Life can be tough. Really tough!
So how do we cope?
The late Dr Scott Peck, a psychiatrist and a Christian, said, “It is only through taking responsibility and accepting the fact that life has problems that these problems can be solved.”
Dr. Peck said these words and a lot more before his death from pancreatic cancer and Parkinson’s disease in 2005.
He is perhaps most famous for his book, “The Road less traveled” which sold more than 10 million copies.
Dr. Peck became a Christian and was baptized in March 1980 at age 46, and he considered the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous one of the top two events of the 20the century. The other was World War II and its stunning defeat of Germany and Japan and the reconstruction of a damaged world.
“Life is difficult,” Dr. Peck acknowledged, requiring a disciplined response that includes the following:
Dedicate yourself to the truth
Create balance in your life
Dr. Peck was a strong supporter of Alcoholics Anonymous and counted it as one of the top two developments of the 20th Century. The other was the aforementioned World War II.
As a grateful beneficiary of Alcoholics Anonymous, born in 1929, six years before the founding of AA in 1935, I want to tell you a little about my own experience with AA and its development and contributions.
I grew up in suburban Summit, N.J, a commuter suburb of NYC, population 20,000. My dad was the owner, publisher and editor of the weekly Summit Herald.
I was five when American voters repealed the Volsted Act in 1934 making drinking legal again after 12 years of prohibition. My father put a little license plate acknowledging the change on my tricycle parked in front of our home at 7 Sherman Avenue to celebrate.
My folks weren’t big drinkers. In fact my mother didn’t drink at all until later in life, but she liked entertaining. They especially enjoyed our neighbors across the street, Alice and Charlie McWilliams.
A trained bear
Once Charlie appeared at our living room window with a trained bear in tow he had borrowed from a guy who was promoting a circus just outside of town. A small party broke out.
But there were also tragedies associated with drinking.
I remembered my parents talking in hushed tones about a friend, Harriett, who hanged herself in the attic of her fashionable home in the late thirties. She had tried to overcome her alcohol addiction with a new program (Alcoholics Anonymous founded in 1935), my mother said, but had tragically given up.
Something else was happening in Summit, which surfaced, at least for me, when I was in the ninth or tenth grade. Some of the most attractive girls had stopped wearing make up and seemed much more religious somehow. They were friendly but also, shall we say, physically unresponsive.
My response to the perceived rebuff was to light up another Coffee Tone cigarette (Lucky Strikes, Chesterfields and Old Golds had gone to war in 1942) and act cool. Hard to pull off when you’re in the eighth grade.
More importantly, the “moral re-armament” movement was affecting Summit and a growing number of other communities through the creation of faith based Oxford groups, which in turn contributed material for AA’s 12 Steps.
The Oxford group influence on AA
The Oxford Group literature defines the group as not being a religion, for it had “no hierarchy, no temples, no endowments, its workers no salaries, no plans but God’s plan.”
Their chief aim, the literature explained was “A new world order for Christ, the King.” In fact one could not belong to the Oxford Group for it had no membership list, badges, or definite location. It was simply a group of people from all walks of life who had surrendered their life to God. Their endeavor was to lead a spiritual life under God’s Guidance and their purpose was to carry their message so others could do the same.
To be spiritually reborn, the Oxford Group advocated three practices which played a part in the creation of the AA 12 Step program:
- The sharing of our sins and temptations with another Christian.
- Surrendering our life past, present and future, into God’s keeping and direction.
- Offering restitution to all whom we have wronged directly or indirectly.
Dr. Bob, the co-founder of AA with Bill Wilson had been in the Oxford Groups for two years, and he was still drinking. Bill sat down with him and explained the problem as Dr. Silkworth had to him, as an allergy and obsession.
Once Dr Bob saw the problem in this way he stopped drinking and began to recover. Not only did Bill help Dr. Bob but also he learned the effectiveness of carrying the message in that way.
Bill and Dr. Bob then went to the hospital together to visit a man named Bill Dodson. Together they told him about the problem and the solution and the problem of action he took and recovered. That’s when AA as we know it today really began.
Little Rock’s Central Office bookstore
I recently visited the Central Office and bookstore tucked behind Edwards Food Treats on Cantrell Road and picked up seven publications to refresh my depleted home library on recovery.
On my list was:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book)
- How Al-Anon works
- The Steps we took ( Joe McQuany)
- Carry This Message (Joe Mcquany)
- When love is not enough (William Borchert)
- How AA got started (a 10 page pamphlet)
- Little Rock approach plan (a 16 page pamphlet)
It had been ten years since I had visited the Central Office, and it looked cheerier and more welcoming than ever.
AA in Little Rock
“On January 1, 1941 the Little Rock Group of AA had been in existence about 10 months,” one report began (AA was founded in Akron, Ohio in 1935, six years earlier).
“When we stopped to take inventory,” the report continued, “it first appeared that we had little to show for our existence. We had: 2 men who had been completely dry since association with AA, two more who had gotten dry without AA and who had been the moving spirit behind the formation of the local group almost from the beginning but who continued to have slips.”
Not an overly impressive beginning, perhaps, but one that led to a few modifications that eventually led to the “Little Rock approach plan,” a significant development.
The approach plan mandated that the prospect read the Big Book in three days; keep a twenty eight day diary, write a case history, make a time and money budget, take a two week leave of absence if employed in order to devote two weeks full time to the plan and to accomplish other assignments.
The plan also provided for an individual sponsor for each new man.
Two years after these beginnings, in the fall of 1943, Bill, AA co-founder, and Lois Wilson made a speaking tour from coast to coast that included Little Rock on their agenda for January 17 to 20, 1944.
The visit included sightseeing trips, a dinner dance in the Skyway room atop the Lafayette Hotel, bull sessions at the club ending with a speech by Bill W. at the Robinson Auditorium.
An advocate for women
Newspaper publicity covering the tour attracted a lot of drunks who wanted to get sober. That included Frances P, a woman, and a dogged advocate of recovery for women.
She would not be denied.
The AA men told her in no uncertain terms that they did not accept women. Totally frustrated she went to Chick W.’s office declaring, “Chick, you have a women member whether you like it or not.”
Chick replied, “You will have to do everything I tell you to do.”
Frances answered, “I’ll walk down Main Street in a G String if that will keep me sober.”
One day while cleaning house and still in shorts and halter and carrying a broom, she impulsively set out to find Doyle W. Doyle another AA member who gave her a list of members to call on and after seeing them all she finally was allowed to attend the group meetings on Thursday evenings.
Bill W’s impact
Bill W’s visit had a huge impact, and Sterling C. located the ideal place at 120 ½ Main Street at normal rent where AA members could gather. All hands were put to work cleaning, painting, plumbing and wiring the new location.
For the next thirteen years 120 ½ Main was the hub of AA activities in the state. The Grapevine characterized it as the mother group of the southwest because so many new groups could trace their origin to someone who had carried the message after finding sobriety at 120 ½ Main.
There were subsequent moves which ended at 2725 West 12st and finally at 1015 Louisiana Street nearly a decade ago.