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Alcoholism Recovery Program

by Dan M.

One of the first miracles of AA can be found in the story of Ebby T., before AA had even begun. It was Bill W.’s old friend from boarding school who brought to him the principles of the Oxford Group, which would lead to the development of The Twelve Steps, and it was especially the principle of working with others which would lead Bill to meet with Dr. Bob. Bill would always refer to Ebby as his sponsor. Yet Ebby did not stay sober.

He was born into a prominent family in Albany, New York in 1896. He spent his summers in Manchester, Vermont where his family had a home across the street from the parents of Lois, Bill’s future wife. She remembered seeing Ebby in his crib. In 1912 his parents enrolled him in The Burr and Burton Academy where he would meet Bill Wilson. He struggled academically, and the family decided he was not college material, although he was an avid reader and was considered bright. He went to work in the family manufacturing business. By this time, he was getting into trouble with alcohol.

Ebby’s brother, Jack, was mayor of Albany, as had been their uncle and grandfather. In 1932 Jack was a candidate for Governor of New York. It was best for him that Ebby leave Albany for Manchester. Of course, Ebby’s problems didn’t end, and he was soon in trouble with the law in that city too. On his third arrest for drunken behavior, he was facing  six months in jail. The judge, however, was the father of Ebby’s acquaintance, Cebra Graves, who was in the Oxford Group. The judge agreed to release Ebby into the custody of Rowland Hazard, a prominent citizen, also in the Oxford Group. (Hazard appears on page 26 of The Big Book when he consults Carl Jung and learns the necessity of spirituality for recovery.) Thus Ebby was surrounded by Oxford Group friends where he tasted sobriety for the first time.

As he grew in the program, he heard that his old friend Bill was at the end of his rope and decided to pay him a call. Anyone who has read the Big Book knows what happened then. Ebby gave Bill hope, which led to his going back to Townes hospital where he had a spiritual awakening. When Bill, in turn, practiced the principle of working with others, he visited Dr. Bob in the same way Ebby had come to him. This was the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous.  It’s worth noting that Ebby continued to struggle with sobriety. Twenty five years later, when Bill introduced Ebby as his sponsor in the 1960 convention, Ebby was seven years sober, and there are stories that he drank again after that. He died in 1966 from emphysema. Bill reflected that “Ebby had been enabled to bring me the gift of grace because he could reach me at depth through the language of the heart.”