At the time they were just a couple of old drunks when they first met up in Akron, Ohio back in 1935. Bob and Bill were their names. Now I’m not sure what occurred between them, but in my imagination it went something like this. Perhaps it was in a bar where the conversation took place when one of the men began to bear his soul to the other about the mess he had made of his life prompting the other to confess his own tragic story, for try as they may neither had been able to remain sober, both being hopeless alcoholics. Maybe, though, just maybe, they suggested to each other, if you help me and I help you we can at least get through one day without a drink. There in that moment, if not true in detail certainly in context, these two hopeless miserable drunks embarked on a path of sobriety that not only changed their own lives but that of millions who have experienced addiction recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous.
The great irony of this story is that the success of AA is not derived from strength but from weakness, the exact opposite of the aloof world we live in where winners and achievers are the ones who are honored and admired. Instead there are no winners and achievers in AA, only desperate drunks with messed up lives helping other desperate drunks with messed up lives stay sober one day at a time – beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.
Truth is most of us resemble Bob and Bill much more than the winners and achievers we so admire – as do they, by the way, if we could see deep enough into their lives – for though we may not be drunks like Bob and Bill we nonetheless have our own weaknesses and wounds to contend with. Even the apostle Paul complained about being tormented by “a thorn in my flesh”. We all have them. Yet herein lies one of the great secrets to living an abundant life. Like Paul who found power in his weakness, so can we; for it is not the absence of weaknesses and wounds, you see, but what we do with them. Bob and Bill used theirs to help each other stay sober one day at a time, thus creating a model that has led millions throughout the world to sobriety. Now that’s quite an achievement, isn’t it? And the great irony is that it was not derived from strength, but from weakness.