Romanticizing the Past

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 30, 2020 7:11:11 AM / by John D.

Romanticizing the Past


“By 1937, some of us realized that AA needed a standard literature. There would have to be a book ... Well, we did quarrel violently over the preparation and distribution of that book. In fact, it took five years for the clamor to die down. Should any AAs dream that the old-timers who put the book together went about in serene meditation and white robes, then they had best forget it.” - AA Co-Founder, Bill W., November 1951, “Services Make AA Tick”, The Language of the Heart.

Oft times we forget, or perhaps were never privy to the turmoil, stress and strain that brought about great change. All we see is the change wrapped up in a neat little bow looking neat, clean, pristine and serene. This quote from Bill Wilson illustrates that God's work can get messy at times.

The problem is, when we are in the throes of the mess, we tend to think that we have strayed from God's plan. We tend to think we aren't following God's will because we're feeling bitter, angry, and stressed. This quote suggests that the turmoil and stress just might be some of the ingredients that help to manifest God's will.

In 1937, Bill was only 2.5 years sober. The other alcoholics with whom he was working would have ranged from a couple years sober to a couple days sober. You can only imagine what those early meetings must have sounded like as they "discussed" (AKA fought) over what to put into and what to leave out of the manuscript that would eventually become the text book for the fellowship.

I think we have a tendency to look back on those times and romanticize them believing it all came together rather nicely, almost magically and mystically. This quote illustrates that the reality was really something quite different. Perhaps this is a useful lesson for the service work with which we are engaged in today both internally and externally.

As a WWII pilot once remarked, “I knew I was right on target, when I was taking the most flak”. That statement can be true of combat and spiritual battles too.


Maj. JD

Major John Donovan (JD) is the Director of the Recovery Community Network (RCN) in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The RCN is a Recovery Community Organization devoted to serving and advocating for the recovery community of Central Minnesota.

John is an active and energetic advocate for recovery. He is a public speaker and workshop facilitator on topics pertaining to recovery; he contributes monthly to two recovery blogs and he co-hosts recovery radio with Kelly Cordes on WJON AM-FM. Look for Maj Donovan’s book, “A Soldier’s Recovery Journey”, available in the spring of 2021.


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Topics: alcohol addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 step program, AA meetings, AA Big Book, 12 Traditions Of AA, Alcoholism Treatment Program

John D.

Written by John D.

John is a person in long-term recovery with over 42 years of sobriety. He teaches a monthly workshop at The Retreat on The Steps and Sponsorship.

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