AA founder’s original message

What did AA founders believe about alcoholism? The founders of AA believed that addiction is a curable disease. More here.

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For many recovering addicts, the Earth is flat!

In ancient times, the church leaders of the day believed the earth was flat. Most people accepted the church’s views without question and it was common belief that if anyone were foolhardy enough to sail too close to the edge of the world, they would surely fall off into the great abyss and perish. (sounds a little like hell, doesn’t it?)

To make a long Inquisition short, a scientist named Galileo invented the telescope, which proved that planets are actually round in shape. Religious leaders of the day were outraged to learn Galileo had dared to challenge their teachings and branded him as a heretic. When Galileo set his telescope up on the roof of Cardinal Bellarmine’s Holy Office and asked him to take a look for himself, the Cardinal refused. Instead, the church held a trial and declared Galileo guilty of heresy. He was placed under house arrest until his death, in 1642. The Cardinal and his organization weren’t interested in any truth, but their own.

Addiction is not an incurable disease

Based on this little snippet of history, it’s clear to see how the views of a few authority figures can be used to control the majority of the population. Today’s view of addiction recovery is a good example. In recent decades, authority figures working in the addiction field have convinced most alcoholics and addicts that they suffer from an incurable disease. It’s no more truthful than preaching that the world is flat, of course, but most addicts have swallowed this fallacy hook, line, and sinker. I have no problem with addiction being labeled as a disease. Dis-ease describes addiction perfectly. But, please don’t tell me for one second that addiction is an “incurable” disease. Defining addiction as a disease with no cure not only paints every addict with the same broad brush, it’s also arrogant, insulting and condescending. Even worse, most of the so-called “experts” on the topic have never been addicted to any substance themselves.

There is a cure for addiction

There are many of us, myself included, that have been cured of addiction. AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, was one who believed in an addiction cure. For those 12 Steppers reading this, please stop wringing your hands and shaking your head in disbelief. Instead, get out your Big Book, 4th Edition, turn to page 191, and read Bill’s words for yourself. You might be in for a surprise.

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It’s ironic that AA’s original message of addiction as a CURABLE disease is largely ignored by its members and the addiction treatment profession. It’s no accident, however. Everyone involved in addiction recovery stands to gain, in some form or fashion. Many addicts enjoy the attention their incurable disease offers them – there is a lot of sympathy and attention to be gained, not to mention the convenience of not having to be held accountable in working on their own recovery. Seeking a cure is a lot of work, after all. Plus, it’s fun to belong to support groups, where people can all agree they are victims-in-arms. Some people enjoy it so much they spend the rest of their lives talking about it in support groups, and little more.

Treatment professionals and rehab clinics love the incurable disease label because it earns them oodles of money… especially when rehab becomes a revolving door for the hopelessly incurable patient. And where would A.A. be if everyone became cured of addiction? Who would “keep coming back” to shout “it works if you work it” week after week? If most people actually worked the program, a lot of people would be out of a job.

Much like Galileo, I expect some will label my view of addiction as a curable disease as heresy, especially those who champion AA effectiveness. But, like Galileo and countless others, I’ll continue to stand behind my beliefs, even at the risk of ex-communication and solitary confinement. Five hundred years after Galileo’s death, many still believe what others tell us, without question. Fear is a great motivator. We might sail off the edge and perish, after all… unless we dare to step aboard our own recovery vessel and set sail for ourselves.

Read AA’s original message and decide for yourself – Big Book, 4th Edition, page 191.

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About the author
Dan Farish lives on Whidbey Island, Washington, where he works as an author, spiritual counselor and addiction recovery coach, helping others overcome their battle with addiction.To learn more, or to read free book chapters from his new book: 3 Steps To Recovery, please visit his website.


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  1. My book “Cured: Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts” is filled with the testimonies of those who believed and believe that alcoholism can be cured by the power of God. In fact, Bill’s own psychiatrist William D. Silkworth, M.D., specifically told Bill that the Great Physician Jesus Christ could cure him. Documentation is available in the Silkworth biography by Dale Mitchel. Based on Silkworth’s advice and the specific action of Bill’s sponsor and friend who had gone to Calvary Mission and made a decision for Christ, Bill did likewise. Those present said Bill accepted Christ. Bill wrote that, “For sure, I’d been born again.” It’s in his autobiograpy. Bill went from his new birth in Calvary Mission thinking about the Great Physician and cure. He checked in to Towns Hospital. He cried out to God for help. He saw an indescribably white light, felt the presence of the Spirit, thought: “Bill you are a free man. This is the God of the Scriptures.” And Bill was healed on the spot and never drank again. Bill wrote page 191 of the Big Book that the Lord had cured him. Dozens of other pioneers wrote to the same effect.

