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Back to Basics has become part of Mainstream Recovery

The Back to Basics Recovery Program

During the last week in March, the Ministry of Challenge became the focal point for the Twelve Step communities of Austin, TX.  For eight days, Wally P. hosted "Back to Basics--Week of Recovery, Renewal and Rebirth" at the facility.  The events brought together members of various Twelve-Step programs, people searching for a solution to their drug and alcohol problems, church members, treatment professionals, and religious leaders, along with the residents and team leaders at the Ministry of Challenge.  In all, one thousand people attended the various activities which included Back to Basics Beginners' Meetings in which attendees took all Twelve Steps; "Quiet Time and Guidance" Meetings where participants practiced the Eleventh Step (Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, . . .); historical presentations; and a seminar on How to Listen to God.  It was a celebration of the "original" Twelve Step program of the 1940's, which produced a 75% recovery rate from addiction through the establishment and maintenance of a personal, direct, two-way communication with the "One who has all power."

Wally P. is the author of Back to Basics--The Alcoholics Anonymous Beginners' Meetings and How to Listen to God--Guide for Successful Living Through the Practice of Two-way Prayer.  He is the originator of the Back to Basics Recovery Program, which has grown to more than 2,000 Beginners' Meetings, and 100,000 recoveries since its reintroduction into the Twelve-Step community in 1997.

This "original" program, which was a phenomenal success during the "early days" of the recovery movement, had become a lost piece of history.  In the spring of 1993, Wally was in Washington, D.C. conducting research for his first book, But, for the Grace of God, which dealt with the explosive growth of the Twelve-Step movement in the 1940's.  While sorting through some archival materials, he came across a 20-page pamphlet, published in 1944, which described in detail how one of the local groups had taken newcomers through the Twelve Steps in four one-hour sessions.  In his subsequent travels throughout the United States, Wally found many reprints of this pamphlet along with various formats for conducting Beginners' Meetings.  In addition, he interviewed more than one hundred "old-timers" who had recovered in the 1940's.  Many of them told him that, although the Beginners' Meetings had saved their lives, they had been replaced by other meeting formats in the 1960's and 1970's.

Wally researched the Beginners' Meetings for two more years.  Then in the fall of 1995, Wally's spiritual advisor challenged him to stop talking about the four one-hour sessions and start doing something about them.

He said, "Wally, if you're ever going to learn how to fly, you have to get out of flight school and climb into the plane."  This was a scary proposition for someone who had a phobia about speaking in public.  But Wally walked through the fear and started conducting Beginners' Meetings.

But, for the first year, Wally "flew the plane" right into the ground.  Even though he thought he was being true to the "original" program, he had inadvertently incorporated some material from the 1970's into the Beginners' Meetings, and as a result, he wasn't seeing the recovery rates that had been achieved by the Twelve Step pioneers.

Then in March of 1996, Wally met James H..  At the time, James was 90 years old and had been a sober member of the Oxford Group for sixty-one years.  Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith also were members of the Oxford Group before they founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939.  James was the last person alive who had attended Oxford Group meetings with Bill Wilson and knew, from first hand experience, the spiritual roots and the fundamental principles of the "original" Twelve Step program.

James provided Wally with three concepts from the "original" program that allowed him to successfully "fly the plane."  They were: (1) the verbal Fourth Step (moral inventory), (2) the expanded Ninth Step that included forgiveness as well as restitution, and (3) the written Eleventh Step (prayer and meditation).  He supplied Wally with a four-page pamphlet, written in 1938 by a person who had attended Oxford Group meetings with Dr. Bob Smith.  This pamphlet, titled "How to Listen to God" provided clear, concise directions on how to conduct two-way prayer.

Since that eventful meeting in 1996, Wally and James have been traveling across the United States carrying the message of the Twelve Step pioneers at Back to Basics and How to Listen to God seminars.  They conducted seminars in Austin at the Riverbend Church in March and November of last year.  Their "street ministry" has produced a renewal of hope within the entire recovery community.

Wally is a Vietnam veteran who has a unique perspective on recovery.  He has seen bodies stacked like cordwood on the battlefield.  He has also watched people die inside and outside the rooms of the Twelve Step programs.  In the mid 1990's, when the recovery rate had dropped to less than 10%, Wally knew he had to do something to correct this tragic situation.  "Why would I want to be in a meeting where there was the equivalent of nineteen dead bodies outside the door for each person in the room, when I could be in a meeting that at one time produced three recoveries for each person who died?  We need to reduce the body count.  Back to Basics is a proven method to accomplish this objective." Wally describes his mission as, "It's all about saving lives." 


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