​​Introduction to the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

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"Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ."

 Romans 8

"We must place GOD in the highest position of Our Lives at ALL TIMES."


The story of AA's roots begins with the visits of alcoholic Roland Hazard with Dr. Carl Jung in Switzerland. The famous psychiatrist told him he could not be cured from alcoholism but needed a conversion through religious association.  The search for such a conversion led Roland to the Oxford Group and his drinking was over. The Oxford Group was a life-changing Christian fellowship of the first century that believed in God, in Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It was led by Episcopal Rector Samuel M. Shoemaker Jr. and was founded by Lutheran Minister Frank N.D. Buchman. By applying the Oxford Group principles its members witnessed to others, eventually reaching William Griffith Wilson (known by AA's as Bill W."). While in the hospital undergoing treatment for alcoholism, Bill W. was visited by Ebby Thatcher, who explained the principles of the group. Twenty years later, Bill W. described his conversion experience of that night in this way:

"My depression deepened unbearably and finally it seemed to me as though I were at the very bottom of the pit. I still gagged badly at the notion of a Power greater than myself, but finally, just for the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once I found myself crying out, "If there is a God, let Him show himself: I am ready to do anything, anything!"

“Suddenly, the room lit up with a great light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in my mind's eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, "So this is the God of the preachers!" A great peace stole over me and I thought, "No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right. Things are all right with God and His World.” (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: A Brief History of AA. P. 63)

Then on a business venture to Ohio, Bill W. seriously considered drinking again. Away from home, and in desperation he went to the telephone directory and located the Oxford Group.  There, he met Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith (affectionately known as “Dr. Bob" by AA’s) and together they discussed Bible principles, Oxford Group’s ideas, prayer, love and service. On June 10, 1935, Dr. Bob took his last drink and together they set out to find other drunks to help ‘play-it-forward’ what helped them get and stay sober. And so AA had its start. Dr. Bob stated that AA’s basic ideas were taken from their study of the Bible. He particularly stressed the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and I Corinthians 13 as “absolutely essential” to the Program of Recovery.

By 1938, approximately 40 alcoholics were sober! Mr. Clarence H. Snyder of Cleveland, Ohio, got sober at that time and was sponsored by Dr. Bob. Clarence started a splinter group and limited the group to alcoholics and their families. It was the first group to use the name of “Alcoholics Anonymous”. Clarence and his wife, Grace Moore, began taking families through all” Twelve Steps” in an afternoon teaching the “Principles of AA” and the Bible. Bill W. received authorization to write a book about “the cure” with mention of ”God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, sin and deliverance”. However, these terms were ultimately eliminated or replaced in the final manuscript with “higher power”, “spirituality”, and “shortcomings”. Christians sponsored by Clarence Snyder are still conducting spiritual retreats today.

Evolution of the Twelve Steps

The Oxford Group's teachings rested on the following six statements:

1. Human beings are sinners.

2. Human beings can be changed.

3. Confession is a prerequisite to change.

4. The changed soul has direct access to God.

5. The age of miracles has returned.

6. Those who have been changed are to change others.

In addition, Bill W. incorporated into AA's philosophy the Oxford Group's five procedures:

1. Giving to God.

2. Listening to God's direction.

3. Checking guidance.

4. Restitution.

5. Sharing, both confession and witness.