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What Is This Newcomer Like?
The condition of most alcoholics who are being propelled toward recovery today is complex, life-threatening, confusing, frightening, and often misunderstood.
Here are some of the problems the newcomer may commonly face:
Welcome has been worn out with parents, wives, children, relatives, friends, “significant others,” employers, business associates, clients and customers, physicians, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, treatment programs, clergy, law enforcement agencies, courts, jails, teachers, schools, and just about everyone who has had to face the bizarre, repeated trouble-making and disasters.
The classic response of the afflicted person has been to conceal, deny, blame, resent, fear, lie, cheat, steal, rationalize, fight, flee, hide, change course, explain, and refuse or resist help.
Trouble surrounds the person—trouble emanating from crimes, debts, accidents, injuries, loss of job or clients, rejection by family and associates, divorce, legal interventions, tax difficulties, illness, ill-health, suicidal episodes, depression, despair, loneliness, and/or bewilderment.
Ere long, the newcomer faces the physical and mental consequences of excessive drinking, drugging, and excess—consequences that take the form of physical problems, brain damage, nerve damage, mental incapacity, severe depression, and neglect of bodily needs for nutrition, health care, dental care, exercise, personal hygiene, and loss of self-esteem, honesty, integrity, and care and love of others.
Terror, indecision, confusion, and anger arise as the newcomer considers approaches to recovery. Anger at courts, government, authorities, doctors, clergy, psychiatrists, interventionists, counselors, and therapists. Confusion from the opinions of the host of critics of recovery methods and fellowships.
A.A. Is One of the Newcomer's Potential Recovery Tools
Some recognize the importance of A.A. as an aid to recovery whether or not its confused religious ideas, its self-help focus, and its non-professional backdrop are acceptable. Generally speaking, evangelists like Dwight L. Moody and Billy Sunday were not professionals, But they helped many alcoholics. The same can be said of the organizers of the rescue missions—including Calvary Rescue Mission in New York where Bill W. was born again. The same also for the YMCA lay leaders involved with the “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont–the home of A.A. Cofounder Dr. Bob and his parents. And the same certainly for the Salvation Army workers who have been helping drunks for more than 100 years—even though there has been a change in approach in some of its ARCs today. The present-day usefulness of A.A. can be likened to the aid provided to alcoholics by non-professionals for decades.
At the very least, Alcoholics Anonymous provides worldwide availability, intense
community availability, 24-hour response action, compassion and understanding, altruistic and free assistance, lack of financial barriers, fellowship with those who do not make judgments about past errors, and extreme focuses on refraining from one drop of alcohol and on keeping company with those of like mind and with experience in how to live sober despite oft-repeated years of previous drinking abuse.
In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous arose and gained ascendancy when professionals like the expert William Duncan Silkworth, M.D., were stating plainly that alcoholics were “medically incurable.” And many other efforts of a non-Christian nature such as Prohibition, the Washingtonians, anti-saloon league groups, mental institutions, hospitals, and jails were having little or no success with the unpredictable alcoholic. This is what prompted the A.A. claim that alcoholics realized that probably no human power could relieve them of their alcoholism, but that God could and would if He were sought. And He did!
How Should Christian Recovery Efforts Begin Today?
First, some caveats concerning what not to tell a newcomer about A.A.:
Don't pass on the old saw about A.A.'s being “spiritual but not religious.” This argument is meaningless, misleading, and has been thoroughly rejected by most courts which have been called upon to review the evidence. If courts, weighing the evidence and relying on reasoned prior rulings, can’t see the distinction, there is no reason to promote it in fellowships of sick, brain damaged, or uniformed newcomers.
Don't tell a newcomer that A.A. is not for Christians. Christians can be members of A.A. And Christians can pursue their religious beliefs and practices within A.A.
Don't tell a newcomer that it is ok for Christians to manufacture their own conception of some god—e.g., a “higher power,” a light bulb, a chair, a tree, the Big Dipper, the Great Pumpkin, a Coke bottle, a radiator, Something, Somebody, Ralph, Gertrude, an A.A. group, or a “Group Of Drunks.” In “old school” A.A., newcomers were told that they needed to “find or rediscover God,” to read the Bible, to have a Quiet Time each day, to participate in prayer meetings, and to “surrender” and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Second, some caveats as to what the Christian sponsor, counselor, clergyman, and professional should expect:
That newcomers are sick, in trouble, and probably not approaching recovery expecting to be involved in a search for, belief in, or argument over God, His Son Jesus Christ, the Bible, and religion.
