Alcoholics Anonymous and the Original 12-Step Manuscript

August 7, 2017

Alcoholics Anonymous is a program dedicated to helping people through the darkest part of their lives. They are a worldwide support group for recovering alcoholics (and, now, any addiction). AA has grown from 2 members to nearly 2 million  since its inauguration. An AA Meeting offers addicts a safe, supportive environment at no cost. The 12 Step Recovery Program has been used for decades. The publication is heralded as “The Bible to Millions.” You could only imagine how much the original manuscript, filled with handwritten edits and notes by AA founders, would be worth.

 Here’s a hint: the auction house, Profiles in History, estimates anywhere between 2 and 3 million USD. The last time it sold at auction was in 2004 to William A. Shenk for $1.57 million. It was then sold again in 2007 to Ken Roberts for $850,000. Yet, it should have never reached that first auction house to begin with.

The manuscript was initially in the possession of AA Founder William Griffith Wilson. Wilson’s widow then gave it to Barry Leach. Mr Leach, however, understood the historical significance of the manuscript. The manuscript was meant to return to the organization after his death. That was in 1985. Decades would pass before Alcoholics Anonymous would learn of Mr Leach’s will.

In response, Alcoholics Anonymous launched a lawsuit against the current owner of the manuscript, a gallery in New York, and an auction house. It was meant to be sold in auction on June 8th, however, a lack of news coverage leaves us with very little information as to what has happened. It is presumed that the lawsuit halted the sale of the manuscript, however, the manuscript is still advertised as the key item of interest for the auction (found in the auction house’s archives).

The lawsuit poses some hard questions. It is, of course, indisputable that the manuscript should belong to Alcoholics Anonymous. It should have from the very beginning, and why it was not immediately given to them following Mr Leach’s death will likely be revealed in court. Since his death, it has changed hands several times. The manuscript’s current owner believed he purchased the manuscript completely legally. He even phoned Alcoholics Anonymous months before the auction was scheduled to inform him what he was doing.

 The 12-step program developed by the AA Founders has helped shape the world. Anonymous meetings for addicts of all kinds can be found throughout every country. Over 30 million copies have been sold. It has helped people get through their addictions and provided a worldwide movement that supports each other. This manuscript helped shape America, and the world. Its popularity has stripped the shame in getting help when you need it. It allows people to build their lives back up after they have reached rock bottom.

Regardless of how many naysayers claim that the program has no basis in science, the 12 Step Recovery Program works for those who want it to work. It was developed during a time when alcoholism was unspeakable; when help was nowhere to be found. This manuscript is such an important piece of our history, and, at the moment, its fate remains unknown.


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