A little ditty on the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous (DOCTOR BOB’S NIGHTMARE)
Why is Doctor Bob’s story always the first in the story section in all four editions of the Alcoholics Anonymous books?
Dr. Bob Smith was the co-founder of the program. The date of the start of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous was marked on the day of Dr Bob’s last drink, June 10th 1935. It was a morning bottle of beer to calm the jitters so he could do a procedure that morning.
Together Bill and Bob realized that in order to continue to stay sober they would need to reach out to other alcoholics. Bob called Akron Hospital and spoke to a nurse. Bob informed her that he had a friend from New York with a cure for Alcoholism. The nurses response was to ask Bob if he had tried it on himself first, as it was common knowledge Dr Bob was a drunk. However the nurse said they just brought in a man in DTs. Bill and Bob asked to put him in a separate room and when the time was right they approached Bill D and told him about their own drinking experience. With much identification a third member of AA was on board.
If fact Bob was so active a 12 stepper that he was known as the prince of twelve steppers by Bill Wilson because he helped more than 5000 alcoholics before his death. He was able to stay sober from June 10, 1935, until his death in 1950 from colon cancer.
Did Bob have an influence on Alcoholism in the medical community?
Being a doctor working out of St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, with the help of Sister Ignatia, admitted the first alcoholic patient under the diagnosis of acute gastritis. This moment made St Thomas Hospital the first hospital in the world to treat alcoholism as a medical condition, and the ever first religious institution to recognize the rights of alcoholics to receive hospital treatments. Recall that back in those days hospitals would often refuse to treat a drunk as they have such a hopeless track record to date. Yet improving all the time.
What is special about Bob’s story?
Other than being a co-founding member of Alcoholics Anonymous, nothing really. Dr Bob was just another drunk. A very wise and grateful drunk. Over the years Dr Bob stayed involved with the Oxford group, the same Christian movement that Bill W’s first sponsor sobered up in. Although the New York Oxford group, not the Akron group.
Interestingly the Akron AA group, that developed over time was a very God centered AA group. Over in New York and Cleveland the members were leaning more on the psychological aspect of recovery. Such as there was back then. SO you could see why Bill said he felt more like an umpire than an author of the Big Book.
A great quote from Dr Bob Smith; “I spend a great deal of time passing on what I learned to others who want and need it badly. I do it for four reasons”:
“Sense of duty, It is a pleasure, Because in so doing I am paying my debt to the man who took time to pass it on to me, Because every time I do I take out a little more insurance for myself against a possible slip.”