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Alcoholics Anonymous

An Interpretation of
the Twelve Steps


The pamphlet is divided into four sections:

    Click here     Discussion No. 1    The Admission

    Click here     Discussion No. 2    The Spiritual Phase

    Click here     Discussion No. 3    The Inventory and Restitution

    Click here     Discussion No. 4    The Active Work

Note by G.C.  This introduction to the steps was originally published in Detroit as a twenty-page pamphlet when A.A. first began, when the newcomers were gathered in large sessions and allowed to ask questions of a panel of people with longer sobriety - - it is a marvellous example of early old-time A.A. teaching. The original version is still obtainable from Alcoholics Anonymous of Greater Detroit, 380 Hilton Road, Ferndale MI 48220.

The twelve steps are divided up so they can be dealt with in four separate discussion sessions: Admission (Step 1), Spiritual (Steps 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11), Inventory/Restitution (Steps 4, 8, 9, 10), and Active (Step 12). If the group meets once a week, all twelve steps can then be covered in a month.

An edition with reset type was prepared in 1995 for use in A.A. discussion meetings in northern Indiana, where it proved equally successful in providing worthwhile topics, not only for the newcomers, but for the oldtimers too. After going through the pamphlet several times in a row over a period of three or four months, it was surprising how the apparently simple language led you deeper and deeper into profound spiritual insights. In this discussion-meeting format, the pamphlet was passed around the table, with each person reading a few paragraphs of that week's section of the pamphlet, and then after all of that section had been read, each person in turn around the table was given an opportunity to talk about the topics that had been raised.

Parts of this pamphlet have also been used in recent years for Saturday morning beginners' meetings in Elkhart, Indiana, where the teacher reads from and then talks about the material on one or another of the steps for the newcomers. It seems to many of the oldtimers to work better than anything else they have tried for getting raw beginners into serious thought about the way the program works.

This material was first assembled in Detroit in 1943. A copy of their material was later borrowed and used by the A.A. groups in Washington D.C., so it is sometimes also referred to in the early A.A. literature as The Washington D.C. Pamphlet. In fact, the first printed version (although probably only by just a few months, according to one knowledgeable archivist) seems likely to have been published in Washington D.C. This pamphlet was also published later over on the West Coast, where it is sometimes known by the name of one place or another in that part of the country. But it was originally the product of the early Detroit A.A. groups, as is substantiated by Detroit's history of the way A.A. began in that city (see below) and the two most knowledgeable old-timers whom I have consulted: Mel B. (now in Toledo, Ohio), the well-known A.A. author who came into the program in 1950, spent a good deal of time in the Detroit area when he was a newcomer. Larry W. (now in South Bend, Indiana), who has a good many years in the program himself, originally got sober in Detroit and knew many of the good old-timers, including his sponsor Ernie G. the second of Toledo, one of the original Akron A.A. group, who was by then living in Adrian in southeastern Michigan, and knew all the real old-timers in the Detroit area.

I have always been especially impressed myself by certain parts of the pamphlet which deal with how we do our moral inventory, and the way to practice the spiritual life throughout the course of every day:
  • Discussion 2 (the material on Steps Five, Six, Seven, and Eleven)
  • Discussion 3 (the material on Step Four and especially on Step Ten)
  • and the "Staying on the Beam" passage at the very end of Discussion 4.
This is in my opinion the very best of the surviving early A.A. beginners lessons, and I heartily recommend it for use by modern A.A. groups who want to set up special meetings for newcomers to the program. Copies will need to be prepared for everyone at the meeting. That week's Discussion needs to be read aloud at the beginning of the meeting, by having each person there read a short section if necessary. It works best when there are at least four or five members present with some significant time in the program, who can give guidance to all the newcomers who are there.


Our Heavenly Father,

We ask Thy Blessings on this meeting.

Please Bless the Spirit and

purpose of this group.

Give us strength to follow this program

according to Thy will and in all humility.

Forgive us for yesterday and grant us

Courage for today and

Hope for tomorrow.


Opening AA Meeting Prayer, Detroit, Michigan, 1945. This prayer is taken from

Archie T. and Early Detroit History

Detroit founder Archie T.'s sobriety date was September 3, 1938. His story is in the Big Book as "The Fearful One" in the first edition and as "The Man Who Mastered Fear" in the second, third, and fourth editions: "He spent eighteen years running away, and then found he didn't have to run. So he started A.A. in Detroit."

Archie T. went to Akron and spent ten and a half months living with Dr. Bob and his wife Anne. He read Emmet Fox's Sermon on the Mount, and he said it changed his life.

In December, 1939, the first meeting of AA in Michigan was held in Archie's room on Merrick Avenue in the Art Center in Detroit. Mike E., another alcoholic who became member number two in Michigan, was there along with Sara Klein, a non-alcoholic.