That newcomers may need immediate medical, psychiatric, counseling, and nutritional help. To ignore this is to subject the newcomer to dangers of seizures, excruciating withdrawal experiences, hallucinations, severe illness, suicidal tendencies, and even death.
That newcomers are possibly confused, frightened, timid, lonely, inclined to withdraw from others, depressed, ready to split, concerned about guilt and the opinions of others, and being pelted with all of the psychobabble, nonsense gods, spirituality, and anti-religious chatter that abound in the rooms of A.A. today.
That soup, soap, shelter, friendship, love, understanding, and salvation cannot be tendered too soon to someone wanting God’s help. The facts of history show the value of these approaches.
That newcomers are far more likely to be challenged about their religious statements, beliefs, principles, practices, church attendance, and reading matter than about their past conduct, former drinking episodes, or even his behavior in sobriety.
That newcomers will seldom, if ever, hear about the Christian origins of A.A., where its early program ideas came from, what those Christian ideas were, how the first three AAs got sober, the seven simple points of the original Akron A.A. “Christian Fellowship” program, what the pioneers actually did in Akron, and the high success rates the pioneers achieved.
That newcomers need to be told how the original Akron A.A. “Christian Fellowship” members got well by abstaining from drinking; by turning to God for help; by “surrendering” and accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; by obeying God’s will by walking in love and eliminating sinful conduct; by growing in understanding and fellowship by studying the Bible, praying, asking God’s guidance, and reading Christian literature and devotionals; and then by helping other alcoholics get straightened out through the same means.
That newcomers will dive into recovery best and most enthusiastically if told to “go with the flow” in A.A. That is: go to meetings regularly; participate in and serve at meetings when asked; get and use phone numbers; immediately obtain and start reading the Big Book; get a sponsor; follow instructions on taking the Twelve Steps in accordance with the Big Book; stick with the winners; seek and make friends with those who are living sober and engaging in sober activities; and helping others at every turn—whether by welcoming, offering a hug or a handshake, offering coffee or a seat, communicating, providing rides, urging newcomers to hang out with other sober members, encouraging them to stay away from slippery places and slippery people, and suggesting their going to God for help every day with every problem.
Third, what the newcomer needs to learn, be told, and be encouraged to do:
Newcomers need to hear that if they want God’s help, they first need to be born again of the Spirit of God, and thus become a child of the living and true God. And that they need to manifest the gift of the Holy Spirit so that they can communicate with God—Who is Spirit. And, additionally, that they need to worship God in spirit and in truth, receive revelation from their heavenly Father, know and understand spiritual matters, and pray effectively to God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ for healing, forgiveness, mercy, and receipt of the promises of God that are conditioned upon obedience to his Father’s will. These are the promises of the Bible, and they provide hope to the seemingly-hopeless who are led to believe they work.
Newcomers need to hear that they need not, and should never, yield to anyone’s opinion to the effect that the newcomer may not believe in God, speak about God, be a Christian, study the Bible, thank God, pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ, go to a Bible fellowship, go to a church of his choice, ask God’s guidance in every situation, look to God for healing and forgiveness and deliverance, and read Christian literature.
Newcomers need to hear that the sooner they begin fellowshipping with, sponsoring, and keeping company with, like-minded believers, the sooner they will doing what God expects His children to do in order to love, encourage, comfort, support, edify, and help their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Newcomers need to hear that taking notice of A.A.’s emphasis on love and service, love and tolerance, honesty, patience, kindness, and love is important.
Newcomers need to hear that, rather than criticizing and condemning churches, A.A., Christians, or AAs, they should do what God says:
1 Thess 5:21 (KJV):
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Newcomers need to hear that there is merit in repeating the old A.A. line: “If you don’t like a group, a meeting, a speaker, or a subject, take your resentment and a coffee pot and start a new meeting.”
