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
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.
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they had been replaced by other meeting formats in the 1960's and 1970's.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Wally at firstname.lastname@example.org