Lois W., wife of Bill W. founder and father of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) reports that the beginning of AA was very different from what it has become. There was no Big Book, for the first five years. The only way to share the message was to find people and tell them about it.
Dr. Bob and Bill and Lois’ homes were filled with alcoholics, both drinking and no longer drinking, when they held meetings which were open to all in need. At this time, the only people participating in AA were those who had hit rock bottom. No one with a small drinking problem was there. Instead, the still unnamed group worked with relapses again and again, helping those who just weren’t making it yet.
After the book was written, the group finally had the name of “Alcoholics Anonymous,” named for the title of the book, now referred to worldwide as “The Big Book.” After some trouble with petty theft and such, the W.’s had to require that no one could attend the meetings while actually drunk.
But one man pawned the W.’s finest clothes from their glory days, then returned and committed suicide in their house. Another man, refused entry due to being drunk, squeezed through the coal shoot into the cellar. Keeping the active drunks out was very challenging.
In the early days of AA, families participated in the meetings too. Wives and parents and even the children were in attendance. Adorably, the children became very interested in the program, working the 12-steps themselves, and earnestly inquiring about the well-being of the members they had come to know.
Eventually, however, the alcoholics began holding some of the meetings with just the alcoholics. So, the wives would meet separately at the same time. This was how Al-Anon began, the group that to this day helps family members of alcoholics. And AA began acting the way it does today, with meetings held exclusively by alcoholics for alcoholics to help each other on the path to sobriety.