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Wally P. -- Archivist, Historian, Author

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Wally P. is the author of Back to Basics The Alcoholics Anonymous Beginners' Meetings and How to Listen to God Overcoming Addiction Through Practice of Two-way Prayer.  He is the originator of the Back to Basics Beginners' Meetings, which have grown to more than 2,200 groups, and produced more than 120,000 recoveries since its reintroduction into the Twelve-Step community in 1997.  This "original" 12-Step meeting format was a phenomenal success during the 1940's and 1950's, but had become an all but lost piece of history until Wally rediscovered it.

Wally started his 12-Step spiritual journey on October 30,1988.  The following year, his sponsor told him, "If you don't know where we came from, you'll never know what a miracle this program truly is."  Wally took this challenge to heart and set out to learn all he could about the early days of the Twelve Step Movement.

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 was taking 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recovered in the 1940's.  Many of them told him that, although the Beginners' Meetings had saved their lives, they had been replaced by other meeting formats in the 1960's and 1970's.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 (specifically, the three and four column Fourth Step inventory) 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 missing 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 have taken over 10,000 people through the Twelve Steps and have witnessed countless miracles of recovery along the way.

As Wally describes his work, "It's all about saving lives.  Back to Basics takes us back to the 'original' program that produced a 50-75% recovery rate.  We are seeing similar results today for those who are willing to stay with the Beginners' Meetings for 90-180 days.  Many, who had given up all hope of ever recovering, have found the answer to their problems in these four one-hour sessions."

Contact Wally at wallyp@aabacktobasics.org

 


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