Lets Ask Bill

Q - How did the Twelve Steps get written?

A - We were up around Chapter 5. As you know I 'd gone on about myself which was natural after all. Then we had the introductory chapter and we dealt with the agnostic and we described alcoholism. Well, we finally got to the point where we really had to say what this book was all about and how this deal works. As I told you this had been a six-step program then.

On this particular evening, I was lying in bed on Clinton Street wondering what the deuce this next chapter would be about. The idea came to me, well, we need a definite statement of concrete principles that these drunks can't wiggle out of. There can't be any wiggling out of this deal at all and this six-step program had two big gaps which people wiggled out of. Moreover, if this book went out to distant readers, they have to have got an absolutely explicit program by which to go. This was while I was thinking these thoughts, while my imaginary ulcer was paining me and while I was mad as hell at these drunks because the money was coming in too slow. Some had the stock and were not paying up. A couple of guys came in and they gave me a big argument and we yelled and shouted at each other and I finally went and laid on the bed with my ulcer and said, "poor me."

There was a pad of paper by the bed and I reached for it and said, "you've got to break this program up into small pieces so they can't wiggle out. So I started writing, trying to bust it up into little pieces and when I got the pieces set down on that piece of yellow paper, I put numbers on them and was rather agreeably surprised when it came out to twelve." I said, "that's a good significant number in Christianity and mystic lore." Then I noticed that instead of leaving the God idea to the last, I'd got it up front but I didn't pay too much attention to that, it looked pretty good. Well, the next meeting comes along; I'd gone on beyond the steps trying to amplify them in the rest of that chapter and I presented it at the meeting. Well, pandemonium broke loose. "What do you by mean changing the program, .what about this, what about that, this thing is overloaded with God. We don't like this, you've got these guys on their knees...stand them up  because a lot of these drunks are scared to death of being Godly. . . let's take God out of it entirely." Such were the arguments that we had. Out of that terrific hassle came the Twelve Steps.

Those arguments caused the introduction of a phrase which has been the lifesaver to thousands. it was certainly none of my doing. I was on the pious side then, you see, still suffering from the big hot flash of mine. The idea of "God as you understand Him" came out of that perfectly ferocious argument and we put it in the book. (Transcribed from tape, Fort Worth, 1954)

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