Dr. Bob, AA and the True Meaning of Anonymity

Ed. NOTE: This story was originally published in the June 2016 issue of The Devil Strip

Alcoholics Anonymous Celebrates 81 Years of Fellowship

by Christina Dearing

June’s arrival brings a new vibration into our city. Coming along for the ride once again is Founders’ Day, and the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) celebrating its 81st year. This three-day weekend brings thousands of people together from around the world as they commemorate a message of hope to others.

Doctor_Bob_Alcoholics_AnonymousFrom a historical view, the treatment for alcoholism goes back three centuries starting with Anthony Benezet’s “Temperance” essay from 1774, up to the synchronistic meeting of Dr. Bob S. and Bill W. by way of Henrietta Seiberling in June of 1935. According to history, Bill W., a stockbroker from New York, was struggling to stay sober. He called Henrietta Seiberling from the Mayflower Hotel, and she in turn connected him with Dr. Bob S. at her then Stan Hywet Gatehouse home. You can find more information on AA’s history by checking out “A Narrative Timeline of AA History,” by Arthur S. Arlington, TX.

In his last message to AA, Bill W. talked about the spiritual and practical impact of anonymity on AA as a whole. He said, “On the spiritual level, anonymity demands the greatest discipline of which we are capable; on the practical level anonymity has brought protection for the newcomer, respect and support of the world outside, and security from those of us who would use AA for sick and selfish gain.”

Jim B., who has been the archivist for the Akron AA Archives for six years, described this aspect of an alcoholic’s personality, saying, “It is pride and jealousy that made the devil fall from God’s grace.”

That’s why traditions 11 and 12 center on anonymity with the latter pulling it all together.

“And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility.”

Jim B. could speak for hours about what anonymity means for the fellowship, bouncing from references to “The Big Book” (aka – “Alcoholics Anonymous”), a textbook published in 1939 that contains the 12 steps, as well as the more recent pamphlet on “Understanding Anonymity,” which written in question and answer form.

Anonymity, as practiced in AA, is about releasing oneself from the grip of pride and ego by getting rid of the individual need to be noticed. With that freedom, the recovering alcoholic has a greater ability not only to help themselves but others in need.

As Jim B says, “No one is less or more important than any other member in the fellowship, or in our world for that matter. The individual who is seeking sobriety is not only important to AA, but to all of humanity, God wants them and all of us to be as happy as possible.”

For more information about Founders’ Day, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous or meetings you can join, visit the Akron AA website here.

Founders’ Day weekend runs June 10-12 this year at The University of Akron. For more information you can visit akronaa.org or call 330-253-8181.

If Christina could stop dancing long enough she might be able to get more important things accomplished.