THE OLD and NEW PREAMBLES
The Wilmington Preamble
We are gathered here because we are faced with the fact that we are powerless over alcohol and unable to do anything about it without the help of a Power greater than ourselves. We feel that each person’s religious views, if any, are his own affair. The simple purpose of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is to show what may be done to enlist the aid of a Power greater than ourselves regardless of what our individual conception of that Power may be.
In order to form a habit of depending upon and referring all we do to that Power, we must at first apply ourselves with some diligence. By often repeating these acts, they become habitual and the help rendered becomes natural to us.
We have all come to know that as alcoholics we are suffering from a serious illness for which medicine has no cure. Our condition may be the result of an allergy which makes us different from other people. It has never been by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently cured. The only relief we have to offer is absolute abstinence, the second meaning of A. A.
There are no dues or fees. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. Each member squares his debt by helping others to recover.
An Alcoholics Anonymous is an alcoholic who through application and adherence to the A. A. program has forsworn the use of any and all alcoholic beverage in any form. The moment he takes so much as one drop of beer, wine, spirits or any other alcoholic beverage he automatically loses all status as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. is not interested in sobering up drunks who are not sincere in their desire to remain sober for all time. Not being reformers, we offer our experience only to those who want it.
We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree and on which we can join in harmonious action. Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our program. Those who do not recover are people who will not or simply cannot give themselves to this simple program. Now you may like this program or you may not, but the fact remains, it works. It is our only chance to recover.
There is a vast amount of fun in the A.A. fellowship. Some people might be shocked at our seeming worldliness and levity, but just underneath there lies a deadly earnestness and a full realization that we must put first things first and with each of us the first thing is our alcoholic problem. To drink is to die. Faith must work twenty-four hours a day in and through us or we perish.
In order to set our tone for this meeting I ask that we bow our heads in a few moments of silent prayer and meditation.
I wish to remind you that whatever is said at this meeting expresses our own individual opinion as of today and as of up to this moment. We do not speak for A.A. as a whole and you are free to agree or disagree as you see fit. In fact, it is suggested that you pay no attention to anything which might not be reconciled with what is in the A. A. Big Book.
If you don’t have a Big Book, it’s time you bought you one. Read it, study it, live with it, loan it, scatter it, and then learn from it what it means to be an A.A.
The History Of The Wilmington PreambleThe Wilmington Preamble has long been surrounded by controversy and discussion of such has sparked many a debate almost from its inception in the early years of Alcoholics Anonymous. The history of our fellowship has mostly been passed from member to member over the expanse of many years; member whose very disease has a tendency to distort one’s memory. Inaccuracies may prevail. The following is in no way an attempt to dispel those controversies, but an effort to establish an accurate history of the birth of the Wilmington Preamble and to keep it’s true history alive for the enlightenment of future generations. Documentable corrections are welcomed.
The Wilmington Preamble’s birth ties in with one of Wilmington’s earliest members, Shoes L. Shoes joined the Wilmington Group and got sober in May of 1944.The following month in June, Shoes was Chairman of the group and in charge of getting speakers for their meetings. There was at this time a sportswriter in town covering the horse races at Delaware Park. His name was Mickey M. and Shoes asked him to speak at the group’s meeting. Mickey replied that he wasn’t much of a speaker but that he would write something appropriate. He reportedly went back to his room at the Hotel Dupont and wrote the Wilmington Preamble as we know it and it was read the following Friday night.
Being a sportswriter, Mickey M. covered events in other towns, and while in Baltimore covering the races at Pimlico gave the same preamble to the Baltimore Group which they also adopted as their own. Where it was actually read first is the subject of many debates but one fact remains clear, that this “Preamble” was widely accepted in Maryland and Delaware long before World Service sanctioned the shorter A.A. Preamble that is more universally accepted today.
The New A.A. Preamble
The original version of the “current preamble” as it was first introduced to AA in the June, 1947, Grapevine.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is an honest desire to stop drinking . AA has no dues or fees. It is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution. Does not wish to engage in any controversy. Neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Written by the then editor to describe AA to the Grapevine’s non-AA readers, it has become a part of AA literature. It came to be called the “preamble” because it is so often read at the opening of AA meetings.
Much of the phrasing was borrowed from the foreword to the original edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous,” where “an honest desire to stop drinking” is described as “the only requirement for membership.”
In the September, 1958, Grapevine, the preamble was first published in its present form. It now appears in much of our literature to tell what AA is and does, as well as what it is not and does not. The Twelve Traditions present a fuller development of most of these ideas.
The current version of the preamble appears on the inside front cover of each Grapevine issue.