Specific Suggestions for Your Helping and Training Christians in Recovery
Do some significant homework in A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature, in the origins and history of A.A., in the detours about what “A.A.” is that abound today, and in early A.A.’s basic biblical roots, principles, and practices:
Get the important basic facts from the important A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature that is positive, informative, and instructive as to the original Akron A.A. “Christian Fellowship” program, the Big Book program, the origins and content of the Twelve Steps, and as much of the history of A.A. as it has chosen to make available. For example:
Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed.
DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age;
The Language of the Heart;
“Pass It On”
The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks
Avoid passing on, opining about, reading, and quoting undocumented statements about A.A.’s alleged program.
Avoid wasting time on the supposed contributions and shortcomings of the ideas of the Washingtonians, William James, Carl Jung, and the Emmanuel Movement.
Go to God as soon as possible with thanksgiving, praise, requests for guidance and wisdom, requests for forgiveness and deliverance, requests for healing and prosperity, requests for blessings for the newcomer and for others in his circle.
Get into the Bible as soon, as simply, and as relevantly possible. This means choosing a Bible that you and the newcomer wish to work with. We use the King James Version because that is the version used by “old school” A.A. and its pioneers.
It may also mean looking at some of my books which tell you the biblical basics of early A.A.: The Good Book and The Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible; The Good Book-Big Book Guidebook; The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials; Good Morning! Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A.; Dr. Bob and His Library; Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939; The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous; Why Early A.A. Succeeded; and When Early AAs Were Cured and Why
The Starting Points for Newcomers are
Belief in God, Accepting Jesus Christ as Their Lord and Savior, and Studying the Bible
Verses where God lays out what he expects of man:
Ecclesiastes 12:13: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear [Revere] God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man
Matthew 22:36-40: Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
1 John 5:1-3: Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
Hebrews 11:6: But without faith, it is impossible to please him [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
John 3:3: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
John 14:6: Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Acts 4:10, 12: Be it known you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand before you whole. . . . Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
1 Timothy 2:4: Who [God our Savior] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the
knowledge of the truth.
Romans 10:9: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
John 17:7: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
In a few words: Man’s duty is to obey God’s commandments. God commands that he that comes to God must believe that He is and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Jesus said no man comes to the Father but by him [Jesus]. Those who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead are saved. And God has two basic commands for man: (1) God wants all men to be saved. (2) God wants all men to come unto the knowledge of the truth. And God’s word is the truth which God wants all men to know.
The early A.A. approach to this was very very simple: (1) Every member was required to confess that he believed in God. (2) Every member was required to confess Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. (3) Every member was required to study the Bible to learn the truth.
The Pioneers Expected All to Study
the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13
Once a newcomer has professed belief in God and confessed Jesus as Lord, the next step is to lead the newcomer through a study of the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and 1 Corinthians 13.
Dick B.’s Book, The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials, carefully reviews these three essential segments of the Bible and relates each to the relevant ideas found in the A.A. program.
Daily Contact with God Was Achieved by Observing Morning Quiet Time
Daily “prayer and meditation,” as the Big Book later described it, involved the following specific practices: (1) Beginning the session with prayer to God, giving thanks in the name of Jesus Christ, and asking God’s guidance as to how to proceed with the observance. (2) Reading from the Bible—the most common segments being the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13. (3) Prayers of thanksgiving, adoration, petition, forgiveness, intercession, guidance, and healing were common. (4) Seeking God’s guidance as to how to proceed with the day. (5) Discussing subjects from Anne Smith’s personal journal or Bible devotionals such as The Runner’s Bible, The Upper Room, and My Utmost for His Highest. (6) Closing with the Lord’s Prayer.
Learning to Seek God’s Help through Prayer, Renewing the Mind with Verses from the Bible, Giving Thanks, and Asking for God’s Revelation as to What to Do
The ever-present love, power, wisdom, strength, forgiveness, and deliverance: Much of the importance of becoming a Christian and getting into fellowship with God, His Son Jesus Christ, and other like-minded believers is lost if God is not called off the bench throughout the day. There will be problems of sickness, acrimony, troubles, financial and legal difficulties, business and homemaking approaches, domestic and family strife, fear, resentment, frustration, anger, anxiety, stress, destruction, disaster, difficulty, and death. The newcomer needs to learn to walk in the spirit rather than walking by the five senses, putting on the new man with love, peace, gentleness, goodness, patience, kindness, forgiveness, joy, faith, and the accomplishments of Jesus Christ.
