We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body...(from the foreward to the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous)Seventy years ago today, a broken-down stockbroker named Bill W. and an Akron proctologist named Dr. Bob S. chose to stay sober together, rather than die drunk separately. The founding of the worldwide fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is tied to June 10, 1935, Dr. Bob's sobriety date.
The spark that was to flare into the first A.A. group was struck at Akron, Ohio in June 1935, during a talk between a New York stockbroker and an Akron physician...Prior to his journey to Akron, the broker had worked hard with many alcoholics on the theory that only an alcoholic could help an alcoholic, but he had succeeded only in keeping sober himself. The broker had gone to Akron on a business venture which had collapsed, leaving him greatly in fear that he might start drinking again. He suddenly realized that in order to save himself he must carry his message to another alcoholic. That alcoholic turned out to be the Akron physician.This weekend, thousands of sober alcoholics and their families (between 8,000-12,000) will crowd into Akron, Ohio, to attend "Founders Day" celebrations in and around town. For a 50-mile radius around Akron, not a motel or hotel room will be available, and reservations clerks will say, "Yeah, we're full up because of Founders Day." And hundreds of times this weekend, non-alcoholics will ask the question, "Founders Day for what?" And there will be an uncomfortable silence, and the clerks will say, "You know...Founders Day..."
...when the broker gave him Dr. Silkworth’s description of alcoholism and its hopelessness, the physician began to pursue the spiritual remedy for his malady with a willingness he had never before been able to muster. He sobered, never to drink again up to the moment of his death in 1950. This seemed to prove that one alcoholic could affect another as no nonalcoholic could. It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent recovery. (also from the foreward to the first edition of the book Alcoholics Anonymous)
I've never been much for pilgrimages, but in 1994 I found myself assigned to be working about 70 miles from Akron over Founders Day weekend. Despite all my worldly "so-what" attitudes, I drove into Akron, registered for "the weekend," and took the shuttle bus over to Dr. Bob's house on Ardmore Street. A lady sitting across from me said, "First time here?" I admitted that it had been my first time in Akron sober - I'd spent a lot of time drunk at the University of Akron as a teen. I told her a friend had said that if I ever got up here, I should go to Dr. Bob's house. I remember saying to him, as if to a simpleton, "Why? It's just a house, for cryin' out loud!"
And then we rounded the corner - and I saw the little house - with the 12 original steps leading up to the front door. On each step was an AA member - and every one of them was saying what the huge banner across the front porch said: "Welcome Home."
It was a galvanic moment.
The speaker at the "big meeting" that night said it best: "Yeah, it's just a little house, very much like little houses in any city in the world...except that a miracle occurred there." And this weekend, thousands of miracles will converve on the University of Akron campus, Dr. Bob's house, the former Mayflower Hotel, and scores of sites around that Ohio city - to celebrate the gift of recovery that God gave to the stockbroker and the doctor. I wish I was there this weekend - but I'm happy to be here, "sunny-side up, suckin' air and sober," instead. As sucky as yesterday was, today is a good day.
Thank you, God, for the gift of a way out - the fellowship, the steps of recovery, and a way back to You. Let me try to share that gift today, and every day, with those who would have it. Amen.
Regardless if you are part of the recovering community or not, this passage from Alcoholics Anonymous can be an instruction to the church and the society. I leave you with Bill's words:
Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.(from Alcoholics Anonymous, "A Vision for You," page 164)
Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.
May God bless you and keep you -- until then.