  2. Good for you.

    Of course alcoholism and addicrtion can be cured. They have been. They frequently are in the case of those who seek God’s help. The real story lies in exactly how the early A.A. old school Christian Fellowship in Akron, founded in 1935, actually utilized the techniques–the daily principles and practices–of First Century Christians. Healing by the power of God is not new. It is often lost today in A.A. by those who don’t know their own origins, history, founding, original program, and its successes. Their principles of abstinence, reliance on God, spiritual growth, and helping others were common, successful tools in the rescue missions, the YMCA, the Salvation Army, the revival work of evangelists like Dwight L. Moody, and the tremendouse growth in the program of Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor.
    Documentation, critics, and guidance can be found in these Dick B.
    Cured!: Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts.
    When Early AAs Were Cured and Why
    God and Alcoholism
    The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010

  3. Will try to address a few people here while replying to Phil’s question, as well.

    Some people use several of the steps to make a spiritual connection in the early stages, while others study the Big Book with a sponsor as a way to control the urge to drink while waiting for a spiritual connection to happen later.

    A third group relies on the support group aspect only, analyzing the steps with the help of a sponsor and/or study group, but never seem to get around to making the spiritual connection that promises to remove the addiction.

    This third group appears to make up the largest percentage these days, and those are the people that embrace the notion that they do and always will suffer from an “incurable disease”. In my view, they are correct. Unless they make the leap of faith required to make the connection with their H.P., they will likely be attending meetings and reading the steps for the rest of their lives. Worse, they will instill the same mindset into newcomers, warning them that their “cunning, baffling, incurable disease” is always waiting just outside the door and that attending ongoing meetings is the only alternative to relapse and an early grave.

    There are benefits for some people that follow the incurable disease theory. There is the social aspect, which Phil mentions, where everyone can agree they are fellow victims-in-arms of a disease with no cure. Some enjoy the attention they receive as victims. Plus, for many, there is the benefit of not being held accountable for actually WORKING the steps that promise to bring about a spiritual cure for a spiritual disease.

    Chet, the “solution” I was referring to was right there glaring at you in the article. “Read AA’s original message and decide for yourself – Big Book, 4th Edition, page 191.” Everything one needs to find a spiritual cure for a spiritual disease can be found in the 12 Steps. Narrow them down to 3 of the 12 that bring about a spiritual awakening and you will find AA’s original message. Of course, as mentioned above, not everyone wants to find a cure.

  4. In my opinion 100% of Humanity has some sort of incurable adiction to some ratio. To people, places & things. it can be treated.
    And yes it will be cured when you die.
    Adiction: Obsessive, Compulsive and don’t forget that big fat EGO. You have to be a saint to be excluded. From 1 to 10, hey! give me a number, smarty pants! You really know how to discourage an adict seeking recovery. There is no shame accepting your never going to be perfect. Humble yourself or throw that stone if your really free of adiction. No ofense 🙂 Oh Chet, good looking out.

  5. I kept looking for the ‘solution’ in your piece, and when I couldn’t find more than critique and aspersion, I wondered what your point was. Then I found it, buried in the author notes: you’re in the recovery BUSINESS, making money off your…message…of…what? I missed where you offered experience, strength OR hope. And what about the ‘spiritual counselor’ part? Where does that fit in? Do you charge for that too? When I noticed your pay-to-play concept is a three step deal, I’m left to wonder about the higher power concept: for the suffering addicts who turn to you for guidance, is that YOU, or maybe Galileo?

  6. this is a continuation of my reply,dont get me started on all the people that use AA as a dating agency or social club, I still attend AA on a weekely basis, used to believe all the stuff I heard in the rooms had a sponsor for seven years, she sacked me nicely because she couldnt control me anymore, she was a great help in the beginning to me & I am grateful for that, but you know what I have no intention of getting another sponsor, to-day I think for myself, & God keeps me sober, all I need is in the big book, if its not there I dont bother, some people love the attention of been a recovering Addict or Alcoholic, also the statis they get from other members of AA especially if they are long term members, & sponsoring a lot of people, dare anybody critise these old-timers, its like treason, keeps everybody in there place, but I am happy to-day & sober, I am glad that there are other sober people out there who can see whats happening in this multi-million pound industry, based on the theory that alcoholism is an incurable illness, treatment centeres & therepists & councellors laughing all the way to the bank, & its music to the ears of their Addicts & Alcoholics, who dont want to work on themselves, & get well, they like to stay in victim mood.

  7. You make a good point about Bill’s message. I do think it should be noted that although 12-step programs may not be the only way to recover, the social support they provide is invaluable. What do you think?

  8. Cured? Well, good for you. As for myself the compulsion to drink or use has been gone for 23+ years – and I believe that was what Bill was referring to in that passage. Again, speaking only for myself, I am still a long way from cured. To my mind the big book was written when they were still getting a handle on alcoholism. In it they tell us to not waste or time on those who relapse. To my thinking, the twelve and twelve is a refinement – and includes statements such as “Since defective relations with other human beings have nearly always been the immediate cause of our woes, including our alcoholism…” (page 80) That is certainly a good way to describe the core of my condition. Though I have been considerably socialized in the past two decades; I am not cured. I still need to work the program as created by Bill and Bob. I still need to re visit the steps. I find that service is a wonderful way to keep the foundations of my recovery anchored to the bedrock of reality. Having said that, my recovery vessel is sailing very nicely, but I do use a chart telling me where the safe harbors are.

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