so, btw) I’m very appreciative to have this atheist/agnostic information coming my way. Keep up the good – no great! – work.

  23. Bob K. says:

    I have Bobby Beach’s written permission to use this piece in a new project that has my current attention “A HEATHEN’S GUIDE TO 12 STEP RECOVERY,” a book with several sections. One will be a tribute to the various effective “human power” solutions demonstrated by the Washingtonians and similar mutual aid groups, Richard Peabody, etc.

    This article will join other classic bob k. anti-fundamentalist satires such as “Short of a Game Changer,” “Positive Affirmations & The Placebo Effect,” and “The Fraud That Is AA Fundamentalism,” in what I view as a “fun” section.

    Brand new material will be aimed at directing freethinking newcomers to a navigable path in 12 step recovery.

  24. Bob K. says:

    Courtenay Baylor was treating Rowland Hazard at about the same time that he was exploring the religious approach (1932-33-34). Neither the Oxford Group, nor Courtenay Baylor are credited, or even directly mentioned, in the BB 1st Edition. Both influence the chain of Rowland to Ebby to Bill to Bob.

    OG founder Frank Buchman made some injudiciously favorable remarks about Adolf Hitler in 1936. Baylor’s lay therapy, I expect, evidenced possible human power solutions not suitable to the “God could and would if he were sought” narrative.

  25. Bob K. says:

    The treatment of Rowland by Carl Jung is repped by AA as being of a year’s duration. Hazard family and business records make the YEAR of therapy an impossibility.

    Hazard was in Europe during the summer of 1926, and today’s best guess is that this was when he was in therapy with the noted psychoanalyst, but for a period not exceeding 8-10 weeks.

    Bill Wilson was a known exaggerator, and likely stretched the tale to a year.

    See Stellar Fire by Cora Finch (2006).

  26. life-j says:

    This really had me chuckling at times, it is funny. At the same time, I couldn’t help but be aware that this really only was written for US. To any regular AA’er it would seem so far over the top that they wouldn’t make it until the end. And of course those who would be the target of this funny piece would be too offended to read on just a few paragraphs into it.

    Hey, every now and then we have to have some fun among ourselves at those fundies’ expense, and this is it, but once the laughter has died down we probably also need to think about how to present this in such a manner that the fundies won’t feel too ridiculed to read on a little bit further.
    Or maybe I just got up on the wrong side of bed this morning, and this ridicule really IS the way forward? Help them, well, at least try to help them not take themselves too damn seriously.

  27. Jon S says:

    Son of a Beach..!

    Bobby B is like Bob K on ‘roids.

    Great job.


  28. Lance Bredvold says:

    I’ll add a little more for those who never experienced Mr Beach. I sat in a group with him for perhaps 3 or 4 hours a few years before he died and listened to his story from the podium. I drank the kool aid and bought the tape (for it was still a tape back then). The most dramatic moment and the one I still remember despite being an agnostic, was his articulate explanation of how he had become like a child in god’s hands. He described tripping down the street hand in hand with god and feeling so blessed as he experienced life asking: “OK god, what’s next?”

    His story was well crafted and fascinating the way he told it. I passed it along to my more religious friends who did not seem quite so enthralled. Among the women the most common response was: 8 wives?

  29. Courtney S. says:

    History lies in the hands of the teller… Courtenay Baylor’s practice at Boston’s Emmanuel Church and the Meetings of the Emmanuel Group there could certainly qualify as the Beginnings of the movement now know as AA. There is the obvious and verifiable direct lineage of patient Rowland H. to Bill W. as a result of Emmanuel Group Lay Therapy by CB.

    If one is so inclined as to pursue this unique therapy, one will find virtually no reference to GOD or a Higher Power as an essential ingredient to recovery. What is apparent is the astonishing parallels the “Refitting” has with “More About Alcoholism”, especially the descriptions of the “Types of Alcoholics”.

    Even Wally P. notes this lineage. However Wally denies Rowland’s visit to Carl Jung based on a lack of this evidence in the Rhode Island State Archives dedicated to Rowland and the Hazard family.

    Aaaah Historians… never take the findings of just one as proof of anything… only as a point of view or as a single reference. Read them all… become informed!!

    Too many experts in AA think they know how it works!

  30. Joe A. says:

    Wonderful reading this. Nice to know we are not alone in our thoughts and beliefs or non-beliefs.

  31. Lance Bredvold says:

    Wow! That’s wonderful.

  32. Mark C. says:

    Thank you Bobby Beach! hahahah.
    Another delightful romp!

  33. Mark C. says:

    A serious examination of history is always subversive to myth. And, OH the legions of myths in AA. Jebus, I’d not seen so much kray kray stacked so high in one place than before I staggered through the doors. Quite fascinating truth be told.

