Alcoholics Anonymous History In Your Area
1940s Northwest Illinois A.A.
A.A. in Illinois, northwest, and west of Chicago, grew in the early 1940s due to the efforts of members who would be called “Loners” today. In one town located on the Rock River in Whiteside County (about 60 miles east of the Mississippi River), Ken S. of Sterling, Illinois, began an A.A. group in the winter of 1943 that first met in his home with three local members. Ken had gotten sober in Chicago in 1940 and soon moved to Sterling, employed as a foreman with a steel wire manufacturer. For three years he regularly made Chicago meetings and brought local “prospects” to Chicago’s “Big Meeting” on Tuesday nights. The traveling, either by car or train, was probably an all-day affair for the long trip across the state.
Ken S. is considered the earliest member, within the current Northern Illinois Area 20 boundaries, to carry the A.A. message in Illinois west of Chicago. His name was listed with Alcoholic Foundation directories from 1943 on, and he also kept up his correspondence with the Chicago Central Office (currently the Chicago Area Service Office, which has the distinction of being the first “Intergroup-type” office of early 1941 and today serves as the Area 19 office).
As groups grew in early A.A., the Sterling Group moved out of Ken’s home within a short time, and is credited with branching out and starting groups in a half dozen towns in northwestern Illinois and eastern Iowa. It appears that keeping the linkage with the rest of A.A. was key to the group’s success. Ken, as Secretary for the Sterling Group, was the contact for correspondence and twelfth step work.
The group still meets on Tuesday nights.
The following piece was written by Ken S. in 1943 as the last page of a six-page observation on his A.A. recovery. It was placed in the Area 20 Archives in 1995 as a result of research for the Area’s history project.
What have we learned as we passed through the various stages of A.A. absorption? What are the things that make today so worthwhile? What has been given us for future guidance?
FIRST, that through God’s guidance and Grace, it is possible to live in perfect sobriety, enjoying a greater than normal share of happiness and understanding.
SECOND, that in God we find we have an ever available haven when troubled or goaded by fear or despair—an ever-ready guidance if we but seek with a willingness to follow.
THIRD, that the spirit of God is an ever-present force, understanding, forgiving, loving, and guiding those who seek direction and try to live in accordance with His teachings—teachings upon which is founded our A.A. program of Faith, Tolerance, Humility, and Service.
FOURTH, we have learned, too, that the program so simply stated provides a straight and undeviating pathway to our goal. We need no further guides, guards, bosses, or directors. The way is open, it’s up to us.
FIFTH, that the program goes beyond meetings—beyond our own little alcoholic world and our homes, when practiced in all our affairs.
SIXTH, we are awakened to a realization that we have and must assume obligations and responsibilities—that we owe so much and can repay so little.
SEVENTH, we find that work is the motivating power of our lives. It vitalizes Faith, produces accomplishment. Dryness without work is hunger partially satisfied – Faith without work spells failure.
EIGHTH, we acknowledge that the rights of others must be considered first. There is little danger that we shall forget to look to our own.
NINTH, we also find that the “I and We” judge and jury attitude has no place in a program of humility.
TENTH, that resentments include more than well-nursed grudges of long-standing. The word has many synonyms including: anger, animosity, irascibility, and wrathful indignation.
ELEVENTH, we have found that one of the hardest tasks is to be unselfishly truthful to ourselves, and we have seen truth reborn in the statements and actions of fellow members.
TWELFTH, and most important, we have discovered a capacity for true thankfulness, for the innumerable things large and small that are our daily lot.
So, with meditation on past and present, we move on through life, secure in the admonition to look up to where there is intelligence from which comes all intellect—recognize the source which sustains us and gives us courage and self-reliance.
Source: Provided by District 73 Archives for the NIA History Project and placed in NIA Archives, March 1995. Copyright © 1996 NIA, Ltd. and used with permission.
* Ken S.’ writing reflects the style of 1940’s Alcoholics Anonymous members, and it’s shared with “aahistorybuffs” from the Appendix of the 100-page booklet.
* Please respect the copyright and list the source if any group member chooses to print it elsewhere, “used with permission.”
* The history will be placed on the Area’s web site before the end of the year, but before then, feel free to link to the site: http://www.aa-nia.org
* Right now the booklet is considered as “out of print,” and a reason to place it on the web site, to pass it on.
* My belief is that Ken S.’ observations are as valid today as fifty-seven years ago!
Yours in the Fellowship,
Rick T., Area 20 Archivist