By February 1940, the group had seven members and began meeting in the basement room of a home of a non-alcoholic couple named Benson on Taylor Avenue. This was affectionately known as the "Benson's Basement" group. They then moved to 4242 Cass, which became known as the Downtown Group. They grew so quickly that in the Fall of 1941 they divided up into three groups: the Downtown Group, the Eastside Group, and the North-West Group which met on Plymouth Road.

Sarah Klein, Detroit's "Angel of AA"

Sarah Klein was called "the Angel of AA" in Detroit because she not only helped Archie start A.A. meetings in Detroit, but also kept up a dedicated service in carrying the A.A. message to alcoholics everywhere, but especially those in hospitals and prisons. She had a telephone in her home, and in 1941 became in effect Detroit A.A.'s first "Central Office," where alcoholics would call in for help from all over the Detroit area, and she would send A.A. people out to make twelfth step calls on them.

The Detroit Pamphlet
The Beginners Meetings set up in June 1943

So many newcomers were coming in, that by 1943 the more experienced members found themselves too few in number to explain the program adequately to each one individually (as they had in the beginning). So in June 1943, they set up Beginners Meetings where a group of members with some time in the program would sit at the front as a panel, facing the newcomers who were all gathered in the room. They would read introductory material they had written and then allow the newcomers to ask questions. The first Beginners Meeting was conducted by the North-West Group at 10216 Plymouth Road on Monday night, June 14, 1943. It has been held every Monday night without exception thereafter.

The beginner needed to go to four meetings to obtain the complete set of introductory lessons, since for easier study, the twelve steps were divided into four discussions. These were held on Monday nights, a different one of these four sections on each succeeding evening, in regular rotation:

       Discussion No. 1, "The Admission," Step 1.

       Discussion No. 2, "The Spiritual Phase," Steps 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 11.

       Discussion No. 2, "Inventory and Restitution," Steps 4, 8, 9, and 10.

       Discussion No. 4, "Active Work," Step 12.

These Beginners Meetings worked so successfully that they were adopted, first by other groups in Detroit and then in many other communities all over the United States. The materials which the Detroit people had written up, which they originally called The Table Leaders Guide, were first published in printed form by the Washington D.C. groups in a pamphlet called An Interpretation of the Twelve Steps. Detroit quickly came out with their own printed version of the pamphlet, which is still in print today.

Radio and television programs

On March 5, 1945, Time magazine reported that Detroit's WWJ radio station was running broadcasts by AA members in a radio program called "The Glass Crutch":

Alcoholics on the Air
Time, March 5, 1945
One of Detroit's citizens stepped up to the microphone one night last week and told how he had "hit bottom" as an alcoholic. To underline his confession, some of the more melodramatic and sordid aspects of his past were dramatized. Then he told of his regeneration. Summed up the Announcer: "Alcoholism is a disease ... an obsession ... an allergy ... " The man who "hit bottom" was the first in a parade of anonymous Detroiters who will describe their alcoholic pasts over WWJ every Saturday (11:15-11:30 p.m. E.W.T.). The series is the first sustained air flight of the famed organization called "Alcoholics Anonymous" (Time, Oct.23, 1944). Detroit AA's give credit for the broadcast project to 62-year-old William Edmund Scripps, big boss of the Detroit News and WWJ. He was so impressed by AA's reformation of a drunkard friend that he decided to do what he could to boost the organization's Detroit membership (now nearly 400).

(Nearby South Bend, Indiana, which was also deeply involved in the automobile manufacturing industry, had begun the use of A.A. radio broadcasts three months earlier when their founder Ken M., a pioneer in modern advertising, delivered his first Christmas Eve message on December 24, 1944. Word of the successful South Bend experiment may have been passed along to the AA people in Detroit through the regular everyday business contacts between the two nearby industrial centers.)

The Mr. Hope TV show

In the 1950's WWJ telecast a TV program called "Mr. Hope," aired at noon on Sundays, in which AA members appeared wearing Lone Ranger masks and told their stories. The masks were worn to protect their identities.

The first AA club

The first AA Club in Detroit was started by Miles W. and Bill B. in the early 1940's on Milwaukee Avenue, one block from the GM Building. A lot of members would come in for lunch or after work and hang around and talk AA.

Canadian AA

Before Ontario, Canada, had its own AA meetings, recovering alcoholics from Windsor would come to the Detroit meetings. An early Canadian member describes going to meeting on Plymouth Ave. in Detroit: "We used to have to drive our car to the tunnel (gasoline was rationed), park the car, drop a nickel in the fare box for the tunnel bus, ride through the tunnel, walk several blocks to the Grand River Street Car, ride the streetcar for an hour out to Plymouth Road, then walk about half a mile to Plymouth and Ilene."

On Friday, 1942, the Daily Star of Windsor, Ontario, reported that over 400 AA members attended a testimonial dinner in Detroit for Dr. Bob, co-founder of AA. (Dr. Bob's last major talk was in Detroit).

Information in this section on early Detroit AA history taken from