The believer-newcomer has a choice. He can walk according to the spirit of God and look to God for wisdom, peace, freedom from fear, joy, happiness, purity, avoidance of temptation, resisting the devil, strength, and guidance. He can renew his mind with what the Word of God says and cast down and away the negatives that the Adversary and the world present. He can claim power, victory, and freedom from bondage in the name of Jesus Christ. And he can, in humility, be lifted up and out of worldly difficulties and concerns by the power and love of God.
Much-Needed New Training Approaches for Christians in Recovery
Training helpers to become informed speakers, sponsors, groups, clergy, recovery pastors, therapists, counselors, facilitators, and program directors
There is, and long has been, a need for training those Christians who want to help other Christians in recovery and those in recovery who need to know of the Christian option.
The present counseling field is bloated with models, modules, proposed new therapies, regulations, and certifications that require competence in everything but the history of A.A.; the roles played by God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible in the astonishing successes of early A.A.; and the propriety of learning from tolerant teachers the way to seek recovery in any atmosphere, among many different models and viewpoints; in a population of diverse and varied religious, irreligious, and unbelieving newcomers, old-timers; and virulent critics of God, His Son Jesus Christ, the Bible, Christianity, religion, denominations, sects, 12-Step programs, anonymous fellowships, and Christian recovery groups and programs.
Platforms for Training and Education
Accessible historical recovery resource libraries and collections
Far too few know of the presently-existing libraries and collections
All should know of the Griffith House Library near the Wilson House in East Dorset, Vermont; the Dr. Bob Core Library at the North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont; the Samuel M. Shoemaker collection of Shoemaker books, articles, and papers at the Shoemaker Room in Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the A.A. Library at Dr. Bob’s last church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron, Ohio; the Stepping Stones archives in Bedford Hills, New York; the Shoemaker papers at the Episcopal Church Archives in Austin, Texas; the private collection of Ray Grumney, former archivist at Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron, Ohio, now living in Seminole, Florida; Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron, Ohio; the Seiberling Gate Lodge Museum in Akron, Ohio; the Akron Intergroup Archives in Akron, Ohio; A.A. General Service Office in New York; the Hazelden-Pittman Museum in Center City, Minnesota; and university library archives at Brown University, Akron University, Hartford Seminary, Princeton Alumni archives, and others. Some of these are not easily accessed, but the author has visited, viewed, and often copied valuable materials from all these sources.
Individual collections of historical books and materials
Many historians, teachers, writers, book stores and distributors, and collectors today have assembled many of the important books, articles, and papers that have been the subject of historical writings and conferences since mid-1975.
And now 12-Step groups, recovery programs, churches, para-church organizations, sober living houses and centers, James Clubs, recovery fellowships and programs, and Christian recovery groups need to establish libraries suited to their own particular outreach. Many are now organized or being organized
Examples are Footprints/Alcoholics Victorious in Kansas City, Missouri; Rock Recovery Ministries in San Diego; New Life Spirit Recovery, Inc., in Huntington Beach, California; Turning Point Fellowship of the Cornerstone Fellowship Church in Livermore, California; CityTeam centers primarily on the West Coast; ABC Sober Living in San Diego; Men’s Step Study Groups in Oahu, Hawaii; Austin Recovery Ministry in Austin, Texas; the Akronites of Canada and West Virginia; Won Way Out in Delaware; Came to Believe Retreats, and numerous James Clubs that have sprung up around the United States and abroad.
We believe that every recovery-oriented church, pastoral recovery effort, Christian recovery program, Christian counselor program, Christian treatment program, Sober house, Sober Club, prison, jail, homeless shelter or housing facility, half-way house, rescue mission, Salvation Army mission, and 12-Step Christian recovery group should have a basic resource library where materials can be seen and studied, loaned out, and used by groups.
