We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own. Ben Sweetland
Bill Wilson, the self-described rum hound from New York, seemed like an answer to Ann Smith”s prayers. It was only six weeks ago, following that last drunken Mother’s Day scene, when Bill Wilson and her husband finally met. Fifteen minutes, Bob had told her; all I’m giving him. But Ann watched those minutes turn into six hours as the recovered drunk from New York shared his shattered soul and passed on the cold, hard facts of alcoholism to a man whose losing battle with the bottle had now given him new ears to hear.
Bob later recalled, He was the first human being 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.
“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Ann’s own heart started filling with hope when Bill moved into their home on Ardmore Avenue and, over the course of the next several weeks, joined the Smith’s in reading daily scripture, sharing long-kept secrets, and seeking God’s guidance just as their Oxford Group program had taught them each to do. But Bob’s drinking days weren’t quite over yet. Bob insisted on attending a medical convention in Atlantic City. He had attended that American Medical Association convention faithfully for twenty years and now that he was sober he thought he should go more now than ever. That trip quickly led him straight back to the bottle and in and out of a blackout that lasted five days. Bill finally dragged him home and began nursing him for a surgery Bob needed to perform in just a few days’ time.
Early on that Monday morning of June 10th, Bill handed Bob a sedative along with a final bottle of beer to calm his nerves and keep the surgeon’s hands from shaking. Together the two men left the house saying very little to each other until Bob disappeared behind the hospital doors. Then Bill and Ann began their wait.
Morning turned to noon and noon turned to dusk. Bob had called some hours before to say the surgery went well but he still hadn’t returned home. He had talked of following through when he left the house; but Bill had heard the same promises from scores of men he had tried to help before and yet all of them had relapsed. As that June day darkened so did the mood of both Ann and Bill. Ann was distraught and Bill was preparing himself to go back to New York when suddenly the front door opened and Dr. Bob Smith walked across the familiar threshold, a changed and free man.
Instead of getting drunk that day, Bob had spent it doing the very thing he feared most. He made the rounds of his hometown telling the truth about himself and making amends to the neighbors, friends, and the business associates he had harmed. Bob not only gave his life to God that day that only a true repentant can, but he put his profession and his family’s financial future into God’s hands as well. From that day forward, he could personally assure the thousands of alcoholics he would soon help that, Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!
June Th 1935 marks the date of Bob’s last drink; but perhaps more importantly, it marks the day Bob’s faith finally overcame his fears. After all, our drinking is but a symptom.
Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave. Roy Batty
Seventy-five years have now passed since that eventful day in Akron, Ohio. Millions more men and women now know the blessings of recovery throughout our world. The simple, life-changing program that worked to cure hopeless alcoholics now works as well for narcotics and cocaine, for sex and for food, for relationships and for disorders of every kind.
M. Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled writes this: I believe the greatest positive event of the twentieth century occurred in Akron, Ohio, on June 10, 1935, when Bill W. and Dr. Bob convened the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. When my AA friends and I get together, we often come to conclude that, very probably, God deliberately created the disorder of alcoholism in order to create alcoholics, in order that these alcoholics might create AA, and thereby spearhead the community movement which is going to be the salvation not only of alcoholics and addicts, but of us all. (Further Along the Road Less Traveled, p. 150)
As we celebrate A. A.’s 76th Anniversary, it’s a good time to remember Bob’s courageous actions and to pause and ask ourselves some of the same hard questions he must have asked himself that day our recovery program was born. Here are a few I’ll be asking myself:
“Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you’re scared to death.” – Harold Wilson.
There is no such thing as bravery; only degrees of fear. John Wainwright
What part of my life am I afraid or unwilling to give over to God’s care?
Have I put my trust in God fully, or am I putting it more into money, power, and prestige?
Is there something more I should be doing to help the alcoholics or addicts who still suffer?
Does God have a plan for me in my life that I’m still avoiding?
Have a great day and a great life, unless you have made other plans
If Scott Peck’s prediction is to come true, it won’t be because alcoholics quit drinking but because the principles of honesty, restitution, open-mindedness and selfless service that underlie our recovery programs took hold and helped change our troubled world. Thank you Bob and Bill and all who’ve gone before, May we stay sober, Happy Joyous and Free this 76th A.A. Anniversary!
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