Me, Myself and AA Comes of Age
At certain points on my road to recovery I have been directed to certain pieces of AA literature by my sponsor. Not long after going through the Twelve Steps, and after reading Pass it On and Dr Bob and the Good Old Timers, it was suggested I read AA Comes of Age. I found this book to be truly fascinating. My sponsor told me that before I could start taking people through the Twelve Step program myself I need to read this book. At first I thought the book was a bit of a tough read but I persevered and once I fell into the flow of what was happening I couldn’t put the book down.
The book focuses on the St Louis convention which was held in 1955. It delves right into the history of AA and explains in great detail how the current service structure of Alcoholics Anonymous came to be implemented. It also explains why the St Louis convention was such a pivotal moment in AA’s history as it's when Bill and Bob handed over the overall running of AA’s affairs to the individual groups of AA and how the structure would work from top to bottom.
It is vitally important for all fully "paid-up" members of Alcoholics Anonymous to know this history as it gives an insight into AA’s working service structure which would not be possible from just reading the service manuals alone. Hand-in-hand with the service manuals it makes the sometimes complicated service structure in AA easier to understand. The book also goes into the history of how the Twelve Traditions came into practise and gives the often humorous stories of the early AA members’ mishaps that bring each Tradition to life in a way that just reading the Traditions in the ‘Twelve and Twelve’ never could. This book provided me with a firm structure on which I was able to start to understand how the service structure outside of the home group works within AA and why the Traditions are vitally important to the survival of each group just as the Steps are to the individual.
Towards the end of the book we have three different outlooks on AA from the medical fraternity, the religious fraternity and a former chairman of the General Service Board and former Trustee. I found all of these sections of the book extremely helpful and very fascinating. The medical view particularly because of Dr Harry M. Tiebout’s contribution on how ego reduction is pivotal to an alcoholic’s continual sobriety. The way Dr Tiebout explains the initial surrender of an alcoholic and also the ability to keep the ego deflated over the long term, for me, was truly eye opening stuff and gave me a sound perspective on what sponsorship is mainly about. Like Dr Tiebout says himself: “Its capacity for rebirth (the ego) is utterly astounding and must never be forgotten” and this is something I, myself, must constantly remember and as my sponsor will surely remind me, is something I often forget.
Within the chapter ‘Religion Looks at AA’ I found Rev Samuel Shoemaker’s insights into spiritual awakenings very interesting and gave me a firm understanding into what happened with my own spiritual awakening and what happened with my fellows in AA when they spoke of their own experiences. I also found Rev Shoemaker’s viewpoints on the Steps, particularly Step Two, to be fundamental with my own experiences and with others. I also find this chapter extremely inspiring and often revisit it to remind myself what my recovery is personally about when I sometimes feel frustrated with life.
The final chapter is based upon talks made by Mr Bernard B. Smith at the first six General Service Conferences. Mr Smith was a trustee and chairman of the General Service Board 1951-1956 and I find his insights on fellowship and happiness most inspiring. I also find his insights on conference very easy to follow and he explains why it is as important to us all as members of AA to have and participate with conference. Mr Smith also summed up alcoholism for me, in one sentence, better than I had ever heard before with this: “alcohol simply served as an escape from personal enslavement to the false ideals of a materialistic society.”
So, hopefully, from this review you will see that AA Comes of Age isn’t just a boring history book that a sponsor is getting you to read, but a book alive with wisdom, encouragement and knowledge that, like the Big Book, is put in a way that speaks to the alcoholic on a level that other books just cannot do. It is a book, again along with the Big Book, that I continually revisit and always find a new and exciting way to perceive the miraculous fellowship that is Alcoholics Anonymous.