Such libraries should have a liberal supply of Bibles, Big Books, relevant A.A. General Service Conference-approved books and pamphlets, one or more sets of the Dick B. 29-volume reference set, the Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, the four-part introductory series on early A.A. History with DVD’s and workbook, and historically significant Bible devotionals such as The Runner’s Bible, the Upper Room, My Utmost for His Highest, Victorious Living, and Daily Strength for Daily Needs. As well as some fundamental historical books on rescue missions, the YMCA, the Salvation Army, Christian Endeavor, evangelists and revivals, the Oxford Group, and Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.
Study groups with competent teachers, literature, and approaches
Groups that study the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, early A.A. origins and practices, the Bible, Christian literature, and Christian recovery history and literature.
We have written a number of books and articles on how to do this; and across the world, James Clubs, Big Book/Bible study groups, Christian recovery groups, Step study groups, History Groups, and others are being established and growing.
They are as easy to start as selecting a group, a secretary, a format, a meeting place, and perhaps a name—then diving in, whether into the Bible, our history, the Big Book, the Steps, prayer, Christian practices, or working with newcomers.
Christian Quiet Time meetings, Bible studies, prayer meetings, teaching meetings, and believer fellowship meetings.
These were daily fare in early A.A.—particularly with the morning Quiet Times that
Anne Smith conducted at the Smith Home in Akron. Many are under way today.
Almost as soon as Dick B.' title, By the Power of God, was published and endorsed by Ozzie Lepper of the Wilson House, the Wilson House began holding morning Quiet Time meetings each day. Fr. Bill Wigmore has plans for extensive Quiet Time guides and programs emanating from Austin Recovery in Texas. Rock Recovery Ministries and the sober living houses managed by David Powers in San Diego are conducting these meetings. His group also circulates daily text messages based on The Upper Room. A number of pastors, recovery pastors, and groups regularly conduct studies of the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians. And there are more and more Bible study and prayer meetings to be found around the world that have to do with recovery resembling the “old school” A.A. way.
Scarcely a day passes that the author doesn’t receive phone calls, emails, and letters announcing that a person or his pastor or his group or his church or his friends want to start a group within the church that embraces the meetings mentioned here.
These can and should be available for churches, clergy, recovery pastors, counselors, recovery groups, 12-Step groups, healing groups, seminars, lectures, resources, conferences.
Distributing A.A. History Literature as Widely as Possible
For many many years, tracts and literature have been a potent means for spreading the Gospel, bringing people to Jesus Christ, and encouraging church affiliation and attendance.
In our own experience over the past 20 years, benefactors, conferences, churches, 12 Step fellowships, and individuals have enabled us to distribute free at least one third of the more than 200,000 Dick B. books that have been published.
These books have gone to every prison facility operated by the State of Hawaii, to every Salvation Army ARC in the Southern Territory of the United States, to many prison chaplains, to VA and military facilities, to hospitals and treatment centers, to seminaries, to churches and clergy, to physicians and psychiatrists, to archives, to libraries, to sober clubs, to A.A. offices, to historians and writers, to rescue missions, to the Wilson House, to Dr. Bob’s Home, to the Akron Intergroup Office, to the Dr. Bob Core Library, to the Shoemaker Room in Pittsburgh, to university scholars, to recovery agencies, and to individuals in recovery or recovered.
Using the Capabilities of the Internet and Other Media
Websites, blogs, articles, forums, chats, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, audio talks, radio broadcasts, podcasts, bookstores, on-line sites, libraries, book reviews, and comments have enabled our A.A. and biblical roots historical materials to be seen and heard around the world, and to be listed at the top of most search engines.
And we have organized and conducted meetings, groups, local gatherings, regional gatherings, and national gatherings such as those hosted by International Christian Recovery Coalition members, Came to Believe Retreats, Recovery Ministries, and Recovery fellowships.
And we have produced books, pamphlets, flyers, DVD’s, blogs, newsletters, and websites that promote and support and link Christian recovery efforts.
Please join us!
To learn more, please contact Dick B.:
Dick B.'s main web site: www.DickB.com
Dick B.'s email address: DickB@DickB.com
Dick B., PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837; (808) 874-4876