Celebrating Dr. Bob Co-Founder of A.A.

Robert Holbrook Smith otherwise known as Dr. Bob was one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous reveres him as one of the greatest friends that our fellowship will ever know. He got sober in June 10th, 1935 and stayed sober till the year of his death in 1950.

Bob’s permanent sobriety date is considered the birth of A.A . He carried the message of A.A to more than 5,000 alcoholics, which he provided medical services to without charge. Bill W. (the other Co-founder of A.A) said, “Bob did not look much like a founder. He was shaking badly. Uneasily, he told us that he could stay only about 15 minutes.” The intended 15-minute conversation between Bill W. and Dr. Bob arose a 15 yearlong sobriety for the once hopeless Dr. Bob.  Here is  a quote from Dr. Bob on what Bill W. impressed upon him, “Of far more importance was the fact that he was the first living human with whom I had ever talked, who knew what he was talking about in regard to alcoholism from actual experience. In other words, he talked my language.”  (Dr. Bob, Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 180).   In the Big Book of Alcoholics anonymous, Dr. Bob conveys his struggles with church. However, after finding spiritual tools and a new way of living, many admired his faith. He believed in quiet time, study of the bible, prayer and seeking guidance. Dr. Bob helped many suffering alcoholics at St. Thomas hospital in Akron Ohio.

Service work proved to be another one of his strong assets.  Dr. Bob said himself,

“I don’t think we can do anything very well in this world unless we practice it. And I don’t believe we do A.A too well unless we practice it… we should practice. Acquiring the spirit of service. We should attempt to acquire some faith, which isn’t easily done, especially for the person who has always been very materialistic, following the standards of society today. But I think faith can be acquired; it can be acquired slowly: it has to be cultivated. That was not easy for me, and I assume that it is difficult for everyone else… ‘  We’re all after the same thing, and that’s happiness. We want peace of mind. The trouble with us alcoholics was this: We demanded that the world give us happiness and peace of mind in just the particular way we wantedto get it – by the alcohol route. And we weren’t successful. But when we take time to find out some of the spiritual laws, and familiarize ourselves with them, and put them into practice, then we do get happiness and peace of mind. There seem to be some rules that we have to follow, but happiness and peace of mind are always here, open and free to anyone.” (Pg. 308 Dr. Bob and The Good Oldtimers).

Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founders, Dr. Bob (Left) and Bill W. (right)

Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founders, Dr. Bob (Left) and Bill W. (right)

His service work in A.A and in hospitals was profound and valuable. Another testament is how he spearheaded new A.A groups to fallow spiritual principles. Here is a quote from one of his peers, named Joe.

“I don’t have the feeling he was inhibited by being a founder…. It worked the other way. A.A became a lifework, and he felt that he should do everything he could to help make it succeed, and that it was his responsibility to do what he could to help it continue to succeed after he was gone.”  (Pg. 287 Dr. Bob and The Good Oldtimers)

Pioneering A.A required Dr. Bob to have a firm stance in spiritual ground.  He said himself tolerance was difficult for him. He had the “take it or leave it” attitude. In A.A’s infancy there were frequent problems associated with money, property and prestige. Dr. Bob’s rigid outlook was found to be exceedingly beneficial to its members, and spiritual unity of the groups; here are a couple of quotes that demonstrate his service,

“You know, we became good friends after my second trip, because I realized after I sobered up that he had actually done me more good by giving me hell than if he had been sympathizing with me. He knew. If you needed sympathy, he’d give it to you, and if needed hell, he’d give it to you.”

One of Dr. Bob patient’s Ed, relapsed and readmitted himself back into the Drs. care.  Here’s a conversation between Dr. Bob and his patient Ed.

I don’t know, Doc, Somehow, I found myself in a bar and I don’t know how I got there,’ I remember him getting up from the chair and pointing a finer at me. ‘ Now wait a minute,’ he said ‘ before we go any further, one of the requirements – and an important requirement is honesty. And you haven’t got any honesty about you at all. “ Nobody pushed you in that bar, you walked in there, and you ordered that drink, and naturally you drank it. So don’t tell me you don’t know how you got there. Now, you’re lying here using a bed that could be used by somebody who needs it more than you. And you’re taking up my time, and I have betters way to spend it than to talk to you. If I were you, I’d go out and get drunk and stay drunk until I made up my mind on what I wanted to do.” Ed was really mad, but August 1944 which was his last drink. “ (Pg. 274 Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers)

Although unhinged, Ed’s relapse prior to this conversation was his last drink in August 1944. Here is a portion of his story from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you think you are an atheist, an agonistic, a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you. If you still think you are strong enough to beat the game alone, that is your affair. But if you really and truly want to quit drinking liquor for good an all, and sincerely feel that you must have some help, we know that we have an answer for you. It never fails, if you go about it with one half the zeal you have been in the habit of showing when you were getting another drink. Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!”

Dr. Bob spoke his “truth”, he was considered to be honest and got to the point. He fully conceded his own alcoholism and knew which lengths he would go to help another person suffering from this disease. He pointed them in the direction of solution and told them honest feedback despite fear of hurting their feelings. He wanted people to grow and live the spiritual life. Dr. Bob’s influence on the program and his spiritual fitness were simple and profound, he held depth and weight with his words.  The term “Keep it Simple” was coined from Dr. Bob, and understandably so.

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