Lets Ask Bill W.
Question & Answer # 13
Could you explain AA’s tradition concerning other agencies in the field of alcoholism?
I remember very well when this committee started (January, 1944) It brought me in contact with our great friends at Yale, the courageous Dr. Haggard, the incredible Dr. Jellinek or Bunky as we affectionately know him and Seldon and all those dedicated people.
The question arose, could an AA member get into education or research or what not? Then ensued a fresh and great controversy in AA which was not surprising because you must remember that in this period we were like people on Rickenbacker’s raft. Who would dare ever rock us ever so little and precipitate us back in the alcohol sea.
So, frankly, we were afraid and as usual we had the radicals and we had the conservatives and we had moderates on this question of whether A.A. members could go into other enterprises in this field. The conservatives said, “no, let’s keep it simple, let’s mind our own business.” The radicals said, “let ‘s endorse anything that looks like it will do any good, let the A.A. name be used to raise money and to do whatever it can for the whole field,” and the growing body of moderates took the position, “let any A.A. member who feels the call go into these related fields for if we are to do less it would be a very antisocial outlook.” So that is where the Tradition finally sat and many were called and many were chosen since that day to go into these related fields which has now got to be so large in their promise that we of Alcoholics Anonymous are getting down to our right size and we are only now realizing that we are only a small part of a great big picture.
We are realizing again, afresh, that without our friends, not only could we not have existed in the first place but we could not have grown. We are getting a fresh concept of what our relations with the world and all of these related enterprises should be. In other words, we are growing up. In fact, last year at St. Louis we were bold enough to say that we had come of age and that within Alcoholics Anonymous the main outlines of the basis for recovery, of the basis for unity and of the basis for service or function were already evident.
At St. Louis I made talks upon each of those subjects which largely concerned themselves about what A.A. had done about these things but here we are in a much wider field and I think that the sky is the limit. I think that I can say without any reservation that what this Committee has done with the aid of it’s great friends who are now legion as anyone here can see. I think that this Committee has been responsible for making more friends for Alcoholics Anonymous and of doing a wider service in educating the world on the gravity of this malady and what can be done about it than any other single agency.
I’m awfully partial and maybe I’m a little biased because here sits the dean of all our ladies (Marty M.), my close, dear friend. So speaking out of turn as a founder, I want to convey to her in the presence of all of you the best I can say of my great love and affection is thanks.
At the close of things in St. Louis, I remember that I likened A.A. to a cathedral style edifice whose corners now rested on the earth. I remember saying that we can see on its great floor the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and there assembled 150,000 sufferers and their families. We have seen side walls go up, buttressed with the A.A. Tradition and at St. Louis, when the elected Conference took over from the Board of Trustees, the spire of service was put into effect and its beacon light, the beacon light of A.A. shone there beckoning to all the world.
I realized that as I sat here today that that was not a big enough concept, for on the floor of the cathedral of the spirit there should always be written the formula from whatever source for release from alcoholism, whether it be a drug, whether it be the psychiatric art, whether it be the ministrations of this Committee. In other words, we who deal with this problem are all in the same boat, all standing upon the same floor. So let’s bring to this floor the total resources that can be brought to bear upon this problem and let us not think of unity just in terms of A.A. Tradition but let us think of unity among all those who work in the field as the kind of unity that befits brotherhood and sisterhood and a kinship in the common suffering. Let us stand together in the spirit of service. If we do these things, only then can we declare ourselves really come of age. And only then, and I think that this is a time not far off. I think we can say that the future, our future, the future of the Committee, of A.A. and of the things that people of good will are trying to do in this field will be completely assured. (Transcribed from tape. Address to The National Committee for Education on Alcoholism. March 30, 1956).