  34. Bobby V. says:

    Thanks for the giggles. My personal savior (get it?) is the paragraph on page 50 (in the OLD OLD Big Book) right smack dab in the middle of the chapter to the (us) agnostics. It says:

    In our personal stories (SEE? We ARE allowed to read them, ya old poops) you will find a wide variation to the way each teller approaches and conceives of the Power which is greater than himself. Whether we agree with a particular approach or conception seems to make little difference. Experience has taught us that these are matters about which, for our purpose, we need not be worried. These are questions for each individual to settle for himself.

    I’d like to know who wrote that paragraph, it certainly wasn’t Bill, the syntax is all wrong, and it’s followed immediately by the “strikingly agreed” (or else) clause. I’d bet there was a good deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth arguing about the merits and message of the statement “seems to make little difference”.

    Thanks again for the article. Hope we run into each other someday. Cheers!

  35. Joe C says:

    Bobby Beach; hahahahaha , priceless, perfect.

  36. Teresa J. says:

    I enjoy the AA Agnostica posts… grateful for them arriving in my inbox.

    Thank you bobby beach for your research & enthsiastic sharing… and all who participate in this website & secular meetings. I’m looking forward to Toronto next year & perhaps starting free thinker meetings in my area.

    I continue to go to AA meetings…taking what works & leaving the rest. I have no problem voicing my experience, strength, & hope.

    Having been on a spiritual journey through my 20’s & early 30’s… I found my humanity in AA.

    Only “requirement”, a desire to stop drinking. I’m okay with saying I don’t care much for “the big book”. Grateful for the “Living Sober” book, for that is what I needed to learn & be supported in.

    After many meetings someone will approach me to talk about the “God stuff”. I’m happy to share that I am agnostic & not waiting for the time I will come to believe in God. I connect with the spirit of acceptance & love for self & my fellow beings… & we are all so very different!

    What a practice of tolerance. Happy, joyous, free-thinking. Teresa J

  37. Steve V. says:

    I think I remember you too!

  38. Steve V. says:


  39. Doon says:

    The Pharisees, you gotta love ’em.

  40. Len R. says:

    Evolution! Another concept foreign to the Big Book ‘Bible’ Thumpers. Those who cling to the past are doomed to live in it and eventually become irrelevant. Those who learn and adapt evolve and become the future. And will continue to evolve leaving behind the old “Truths” and learning new ones. Those who revere the “good old days” should be forced to go back and live them in their entirety. By the way, as you head back, leave behind modern medicine, modern travel, etc.

    AA, as with all things, must evolve or die out.

    That’s my take away.
    Len R.

    B.T.W., Bob how do you really feel about this? 🙂

  41. Bob K. says:

    Steve H. protégé, back in the day? Golfer?

  42. Thomas B. says:

    A most prolific and humorous commentary, Bob, whetting the appetite for your next humorous historical book about the precursors of AA. Thank you.

    I especially enjoyed your commentary on Herr Beach, he of the Sandy disposition. The most outrageous to my mind of many such comments he made in the “White Paper” was this one: “I would rather hear about serving beer at meetings than diminishing God’s central role.”

    Folks such as he was, and today’s so-called Back to Basics crowd, even consider the AA Preamble to be another violent stream of the watering down of AA.

    Well done, Good Sir, and keep sharpening that outrageous wit for the next delightful book being birthed from your facile and most adept mind !~!~!

  43. Bob K. says:

    This is BRILLIANT!!! I LOVED it!!! I’m left wondering if Bobby Beach and Jesse Beach are related?

  44. Steve V. says:

    Well written! I came back to another fellowship after “being away” for a couple of years in 2001 and Big Book mucking had taken over. I ‘went with the flow” and became a Big Book ‘enthusiast” for a number of years. I never fully bought into all the things I was taught but I was drinking the Kool-Aid anyway. It was when people in meetings were routinely saying contradictory things about early AA that I began to investigate the truth about early AA and it’s history myself. Like today’s author, I found the truth and realized what a lot of people were saying in meetings was a load of horse hockey! I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid, found recovery in AA Agnostic meetings a few years ago and have been well ever since… not that 3 years is a long time but it’s a different feeling this time. That’s the problem these days I think – be it AA or NA or CA, they each have their own brand/flavour of Kool-Aid and if you don’t drink it, you can’t really stay. The thing about AA Agnostic meetings I like is the idea of one alcoholic helping another alcoholic without religion being a part of it. Alcoholics gathering to share their own stories about how they are staying sober and clean with no Kool-Aid to have to drink!

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